19 August 2009

United Breaks Guitars - Less is More

goldfish in glass
All parents know this. In fact, all adults know this scenario.

Your toddler does something or says something really funny that cracks everybody up. Then they go on repeating it, or variations of it, in the hope they can get the same response again.

Subtlety is just something that comes with experience.

But even adults don't fully understand the importance of subtlety and freshness. A joke is NEVER as funny the second time round.

Two of the most significant ideas I try to get podcast clients to take on board is 'freshness' and 'less is more'.

  • Never talk through an interview before recording it or doing it live, it is never as fresh and 'real' the second time round.

  • And always try to keep the length of your clip/programme/show to half of what you thought it might be.

(A real lesson for many podcasters these days, who simply don't know when to shut up. I listen in astonishment to many of the best podcasters - FIR, TWIT, The Instance, etc - and wonder how on earth they would get on in a professional radio station with a programme controller breathing down their necks! Some -TWIT & The Instance in particular - have become so self-indulgent they ramble on, completely off-topic, for anything up to 2 hrs. No speech-only programme should last more than 40 mins. If you have more to say, make more programmes.)

Anyway.... I digress....rant over. (See! they've got me doing it now!)

Here comes the point>>>>

When Dave Carroll revealed United Breaks Guitars was just the first of three songs about his unfortunate tarmac incident, I thought he was making a big mistake. Yesterday's release of Song No2 confirmed my opinion.

The first was brilliant, funny, and a masterclass in wrong-footing a huge corporation with leaden customer services.

The second does him no favours.

I suspect that if and when a third song is finally released, quite a few of us will want to break his guitar.

Always leave the stage on a high, with the audience wanting more. You should know that, Dave!

18 August 2009

Take no bags - rent your clothes on arrival

Girl kneeling on packed suitcaseI'll admit I did check the dateline at the top of this story to ensure it wasn't April 1st.

This is a new online service from Canada, which was being promoted yesterday at the Tourism Futures conference on the Gold Coast, Australia, according to The Age.

The zerobaggage idea is to build a community of users and suppliers in cities worldwide. Then users can travel to those cities with no luggage, and either pre-order borrow (good for students), rent or buy (good for the rest of us) clothes which will be waiting in the hotel room on arrival.

It's an attempt to tackle the environmental cost of carrying huge volumes of luggage around the skies... in the eyes of founder, Catharine MacIntosh, unnecessarily. The trouble is, I doubt many people are going to agree with her. (Put it this way, I'm not expecting to check out the zerobaggage url in a year's time and find it still working.)

Not all is 'pie in the sky'. There is one salvageable concept buried in her plans.

The idea is that on departure, a user hands back the clothes if rented or borrowed. Or, if purchased, stores them in a local locker to be loaned to others....or used on return. Now, for a business traveller who makes regular return visits to some cities, a local 'zeroluggage' locker service -clothes collected from hotel, washed, stored and replaced in room on return visit - could be useful... especially if his/her 'stash' could be supplemented from local stores through an online shop.

17 August 2009

"London Oxford Airport" - they're having a laugh aren't they?

Go to the Oxford Airport website and you'll see they have just re-badged themselves as a London airport!


It has taken many years for me to sometimes refer to Luton as "London Luton" and I only finally did so because I realised it is a few miles nearer London than Stansted, which I have always considered to be a London airport, largely because it was only there in the middle of the countryside for one purpose (to be a London airport) and has a dedicated rail link....and it still sticks in my throat!

London airports (the only ones that will ever be refered to by me as London airports)...
  • Heathrow
  • Gatwick
  • Stansted
  • City

Borderline cases...
  • Luton
  • Biggin Hill
  • Northolt

Absolute no-no's...
  • Oxford
  • Ashford

Teenagers not using Twitter? What a surprise, not!

Janet Street Porter - The Independent, 16 Aug
Interestingly, teenagers have already sussed Twitter is crap and aren't taking it up. According to a Nielsen survey, only 16 per cent of the people twittering are under 25, while a whopping 64 per cent are between 25 and 54. The largest group of users are aged 35 to 49 – and that's enough to deter the young. The use of social networking is already dropping among teenagers as the number of 25-34 year-olds using sites such as Facebook increases. In fact, ITV might have sold Friends Reunited in the nick of time, because at this rate the only people trying to meet up via websites like it will be so middle-aged, dreary and dull that no one will bother logging on.

It's not that they've sussed Twitter is crap, Janet. It's simpler than that. It's nature.

As most of us know ('cept Janet) there are essentially two phases of life - kids and grown-ups - and social media suits each depending on whether it is networking outwardly or inwardly.

Every hormone in teenagers is telling them to network outward - find as many friends of friends of friends as they possibly can and advertise themselves to as many as they can. They started as pre-teenagers on Habbo and moved on to Bebo, msn, and Facebook because that's what they were designed for - outward networking.

Twitter is an inward network system. It is designed for users to coagulate around niches of interest - social, work, hobby, etc. The reason teenagers don't use it, is because in networking terms, it's not efficiently 'expansionist' enough.

Janet is quite right about Friends Reunited. It was designed for those looking back in life and has lots of privacy filters, making it very 'inward'.

Facebook is the odd one out. It was designed for (Harvard) college kids to get together, but has been taken over by adults. I suspect the increase in adult use coincides with the introduction of more privacy filters. Either way, as more adults are seen to use it, teenagers will see it as unfashionable and continue to exit.

Of course there are exceptions. This is a broad summary, but that's why teenagers don't use Twitter. Not because it's crap, because it's crap for them.

13 August 2009

The Seven (sob) Daftest Names in Travel

I started some notes a while back for a blog post on The Ten Daftest Names in Travel, but that pesky Guillaume Thevenot has beaten me to it! Curses, Mutley!!!!!

So, here are the seven I had so far.

(And let's just get the disclaimer out of the way first. I'm not in any way suggesting these are bad companies or bad products. Far from it. I just don't think they've done themselves any favours in their choice of name.)

1) Boo.com - Snap! We (Guillaume & I) both agree on that one. Re-using the domain of world's most famous dot com crash. What can they have been thinking of???

2) @beyond - The tendy new brand name for CCAfrica. Did they actually think about how this will work in urls? Or how many people will get confused about whether it is a name or an internet address? How does the ampersand work in RSS feeds and any xml applications if it isn't described as an entity?

3) LV= This one isn't quite travel. It's is the name-that-looks-like-a-typo for the mutual insurance and investment group who back Nationwide Building Society's travel insurance.

4) Intercontinental The Barclay Hotel New York - Yea, that rolls off the tongue real easy! "Cabbie! Take me to the Intercontinental The Barclay Hotel!". It's certainly not unique. I see this kind of thing quite often, and particularly in the hotel industry with its endless takeovers and re-branding.

5) Malmaison and MaMaison - Two hotel groups born around the same time, one in the UK, the other in Poland, but unfortunately now both marketing themselves in the UK. One has to go! It probably should be Malmaison. Anything with "Mal" in front of it is "bad" - eg "Bad idea" airport (Malpensa) - so, the "BadHouse" hotel group?!

6) The One & Only - If it were applied to just one property it would sound ok, but it's a chain/collection of lots of 'unique' properties. It just irritates me every time I see it.

7) Easytobook.com. Hmmm. It's not the name (it's quite a good descriptive name). It's the logo. A combination of the "easy" name on an orange background, just feels too familiar to me. Ok, it's a Dutch company! Orange is a perfectly fair colour to choose, but put it this way -the first thing I did was check to see if Stelios was involved.

If you think of any more, give them to meeeeeee! Don't give them to him!

****************** Postscript: 18 Aug 09 *********************

A couple of additions to the list....

8) London Oxford Airport for all the reasons I raise in my post above. It's just plain daft!

9) Gap Adventures It was Nathan Midgley's post that alerted me to this. I have spent years not writing about these guys because gap year breaks is not a subject I cover. Every time a press release about them comes in, I delete it without reading it... along with the ones about cheap medications - another subject I don't write about. It turns out that they have nothing to do with gap year breaks. They call themselves GAP because (as if we should know) it stands for Great Adventure People. How ludicrous! Why not start up a bookshop and call it Fridges-r-Us?! GAP Adventures jump to pole position in my list of daft travel names.

11 August 2009

How Murdoch's pay-for-news dreams could work

I posted a comment today on Brand Republic's article about the Rupert Murdoch proposal to charge for news articles, in which I suggested a business model that might make it viable, but I was really thinking aloud, so I'm gonna re-write it and refine it a little here...

Like most people, I've been pretty sure that charging for online news is a non-runner. The pay-for-news concept is fundamentally undermined by the availability of alternative sources and the distributive/sharing nature of the internet.

Now though, I'm beginning to wonder.

It occurs to me that everyone has been assuming that specific titles (eg. The Sunday Times, The Washington Post) would charge directly for access to news articles. Or maybe a whole group (Associated Newspapers, News International) would charge, under one scheme.

But what if content wasn't sold directly? What if online content was sold through a new wave of news/content wholesalers, selling packages to consumers in the way that Sky or Virginmedia sell tv channels?

You might, for example, have a news wholesaler called PoshPapers.com (my invention) who sells monthly access to everything that The Times, The Sunday Times, The Times of India, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde (Eng lang version) The Spectator, South China Morning Post, and more, has to offer.

For £9.99 monthly, Celeb-News.com (again, my example!) gives you a login to a package of 30 titles including The Sun, News of the World, Hello Magazine, Heat magazine, Take a Break, FHM, etc etc.

What if PoshPapers.com or, say, Amazon.com had a 'Travel package'? £5.00 monthly gives you access to Conde Naste Traveller, Wanderlust, and the travel pages (only) of The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, NY Times, etc.

And then, there might be resellers who repackage content from, say, The Lady, Harper's, House & Garden, Cosmopoliton, Femail, etc for a women's subscription package in Cantonese (they do the translation).

And what if the wholesalers weren't just dedicated aggregators? They might be other distributors. I've already mentioned Amazon.com, but Murdoch could start with his son's company, Sky. He could offer packages of content access as bolt-on services with his broadband product. BT Broadband might bundle in a FREE comprehensive package of content titles with their premium product as a marketing promotion. (But we are straying here, into the fringes of a very murky wood called "net neutrality"!)

So, from a publishers perspective, a circulation manager on The Sunday Times or The Sun for example, is doing the best deals he/she can with wholesalers for all or parts of their titles, in order to maximise revenue. If he/she spots a wholesaler with a particular lifestyle package, he might sell him Motoring, or Style content.

From a consumer point-of-view...

Well I don't want any of this, but if it happened I'd be shopping around for the cheapest packages that give me the best access to my areas of general & specific interest.

Most importantly, it will work or fail for me on the ease of use, and that's going to come down to the technology. It has to be based on some kind of encrypted ID, so that, for example, when I follow the short url on an interesting tweet to, as it turns out, a Guardian article, it has to recognise me as a legitimate, non-lapsed, subscriber through this wholesaler or that one and let me straight in, instantly!

Absolutely NO logging-in each time.

Absolutely NO viewing only through a wholesaler's gateway.

It has to work like it does now... but with me being occasionally frustrated when I follow a link to news content that I don't have an active subscription for.

Let's be clear. I want none of this.

But I can begin to see, even with the omnipresent news competition from the BBC and free re-distribution by users, that a pay-for-news/content model along these lines could work.

What do you think?

10 August 2009

Does Berlin Artists' hotel have the solution to room safe thefts?

Art installation by Savage at Hotel MarienbadThe Italian newspaper La Stampa reports that last week's high profile hotel thefts on Sardinia involved the removal of room safes that were only held in place by polyfilla.

In the raids, both at hotels in the Iti Hotels chain, a Saudi princess is reported to have lost jewelry and cash worth 11 million euros and a Moroccan businessman lost 150,000 euros.

A third raid in Portofino on the Italian mainland saw the removal of another room safe with €1 million of jewelry and €3,000 cash belonging to a German guest.

So maybe an art installation in a hotel in Berlin, featured in the Guardian yesterday isn't so daft after all! ;)

The Scottish artist Savage (born in Glasgow in 1978) stayed in Hotel Marienbad last summer and left the safe installation. "Safe deposit boxes are not unusual in hotels. They protect the riches of the revered guests from theft. But what happens if the safe is stolen and the guests themselves turn to thieves?"

09 August 2009

Second Skin - A chance to see the scale of online gaming

Second Skin posterA couple of years ago I wrote a blog post outlining an un-exploited travel market segment, which I called Virtual Friendships (VF). If you are an agency with MICE experience, or an operator with escorted group experience - especially groups assembled from multiple departure points - this might be a sector you should look at.

Start first by reading my post about Virtual Friendships, which, in summary, outlined the scale of online communities in social media (eg Facebook, MSN) in business communities (industry-specific forums, Linked-in, etc) and online gaming (MMORPGs)... and the potential demand for travel companies to service real-life meetings & events.

This post was almost two years ago (during which period, of course, online communities have been growing even faster!) and the reason I mention all this now is that, around the same time a film/TV documentary about MMORPG players in the USA was being filmed...and was released in American cinemas last Thursday.

Second Skin is a very polished 94-min documentary and for a short while (till 13 Aug), is available to watch FREE at snagfilms.com or Fancast.com (If you don't have the time right now, there's a trailer on the Second Skin website).

It's focus, inevitably, is on the extremes of player behaviour/addiction, but if this is a market that interests you, you'll get a very good sense just how big the MMORPG community is and how much drive there is for getting together in real life.

Most of the players depicted are World of Warcraft (WoW) players - the biggest MMORPG of them all. There are roughly 12 million people playing WoW these days. Second Skin breaks them down into:

12-19 yr olds - 25%
20-35 yr olds - 60%
35+ 15%

Americans play WoW on American "realms" (servers). On this side of the Atlantic, the French, Spanish, Germans and now, Russians, have their own language realms, leaving the rest of us Europeans to play on English language realms. So plenty of scope for English speaking friends from all over Scandinavia, the Balkans, Central & Eastern Europe to travel to each others' countries.

It just needs somebody to organise it; to offer a specialised travel service for Virtual Friends. Just like we used to do with VFR** last century.

BTW*** Not all MMORPGs are organised the same way. EVE Online, for example, has all its players playing together in one giant space, as this video demonstrates well. So players in a 'corporation' could be from any part of the world, though timezones would tend to play together.

* MMORPG = Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games
** VFR = Visiting Friends and Relatives
*** BTW = By the way

07 August 2009

World's first compact camera with a built-in projector

Nikon Coolpix S1000PJSomebody at Nikon had an inspired 'flash-of-genius' moment...

No more friends & rellies (Let's talk strine!) crowding around you to glimpse the photo you just took on a tiny screen that will switch off in a few secs to preserve the precious batteries.
Instead, you click a switch and project it onto the nearest wall! Brilliant! (...though the batteries may not be all that pleased!)

The latest camera in their Coolpix range, the S1000PJ* is a 12.1 megapixel compact camera with lots of wizzy technology... including a built in projector that will throw an image between 13-100cm in size at a distance of 2 metres. At 10 lumens, it's not going to be the brightest image you ever saw, but it's still pretty revolutionary stuff.

* Lol! I think I have one of the first in the range, a Coolpix 900 - very ancient!

04 August 2009

OMG! It's the Edgewater Inn!

Edgewater Hotel signA short news item about a hotel package including a tour of one of the crab boats in the Discovery Channel series: The Deadliest Catch, drew my eye to the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle.

"Wait a minute! I know that name!"

Mispent teen years spent listening to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, especially their famous live gig at the Fillmore East, ensured that for me and thousands of others, the name 'Edgewater Inn' would be seared into our brains.

Back in those days, the hotel - built on a harbour side pier out over the water and a regular haunt of travelling rock bands - used to rent out fishing poles to guests, which they could use from their room windows. It all led to the legendary tale of Led Zepplin, Vanilla Fudge and the mudshark, which circulated in the music industry in 1969 and was made semi-public in the Frank Zappa live recording in 1971. (If you want the grisly details, and be warned they are a bit unpleasant, they are covered in Wikipedia. Search for 'Mudshark Incident'.)

Edgewater Hotel restaurantThese days, the Edgewater (now "Hotel") is much more glamorous and a part of the upmarket Noble House Hotels & Resorts group, which has some stunning properties around the USA (one of which, Little Palm Island, features in my list of secret hideaways). So I'm guessing any mention of mudsharks is likely to be met with tightly curled lips!