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Google, MySpace, Facebook Lead New Media Globalization

It's often tempting for those of who've long been active on the Web to think that the growth of new media is still being fueled by the geeks and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley.

But the truth is that there is an apparently unquenchable demand for news from all corners of the world. We're still in the early stages of a globalizing information economy, one where the trade in digital bits of data can be every bit as valuable as the trade in physical goods and services.

Whereas in the earliest days of the Web, early adopters were finding new ways to exploit new technologies (think day traders leading up to dot.bust), the demand for news today is greatest from those at the outside ends of a very "long tail," indeed.

In China, the largest of all national media markets, new media appear to be supplanting traditional media at a rapid rate. According to a recent report, the number of people in seven large Chinese cities who watch TV or read newspapers decreased by roughly 10 percent, while the number accessing the Internet rose by 17 percent.

Over the coming two years, the report suggests, Internet use (which has already penetrated roughly two-thirds of the urban market) will surpass the reach of traditional media.

These trends hint at how rapidly the news market is expanding globally, yet few traditional news organizations in the U.S. have a defined international strategy yet. Most continue to program their websites as if their local audience is their only audience, thereby missing the opportunity to expand into a stronger global brand, while the web is still growing so rapidly.

On the other hand, web-based search, news, and social networking companies know where the action (and eyeballs) are at. Google, MySpace and Facebook are all moving as fast as they can to globalize their U.S.-based products.

Facebook, for example is asking to its user base to help expand its network to include 22 more languages (including Mandarin), from the current four (English, Spanish, French, and German).

MySpace has 24 country-specific versions.

And Google does not launch any new products unless they are available in 40 separate languages.