Sorry, We Are Not In Right Now

Hi,

Thanks for checking out our blog, we really appreciate it.

However, our blog has moved to http://travel2dot0.wordpress.com/

Sorry that you have to visit another site to find us, but it is worth it...we have all of our 'classic' posts and comments on the new blog, plus a ton of new thoughts and ideas.

Why are we moving? Basically, Blogger failed us and never responded to our emails and requests. A clear example of poor customer service...too bad, we liked Blogger.

Come over and see us on the new blog.

Regards,
Troy and Mo

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Random Thoughts: (Video, in this case) Nokia Re-draws the Map

Ah Wieden + Kennedy, do you ever stop producing cool spots? Check out the new Nokia ad, highlighting the oh-so un-tech, old school method of drawing maps. Drawing is what we did before Wii, kids. (Reading via RSS? Check out the video on the Travel 2.0 blog.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Word of the Week - Cuil

Pronounced "cool", Cuil is a new search engine built by Anna Patterson, a search engine wiz who used to work at Google. While there was a lot of hype and excitement about the launch of the site, those seeking an alternative search engine might have to temper their enthusiasm a bit.

While there are some interesting new features in Cuil, it has had a tremendously difficult time in maintaining relevancy and the meaningfulness of search results (no TravelOregon.com for an "Oregon" search for example!). Moreover, following the wake of their PR push last week, their servers have been overwhelmed and users have experienced significant downtime. As our friend Paul Wille notes in his blog, Cuil has four notable features:

  1. Relevancy Approach- Unlike depending on the quantity and quality of links, it "drills down" into the pages they link to and analyze the content for relevancy

  2. “Article”-based search results - Rather than the usual list of text-only links, photos and paragraph snippets of content are returned as part of the search results (Similar to Ask.com)

  3. Dynamic Faceted Searching - Faceted searching is the concept of narrowing search results based on multiple “facets” or aspects of your search results; for example when you search for "Oregon", you can narrow your results based on categories such as "regions of Oregon", "real estate" etc. etc.

  4. Privacy - Cuil promises not to store search history of search engines


Read the full review on Cuil

Friday, August 1, 2008

Take Control of Your Website


There are many reasons why corporate and artist sites should not carry advertising. But the most obvious one is that outside ads change the conversation. In one of the few places that a marketer can completely control their message; they're sharing the stage with outsiders who have a different agenda. >>Full Story

Thoughts// This interesting experiment (or cruel prank depending on your point of view) reported in the Silicon Alley Insider, is a prime example of why you shouldn't allow outside Google text ads within your site. For a period of time this week, Columbia Records website ran a targeted prank ad featured above that read: "Major Labels are Obsolete...RIP or learn and thrive". The ad was delivered to more than 6,000 site visitors and generated a click rate of 0.6% (4 clicks). Small impact but nevertheless an important lesson to all of us on the dangers of contextual advertising and networks!

~ Happy Friday! (PS: I am still wondering how we have so many Michigan folks here!)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Griping Online? Comcast Hears and Talks Back


Brandon Dilbeck, 20, a student at the University of Washington, was complaining recently on his blog, Brandon Notices, about Comcast’s practice of posting ads in its on-screen programming guide. Shortly afterward, he received an e-mail message from Comcast, thanking him for the feedback and adding that it was working on a new interactive guide that might “illuminate the issues that you are currently experiencing.” Mr. Dilbeck found it all a bit creepy. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Every blog your write, we're watching you'. Perhaps the Police should re-release this song for the blogging era.

This interesting article in the NY Times focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing brands as they reach out to consumers over social media with a special spotlight on Frank Eliason, Comcast's "digital care manager". Eliason monitors public comments on blogs, message boards and social networks for mentions of Comcast and its services and is empowered to solve customers' problems. In the case of Comcast, while the overwhelming response appears to be positive, some consumers have found the practice "creepy" and have labeled it yet another ‘Big Brother’ tactic. (Ok, the Times quoted one!)

So should you not engage in social media? Hardly. We believe in respectful, meaningful and empathetic conversations with consumers.

As we've stated many times in this blog, engaging in a two-way conversation with your customers can be a vital prong in your digital marketing strategy. Consumers are blogging and raving (or ranting) about your products and your destination online with or without you. Not listening or engaging in dialogue is a critical opportunity missed not only to build deeper relationships but also for brand cache. Technology has now afforded us an unprecedented "direct connection" to consumers and according to Brian Solis, a new media PR agent quoted in the article, "if you don't respond, someone else will, most likely in the form of competition seizing the opportunity to convert your dispirited customers into new prospects."

So what can Comcast tell us about lessons learned? According to Eliason:

"We learn a great deal from our customers through this channel and we learn better ways to present information, and what the pinch points are in the relationship."

"...customers that had complaints but never reached out to us to correct them. It is so much better to see them have the service we intend.

"...companies should be where their customers are. Social media is just another channel, similar to the phone, chat or email."

"It makes it much more personal and it provides the opportunity to provide clarification when necessary....we do not do this from a PR perspective...My team concentrates on the customer experience."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Brands on Flickr


You don’t see nearly as many brands on Flickr as you do on YouTube or Facebook. But they do exist, and after a few conversations recently about what the opportunities for brands were on Flickr I thought I’d have a look. Having trawled through pages of Google and Flickr searches, I’ve grouped the results into three categories:

- Brand communities and extensions
- Branded resources
- Branded contests

And at the end of the review of what’s out there already, I’ve distilled a few learnings, a few things to watch out for, and a conclusion around the opportunities for brands on Flickr. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A great post from Geoff Northcott of AKQA London on how brands are using Flickr to connect, communicate and join communities. Unlike MySpace, YouTube and Facebook, which seem to be littered with brands, Geoff highlights why the few brands that are utilizing Flickr to begin a social conversation are benefiting from the lack of competitive social marketing.

The post provides case studies and examples from a variety of companies using Flickr as well as tips on how to begin you social presence on the photo-sharing site. And, if you listened to us last week, you should have your Flickr social URL in hand.

While Flickr might not the right fit for certain brands or industries, fields such as travel could benefit from the already built-in passion of travelers taking photos. A stretch, I know. Beyond building a community and increasing you social reputation among Flickr users (like AOT is doing with our Arizona Passages campaign), gaining a fan-base on Flickr can help greatly with UGC photo contests, sourcing new (and cheap, if not free!) images (just be sure to ask!) and adding content to your site via the Flickr API.

In fact, I even know of a few organizations who are currently using Flickr to house their entire photo library or catalog. Not a huge company mind you, but at $25 a year for unlimited file storage, it might be worth a look.

Even if you don't want to share those photos socially just yet.

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Finals


The finals of the Great Travel Site Showdown...Michigan v. Virginia are underway.

Let the voting begin.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Musings from the Internet Strategy Forum


About a week ago, I spent a pretty inspiring day at the 5th annual Internet Strategy Forum in downtown Portland. Drawing over 200 fellow digital strategists from around the country, the forum is a “professional association and peer networking group” designed to spread best practices about general digital strategy, social media strategy, personalized marketing, e-commerce, email marketing and customer metrics.

The meeting kicked off with a rousing keynote speech by Charlene Li from Forester—co-author of Groundswell—that covered the topics and themes from the book and lays out a very clear “road map” to build a social media strategy for your business. If you haven’t read the book, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a well written and absorbing book about how technology is transforming how we connect with one another and with brands. Littered with plenty of real world examples and case studies, this is good reinforcement for the "pros" and a great social media 101 for the “newbies.” Charlene urged marketers to deal with social media using a four-step process, POST:

  • People: first access how your customers use social media

  • Objective: Figure out what you want to accomplish with social media

  • Strategy: Plan for how this engagement will foster your relationship with customers

  • Technology: Pick your method of engagement LAST

Charlene also explained the Social Technographics Ladder, which explained the levels at which consumers engage with social media. The “steps” on the ladder are: Inactives (44%), Spectators (48%), Joiners (25%), Collectors (12%), Critics (25%) and Creators (18%). Not surprisingly, 15-26 year olds are the most fervent “creators” – i.e they write blogs, upload videos, rate places etc. If you’re curious how your customers stack up on the ladder, use this profile builder tool on the Groundswell website. While you can’t get granular by adding specific geographic targets or psychographic information, it gives you an insightful window into how consumers of all ages are engaging with social media.

Finally, she spoke at length (this is also available in the book) about how to use the groundswell to meet several business objectives. They are:

  1. Listening (research - what does the buzz stand for, how do people perceive you, who are the influencers among your audience etc.)

  2. Talking (marketing - engaging with your audience via blogs, social networks etc.)

  3. Energizing (sales - getting your customers to be evangelists by giving them tools such as ratings/reviews and by participating in pre-existing communities)

  4. Supporting (use it as a customer support mechanism; e.g. Dell forums)

  5. Embracing: Helping your customers to work with each other to come up with ideas to improve your products or services


Other highlights of the day long conference included:

  • David Placier of Disney.com: Spoke in broad terms about how an integrated CRM (customer relationship marketing) tool has become a fundamental tenet in Disney's efforts.

    Key takeaway: According to David, key characteristics in the best use of CRM are: differentiated treatment of individuals and cross-platform compatability; i.e. if you tell ESPN you only want to see text messages scores of PAC-10 teams, this preference should be reflected next time you view a personalized ESPN website.

  • Mike Moran, former IBM online marketer: Gave an interesting speech comparing online marketing with the more traditional direct response measurement (DRM); he urged us to follow the highly iterative DRM process of "measure," "experiment", "test" and "monitor".

    Key takeaway: Measure three categories of metrics: impressions (did they see it), selections (did they click it) and conversions (did they act). The numbers aren't as important as trends; don't forget "mini" conversions (subscribing to RSS or downloading a white paper)

  • Geoff Ramsey of eMarketer enchanted the audience with a dizzying presentation chock full of charts and data. If you're an eMarketer subscriber, you've most likely seen the content of this presentation in your inbox or read about them in this blog.

    Key takeaway: "...transparency equals trust...give the user control, make it fun and give them tools to spread the word." He specifically cited pets.com, where conversions increased 49% while average order size increased 40% after user reviews and ratings were introduced.


  • Nancy Bhagat of Intel was probably one my favorite session of the day (besides Charlene). While she talked at length about how Intel has moved most of its branding efforts to the web--so much so that it's offering a 35% reimbursement for co-op partners--she spoke most passionately about about the discombobulated nature of measuring the impact of the conversations happening in social media, urging the industry to work together to come up with a more intuitive and accurate method. Hmmm...I wonder if she's been reading Troy and I wax poetically about engagement!

    Key takeaway: "Great brands are not the best storytellers...but...the ones with the best stories being told about them..."

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Michigan vs. Virginia


After a thrilling (well, as thrilling as you can get online) semi-finals showdown which saw over 4,400 votes and a last-minute comeback via a 'viral' campaign from Virginia, the finals are set.

Michigan (George's Army) Vs. Virginia (The Lovers)

Congrats to our 3rd place, Illinois, and 4th place, Oregon, finishers.

We will give everyone in Michigan and Virginia a break over the weekend and start up the finals next Tuesday. Which will officially and finally declare one of these two sites as the undisputed, greatest DMO travel site ever!

Too much hype? Nah, just right.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't Want To Write A Blog? Have Someone Else Do It For You


With the Olympic Games just a month off, some brands are looking to extend their sponsorships with social media programs. Lenovo has created 100 athletes' blogs in an attempt to align itself with some less mainstream sports, such as field hockey and modern pentathlon. It gave the athletes laptops and video cameras to chronicle their preparation for the games.

"We wanted to do something that shows our tech prowess, not something that uses the Web as billboard," said David Churbuck, vp of global Web marketing at Lenovo. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A great story from Adweek on computer maker Lenovo's digital strategy for the upcoming Olympic Games. Rather than start an 'official Lenovo Olympic blog', they reversed the thinking and have hundreds of athletes blogging for them. Give them the tools...blog, video camera, hosting, etc...and let them provide the content.

The reason I love this story is the thinking behind it and how it could apply to travel.

If you are a DMO or destination, you will more than likely (if you are popular) already have consumers / bloggers in your area who are blogging about you, restaurants, attractions (roller coaster 'nuts' love to blog), etc, etc. Rather than compete with them, why not create a certification program, similar to what Lenovo has done with these athlete blogs, and issue an official 'DMO seal of approval' for each blog.

Here is a secret, bloggers love to be acknowledged! Give them an 'official blogger for DMO XYZ logo' (see the Lenovo version at the bottom-left of this page), a little praise and recognition and aggregate these blogs into one large DMO blog site.

Lenovo has asked the participating athletes to show a "Lenovo 2008 Olympics Blogger" badge on their sites. Most have done so, said Churbuck. It isn't asking for any mention of Lenovo products, he added.

"I don't want to be in the position of telling them what to write," he said. "It's their blog, they can do what they want."


Just like that you have updated content, in a blog without a major time and resource commitment from your organization.

Of course, keep in mind that these bloggers are representing your brand, so ensuring professional, relevant and proper content is critical. But, an interview process (I would actually have them come to your office for the interview), a basic agreement and some solid research on the person should result in finding the most qualified bloggers for your site.

Perhaps you can start that blog after all.

Random Thoughts: Why Didn't We Do That?

In case you missed it, earlier this week we talked about the new travel site TripKick, which helps identify the 'best' rooms in specific hotels.

After thinking about the service a little more, I wondered why hotels or chains do not already offer this service. Personally, if I stay at a hotel where I know I will be staying again, I commonly make a little note in my phone about which rooms to ask for during my next stay.

Who better to offer than kind of information than the hotel itself? They know the layout of the rooms, which ones are better than others...why not offer that info to guests? Beyond that, why not charge more for the rooms with a good view (commonly done), quieter, larger, etc. and less for rooms with a blocked view or small window, etc. If I don't care about being next to the elevator, charge me less!

More and more often these new travel start-ups (Dopplr, SeatGuru, TripLife) are coming into the market and offering elegant solutions to problems we all encounter.

So, as a large organization, hotel or not, how do motivate and encourage your team to begin thinking about solving these common / basic problems, rather than have someone else solve them for you?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Travel Trends - Trazzler, TripKick, PlanetEye, Knol


Trazzler - From the founders of 71miles and Twitter, comes the 'Where would I rather be right now?' travel site Trazzler. If you have been reading the blog for a while, you know we are big fans of 71miles and twitter, so we were excited about the new site. And like both those sites, Trazzler is quiet in design and focused on its mission. The site takes into account your location and (they say soon) your personality to deliver one travel recommendation at a time (some call it 'One Deal at a Time'). The recommendations are actually written by the human hand, rather than crudely pulled from other sites, and offer a simple description of the travel experience...don't like it, click 'next.' Integration with Kayak provides the booking engine connection for the site.

And from the Trazzler blog, a great description of the site's mission:

Trazzler's mission is to free people from the distractions and cruft of online travel research. Clear your mind and ask yourself, "Where would I rather be right now?" Then flip through trip pages designed to place you emotionally in a moment with great photography and expert travel writing. Discover travel experiences with a more natural, meandering online experience. Add to your wishlist, explore your travel personality, and take a more inspired approach to online travel—Trazzler is about making it fun.

Wonderful. The site is a refreshing re-thinking of the travel planning site model.
http://trazzler.com/

TripKick - TripKick is SeatGuru for hotels. The service allows you to search (at this time within a limited number of cities) for hotel rooms and determine which room has the best view, best bathroom or is the quietest and away from the elevator. Brilliant. For example, check out the page on the W in Seattle, the site lists what rooms are oversized and have great views. Plus, the design of the site is simple, clean and easy to use. Thank you, TripKick.
http://www.tripkick.com/

PlanetEye - More new travel sites. With backing from some large investors, including Microsoft, PlanetEye takes a slightly different angle on the 'clip and save' travel planning site with a focus on mapping (from Microsoft) and images. In addition, the site features several 'local experts' in a variety of locations.
http://www.planeteye.com

Knol - Finally, a quick note about Google's launch of Knol (a unit of knowledge), the search giant's Wikipedia challenger. Knol, in simple terms, is a user-generated content / article site, like Wikipedia. But unlike Wikipedia, Knol will and can contain multiple articles on the same subject. Plus, unless you authorize contribution from other users, no one else can edit your 'knol.' Similar to Squidoo. And what is the travel connection? Think of all the expert 'knol' pages you can create about your destination. A lot of work, sure, but the SEO returns could be worth it. Keep an eye on this site, with Google backing it is sure to grow rapidly.
http://knol.google.com

Random Thoughts: Smarter Media Spend

In case you missed it, the Orlando Sentinel had a little snippet about the LVCVA this week.

...Las Vegas, spent $123.6 million on marketing and advertising during the fiscal year that ended June 30. Vegas is seeing almost no growth in its visitor count through May, while hotel occupancy has dipped 1.9% compared with the first five months of last year.
Now, we are certainly not saying the money was not well spent, (not to mention the economy, gas prices, airlines, etc, etc, etc.) but with numbers and quotes like that, you could understand how a non-travel industry person could jump to such a conclusion. Which we all know is the incorrect one, tourism marketing / advertising is critical to every DMO and CVB.

Perhaps the industry should be focusing on how we are spending our money, rather than how much money we have to spend.

Easier said than done, to be sure.

Monday, July 21, 2008

How To Protect Your Social Media Footprint


A lot of us in the interactive marketing world are familiar with the term 'cybersquatting,' where an individual or company sits on (or squats on) hundreds of domain names in the hopes that another organization will have no choice but to pay an inflated price for the URL.

This practice reached its peak several years ago, as the original ‘dot com’ bubble was bursting. However, there are still hundreds of thousands of domain names still being held or developed, primarily as link farms, by people and organizations who are still looking for that payday.

See arizona.com as one example. (Not linked on purpose, they are not getting SEO love from us.)

Now, with the undeniable popularity of social websites, such as Facebook and YouTube, many marketers are finding that there ideal social URL or username has been already claimed.

A little background. Most social sites allow users to select a username or nickname for the account. In addition, many of these sites also allow you to create a unique page, channel or profile.

Such as www.youtube.com/arizonatourism

The challenge is that anyone can essentially claim any ‘social URL’ that they want, regardless if they have any connection with Arizona, travel, Nike, Starbucks, your name, my name, etc.

And as more and more marketers launch campaigns with a social site component, many are finding that there brand name is already gone.

Here is what you need to do. Go out and begin registering on these social sites, whether or not you are ready to launch a campaign. Many of them will allow you to set your profile to private, meaning you can simply register your brand-specific ‘social URL’ without having to maintain a social presence. And while that seems so anti-social, at least your social URL will be there when you are ready.

Social Sites (travel and non-travel) You Need To Protect:

TripAdvisor
http://www.tripadvisor.com
  • Who: The major travel review and social travel site online. Millions of visitors, hundreds of reviews.

  • Why: See above, with hundreds of reviews and members, this should be your first step in communicating with the social travel consumer. While there is not a risk of losing an URL such as tripadvisor.com/traveltexas, there could already be a consumer using 'TravelTexas' as there Member Name.

  • How: TripAdvisor offers DMOs, hotels and other travel organizations the option to contribute content, with links to your website, for FREE! Insider Pages, GoLists, Videos, Forums and Reviews all offer a chance to spread your message to the TripAdvisor audience.
MySpace
http://www.myspace.com/
  • Who: Owned by Fox Interactive, MySpace, along with Facebook, dominate the social networking space.

  • Why: Even if you don't have plans to launch a MySpace campaign in the near future, you need to own your MySpace URL. Several major companies have already experienced losing there brand name to regular consumers. For example: http://www.myspace.com/cocacola

  • How: Like many social sites, launching a campaign on MySpace is more complex than simply throwing up some product images and brochure copy (see our post Why Facebook Will and Will Not Work For the Travel Industry - Part 1), users expect a connection via MySpace or Facebook and so far, very few 'brands' have been successful using the site. So, until you are ready to take on the work load, just set that MySpace page to private.
Facebook
http://www.facebook.com
  • Who: Independent, along with MySpace, one of the largest social networking sites.

  • Why: See MySpace above.

  • How: Again, see above.
YouTube
http://www.youtube.com
  • Who: Owned by Google, YouTube is the largest video sharing site online. Famous for being the source of thousands of viral videos, YouTube is increasingly being used as a marketing platform.

  • Why: YouTube allows members to create 'channels' with specific URLs, such as www.youtube.com/ArizonaTourism. Like we have said earlier in the post, even if you are not planning on running your content or videos via YouTube at this time, you should own the URL. Additionally, YouTube has already become the primary location for online video, so if you want your commercials / custom content to be watched online, you will probably have to add it on YouTube.

  • How: Like MySpace, TripAdvisor or any other 'social' site, members and viewers of YouTube are looking for valuable content. You can and should upload your standard commercials, but unless you are Bud Light, don't expect them to be the next viral sensation. Use YouTube to highlight original content, participate in the conversations or to connect with travelers (many of which probably have travel videos of your state).
The Rest...Other Sites You Should Consider:

Flickr
http://www.flickr.com

Twitter
http://www.twitter.com

Virtual Tourist
http://www.virtualtourist.com/

IgoUgo
http://www.igougo.com/

RealTravel
http://realtravel.com/

Squidoo
http://www.squidoo.com/
Social URL / Marketing Tips:
  • Make sure you set your profile to private if you don't plan on contributing regular content. Do not register for a social site, leave your profile public and neglect to post anything. If you do, watch your social rep decline quickly.

  • Try and use the same Member Name, URL, etc for each site. Even thought it is not your site, you still need to present a consistent brand to the end user. For example, whenever possible, we use 'ArizonaTourism.' And while this point is contrary to the one below, because your staff may change over time, it is better to use a consistent 'brand name' for the Member Name and then provide a complete description, including your real name, in the bio or about section.

  • Be authentic. Cannot stress that enough.

  • Consider using a generic email address such as webmaster@yourstate.com or social@yourstate.com. Rather than trying to hide yourself, this point is designed to make transitions (i.e. new employees) easier.

  • Keep track. There are a lot of social sites out there, make sure you keep track of the sites you have joined.

  • Contribute value content. Again, unless you are ready to begin contributing to the community which you have joined, simply stay quiet. Wait until you are ready to commit the time and resources to the project and then proceed with your social strategy.

  • Be aware of the time required. Any of these social sites will take a significant amount of time to maintain, nurture and grow. You must be prepared to interact with these communities on a daily basis.

  • Users will talk to you. Unless your intern is an expert on your organization, you may want to rethink having him or her manage your social marketing just because they are 'young.' Users within the communities you join will want to talk and communicate with you. They will probably yell, praise, question, dismiss and love you. All at the same time.

  • Look around. See what other companies and organizations are doing on the social site you want to join. How often are the posting? How are they using the site? What is the response?
Remember, if you are ready to enter the social scene, enjoy it. After all, the travel industry is all about communicating with travelers...but instead of across a desk, it is across a social site.

Have any additional thoughts on the subject? Did we miss a website for the list? Let us know in the comments section.

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Final Four


A quick reminder that the polls are currently open, for the next couple of days, for the Great Travel Site Showdown.

Currently, Michigan and Virginia are in the lead, but both Oregon and Illinois have time to close the gap.

Before we forget, thanks to everyone who participated in the Great Travel Site Showdown. We hope you have enjoyed the friendly competition as much as we have.

Summer Travel Blues...And Deals.


To most Americans, a summer getaway is a crucial component of the life-work compact: they trade 50 weeks of cubicle-bound servitude for two weeks of sun-dappled bliss, and it seems worth it (well, almost).

But halfway through the 2008 season, vacationers (and would-be vacationers) are being squeezed by a confluence of dismal economic realities: fuel prices that have nearly doubled since the start of last year; airlines that have jacked up fares 17 percent since the start of the year; a dollar that stands like a pygmy alongside foreign currencies. >>Full Story

Thoughts// This Tribune story is yet another article about the dismal travel outlook this season. According to research (validated by research from our friends at Destination Analysts), travelers are taking fewer tips or staying home altogether. Even the wealthy are not immune from the situation and are increasingly going online to scrutinizing prices closely. Of course this article is typical of the current media environment and focuses mostly on the negative side of the story. On the flip side, consumers still view the "summer vacation" as a quintessential part of their life and are generally "trading down, not out" according to Peter Yesawich of Y Partnership and other research sources.

Not surprisingly, many DMO's and state tourism agencies are taking advantage of budget conscious consumers shopping online (over 70% in June according to eMarketer - see below) and are offering "summer deals" for travelers. Here's a sampling:

  • Hawaii: The aloha state launched a "limited" $3 million TV, radio, print and online campaign to stimulate summer tourism;

  • Oregon: We relaunched our 365 campaign in regional portal and lifestyle sites; while 365 has been primarily a branding initiative in the past, this time we evolved the campaign to feature special summer deals fromour partners;

Do you have an interesting story to share about how your organization is using the web to offer value packages to spark travel close to home this summer? Share your story and tell us.

(PS: What's with all the Michigan votes on the poll! I say re-count!)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Follow the Travel 2.0 Blog on twitter


For all of those readers currently addicted to twitter, you can now follow the Travel 2.0 blog on the 'micro-blogging' service. Just go to our twitter page...

http://twitter.com/travel2dot0

...and follow all of our posts to the Travel 2.0 blog, plus any other random thoughts we might have.

All of the posts and articles on the Travel 2.0 blog will be posted on our twitter page, so you won't miss a thing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

HSMAI Adrian Awards Call For Entries

Submissions for the 2008 HSMAI Adrian Awards are currently open and we would like to call your attention to the 'Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing' section.

While the primary Adrian Awards and categories are generally submitted by an organization or an advertising agency, the 'Top 25' section allows our counterparts within the travel industry to nominate our peers and partners. And with so many of those peers currently reading the Travel 2.0 blog (thank you), it seemed like a good time to ask and remind each of you to nominate your co-workers and teammates who deserve recognition for the work they do.

The nomination process is FREE and only takes a few short seconds via an online form.

Take a moment and nominate someone you admire.

http://www.adrianawards.com/

Thank You To Our Readers

Every once and a while, Mo and I feel like you, the reader, is entitled to an update about the Travel 2.0 blog. How many people are reading it, who else is listening to our crazy demands, etc, etc. Not to mention offer a huge thank you to everyone who does read the blog.

So, here are the numbers:

616 readers of the Travel 2.0 blog.
524 read via email.
92 via RSS.

An average of 250 readers are considered 'daily' or as we like to say, 'obsessed' readers.

Plus, we have 1,802 members in the Travel 2.0 Group on LinkedIn.

Not too bad if we don't say so ourselves.

So, to all 616 of you, thanks for reading. Mo and I amazed and humbled on a daily basis by the following of the Travel 2.0 blog.

The State of the American Traveler - July Report

Our friends at Destination Analysts passed along the newest edition of their extremely informative 'The State of the American Traveler' report. You can view the entire report here (.pdf), but here are some interactive-specific highlights:

Plus, be sure to take a look at the larger chart on page 4, for the question 'In the past 12 months, which of these resources or internet technologies have you used to specifically help plan your leisure travel?' Some of the results:

UGC Reviews of Hotels - 23.2%
UGC Travel Itinerary or Blog - 16.7%
UGC Destination Reviews - 16.1%
DMO Pages on a Social Media Site - 6.8%
Mobile / PDA To Access Travel Info - 17.2%
Google Earth - 19.2%
Online Travel Videos - 8.8%
Word of Mouth - 32.1%
The numbers that really jump out at me are the 16.7% who used an 'UGC Itinerary or Blog' and the 6.8% that used a 'DMO Page on a Social Media Site.' Both of those are pretty healthy numbers.

As far as the 17.2% who used a mobile device, I would like to see a deeper analysis into those results. My guess is the majority of those mobile visits are for such activities as checking flights, checking-in for flights and weather, rather than actual requests for decision-making travel info.

'Google Earth' seems surprising high, but it should be a little red flag that causes you to examine your organizations possible uses for Google Earth. See our recent post about Walt Disney World.

'Online Travel Videos' seems a little low, but I would attribute that to the lack of quality content. The majority of 'travel videos' currently online are simply re-purposed TV ads, not useful or informative travel pieces. Once that content becomes available, I would expect to see the number increase.

And finally, remember that while even those online, social, interactive marketing efforts might not result in convenient to track conversions, they could be increasing the 'word of mouth' about your destination. Which is still one of, if not the, best way to get your message out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Business Traveler Advice From Strangers


Researching a business trip once involved guidebooks and the advice of a handful of friends and co-workers. But if corporate travel companies have their way, executives will soon be consulting new social networking sites and an endless stream of strangers for the secrets of the road.

Word of mouse is the latest trend in online travel planning, and a variety of corporate travel companies are setting up networking sites in hopes of becoming the Facebook of corporate travel. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Ah, social networking for business travelers. An interesting article from the New York Times discusses the beginnings of this 'new' social traveling segment. Naturally, major business travel organizations Expedia and American Express are launching (or announcing) corporate travel networking sites. And Expedia has taken the extra step of creating the nearly impossible to pronounce or understand brand name for there corporate travel arm...Egencia. Oy.

The article also touches upon the OrbitzTLC Traveler Network, which we have discussed on the Travel 2.0 blog, however much of the focus is on creating that business traveler social network.

Of course, how much use a business traveler social network would receive is debatable. Unlike personal travel, I would assume that many business travelers simply depend on a corporate travel department or assistant to book travel, rather than actually doing the research themselves.

Add onto that the already existing social networks, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, do business travelers really need a separate social network? Probably not.

However, the article failed to mention, aside from Orbitz, the numerous niche applications that could prove to be very useful to business travelers. Rather than a complete social network, many of these applications simply provide the business traveler with a useful and needed service. Such as airport updates and parking info from OrbitzTLC.

Sites such as Dopplr, which allows travelers to connect with friends who are traveling to the same destination and TripLife, which encourages travelers to connect with potential business contacts during the downtime that comes with air travel...if you are sitting in LAX for 3 hours, why not find a possible peer to have a business discussion with?

Additionally, technology such as Trip Sync allows travel planners to schedule and book via Outlook.

(Author's Note: One of our readers, Paula, has correctly pointed out that Trip Sync went out of business on July 1, a few days before we finished this post.)

So, who is still interested in joining a business traveler social network?

Image from Flickr.com member MK30.

Travel Trends - TripAdvisor, Email, Weekend Sherpa, ChaCha


TripAdvisor - Travel review giant TripAdvisor has acquired another travel website in VirtualTourist. While VirtualTourist has a slightly different audience than TripAdvisor, the basic concept behind both sites is similar. At this point, it appears that TripAdvisor will let VirtualTourist continue on its own path. As we have stated previously on the Travel 2.0 blog, consolidation within this space has only been a matter of when, rather than if. And with so many new, niche online travel sites launching (what seems like) daily, we should continue to see further consolidation for the near future.
http://www.boston.com/

Email
- A new survey from Direct Partners shows that email is the most popular form of direct response marketing. E-mail is used primarily by 35 percent of companies compared to 25 percent that use traditional direct mail and 21 percent that use promo packages, statement stuffers or freestanding inserts. Certainly not a surprise, but confirmation that you are receiving more junk mail via your inbox than your mailbox.
http://www.adweek.com/

Weekend Sherpa - Last week, I received a call from Emily at Outside Magazine for a piece about new technology / websites for travel planning. During our call, she brought two new websites to my attention, Weekend Sherpa and ChaCha. Weekend Sherpa takes a simplified look at a travel recommendation website by getting back to basics...the site is simply an email / email sign-up form to receive a weekly email about what to do in Northern California. No more, no less. Simple, easy and straight to the point.
http://www.weekendsherpa.com/

ChaCha - Again, another site that is so simple, but so useful. Send a text to the ChaCha service, receive a text answer. Near a hotel, looking for a specific restaurant or attraction, text and receive the answer. The service is meant for any question, but the applications for travel specific questions and information are very intriguing.
https://www.chacha.com/

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"South Carolina is So Gay"

A state employee has resigned and officials have disavowed an international advertising campaign that led to calls for an investigation of tourism posters proclaiming “South Carolina is so gay.”

The campaign, which plastered the London subway with posters advertising the charms of South Carolina and five major U.S. cities to gay European tourists, landed with a resounding thud in South Carolina, where the issue of gay rights has long been a political flashpoint. >>Full Story

Thoughts// We've been scratching our heads on this one. Despite whatever you think of the creative, the tag line, or how this was allegedly only approved by "a low level staffer", this story nevertheless raises some interesting questions about the precarious nature of being a state tourism agency.

With gay travel estimated to be a $64.5 billion market by the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, how does a state tourism agency legitimately—using public funds—communicate to this audience in a meaningful way?

Once a decision has been made to pursue the gay tourism market, how do you sustain and defend the decision?

Tell us what you think! We'd love to hear from you on this one.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Opportunity: Multi State Website Usability Focus Groups

Troy and I try to maintain the editorial integrity of this blog and stay away from hawking vendor services; however, from time to time, we do see opportunities that we feel might be extremely compelling to our readers. This is one of them!

Indiana based SMARI is offering state tourism offices an opportunity to participate in a "group" based web usability focus group. Oregon participated—and I personally attended—the 2006 version of this study along with Minnesota, Missouri, Montana & Indiana and gleaned some fascinating insights about how consumers use the web for travel research/booking and also how they specifically use state tourism websites to plan their trip (A screen shot from a snippet in the report is featured above). We also received a detailed evaluation of TravelOregon.com and how it compared to our competitive set.

SMARI conducts the facilitated focus groups in a closed lab environment and the panel is recruited based on the participating states' target demographics. The next focus group panel is scheduled to happen on July 30th and while the cost varies on the number of states who join, SMARI assures me that the maximum would be $4,000. If you're interested, please contact SMARI directly.

The Great Travel Site Showdown


Voting for the final 8 of the Great Travel Site Showdown finished last Friday with Michigan, Oregon, Virginia and Illinois all moving one step closer to be named the greatest travel website of all-time! Or at least the winner of this poll.

Voting and match-ups for the final group will start this Thursday.

That should give everyone plenty of time to get the word out, email friends, bribe public officials, etc, etc.

Thanks again to all who have voted so far, and good luck to our final competitors.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Semifinals Update

As many of you know, the blog, and more specifically the Blogger / Google Poll feature, have been experiencing some voting issues for the Great Travel Site Showdown.

So, to be as fair as possible in this semi-official poll, we will reopen the voting for the semifinals starting today. The polls will be new, meaning the original votes will not show in the tally, however, we will simply add a (+ whatever) next to the state currently in the lead.

Voting will be open until Friday. Hopefully it will work correctly this time.

Glad I don't own any stock in Google. Oh, wait, no I am not.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Even More, More FREE Ways To Track Online Buzz

Back by even more popular demand, even more, more FREE ways to track your online buzz. If you missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here:

Okay, now for the good stuff:

Blogpulse:
Blogpulse from Nielsen BuzzMetrics is one of my new favorite tools. The highlight of the tool set is the Blogpulse search itself, which allows you to measure keyword usage in consumer-generated media (or CGM for you cool kids). So, we could look at some keywords for the 4th of July holiday...such as 'Fireworks', 'Hot Dogs' and for contrast, 'Christmas.'

Ah, it looks like Fireworks wins, by a pretty big margin. I wonder what 'fireworks injuries' looks like.
http://www.blogpulse.com/trend

Co.mments.com:
co.mments.com allows you to monitor comments (obviously) and replies to specific blog posts. So, for example, if a blogger posted a negative comment about your state, hotel or restaurant, you could simply copy and paste the post URL into the field and follow the comments via RSS or email. The service becomes especially useful if you are tracking several posts from multiple sites. Now if they could only find the negative comments for you.
http://co.mments.com/

BoardTracker.com:
Finally, boardtracker.com provides a quick search of message boards from hundreds of sites. While the data returned by boardtracker.com is not as segmented as I would like, the service will give you an idea of the conversations being discussed about your destination. I probably would not use the service to find and respond to consumers (too many threads!), but it can be a valuable service to stay in front of negative or positive PR situations. Oh, and my other minus on boardtracker.com is they categorize travel under 'Sports and Recreation.' But, still worth a look.
http://www.boardtracker.com/

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How Social Media Changes the Rules for Good



This presentation I recently found on SlideShare (an excellent source for presentation btw!) is a pretty compelling piece on how social networking and digital media has revolutionized your relationship with your audience.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Travel Trends - Disney, Writing Travelers, TripWolf


Disney Goes 3D - Ever since Google purchased SketchUp, bloggers have speculated on what combinations were possible...the most often quoted was a Google version of Second Life. Disney has taken advantage of this technology and created the entire Walt Disney World Resort complex in an extensive 3D layer in Google Earth. How extensive you wonder? ...included significant amounts of real-world objects such as a monorail, picnic tables, benches, streetlights, signs, and trees. LOTS of trees. As in thousands of them!... Yeah, extensive. The 3D layer is simply amazing, I can only speculate how many hundreds hours this took.

Of course, someone out there is thinking, 'well, with in the park in 3D, would this reduce attendance?' You laugh, but I have heard those questions asked. The obvious answer would be no. I will (safely) assume this new feature will only further encourage travel to Disney World, give consumers a better idea of what is available at each park, greatly assist travel agents and generate a ton of press.

Would this apply to your community and CVB? Possibly, there are some communities who are actively adding there city to Google Earth, such as Westport, Ireland. And Google is encouraging participation via the Cities in 3D Program. However, most of these 3D buildings are created by 3D building enthusiasts (3D nerds). So, find so local computer science majors at your local college / high school, send them the 'How To Video' and get your city on the map. If it is not already there.
http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/

WritingTravellers - More wiki, social, online-to-print guides. Are you seeing a trend here? WritingTravellers takes the co-authored travel guide beyond the wiki (or website) such as WikiTravel.org and allows visitors to print a copy of the travel guide book they helped create. Perfect for those people who think they could do it better. The site is still in beta and has limited content at this point, however it is another important example and project that begins to layout the future of the travel guide.
http://www.writingtravellers.com/

TripWolf - Speaking of social travel, TripWolf, which we posted about a few days ago (Random Thoughts: Travel 2.0 and TripWolf), has launched into public beta...meaning you can go explore the site. In addition, the team at TripWolf announced that MairDumont, probably most well known on this side of the Atlantic for the Marco Polo travel guide series, is backing the effort by 'taken the unprecedented step of putting all of its high-quality content - covering more than 200,000 destinations and points of interest - online for free.' So, let's read that again, a major travel guide publishing house is planning on putting all of it's content onto a social travel site and allowing consumers to access it for free. I knew it, there is a trend here!
http://www.tripwolf.com/

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Travel Trends: Google AdPlanner & Quantcast

Google AdPlanner - In another sign that Google is going to just take over every fathomable task in my life, the giant recently unveiled a new ad-planning tool for agencies and marketers. AdPlanner, is designed to help agencies identify sites where their target audience might be active. While it uses audience measurement data (from Nielsen), AdPlanner also combines it with search engine data and information from third parties, to determine with more precision what sites attract a certain demographic audience. Via a simple interface, buyers can enter basic demographic target information and potential sites to buy into Ad Planner, and then can quickly generate a potential media plan. The product also calculates the plan’s total estimated reach.
http://www.nytimes.com/

Quantcast - Those of you reading this blog know how obsessed Troy and I are about measurement and analytics and inconsistency that's rampant between what the various measurement tools out there. Qantcast recently announced a plan to hopefully "reconcile the difference" between what publishers say their traffic is (using Google Analytics, Omniture etc.) versus what Nielsen and ComScore report out (using online panels). The new mechanism will offer "people-based traffic counts" for sites registered with Quantcast, basically a "a hybrid of panel-based data and cookie-based measurement", using a formula to account for the inconsistencies from cookies.
http://adage.com/digital/

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is Google Making Us Stupid?


For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski. >>Full Story

Thoughts// This profound piece on how search—and more specifically Google—has transformed our daily lives, can be summed up in this vivid quote: Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

The author examines how our mind is increasingly dependent on Google and how this addiction is effecting our brains and inhibiting cognition. Besides transforming how we read, technology is deeply embedded in our daily lives—it's our map, clock, printing press, calculator and radio and TV—and is forcing other media to conform to its norms. Consider:
  1. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads

  2. Magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets

  3. Newspapers devote devote pages of space for shorter article abstracts

While I am not sure I entirely agree with the premise of this article, this is nevertheless a very interesting read on how technology will continue to impact and revolutionize the consumption of media for years to come.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Semifinals Begin Tomorrow


Well, the semifinals of the Great Travel Site Showdown are set and voting begins tomorrow on the Travel 2.0 blog. Our final 8 is quite a varied group, spanning the entire country and quite a few website design styles. But, there can only be one winner.

Here is a preview of the match-ups:

Ohio vs. Michigan
North Carolina vs. Oregon
Hawaii vs. Virginia
New Hampshire vs. Illinois
All pairings will be available for voting tomorrow (Wednesday). Good luck all!

(Author's Note: For all of those whose state is already eliminated or are just bored with the Showdown, stay tuned for our next poll: 'The Top 20 Most Annoying Blog Polls of All Time!' We guarantee you'll be annoyed with it.)

Random Thoughts: Online Ad Spend

Reading an article in the Washington Post, this paragraph jumped out to me:

The nation's largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, which spends nearly $5 billion a year on advertising, devoted less than 2 percent of its measured ad spending online, according to figures from the 2007 Advertising Age list of leading national advertisers. The company spent most of its vast ad budget on television.

Of course, 2% of $5 billion dollars is still more than enough money to fill up a swimming pool, but an interesting, possibly overlooked stat about the company which most marketers were taught to emulate in terms of strategy and spend.

Travel Trends - Staycations!, Soundwalk


Why go to Florida? Buy a TV instead! - Everyone in the travel industry is currently cringing at the word 'staycation'...blame it on the media, I suppose...now industries outside of travel are jumping on the staycation bandwagon. Check out this recent email I personally received from Circuit City:

Subject Line: city life: Great staycations + an exclusive Wii Fit tell-all

And a shot of the email:


And, for your reading enjoyment, the entire article...A great escape is closer than you think.

Come on Circuit City, don't make the travel industry come down to your store and start roughing up the teenage employees. Drop the staycation line before someone hears you.
http://www.circuitcity.com/

Soundwalk - I remember seeing the library of Soundwalk audio tours at Barnes & Noble a while ago, but completely forgot about the product until Techcrunch featured the company again because of their new Louis Vuitton Soundwalk of China series. Soundwalk is 'a cinematic experience, a way to explore and understand a new culture and others' with a 'mix of fitting music, sound effects, interviews, and sound clips'. To say this is a simple podcast would be an injustice. Soundwalk is an impression collection of phenomenal narrators...my favorite is the Original Jazzy Jay on the Bronx Hip-Hip Walk...music, lyrical storytelling and soundeffects that are so perfect, you could just as easily enjoy the walks from home, rather than the corner of 46th St. and Broadway. Now, the Louis Vuitton series talks the Soundwalk to a whole new level, with a very rich (no pun intended) website experience featuring the luxury that is LV. Check out both the sites and delete those old podcasts of Paris you have sitting in iTunes.
http://www.soundwalk.com/

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Are You a Baller? Nike Tests Facebook


Nike is trying to win friends on Facebook, testing a program that aims to link basketball players with pick-up games, leagues, one another and the Swoosh. "Ballers Network" allows hoopsters on the 80-million-member social networking site to organize, find and track pick-up basketball games and leagues. Still in test mode, the application maps basketball courts, and ballplayers can use the program to post bios, invite friends and solicit reviews on their game. >>Full Story

Thoughts// After seeing so many bad examples of how brands are using social media, it was quite refreshing to read about Nike's efforts in the social media space in the Friday Oregonian. Nike's new "ballers" application allows hoop players to "find and track pick-up basketball games and leagues" that are close to them. Players can find games based on zip code/location, skill level and also solicit feedback on their game.

In explaining Nike's strategy for the space, global director of digital media Stefan Olander explains that "it's really hard to convey a brand message" on the web and that he views the web more as a place to provide a service. We couldn't agree more! Instead of building meaningless profiles or gimmicky microsites, the digital medium affords us the ability to provide experiences that are inherently valuable to consumers. For more on this topic, see our past blogs: Making Digital Meaningful, & Don't Just Blindly Follow Latest Trends.

(Author's Note: This story is not directly related to the travel industry.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Retro, Vintage, Handwritten Notes & Watercolors - Hot Trends in Web Design for 2008

About a year ago, I compiled a huge list of artistic sites. It seems like the trend has carried on in 2008 and is growing stronger (thank God the glossy style is gone). So what’s hot now? Pencil sketches, handwritten notes, card stocks, watercolor effects, collage art, script fonts, grungy and splatter ink backgrounds (glossy gradients are not "in" this year). Another trend to be on the lookout for are the vintage and retro styles. >>Full Story

Thoughts// If you're like me and feel indifferent about the modern—and sterile—look of "Web 2.0" sites but have a nostalgic fascination with all things retro and vintage, this is a good year to surf the web! The talented creatives at WebDesignerWall, just posted a really inspiring blog about 2008 design trends. Among the "hot" trends this year are:

  • Vintage/Retro: Designs inspired by '40's and '50's design elements, which interestingly at the time were considered "ultra modern or futuristic"; example: McTarnahan's

  • Handwritten Notes & Paperclips: Handwritten fonts and paper clips add depth and emotion to what can be a sterile online experience; it's no surprise that many sites are using it to add personality to their site; example: Point of Entry

  • Grunge: While the word "grunge" evolved as slang for "dirty" or "filthy", this design style is anything but that. The unconventional style is defined by irregular, ugly and crooked visual elements, subtle dark tones and weathered or worn textures; example: Sundance

  • Spatter Ink: Punctuated with bright colors, free flowing design elements and large blots of color, this design aesthetic communicates "vibrancy" and "fun"; example: Virginia (for 'passionality' art) & Pointless Ramblings.

  • Watercolor: Inspired by Monet's impressionism, sites designed in this style are soft, vivid and feminine; example: Spring in Tennessee; (wow props to TN for being in two trendy categories!)

  • Woodsy: Irreverent yet timeless, this whimsical retro inspired design is increasingly popular with state tourism offices; examples: Travel Oregon, Minnesota, & Idaho

  • Collage: Free flowing and refreshing, collage designs are a nice break from the more conventional and rigid design schemes that litter the web; example: Free People & Tennessee

Of course, it goes without saying that using an ephemeral design trend just for the sake of "being cool" without consideration of brand, audience or goals will get you no where.

~ Happy Wednesday!

Update: I originally was thinking of Tennessee's old site when I put them under "splatter ink"; looks like they've since evolved to a more "collage" aesthetic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Words, Words, Mere Words...Writing Style for Print vs. Web



Print publications — from newspaper articles to marketing brochures — contain linear content that's often consumed in a more relaxed setting and manner than the solution-hunting behavior that characterizes most high-value Web use. Web content must be brief and get to the point quickly, because users are likely to be on a specific mission. In many cases, they've pulled up the page through search. Web users want actionable content; they don't want to fritter away their time on (otherwise enjoyable) stories that are tangential to their current goals. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Jakob Nielson has been called the "the king of usability" and I try and read his latest usability tips as much as time allows. His latest work on "writing style" for print versus online and the related research showing that web users are getting more ruthless and selfish when viewing online content is quite fascinating. According to his research, consumers are impatient when viewing content and many "simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave".

He also cites a recent NY Times attention grabbing headline, Coping With the Tall Traveler's Curse; Neilson believes that while the headline might be "enticing and might draw readers in" on paper, the headline doesn't work online because of the headline lacks keywords to draw the user in.

While I wholeheartedly agree on the basic premise of abbreviated copy writing style for the web, I think the travel industry (DMO's in particular) are uniquely positioned to be a bit more free to express themselves online. Unlike banks, e-commerce or auction sites, we're in the business of selling dreams and fantasies; by its nature, vacation dreams are vivid, imaginative and alluring, thus freeing the travel marketer from being "robotic" in his/her writing style, even online! A few rules that our team follows at Travel Oregon are:
  1. Whimsical, quirky storytelling style: Our online material, while brief and to the point, takes on a bit of a storytelling style; in our experience, a longer story peppered with rich keywords and appropriate bullets helps to sell the experience better and gets better engagement

  2. Tell a better digital story by adding photos and/or videos. Our blog stories with video/photos get proportionally longer visits by consumers

  3. Use descriptive text for links versus the generic "click here"

  4. Write for people, not machines! This is by far my biggest pet peeve with web writing. Yes, definitely pepper your copy with SEO keywords but don't do it to the point where you're disrespecting your audience. Here is a good example (from actual hompage copy of a Portland hotel) of what I mean by a brand writing for machines versus people:

    Hotel XXXX is a Portland hotel where style and comfort converge. Situated in the heart of downtown Portland, the Hotel XXXX offers a unique alternative to all other Portland, Oregon hotels. Our guests enjoy the personalized service and lavish hotel amenities that have earned the Hotel XXXX Portland a spot among the world's best hotels. Inside, experience cutting-edge design and unsurpassed comfort. Venture outside and be at the epicenter of all Portland has to offer, including Portland attractions, Portland restaurants, tax free Portland shopping, art galleries and theatre.

Writer's Note: For more on "digital storytelling" checkout the YouTube video above; if you can't see it in your e-mail, please read this story on this blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Random Thoughts: Travel 2.0 and TripWolf


As all of you know, new travel sites (travel 2.0!) seem to pop-up on a daily basis, each one promising more features, better advice all while being faster than the other guy or at least more social. And while we usually just don't have time to review all of them, the recent beta launch of TripWolf gives us a good chance to ponder.

Thoughts// Ah, the benefits of launching a new travel site...learn from everyone else's mistakes, integrate the latest 'insert buzz word here' technology, use plenty of 2.0 looking fonts and logo reflections...and launch. However, in this increasing competitive slice of the online pie, the disadvantage to starting a new travel site is trying to break into the consumer consciousness that really only knows about the 3 big OTAs (online travel agencies...Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity) and TripAdvisor.

Honestly, with such a huge head start, I am not sure how or who could catch up to TripAdvisor. At this point, TripAdvisor has pretty much pulled a Band-Aid and replaced the phrase 'social review travel site' with the word TripAdvisor.

Ron: 'I going on vacation to the Bahamas.'

Brian: 'Really? You should check out a social review travel site on the world wide web. Perhaps use your favorite search engine to find it.'

Yeah, I didn't think that sounded right.

Plus, the clock is ticking on seeing more consolidation in this sector. With so many sites offering similar (in the consumers mind) services, not all of these new '2.0' sites will survive.

That all being said, I would include TripWolf in a group of travel sites that are starting to stand out from the rest...Dopplr, TripIt, VibeAgent, etc...and provide a solid as well as unique service to the traveling public.

As far as TripWolf itself, a very user-friendly site in terms of design and aesthetics, while combining good info from around the web (YouTube, Flickr, etc.) with local advice, reviews and Facebook integration. The two pieces that stood out were a website to .pdf creator (not new, but nice to see) and that the travel guide sections are set up as a wiki...meaning you or I can edit the main content of a section. Rather than just append standard 'has to stay the same' info on a site such as TripAdvisor or Travelocity.

And Claude, our friend at Les Explorers, has a good interview with Sebastian Heinzel, the TripWolf CEO...complete with shocking revelation from CEO Heinzel:

'...people won't go to a travel website every day...'

Holy crap, this guy gets it!

But I still wonder, how many travel social review sites can one person be a part of...

(Author's Note: Full disclosure, Jennifer at TripWolf invited us to the private beta a couple of weeks ago.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Travel Trends - Couch Surfing, Niche Newspapers, Media Spend, FedEx, Mobile Internet


Couch Surfing - The end of hotels as we know them? Probably not, but still interesting. If you are looking for a free place to stay on your next vacation and do not suffer from any sleeping disorders like sleep walking, couchsurfing.com can find you a couch to crash on. Oh, that's right, you are staying on someone else's couch. CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit. So far, there are 586,956 available couches who have hosted 474,622 'successful' surfing experiences. A brilliant concept (love the way one surfer put it: a global community based on trust, honesty, reciprocity, generosity, optimism and a sharing of all the good things in life) and from the sound of it, you will actually meet some interesting (and not scary!) people. Unfortunately, Oprah's couch is not on the list...I checked.
http://www.couchsurfing.com/

(Just in case you need more, here is the video of Tom Cruise going crazy on Oprah...love that guy.)

Niche Newspapers
- For everyone out there who is advertising on a major papers website, a report by The Media Audit and reported by the Center for Media Research shows that some 'alternative' newspapers have an expanding reach:

Alternative newspaper websites with the highest market penetration include:

• Madison Wisconsin's Isthmus (13.5%)
• The Austin Chronicle (11.4%)
• Charleston, Carolina's Charleston City Paper (10.3%)
• The New Haven Advocate (10%)
• The Memphis Flyer (9.5%)
• Minneapolis City Pages (9.2%)
• Madison, Wisconsin's The Onion (8.9%)
• New Orleans' Gambit Newsweekly (8.8%)
• Syracuse New Times (8.3%)
• Washington D.C.'s The Onion (8.2%)
Interesting stuff.
http://www.themediaaudit.com/

More Stats - Some more online advertising numbers from the Center for Media Research.

According to a proprietary study by The Media Trust Company, American Express had the largest share-of-voice among travel advertisers (online) as consumers searched on where to vacation, hot travel deals and travel advice preceding Memorial Day, the official start of summer.
  • CarRental.com was the leading advertiser with a 45.57% share-of-voice among car rental companies
  • Best Western earned 25.22% share-of-voice among hotel advertisers
  • United Airlines was the top airline advertiser with a 42.27% share-of-voice
  • American Express accounted for 46.53% of all credit card advertisements
http://blogs.mediapost.com/

FedEx Launches Facebook's Package - Well, after all those posts on what not to do on Facebook, MySpace or any other social network, here is an example of a successful 'viral' campaign. Released less than two weeks ago, the "Launch a Package" application lets users send virtual goods to friends, from little digital trinkets to photos and links. The items arrive in a FedEx box that the recipient opens to reveal the gifts inside. It has 258,000 total installations and more than 15,000 active users. Not bad considering you could have just emailed those photos. For FedEx, this is a good fit, people are sending stuff to each via Facebook why not wrap a big FedEx logo around it? Feel like launching your own package? Check out launchapackage.com.
http://www.mediaweek.com/

Consumers Not So Mobile - A quick and short article from MediaWeek talks about a survey from AKQA and dotMobi that '44 percent of users report having had a bad experience in their initial use of the mobile Web. Slow connection speeds, poor site display and cost are the top three reasons respondents cited for being dissatisfied with current mobile Web services.' And 'Three-quarters of respondents said they were most interested in using mobile Internet access to pull up maps.' Once mobile internet providers can offer location-based ads on a regular and consistent basis, then advertisers can begin delivering relevant messages to the consumer who is using that map. I can see it now...Ad text: 'Looking for a visitor's information center? It's right behind you!' Helpful and scary at the same time.
http://www.mediaweek.com/