Sorry, We Are Not In Right Now


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

However, our blog has moved to

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.

Troy and Mo

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.

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 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.

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!

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.

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.

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 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.

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 favorite is the Original Jazzy Jay on the Bronx Hip-Hip, 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.

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, 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.

(Just in case you need more, here is the video of Tom Cruise going crazy on 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.

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.
  • 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

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

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.

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Round 2

Okay, a day late...sorry, we got busy yesterday with our other jobs. Anywho, in the first section of Round 2 Michigan, Oregon, Ohio and North Carolina all advanced to the semi-finals.

Today, we start the later half of Round 2 with the following match-ups:

Louisiana vs. New Hampshire
Florida vs. Virginia
Hawaii vs. Arizona
Illinois vs. Iowa
Why do I get the feeling that the Florida v. Virginia match-up will result in a lot of votes, some bad blood and a possible boycott of ESTO by Virginia?

And watch out Iowa, Illinois has been ready for this day since 1818.

Voting is live on the Travel 2.0 blog starting today. (Reading via email or RSS, visit the blog to vote)

Good luck all!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

.Travel Wants to be My Friend.....

Thoughts// Readers of this blog are well aware of our opinions on the whole ".travel" initiative. If you're new to the blog, check out Troy's posts on this subject here.

This friend invite from .travel on Facebook is unfortunately just another example of how not to blindly follow marketing trends. Check out the blog I recently wrote about it here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Text Messaging Makes Magazine Ads Interactive

The push to make magazine pages more interactive is building mass and, dare we say it, even real momentum as major publishers and advertisers adopt a pair of technologies centered on the cellphone.

Hearst Magazines, the most recent example, is building on a nearly two-year experiment incorporating a text-messaging...its readers will soon see many opportunities, in editorial promotions and in ads, to make purchases, request samples or enter sweepstakes just by sending brief text messages. >>Full Story

Thoughts// An interesting article about how text messaging is being incorporated into print ads; readers of magazines such as Rolling Stone, Men's Health and CosmoGirl can enjoy the immediacy and instant gratification by instantly signing up for sweeps, product samples or other offers. This is probably most meaningful for brands where the core target audience is most likely under 40 years old.

I've been impressed with how political campaigns have put this application to life in recent months; both Clinton and Obama deployed it to engage supporters by alerting them to key news events and endorsements.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Top 5: Our Favorite Posts

Since the Travel 2.0 blog just celebrated our one year anniversary, we figured a quick look back...for all you new some of our favorite posts, thoughts and stories was in order.

So, in no particular order, here are 5 posts that you should read.

...and for those of you who skipped out early that one Friday like 7 months ago, you should read these too.

Top 5:

  1. Word of the Week - The Long Tail
  2. When Fewer Clicks Are A Good Thing
  3. Travel Trends - .travel, JetBlue, Privacy
  4. Bloggers? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Bloggers!
  5. Who's Been Clicking On My Banner?
Ah, so many great posts...hard to pick just 5.


Random Thoughts: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

After all of the press that United, AA, US Airways, Silverjet, etc. have received in the last few months, plus all of the talk of 'staycations' (author's note, just for fun see how many times you can say the word 'staycations' in your next meeting...I'll bet 3), what does a company like Southwest do? Take out the Super Bowl-equivalent of online ads on the Yahoo! homepage and start calling people out.

While American continues to dig it's own PR grave...see this recent article about AA trying to recover from it...Southwest continues to fly along fee-free. The campaign, 'Fees Don't Fly' features a page within the site that explains everything that Southwest doesn't charge for. The campaign and ad are refreshing, especially in the airline industry where each carrier seems to copy the next as fees are raised. Plus, who doesn't like calling out that jerk who always skips out on the bill.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Travel Trends - Panoramio,, Offbeat Guides, Tripology, Google TV Ads

Google Introduces 'Look Around' with Panoramio - Last week Google, via it's recently acquired subsidiarity Panoramio, introduced a new 'Look Around' feature, which allows the visitor to click through images, view different angles and essentially take a virtual tour of the area. If this sounds familiar, it should...Microsoft has been showing off Photosynth for a year now...unlike Photosynth, it appears that Panoramio and Google have actually launched the product for public use. The technology behind the 'Look Around' feature, and Photosynth, is quite impressive and with so many images available via Flickr or Photobucket, the possibilities to combine hundreds of thousands of photos into one tour...of a specific area...could prove to be a powerful tool to further encourage travel.

Priceline's Sunshine Guarantee - As part of its summer promo Mr. Shatner...has launched a Sunshine Guarantee for your vacation. Book via priceline to 100+ destinations and if it rains (more than .5 of an inch) you get your money back. An interesting promo...that I am sure if valid in Arizona!

Off Beat Guides Launches - TechCrunch has a great review of the newly launched beta of Started by Technorati founder Dave Sifry...TechCrunch also has a video interview with Dave...Off Beat Guides combines online content, maps, weather, current events etc, etc all specific to your travel dates into a printable .pdf guide or as an actual paper guide (complete with your name on the cover). However, unlike competitor Nile Guide, Off Beat Guides charges $10 for the .pdf and $25 for the printed copy...which brings up a concern (as mentioned by TechCrunch readers) of selling Creative Commons and public domain content for a profit. Something doesn't add up there. Overall, an intriguing product and another example of print on demand technology becoming more and more prevalent.

Tripology - Launched a few months ago, Tripology, like Off Beat Guides, spins the online travel planning market back around. Instead of planning your trip online and breaking free from the dictatorship of the travel agent, Tripology allows a user to enter a travel destination and finds a travel agent to plan your trip for you. LendingTree for travel, I suppose.

Google Begins Tracking TV Ads Via Google Analytics - Yes, more Google...but, they just keeping doing the right things to make our lives easier. Another post from TechCrunch summarizes how Google has begun using it's Analytics program to not only track you online stats and campaigns, but also TV ads purchased via Google TV Ads. As the review notes, there is not a direct correlation between online visitation and the TV ads, but if your goal is to drive traffic to a website, you can at least view the spikes and dips in website traffic after the TV ad has run. Add that to the fact that Google is now selling ads online, TV (with satellite provider Dish Network), in newspapers and on radio and you can begin to see how Google Analytics (and Google) will and could quickly become the centralized location to track all of your advertising.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Great Travel Site Showdown - Round 2

After an exciting opening round of competition, we have reached Round 2.

The winners from our opening round were:

North Carolina

And the 3 top, second-place states:

Tennessee - 634
New Hampshire - 436
Oregon - 233

Round 2

So, let's get to the match-ups for Round 2, again, randomly paired with help from our friends at The second round will be one on one contests, with four groups available for voting each week.

Thursday, June 5th:

Wisconsin vs. Michigan
Montana vs. Oregon
Minnesota vs. Ohio
North Carolina vs. Tennessee

Thursday, June 12th:

Louisiana vs. New Hampshire
Florida vs. Virginia
Hawaii vs. Arizona
Illinois vs. Iowa

(Reading this post via email or RSS, visit the Travel 2.0 blog to vote.)

As you can see we have some intriguing match-ups for Round 2, with some traditional state rivalries that are sure to generate some interest.

Link To / Email

For your emailing / linking convenience, send the link below to your office, friends, cousins, etc. to ensure total domination over your smaller rivals:

The Great Travel Site Showdown Review

Miss a round of the showdown? Catch up with all of the voting on the Travel 2.0 blog.

Good luck all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Here's Google!!

The US travel industry is facing a terrible year, thanks to credit crunched consumers and a weak US dollar. But Google sees an online opportunity in the struggling industry. The search giant plans to expand its travel offering, which currently seems to be confined to one-off videos and ads from tourism boards. In the future, the site will have marketer-sponsored pages where would-be vacationers can learn tons about a destination and see related user-generated content. Check out this link to a YouTube New Zealand channel for an idea of the kinds of videos destined for such pages. >>Full Story

Thoughts// Surely some of you read the recent article / blog post from Business Week declaring Google's intentions to jump into the heavily crowded field of travel planning. The story goes on to say that Google is thinking about creating 'a one-stop shop for travel information' as well as citing a recent (and still active) campaign from the New Zealand Office of Tourism...'Nearly 900,000 people have watched a New Zealand tourism board’s video ad since it was uploaded to YouTube last September. That kind of traffic is bound to draw marketers.'

But, before you start waving the white flag to the titan of all things search, let's take a step back.

First, talk of Google Travel has been around for a while, as evidence by a search for 'Google Travel'...since at least 2004...bloggers have speculated at length about the amazing integrations possible with Google Talk, Google Video (YouTube), AdSense, etc, etc. So, the news of Google Travel is nothing new.

Secondly, Google already has a seat at the table when it comes to online travel planning. Offerings including search, maps, photos, videos, weather, news, directions, etc. and are already heavily used by, what I would safely assume, a lot of travelers. In fact, bloggers even mocked-up this Google Travel page (not bad) almost 2 years ago. Plus, the team at Google Maps recently posted an entry on using Google Maps to plan a vacation. As you can see, travel is already a large part of Google's offerings and our usage of the site.

And keep in mind, Google, unlike Yahoo or MSN, is not (really) in the content creation business. Last time I checked, they don't have sports columnists or writers...they pull, collect, aggregate and display content from around the web in an easy to use format.

Which is another reason why you need to break down the wall around your website and start creating and offering content on sites such as TripAdvisor, WikiTravel, Flickr, YouTube, etc, etc, etc. Google, like a lot of sites, travel or not, pull content from these types of sites.

Now, as far as YouTube and that New Zealand spot. New Zealand has done a good job creating and promoting their Pure New Zealand channel on YouTube. The spots are great and the traffic is impressive. But, this was certainly not pulled together on a shoestring forget those thoughts of your homemade travel commercial receiving millions of visits.

At a conference last year, a rep from YouTube highlighted this campaign and proceeded to tell the group that the cost was somewhere in the neighborhood of $250k. And that $250k will get you prominent placement on the YouTube homepage, which is where the majority of those 900,000 views have come from. As our friends at Travolution pointed out in a recent post, the next closest video New Zealand video has only 26,016 views (similar to other 'viral' travel promo videos). A good result, but no where near 900,000.

Not to mention that Weta Digital, the company behind the impressive effects in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and a New Zealand company) just happened to help out with some of the effects on that popular video. Not bad.

So, the next time you are at a conference and hear someone talking about how Google is going to take over the travel space, you can tell them it has already happened...for a price.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Marketers, Don't Just Blindly Follow Latest Media Trends

One of the first messages ever posted to my profile on Facebook was from my 16-year-old niece in Nebraska. It said: "What are you doing here?" In a media environment that is increasingly defined by the trendiness that afflicts a whole bunch of other categories, brands run the risk of looking like I must have looked to my niece when I joined Facebook and sent her a friend invite: an outsider trying to seem with it, unsure of why we're there or what we're supposed to do to become a valuable member of the community. Pizza Hut has a page on Facebook. Why? I mean, who wants to be friends with a pizza? Yeah, I'll "poke" you -- right in the eye. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A funny article and good reinforcement of a point that Troy and I seem to make fairly often here. As we stated in the two part series: Why Facebook Will and Will Not Work For the Travel Industry (See Part 1 & Part 2), simply following trends and doing "cool stuff" for the sake of being on the cutting edge simply makes no sense...and is a waste of resources. If you are really itching to "get social" here are three simple rules to live by:

  1. Just because someone else is doing it, does not mean you should; only engage in social media if a) your audience is ready for it; b) you have something meaningful to say.

  2. Fish where the fish are; Troy's recent post on Heineken photo-share contest is a perfect example; why create a photo sharing site when people are already using Flickr or Photobucket?

  3. Listen more, talk less; Don't jump in and start hawking your products - listen to the conversations already happening within the community and respond or contribute to it when you have something meaningful to add to the conversation.

All About Your 'About Us'

"About Us" is usually one of the most highly trafficked sections on a brand website. But if you looked at the brand experience in most, you wouldn't know it. Too often it's static copy ripped out of an annual report or some painful regurgitation of corporate responsibility programs. I'm not against it being static but we're seeing some brands really explore how to narrate their story in a digital age, without getting in the way of the shopping experience. >>Full Story

Thoughts// A good story from Ad Age asks why most of our 'About Us' sections are really not about us...from the consumer's point of view. It this age of digital storytelling and brand-centric everything (raise your hand if you are in the middle of a re-branding) the old, reliable 'About Us' section is simply cut and pasted together with a few paragraphs from various interdepartmental memos, mission statements and a faceless, blacked-out image of 'business workers' from Corbis (check!). As the story pleads, why are we wasting this valuable real estate with such uninspiring and non-brand building copy?

So, why is this important for a travel site.

1) Search engines find everything, so your About Us section is being indexed, bad copy and all, in Google.

2) Consumers look at these sections. While I don't have any official 3rd party studies confirming my suspicions, I will assume that a lot of users tend to skip right to the bottom of sites they are unfamiliar with. Knowing full-well that the above the fold content is marketing fluff (stop it, you know it is) and looking for the site map, about us or FAQ pages (all of which are great for SEO). For example, the site map page on at the very consistently the 5th or 6th most visited page.

Another interesting quote from the article points out that 'but those sections do lay out the basics for someone comparing against competitors with two browsers open.' Ah, competition. Now we are talking.

Some examples:

(some page content was longer than others, so at the risk of making this post too long, we just clipped the first paragraph)

(listed as 'About Michigan')
Michigan is a state blessed with the riches of unspoiled nature: the world's longest freshwater coastline, lakes that feel like oceans, shimmering beaches, miles and miles of cherry orchards, glorious sunrises and sunsets, daytime skies of the deepest blue, nighttime skies scattered with stars.

(listed as 'About Oklahoma')
• Oklahoma's current population is 3,450,654 ( 2000, estimated).
• Oklahoma is comprised of 77 counties.
• Oklahoma covers 69,919 square miles.
• Guthrie was the first state capitol of Oklahoma.

(list as 'About Tennessee)
Traveling to Tennessee makes sense. We have natural beauty, southern hospitality, serene weather, and something for everyone. And, we are within a day's drive of 65 percent of the United States population. What more could you want in a travel destination? Tennessee welcomes you to explore everything we have to offer.

(listed as 'About Us')
Nevada’s tourism department is responsible for promoting and marketing Nevada as a tourism and travel destination. This includes editing, publishing and distributing publications that promote the state of Nevada. A director appointed by the governor directs and supervises all tourism department operations. An 11-member commission advises the tourism department.

(listed as 'About Minnesota')
There's a lot to know about Minnesota. Here you'll find plenty of facts, figures and informational tidbits about the state's history, geography and climate. Everything from the prehistoric carvings found throughout the state to the 7,326 square miles of water found within its borders. Not to mention, practical travel information like the average low and high temperature throughout the year. One thing is for sure: the more you know about Minnesota, the more you appreciate all that it offers.

As you can see, some of our counterparts are beginning to tell the 'insert state name here' story via the 'About Us' section, not to mention, start to differentiate themselves from other states in the consumers mind.

To put a very simple spin on it, consumers just want to be told why I should do X vs. Y, state A vs. state B and the 'About Us' section is a great place to start.

Of course, there are some states, Arizona included, that simply do not have an 'About Us' section on the site. Which is fine, if there was a rational decision to leave the page off the site, rather than just not being able to write more than 3 lines about yourself.

And not to be out done, after reading the article, we decided that the Travel 2.0 'About Us' section (or About Travel 2.0 as it was called) could us some help as well and provide another example for how you could start re-branding (love that word!) your 'About Us' section.

Old version:

About Travel 2.0:
The Travel 2.0: Interactive Trend Report was originally created to provide insight into the interactive marketing and travel fields for the Arizona Office of Tourism.

In an effort to broaden the scope and reach of the report, the Arizona Office of Tourism invited Travel Oregon to contribute and collaborate on the Interactive Trend Report.

This partnership will present additional views and opinions on the ever-changing interactive marketing landscape, including the latest travel trends, online (and offline) advertising campaigns, Google, user-generated content.

New version:

Why Travel 2.0:


...we know the travel industry.

...we read hundreds of blogs…usually far too late at night.

...we can’t get enough technology.

...someone had to do it. need insight about social networking for a big presentation.

...we blog even while on vacation.

...your peers are reading it.

...there are too many experts who are not really experts. trends are constantly changing. is hard.'s free.

Ah, I can feel the Travel 2.0 brand becoming stronger every day.

Monday, June 2, 2008

State of the Industry Conversations

After a bit of a delay, State of the Industry Conversations returns with an answer (one, among several) to a previous guest question.

For all of those who missed the original post:


We have been experimenting and optimizing our online campaigns, but are repeatedly disappointed in the click through rates (.01% to .5%) and conversions coming from our banner advertising. We have a tested several strong CTA’s such as vacation give-aways, free gas, and great price points. We have tried behavioral targeting, content targeting, and run of network on travel research sites. We have utilized ad networks and purchased direct from the publisher. Are our expectations too high, or have others found the secret to successful banner ads when promoting travel to their State?

(Submitted via LinkedIn)
From a CTR standpoint, yes .01% can be abysmal, but a .5% in the travel category can indicate good performance. Try running a test to see what gave you the higher CTR…then do more of that. However, I think the real answer is to look beyond the click on a banner. Take a look at your entire digital media mix. Make sure you are employing tools that allow you to track the effect of a banner view or click on your organic search, paid search and email conversions. If you think about your online marketing in regards to feeding the funnel, you realize that your banner campaign is feeding the top of the funnel by building awareness and consideration. The bottom of the funnel is where people are converting and this will typically take place on a search click. Measuring path-to-conversion will make you feel much better about how your banner campaign is feeding the top of the funnel (just as is your offline media - generating awareness, consideration and intent).

Use a tool like Quantcast to understand if your media is driving the qualified audience to your site and compare your efforts of driving traffic (i.e. awareness) to other state travel destinations. When it comes to booking travel online it is mostly being done at hotel and travel websites and third-party booking engines like Orbitz, Expedia, so make sure your expectations are properly set with regards to conversions.

Use a page-tagging analytics tool that allows you to measure how much traffic you are driving to your hotel and destination partners by tracking outbound links. Consider engagement as a metric. How much time are people spending on your site after they click? Consider using richer media that allow a travel seeker to engage with your brand in the banner without leaving the site they were on.

Also, consider cost. Depending on what you are paying and how many impressions are driving a .01% CTR, you may be getting a very efficient cost-per-qualified lead to your site.

Thoughts// While at first glance the question seems to fit in perfectly with our engagement discussion, if the ads in question are not only resulting in a low CTR (start of the funnel), but also a low conversion rate (end of the funnel) that would point to an issue beyond a simple mis-use of analytics.

So, assuming this fellow reader is following her results throughout the advertising process, what is going wrong? Is banner advertising being ignored by everyone? Are people outside of your demo (see our post, Who is Clicking on Your Banners...Probably a middle-aged, sweepstakes-loving, Midwestern woman who likes junk mail and the Packers) the only ones paying attention to your ads? Are display ads too often looked at as the entire 'interactive strategy'?

Personally, I am starting to pull further and further away from display advertising while looking (and demanding) for an integrated advertising plan that places my message in front of the audience at key points.

With those thoughts, let's open it up to the group:

State of the Industry Conversations

To run banner ads or not to run banner ads, that is the question.

State of the Industry Conversations
Bringing the Travel Industry together…one question at a time


At this time, what percentage (in your best estimate) of your online / interactive marketing plan is devoted specifically to display ads (or banner ads)?

What percentage of your online / interactive marketing plan will be devoted to display ads 1 year from now?


Post your answer in the comments field below or via the Answers section of LinkedIn.

Note: You do not have to be a member of Blogger to post a comment to the Travel 2.0 blog. Anonymous comments are allowed, however we would appreciate if you signed the comment with your name.

Travel Trends - Upload Your Photos Here!!, Adobe, Weekend Web

Upload Your Photos HERE!! - An amusing post from the daily (ad) biz makes note of a recent Heineken campaign, to....wait for it....upload your favorite photos of the product! I don't know about you, but several people touching a Heineken bottle spells brand loyalty for me. Anyway, the team over at the daily (ad) biz reiterates what we have said a couple of times on the Travel 2.0 blog, which is that consumers (beer or travel) will not just show up at your website to upload anything! The old, 'if you build it they will come' theory does not work online. Flickr, Facebook and Photobucket (and a few others) are the only photo-sharing websites (or websites where photos are shared in the case of Facebook) that matter. Embrace these sites, run your campaign with them...instead of against them...and stop trying to move mountains.

Adobe Goes Further Online - For all of you techs and (even) non-techs out there, take note that Adobe just launched it's next round of webtop (runs online, not on your desktop) software and Acrobat 9. If you use or interact with Acrobat (.pdfs) on a daily basis, I would recommend you catch up on the news via the post at TechCrunch. The programs offered via are very useful and the integration of Flash into Acrobat 9 means that you will now start seeing video (YouTube) embedded into .pdf documents.

The Weekend Web - Shocker, users surf different websites at work during the week versus the weekend! While this article is not exactly a revelation, it does include some interesting insight into consumer behaviors on the mobile web and weekday vs. weekend. For example: 'During weekends, we fire up our smartphones for fun. The fastest-growing mobile-Web categories relate to weather, entertainment, games, and music, according to comScore.' I know I am in that and movies are all I check on the this blog, of course.