So much of the time I am thinking (and often writing) about new travel technologies promoted by various companies, but lately I’ve been thinking about what really causes a new website or functionality on a website to have a chance of being successful. And it is funny sometimes where the revelations reveal themselves. Maybe the experience with my own TV set was an epiphany of sorts.
In 2010 I spent a lot of time really trying to grasp how airlines could extend their influence to the left of the Bow Tie and better influence potential passengers earlier in the travel purchase process. A lot of start-ups were attracted to this space, so I was kind of surprised at the Phocuswright conference in Arizona back in November at how negative some influential people in travel were becoming on the whole idea of building a business around travel inspiration. I do not fall into that camp, but I do understand where the vitriol was coming from – so much hype, and so little of it realized to date.
Whilst I am still a big believer that an airline can make a credible play in this space, I am beginning to realize why so many great ideas fail to get traction, and one big reason is the simple fact that despite all the bells and whistles, they are just not sticky enough to survive without paying search engines massive amounts in order to generate significant traffic – and by now we all know the numbers on how powerful search is in the travel buying process! Probably not the most sustainable way to build a business, unless of course you are the search engine.
So this brings me to my own personal epiphany on technology that changes your life, and how I’m still waiting for a travel inspiration site that sits somewhere between generic search and a booking site to have a similar impact. That is, something that I just cannot live without when thinking of planning a trip. Kayak and TripAdvisor sit in this space and are the closest examples I can think of, but when you compare them (and their large success) to the impact of Google in generic search and the impact airline branded websites have had on distribution, you realize that nothing in between the two has had quite the same impact. Either someone grows to own this space, or more likely search moves more to the right of the Bow Tie and swallows the pie of just about everyone else trying to influence the buyer prior to the initial travel purchase.
I saw someone refer to 2011 being the year of the cable cut and maybe this is true. Whilst probably being one of the last people in the civilized world to move from a tube TV to a flat screen, in one step I’ve moved from the dark ages and into the future of television. I now have a spare PC inside the TV cabinet running Linux Ubuntu 10.10 that is both connected to the internet and also has bluetooth connectivity to my Blackberry that now serves as both a wireless keyboard and my TV remote control (via Freemote). I’m using Clicker.com as the homepage that automatically starts up (along with Skype and videoconferencing through the TV) and which displays my queue of desired shows still waiting to be viewed – at a time of my own choosing of course.
Google, Apple, Boxee, Roku, and others are trying own internet TV. There are also rumors of Microsoft making a serious play into this area. But my experience has been that at least as far as my set up is concerned, it is not for the faint hearted. At times I was pulling my hair out trying to compile source code in Linux. But now that it is finally working (still a few minor bugs to iron out) I can honestly say it has revolutionized the way I consume home entertainment on a daily basis. I can’t imagine, nor do I have any wish to return to something with less functionality than what I have today. Now that is the sort of testimonial I would love to see from users of a travel inspiration website.
It took me longer to get to the meat of this post than I had planned, so in the next post I will write about how I see travel inspiration and internet TV being a perfect match and why airlines looking to enter the travel inspiration space cannot do so without working closely with those in your airline managing the digital advertising strategy and spend.