Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Friday, June 24, 2005
Low-cost Carriers Pushing Fares via RSS
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
More on Flight Delays
Wouldn't it be possible to come up with a service, hosted by a flight information aggregator, that would automatically notify the end-customer with real-time information regarding flight delays etc.? The RSS technique could be used to push the information to the busy business traveler's cell phone, sparing him or her from having to wait at the airport for several extra hours - hours that can instead be used to do those other, more important, things at the office before leaving to the airport.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Flight Delays, PubSub & Prospective Search
Yesterday, a friend of mine called me from Nice Airport. She was about to go on a holiday to the US and was going to fly via Paris to Atlanta. Her flight from Nice was delayed by more than two hours due to a strike so she asked me to check if her flight from Paris was delayed as well or if she would miss it. The only information she had at the time was the name of the carrier and the flight number.
Said and done, I started by going to CheckMyTrip just to find out that I couldn't get any information without the reservation number. I then Googled "flight delays". The top results, several pages of the Air Traffic Control System Command Center of FAA (The Federal Aviation Administration), contained real-time information but only for general airport conditions - in the US. Another top result, FlightArrivals.com, seemed at first glance only to cover American and Canadian territories (although I've now seen the international flights from overseas are covered as well). The layout of the page was terrible, with ads and pop-ups everywhere - not so credible in other words. I decided to turn to the main source, the air carrier itself. After Googling several keywords without success, I finally went to the AirFrance.com page and navigated to the flight status page where I could check the status of the flight and see information about when the status last had been updated.
Should a passenger have to check flight status information on his/her own initiative? Should one have to call a friend with an Internet access in order to get the information? Should one have to use Google each time in order to get the information and what sources can one trust?
I want real-time information - and I want it now!
PubSub calls themselves a "matching service". PubSub has been covered frequently in the online press lately. So... what is so interesting about their services?
PubSub can be used as an alerting and notification system for virtually any type of online information. While search engines such as Google and Yahoo! deal with old, static information that can be searched, PubSub does the opposite: your query is stored and is then checked against all new information that passes through their matching engine (9 million weblogs, more than 50,000 Internet newsgroups and SEC, EDGAR, filings).
This new arena of search, similar to what Technorati is doing, can be called prospective search. This technology, if used correctly, has a lot of potential to merge with other technologies to form innovative functions and challenge conventional online businesses. Stephen Baker gave an example in BusinessWeek:
If you tell PubSub that you're looking for a Wharton MBA who's fluent in
Mandarin, and such a person posts those details on his or her blog, the search
engine makes the match for you - with little need for a job-site intermediary
[such as Monster.com].
Bob Wyman, PubSub founder, predicts this technology to bring buyers and sellers together, which could easily challenge other forms of e-business.
So, how could PubSub have helped my friend at the airport?
How could it be used in the online travel industry?
To be continued...
Thursday, May 12, 2005
TravelPost.com - THE Future Travel Site?
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
RSS, Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, is a simple push technique originally developed by Netscape. It is used for automatic sending of news and other web material from a website to the user. The user installs a simple program, a news reader, which receives information based on the user’s preferences and installations. The websites that support the technique send the information as an RSS feed, simple text files which don’t take up too much bandwidth on the Internet or on the user’s computer. There’s not yet a standard way to subscribe to different RSS feeds. Most users subscribe to an RSS reader, also known as aggregators, such as Bloglines that automatically checks the RSS feeds they’ve subscribed to and send a note when new content is added.
RSS provides opportunities to building customer relationships by increasing awareness and perceived brand. It’s an easy tool for being notified of new and changed content on multiple webpages instead of manually checking every site in which one is interested. The results are received in a well organized way, distinct from email which has become somewhat over-used. It’s also likely that search engines soon will start reading RSS feeds, which could improve the ranking of the company’s websites, as content spreads faster and people link to the content. Some companies, such as PubSub, have some very interesting ideas on this area which I will discuss in a different blog post.
Microsoft blogger Robert Scole has said that "if you do a marketing site and you don't have an RSS feed today you should be fired". Although it’s still in the process of becoming mainstream, he may be right considering the fact that 5% (6 million) of Americans now consume news and information through RSS (refer to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2004). The first indicators of application of the RSS technology in the travel industry have started appearing, such as its high priority in the agenda of TravelCom Expo.
- Providing partners with RSS feeds to help them to better promote the products of ones company
- Notification of news and changes on websites
- Notification of product launches
- Sending information to internal subscribers without having to worry about huge e-mail attachments.
- Use as a project management tool (such as Basecamp) to monitor the latest updates, communications, deadlines and other activities.
- Notification of new products, product enhancements and events
- Training/tips on how to get the most out of the products
- Help travel agencies to keep track of new airlines, destinations and hotels etc.
- Providing solutions that enables businesses to benefit from the B2C areas of use described below
- Notification of news and changes on websites
- Real-time alerts such as schedule updates, delays and other alerts of changing conditions
- Notification of changes in ticket prices
- Notification of special offers and events
- Help users to keep track of new destinations, new hotels etc. within their area of interest.
- Improve website rankings in the most important search engines, thus generating more traffic to the consumer Websites.
- By appearing in RSS-specific search engines and directories, new traffic can be generated to the websites.
- All press releases should be part of the RSS feed. By tactically including target keywords in the post titles and linking keywords to the company's websites, a larger audience can find the press release.
- All regular bloggers are connected via RSS technology. By promoting news to them, there’s a large chance of having the word being spread for free since there’s a dedicated blogger for virtually any subject. News in the travel industry would attract travel bloggers, who would write about the news, link to the websites and creating a chain effect.
Notification of Special Offers
A research done by the International Association of Online Communicators showed that “on travel distribution websites (hotels, airlines, destinations rental cars etc.) the most visited pages or content is always related to special offers”. From an end-user or travel consumer perspective, it becomes extremely time-consuming to manually check all websites. Although email is a great way to solve this via newsletter subscriptions, this method of marketing communication seems to be declining. Subscribing to an RSS feed which sends out regular updates on your area of interest seems like a better solution.
If an online travel site can be seen as an extension of Global Distribution System, then RSS could be seen as the second extension – “pushing” rates, fares and availability directly to the end-consumer and then bringing them back to make the reservation on the website. GDSs could in summary take advantage of this way of looking at RSS in three different ways:
- Selling the solution to provider websites (i.g. www.sas.com)
- Providing the online travel agencies (i.g. www.expedia.com) with the solution (thus increasing bookings and booking fee incomes)
- Using it for its own B2C websites
Improve Website Rankings Search engines give high priority to RSS content, which is why an RSS enabled website automatically improves its ranking. A real-life example of this is on of E-Site Marketing's first applications of the RSS technology. A solution was developed for a spa resort website, on which the hotel had an online shop where visitors can buy products, spa treatments and gift certificates. "After only one week after the RSS implementation, the store was ranking number 1 out of 256,000 results for a spa related keyword search. /.../ After three months the website was ranking number one for the highly competitive keyword "spa resorts" out of 11,000,000." 
RSS could be use as an effective news release tool targeting editors, building up a database of press releases with great value, both retrospectively and prospectively value. At the moment, it’s still not well-enough adopted by journalist to become an alternative to traditional press releases, but should rather be used as an adjunct to existing communication channels.
From a PR perspective, it could be argued that RSS has the flaw of relying on journalists signing up for the RSS feed. This can be solved by uploading news releases to one of the companies that summarize news releases into RSS feeds, such as Cisco, Cape Clear or PR Newswire.
 The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City recently used this technique to promote a charity gourmet food and wine event. The first blogger (Vivis Wine Journal) let to several others referring to the same event – ending up in a great awareness in the wine enthusiast area. Source: Torchio, Paolo (2005a).
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Tell Me Where I Want to Go on Holiday!
- Free-of-charge travel diary functionality à la IgoUgo or Swedish insurance company site Resedagboken. However, it needs to be based on structured blogging.
- Collaborative filter.
- Automatic customer profiling and personalization.
- Advertisement such as personalized banners based on what you write about, where you travel, what you like and what you don't like.
- Web services such as a feed for everyone who's going on the same tour as you are.
- Firefox plugins for comparison shopping which reads for example destination- and hotel reviews.
- Recommendations based on other bloggers with similar tastes - an improved version of what Amazon offers.
- Automatic personalization of the website layout based on the customer profile.
- Referral marketing travelers would looove this. And they would recommend others to use it as well!