Thursday, April 20, 2006

Courtesy Tours Cost Nothing

Why haven't Travel Channel, Food Network, Fine Living and other cable nets mashed TV travelogues with Google maps?

I know. I know. First they have to put the content online, and then we can worry about how we search for that content. That's the traditional way. And they've started posting vidclips, like Travel Channel's Most Haunted Places, Comedy Central's Insomniac with Dave Attell and MTV's Trippin'.

Food Network is the furthest along this path with their categorized clips (by city) in its Tasty Travel section and a crude map for Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels.

But shouldn't we try to motivate them a little bit? Let's give them a good reason.

Why haven't, travelocity or Orbitz stepped up to the plate? Each has the cash, the connections and the need to differentiate. There's also an easy way to beta-test the concept — implement the idea only for a few locations in the Deals & Destinations section.

Think about this. You're planning your trip and a map of the world sits in front of you. You pick Santa Barbara, zoom in, and see a bunch of icons scattered along the Cali coast. When you click on an icon, a balloon pops up and plays the video clip. Each TV ep is sliced into multiple segments to reduce the size of the video, and, more importantly, to take the viewers directly to the content they want to see. Do you like what you see in the video? Click on the link below the video window to book a trip to (or make a reservation for) that locale.

The travel site makes money by enticing tourists to book more events online. The concept will likely increase traffic for other bookings too since that site has a way to differentiate itself. The cable net and production company make some cash every time a viewer clicks through to watch a video and books a tour for that locale. If the travel site and cable net get greedy, they could use geographically-targeted ads to raise some more dough.

I can see one of the travel sites traveling down this road — using existing, professional content — causing the other sites to compete. (I don't know why Food Network hasn't already made a reciprocal agreement with any of these travel sites.) A second site might produce it's own clips through Fodor's or Lonely Planet. The third site might allow individual locations to post their own vids. A start-up company trying to break-in to the industry will encourage travelers to submit their own travelogues and post approved vid clips.

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