I had cause to think about this again today on the back of a press item and an email.
In the press (Hotelmarketing.com) I read that VFM Interactive Inc and Leonard Media BV have combined to create one of the largest databases of images and travel media content. The new company will (creatively) be called VFM Leonardo. No clear picture yet on how management and services will be combined. The part of the story that is interesting to me is trying to decide are these companies coming together from a position of strength - trying to sure up and own the rich media side of the hospitality industry. Or - are these companies in a panic? Are they having their business models destroyed by the generic photo sites like Flickr and travel specialist sites like the bed jumpers at Hotelsbycity.
I have not heard of any series declines in Leonardo's business so will assume the former theory for now. I also believe that there continues to be a business model for professional/editorially driven content to be supplied through B2B distribution. Suppliers and intermediaries need a trustworthy source for content and are not yet ready to trust the user 100% or have the means for filtering and searching (easily) the mass of UGC that exists. The company could open up to UGC but needs to keep very tight control. So tight that it might as well stay professional.
So at this end of the spectrum we have a mid-large corporate entity with a million pieces of professional content, needing to stay professional.
At the other end I received an email from Erik Budde, the founder and CEO at AboutAirportParking.com. As the name suggest AboutAirportParking is targeted at providing a directory of all the places you can park near an airport. I am a traveller that is constantly looking for ways to avoid the absolutely scandalous charges that the Macquarie Bank owned Sydney Airport are charging for parking. I get the need for this product. Erik recently bought out the other owners/investors in the site and relaunched in June this year. There is some leakage outside of America in the site but basically it is US only with 500 parking lots at 100 airports (according to Erik).
I like this site. You can search and (sometimes) book airport friendly but cheaper parking, indexed by distance, facilities and maps. It is a site that needs editorial management to set up the index, manage and prioritise content and associate travel resources. But this is a site perfectly suited to and calling out for huge doses of UGC. Erik has started this (see page for Crowne Plaza Hotel Airport Parking) but the potential is so much greater. Erik admitted to me for instance that they are trying to expand internationally but having trouble collecting data. Regarding Australia he said
"We recently added Australian airports, but I confess that we've had a harder time collecting that data and it's been less of a priority so far."This is where the mass of frustrated and web obsessed Australian travellers (there are others like me I keep telling myself) can become unpaid biz dev heads and content writers. Starting with an editorially managed core but allowing more user interaction, tips and reviews would serve AboutAirportParking.com very well (a la TripAdvisor). Am sure Erik is already aware of this.
I wrote a post last year called "UGC vs Editorial. What's better? What's the balance? What's more 2.0?". Conclusion from that was that to succeed in content you need to "match UGC with editorial baising."
These two examples confirm my thoughts here. You?