31 March 2011

Sunshine.co.uk's list of Top 50 Online Travel Meeja is too traditional

people with boards in front of their faces
What a shame.

These things are always subjective, and I don't want to be overly critical because this is not at all a bad attempt to list the most influential online journalists & bloggers, but there are just too many of the former and not enough of the latter.

On Tuesday, Sunshine published its list of the "Top 50 Travel Journalists and Bloggers to follow on Twitter" on its blog.

Their declared method for assessing who should be in the list was: "a combination of Klout, Peer Index and a sprinkling of fairy dust" - which sounds a pretty good formula to me, and indeed, as I just said, has resulted in a really useful list. I would concur with about 85% of it.

You can hear the "but" coming.

The trouble is, this list feels like one that had to be supplemented. I'm guessing the author started with less than 50 and had to make it up, rather than starting with over 50 and having to whittle them down, and he/she might know traditional trade & consumer travel joggers* but isn't too 'au fait' with the world of travel blogging.

I'm delighted to see Darren Cronian in there, but then he is probably the UK's best-known travel blogger. He is the equivalent of inserting just Jonny Wilkinson with the likes of Gerard, Rooney, Wilshere, Crouch, Bent, Defoe, etc in a list of the "Top 50 England Football & Rugby Players" put together by a football fan.

For the cognescenti, Darren isn't the only uk-based travel blogger of note. For example, the author wouldn't need to use much fairy dust on some of these:

  • Andy Jarosz (501places.co.uk) Klout: 66 Twitter Followers: 7,043
  • Kash Bhattacharya (www.Europebudgetguide.com) Klout: 62 Twitter Followers: 3,937
  • Karen Bryan (www.europealacarte) Klout: 61 Twitter Followers: 4,454
  • Tom Mcloughlin (www.backpackingtraveldestinations.co.uk) Klout: 46 Twitter Followers 2,099
  • Matt Preston (www.travelwithamate.com)Klout: 61 Twitter Followers: 3,571
  • Jools Stone (www.trainsonthebrain.com) Klout: 56 Twitter Followers: 1,947

And these are just some bloggers who, unlike some on the Sunshine list, actually reside in the UK when not travelling. EasyJet have just published a list with some of the other non-UK residential top bloggers, and so has Yucatan Travel.

Anyway. No matter. It's not important in the scheme of things. I'm not saying some people shouldn't be in the list. I'm just disappointed that it doesn't recognise some people who most certainly should be in the list, and I wouldn't even have blogged on it ... if Sunshine.co.uk hadn't decided not to publish my comment pointing out the list's shortcomings.

*Joggers. Name invented by Gosh PR's MD Dru Bryan for 'journalists who blog' (but destined, I fear, only to confuse!)

24 March 2011

CIMTIG awards are important for everyone

Casey Mead & Lewis Shields from Flagship ConsultingA big CONGRATULATIONS to Virgin Atlantic for winning Travel Brand of the Decade... and to all the other winners this evening...including Flagship Consulting (photo).

For travel consumers and travel journalists/bloggers the marketing awards given by the Chartered Institute of Marketing - Travel Industry Group (CIMTIG) may seem boring and irrelevent, but this is important/influential stuff.

Only today I received a round-robin email from a national tourist office asking for advice, opinions and examples of what makes a good tourism org website because they are about to update theirs.

Well, tonight Black Tomato won Best Travel Website. Ok, it's a tour operator not a destination, but it's now a benchmark.

Eg. "Give me an example of a really good travel company website".... er, well, Black Tomato by definition.

And that means you - the journo/blogger or consumer - will encounter more travel company websites structured, styled and with content like Black Tomato, more online ad campaigns like Tourism Ireland's & TV ad campaigns like Visit Wales, and (thankfully) cheeky & stylish 'rockstar' marketing like Virgin Atlantic.

Now tell me that isn't important.

19 March 2011

The Olympics or the Airport?

Man stripped down to underpants, waiting to pass airport security
Hmmm, let's see...
  • Tickets from £20 to £2,000
  • Long queues
  • Officious security
  • A ban on liquids over 100ml
  • No items that could be used as an offensive weapon eg umbrella, tripod

Where shall I go next summer? The Olympics or the airport?

Well clearly I'll be made to feel welcome at neither, but, according to The Independent, the airport is looking the more attractive option.

At least at the airport I'll be allowed to wear clothing of my choice (clothing or other materials with non-Olympic partner logos or branding, is banned at the Olympics), and I'll be able to carry and use my mobile phone.

At the Formula 1 weekend in Valencia last summer I was amazed and angered at the contempt shown to racegoers, who despite forking out a small fortune to watch their beloved sport, are pushed, shoved, corralled and generally treated like scum with wallets to be exploited at every turn. I shan't forget the sneer I got from the security guy who took the cap off my water bottle and threw it in a bin so I wouldn't be able to keep the bottle in my bag (I'd have to drink it and/or buy some overpriced drink from their stands).

So Lord Coe, remember, if you treat your customers like shit, don't expect them to come back.

Oh, of course, I forgot. That's not your problem is it? The next Olympics will be 4 years away and in a different country, with a new pool of fans to exploit.

16 March 2011

The Minister of Tourism on UK tourism and social media

I had a chance to talk to John Penrose, the Minister for Tourism & Heritage this morning on the way to the Best of Britain & Ireland show at the NEC, Birmingham.

This is what he had to say.

15 March 2011

Never mind your question, here's what I want to tell you

radio journalist recording an interview with two businessmen
I'm a bit worried what I might do the first time this crops up in an interview I'm conducting, because it has become my absolute pet hate just recently. I've been lucky so* far, but there has been a noticeably sudden and alarming rise in the number of times I hear this, and what worries me is that it has become a fashionable affectation that we're going to hear more and more.... and one that I'm going to encounter sooner or later.
What am I talking about?
People beginning their answer to a question with the word "so".
...WHAT?? Has there been a time-shift? Did I miss a preceding part of your answer?
What irritates me every time I hear it is that it's so* rude!
"So..." means "I'm not going to do you the courtesy of answering your question. I'm going to use this opportunity to give you a statement I've already prepared in my mind".
I'm hearing it most often on radio news interviews. The presenter will ask an open question, or even a closed one (expecting a definitive answer like 'yes' or 'no' or '215'), and get an open-ended answer beginning with "so".
Q. "Well, Mr Smith it sounds like the results of this research could be rather controversial. How many people did you survey?"
A. "So... The Oxford team & I spent several years developing the methodology for our research programme, blah blah"
Where does this come from? Corporate America or somewhere? Somewhere where they view every media interaction as either hostile or a PR opportunity?
I'm hearing it so* often and it is irritating me so* much, I fear that if/when it happens to me I'll be so* shocked I'll have stop the interview and explain the rules!

Of course there's never an example around when you want one, so* I've been waiting to find one before I posted. Here it is. Look for Jack Dorsey's opening answer. (In fact, in his first two sentences he demonstrates the wrong and then the correct use of 'so'!)
* Correct usage!

10 March 2011

Want to know what happens in a recession? Ask an old guy!

Nerdy accountant with calculatorI was struck today by a post in PR Week on the buoyant or otherwise, mood of PR & Marketing folk facing an economic downturn.

Unfortunately for the author, and (so far, only) comment-poster, their frame of reference is a little thin. They are judging the effects of a downturn based on the ups & downs of the last decade.

Should they be fearing a proper grown-up downturn?


If you work in the PR, marketing & advertising sector, just ask anyone in your office over the age of 40 because they will remember the last period of prolonged recession in the eighties.

With a dread feeling of deja vue, let me explain what we all knew back then.

In a recession, the bean-counters move into the ascendancy, finance directors become the alpha dog in the boardroom, and budgets & staff are cut in this order...

First - PR

Second - Advertising

Third - Research & Development

Fourth - Production (the people at the coalface actually doing the work or providing the service)

Fifth - Sales (Direct sales - people on the phones and on the streets selling directly to customers)

Sixth - HR (You need people to handle the cuts above)

Seventh - Accounts

Is pretty simple to see why.

Costs have to be slashed or clearly justified. Bean-counters like to see definitive ROI. They'll pay for a new machine tool because they know it will increase productivity by x% - a number they can quantify in pounds & pence. Budgeting for a new PR campaign, on the other hand, is pure speculation to an accountant. Likewise funding Research & Development is just too much of a gamble to make accountants feel comfy.

The order of Sales v Production should be the other way round, but accountants have a real need to stay close to the money. They 'sort of' feel that Production can always be made more efficient, but whatever happens, unless Sales are there to actually sign the money, it's all rather academic.

So, where does this leave us?

If the economy goes pear-shaped and you happen to work in PR or Advertising.... OR in the creative industries funded by advertising (ie broadcasting, graphic design, publishing, etc)...

Be afraid! Be very afraid!

06 March 2011

20 of the best time-wasting websites

bored woman at work

I've been looking through some of my old Delicious bookmarks (Hands up if you didn't know Delicious is under threat) and realised I could easily mess with your day by creating a list of 20 compulsive websites that will definitely prevent a consciencious travel blogger/journalist, PR or travel professional from doing the work they should be doing.

Deadline, you are so busted! Muhahahaha

  1. Rock, Paper, Scissors This one drives me mad. There is just no way I could be so predictable.... or so I thought.

  2. The Daily Mail-o-matic The tool Paul Dacre uses to set the day's agenda ;) If you begin to get bored with the permutations it has handy links to other similar tools like the Alastair Campbell Wheel of Retribution.

  3. Hand-Written Clock This is guaranteed to waste at least a minute!

  4. National Grid Frequency A Duty Engineer (yes, one man!) controls the minute-by-minute balance between the entire country's electricity demand and supply. Electricity cannot be stored, so the instantaneous generation must match the demand. His (or her) guide is the frequency - nominally 50hz. If demand is higher than the generation, the frequency will fall, and vica versa. National Grid has statutory obligations to maintain the frequency within +/- 0.5Hz around this level. However, they normally operate within +/- 0.2Hz. Watch how well he is doing in realtime as he literally 'drives' the grid. Bet you won't take electricity for granted anymore!

  5. Bloody Day An oldie, but goldie. This is SICK, SICK, SICK... and therefore perfect for some of you! But be very careful who you let see you playing this. It could take a long time to restore your 'PC' credentials!

  6. Singing Horses The antidote to No.5 above. I first found this in 2005. It's still cute.

  7. Live Tube Map Watch the little trains go round & round :)

  8. Monitter.com Hard to believe, I know, but there are people who don't use Twitter, or Tweetdeck. This is for them. A simple way to watch what's going on without becoming involved. Change the keywords at the top of the three columns to things you are interested in (eg. Oslo, money, vintage camera) and watch people all over the world writing about those things in realtime. This site cost one of the BGTW's most prolific and self-disciplined journos, two days' work, after I showed it to her!

  9. Blue Ball Machine This is another golden oldie. I bookmarked this back in 2005. It still makes me happy watching it.

  10. The Dialectizer This is a little flakey, but quite fun. For example, see how a fine site like Andy Jarosz's www.501places.com can be improved in 'redneck'!

  11. Sandcastles When you figure out how it works, and get through round one.... yer stuffed!

  12. British Pathe If you are over a certain age, Pathe News will bring back all sorts of memories. They've digitised a lot of their old newsreels and now you can search them. Try your local area/town name. (Bye bye...see you in an hour or two!)

  13. Fly Guy Looks a little dated now... but still quite fun :)

  14. Flightradar24 Watch flights progressing around the map in real time.

  15. Famous Objects from Famous Movies Start this one, and your morning has gone!

  16. Eye Revolution Local photographer (to me in Crouch End) who specialises in 360° photos has built up a pretty spectacular portfolio. You can waste 20 mins in here, easily.

  17. Will You Join Us What they call an "educational simulation" game. You are charged with making decisions on how to power a city, balancing environmental and financial needs/concerns. If you like this sort of thing, NASA have got a multi-player 'edu sim' based on the moon (that you have to download).

  18. Rush Hour at Lukla Listing a Youtube video is a bit of a cheat because we all know you can spend a lifetime on Youtube once you start, but I can't resist this one, especially for travel peeps. Many of you will know it already, but I bet even you watch it all the way through! And if you wonder what it looks like from the other direction, so to speak - see this.

  19. Airpano High resolution aerial photos. They are pretty spectacular. I like the shots taken over Amsterdam.

  20. and for the last one...

  21. World Travel Map This will have travellers hooked. Tick off the places you've been. It doesn't matter how many you tick (26% for me) the map still manages to look empty (unless you've concentrated on the biggies - China, Russia, Brazil, etc)!

Oh, and a couple of seasonal time-wasters...

  • The snow map I spotted this in 2008 when Ben Marsh first created it. This winter it came of age; the Met Office started using it to show what was actually happening on the ground as opposed to what they predict. It's fascinating watching the snow spread over regions during the course of a day.

  • NORAD Santa Tracker Somebody has to keep tabs on Santa, why not the US military?

Now, for heaven's sake don't go sharing these, or I will be charged with bringing the entire UK travel industry to a halt single-handed.

...unless you want to share culpability...?

Hands up if you didn't know Delicious is under threat

Back in December, Yahoo announced they were restructuring (downsizing) some of their services, including the popular bookmarking tool Delicious.com (I'm sure it used to be del.icio.us when it first launched, didn't it?), which they plan to either sell or close down.

So there's a good chance somebody may take it over if they can see a way of 'monetising' (I hate that word so much) it. This is what Delicious said at the time.

It's worth noting that the BBC have started using Delicious for programme notes, so maybe they might be a suitor.

Thinking I would play safe, I exported my bookmarks in simple .csv formats and started looking for alternatives. I've been using Wonderpage.com for a couple of months now. I quite like it, but its structure is a bit more formal, focusing on folders rather than tags.

A couple of weeks ago, Google launched a Delicious importer that, in one click, takes all your bookmarks from Delicious, along with the tags, descriptions, dates & other meta info and imports them into Google Bookmarks.

So now I have three bookmark systems. Confusing :(

04 March 2011

Is it me?

man with clothes peg on nose
Is it just me, or does anybody else get this problem?

Skype - a brilliant tool for communication, but it takes two!

How many times do I agree with somebody to meet up or keep in touch on skype, exchange usernames, find them in the skype directory and send them an invitation... only to be met with silence?

It happens all the time.

Do people not understand the skype invitation? It's not an invitation to open a video conversation right there & then. It's simply an invitation to link to each other.

If you want to use skype you BOTH have to send or accept an invitation.

Oh, and you have to actually open the program to use it (I'm talking to the colleague who has Skype, works online, and who I talk to every day..... down an ordinary expensive phone line, because she never switches skype on!).

... or maybe it's just me.

Time to get connected


I'm becoming an evangelist for Poken.com (maybe I should ask for a commission or something!).

I'd really like to see the travel industry press and PRs using Poken regularly at press events, product launches and other travel trade gatherings. In fact, I'd go further than that: I think every day Pokens (not sure what the plural is) are not 'part of the furniture' at travel industry gatherings is a social media marketing/networking opportunity lost - and let's face it, there are 1 - 3 travel media events every working day in London alone.

Poken say they will discount for bulk (but they are a bit slow to talk detail), so maybe all it will take to achieve critical mass is a few innovative sponsors to start dropping them in goody bags.

To get a real sense of what can be done with them, see the video in this recent blog post: http://blog.poken.com/2011/01/31/poken-included-in-mcis-annual-meeting-of-worldwide-event-planners/

Maybe we should all be wearing those Italian jeans! ;)