29 March 2007

Internet articles are read more thoroughly than print

Whoa! Here's another myth busted, for those PRs who still think newspapers have more influence than online media...

It turns out that where most people (me included) assumed that Internet users have a shorter attention span than traditional book/newspaper/magazine readers, in fact they read articles online more thoroughly.

These are the results of Poynter's EyeTrack07 study, presented yesterday to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, D.C. The study tracks the eye movements of readers as they read news content. (see report)

Basically, because they select what they want to read ('pull' rather than 'push'), they read an average of 77% of the article, compared to 62% in broadsheets and 57% in tabloids.

I wonder too, if online articles tend to be shorter than print versions? Which would make it easier to read more. Perhaps there's a note for online editors there. Perhaps we/they don't need to keep online content shorter.

28 March 2007

The purpose of RSS feeds

Hmm, I 've been having an interesting 'conversation/exchange of views' on the subject of newsfeeds and copyright. (Which I think I'm sort of losing.)

I tend to view RSS as an offsite promotional tool that you can use to point to content on your website. So I have a set of RSS feeds on Travel-Lists for Travel News, Latest Travel Ideas, News of Travel Bargains, and Updated Lists.

These days the use of RSS has long since evolved from RDF Site Summary to Really Simple Syndication, so 'whole content' is now being carried in RSS files eg in blogs or podcasts.

As such, it should be, and is, copyright protected. But part of me still feels that if you use RSS to index content on your site, you should waive copyright and expect it to be published anywhere not just in the places you'd like to see it eg. Bloglines, Yahoo, Moreover, etc. After all, let's not kid ourselves, that's why you are doing it.

21 March 2007

Grand Canyon Skywalk finally open...ish

So the Grand Canyon Skywalk is open. They got lots of coverage. BBC tv news last night and most of the newspapers this morning.

Not really surprising. It may have been controversial with some members of the Hualapai Indian tribe (on whose tribal land it sits) and those who consider it to be a blot on the natural beauty of the park, but IS a dramatic concept - walking on a glass floor suspended over a 4,000ft drop? That's twice the height of my first parachute jump out of an aeroplane! - and it will be hugely popular.

Two things surprised me.

  • I thought it had already been completed ages ago. They've been blathering on about it for long enough!

  • It doesn't look complete. The original designs had the horseshoe-shaped walkway jutting out from traditional stone buildings designed to blend in with the canyon rock face for minimal visual impact. At the moment it's just a steel & glass walkway cantilevered out over the drop. Where are the buildings?

Addendum (26/03/07): Oh that's very interesting. It turns out they haven't got a proper road either, according to an article in Sunday's Observer British rancher blocks Skywalk tribe.

I met this guy a couple of times, promoting the Heli USA business. I knew about the ranch and knew there was a link between the two businesses but I had no idea he was actually the 'governor'. I though he was just the UK rep!

I'm not surprised he is concerned. He's absolutely right on all counts. Pristine wilderness IS what visiting Brits want to experience. That IS why they go to the ranch. And the Skywalk will be so popular as an excursion from Las Vegas, the road will resemble a morning rush-hour motorway into London.

Sadly, the fact that he is a Brit (not a fifth-generation land-owner from the pioneer settlers) in dispute with native American indians means he probably won't get as much support as perhaps he should.

13 March 2007

Travel-Lists is available to the Chinese

I spotted the Great Firewall of China site on alexa.com's list of rising stars, and tried it out just now.

It checks any website url you give it, to see whether it is viewable or banned in China. Nice simple graphics.

Anyway, the good news is that Travel-Lists.co.uk is available to X-squillion Internet-connected Chinese citizens... though what possible use it might be to them, God alone knows!

12 March 2007

Turkish baths look cool.... tepid, warm & hot

I've only ever been to Harrogate once in my life (hundreds of years ago, it seems like), so the baths have never really 'appeared on my radar'.

But The Yorkshire Tourist board have just emailed their newsletter with a short item on the Turkish Baths & Health Spa ... and a photo, which I thought looked rather good!

08 March 2007

Why U.S. Tourist Office websites tend to be better than ours

Last week I came across an interesting item on Neil Mclean's Travel PR Blog about the difference between U.S. state tourist office websites and our local tourist office websites in the UK.

Essentially it is pointing out that the Americans have more sophisticated sites than us.

I wanted to highlight some reasons for that, but it's an old blog item (Jan 07) and it won't accept my comments. So while they're on my mind, I'll use my blog!

There are a couple of significant reasons why the US Tourism organisations have better websites than us.

1) They have a huge domestic market to address. The vast majority of (Internet-savvy) Americans take their holidays in the USA, and usually by car. US families want lots of easily researchable detail in depth.

2) They recognised the importance of the Internet before us.

Back at the turn of the millennium the Travel Industry Association of America's bi-annual survey into the travel habits of Americans was already demonstrating that.

Of the 1300 adults polled in 2000/01, 17% indicated their primary source of travel planning inspiration came from general magazines. 17% used guidebooks. 20% used TV. 25% referred to newspapers, and 26% read motor club magazines (like the AA. Remember, most American families go on road trips for their vacation)... However, a massive 40% used the Internet.

The US travel industry got that message loud & clear and started investing in the web.

Al Fresco Farm Holidays

I stumbled across this on Monday when I was doing some research.

I've written it up on the Holiday Ideas page but I'm blogging it too because my format on Travel-Lists is deliberately low on graphics (the limited images on the site are only at thumbnail size) and this picture needs to be large to see the detail Eg. the child in the 'cupboard bed' (they call it a 'canopy bed'. Not sure why!)

Feather Down Farm Days are the brainchild of Luite Moraal (the Dutchman who introduced Centre Parks to the UK). He vets farmers who want to take part and if they and their farm are suitable, he erects up to 5 tented cottages on their land for the summer season.

The tents, as you can see, are pretty luxurious, eco-friendly, and are fitted out in in traditional 1930s rustic style with plenty of wooden furniture, wood stoves and oil lamps, and no electric - or digital - equipment in sight!

Thinking I'd stumbled on something new, unique, and rather special, I called them up and was forwarded to a PR who I know quite well. She told me the idea had already been successful in Holland and that they piloted it on one farm in Hampshire in Sept & Oct last year, where it sold out immediately. It also, and this is the bit that surprised me (and her), was enthusiastically covered in several broadsheet papers and Conde Nast Traveler... and I missed it!

There's not much new product that appears in the UK travel sector without me noticing... but obviously some things slip through!

01 March 2007

PRs should consider long term benefits of fam trips

I've just been editing a podcast interview with a tour operator who is also a scuba dive instructor. We were talking about the joys of Ambergis Cay in Belize, which include a barrier reef that's easily in the same league as Australia's and a formation called the 'Blue Hole', which is a bit of a dive icon.

I didn't know I was going to be talking to her about Ambergis Cay, but by good fortune - because its not well-known to British travellers - I have actually been there and dived there, albeit quite a few years ago.

Not only did this mean we could both talk about it with enthusiasm, each feeding off the other, but also I was able to feed her questions about things that she had forgotten to mention.

It's not the first time. A few weeks ago I was recording another podcast interview with an AITO Specialist Agent, Polly Davies, (you can listen to it on TTGLive) when she talked about matching customers' interests to holidays and used the example of a woman passionate about botany who she sent to a place in central Belize. I recognised it immediately and suddenly we were enthusing about this little resort inn called Chaa Creek.

But that's not the first time. In the 12 years since I spent a week travelling around Belize on a fam trip, I must have referred to it in copy, dozens of times, and in conversations with fellow travel journalists and travel professionals, hundreds of times.

Chaa Creek itself got at least the monetary value of my visit back when, a few years ago, the head of communications for a national tourist office in London went there for her honeymoon purely on my personal recommendation.

Oh, and look here we are talking about it again, with an online link and a tag!

These are just the spin-off results of one fam trip - I must have done dozens & dozens over the years.

When PR companies, Tourism Organisations and/or Operators put together press trips they are inevitably and quite rightly thinking about what immediate press coverage they will get.

But if they are hesitant about the benefits of taking any particular journalist or whether to increase the overall size of the group, they should definitely consider it positively. The cost/return balance swings firmly in favour of fam trips when you consider the long-term coverage you can win.