Going Global… Or Not

Entrepreneur Loic Le Meur thinks global. His recent guest post in Techcrunch provides suggestions for startups that includes “Think global as you create the business”, “Hire people from all nationalities as much as possible”, and “Make a site that is language-ready from day one, even if you launch in English”. Seems like enlightened advice, given that so much new content on the web is still targeted exclusively to US (or at least, English-speaking) audiences. While it is understandable that some sites — like mint.com, that must interact directly with banks — remain US-only at launch, it is disheartening when even services that have been successful for years refuse to open up to the global marketplace (37signals, I’m looking at you).

This phenomenon is perhaps most annoying when dealing with media properties, which could clearly benefit from added exposure, and which seem deeply invested in the old broadcast model of distribution. To whit, this is what I get when I try to watch my favorite TV show (House) in the newly launched Hulu service:

Hulu

There are no technical reasons for this; it seems like an entirely marketing-driven restriction, carried over from a world in which geography and distribution were intimately tied.

Culture (pop and otherwise) has been one of the US’s main exports during the past century, and it is an important part of continued American influence around the world. As more of our media usage moves online, this stubborn insistence on limiting distribution by geography is likely to curtail that influence. Putting up artificial borders around cultural artifacts to satisfy old-school business models seems as smart as setting the speed limit at 30 mph to keep the horse-carriages safe from automobiles.