Thursday, January 28, 2010

In a day when everyone is talking Apple have a look at Google

Today is the day a half laptop, half smart-phone, all PR blitz shoved the State of the Union off the front page and sent Apple fan boys and girls running for their credit cards. The iPad has dominated the twitointerblogsphere all day. Desperately looking for a different angle on the story I was interested to look at the search results for "ipad". Below is a screen shot. Three very interesting things you can see from it.

1. Look at who is bidding on the term ipad. Two competing news outlets have bid on the term and are paying Google to drive traffic to news stories about the ipad. This is interesting first because I have not heard of a news company buying keywords before. Secondly the speed in which they put together the campaign. Presumably it was planned ahead of time and executed very early Sydney time.

2. Look at what is dominating the search results. The middle area is not links to two or three static websites. Instead there is a scrolling twitter feed updating every part second without the site having to refresh. True real time search integration. I saw this a few weeks ago for the first time with the "latest result" feed matching those search terms trending high on twitter. I like it but missing is the authority element to help determine which tweets/real time updates should be read.

3. Look at who is number one for search results and loving the traffic they are getting. Some South Australian property developer and owner of the ipad apartment complex in Adelaide is having the traffic day of the life as owners of

Take a look - screenshot below. Another change in the search industry hot on the heals of a hardware revolution.

Monday, January 25, 2010

BOOT Blackout Jan 25-29

The Australia government is in the middle of pushing an outrageous piece of legislation to drive all internet traffic through a filter. If passed we will join Iran and China on the list of countries that filters the internet. It is sham act as the filter will not work. I am blacking out the BOOT for 5 days as part of a protest. Normal service to resume next week.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lonely Planet CEO Interview on paidContent: iTunes is now our number distributor of city guides

An interesting interview of Lonely Planet CEO Matt Goldberg by Rafat Ali over at paidContent. Is about 5 mins long and worth a listen. Highlights include:
  • Confirmation that Lonely Planet is profitable and growing. Digital business is growing at 40-50% year on year.
  • Digital sales now $20mm per year covering paid content, services, transaction fees, advertising and digial apps
  • One in five of LP's city guides are sold through iTunes. Easily largest single distributor
  • On Acquisitions "not the first thing we are thinking about"...but..."always open in areas of technology, audience or talent"
Here is an embedded version from paidContent.

BOOT presenting at Eyefortavel Asia April 29

I will be at Eyefortravel Travel Distribution Summit Asia on April 29 in Singapore (conference runs through April 28 as well). Conference details here.

The sessions will be the day 2 Keynote called

"Future Trends and Technology in Travel – Planting the Seeds for Profit."

I will be on a panel with
The panel blurb is
The progression of technology and innovation in the travel industry continues at a frenetic speed and Asian countries are rapidly closing the gap on their western counterparts. This dizzying pace of change has the power to either undermine existing revenue models or create exciting and highly lucrative new opportunities for those in the know.
  • Prepare your travel business for the future. Cut through the hype and identify the technologies that will add real value and reap the largest rewards.
  • What will be “the next big thing”? Know where (and where not!) to invest to ensure ROI is real, abundant and measurable
  • The way your customer interacts with the web is changing. How can you continue to reach and influence travelers in a dynamic, user led online environment?
  • Travel 3.0?...How will developments in the semantic web enable more complex and sophisticated trip planning for online travelers?

Tnooz: New Zealand, Trade Me, BookIt, the big four and $1 billion

My latest post on is live.

"Dateline New Zealand – BookIt acquisition by Trade Me is latest in huge war over very small turf"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kayak Private Sale: Surely to mean increased cost and complexity for Kayak. A zero percenter no more

Dennis Schaal over at Tnooz broke the story that Kayak is launching a program called Kayak Private Sale. In a post titled "Kayak gets clubby with exclusive hotel deals" he revealed that Kayak is planning on launching exclusive deals. These deals will be negotiated directly with a property and made available for Kayak exclusively. A few days later Dennis had an update in his post "Kayak exclusives to include flights, hotels, vacation packages" including confirmation that these exclusives would extend to flight and packages as well as hotels. Bookings will be at the supplier site based on a click/referral from Kayak.

This is a very interesting step from Kayak - but not for the reasons you first think. In the words of PhoCusWright boss Phillip Wolf one of the hallmarks of Kayak's success was that it was a "zero percenter". That is a site where zero (or near zero) percent of the site content is controlled or produced by the owner. The main disadvantage of being a zero percenter is that you don't control inventory, price or the customer experience. The main benefit of being a zero percenter is the dramatic operational cost advantage you have over an online retailer. No need for a supplier contracting team as a small biz dev team is enough to secure content. No need for a fulfilment team as the supplier/advertiser takes the booking. No need for a customer care team as the supplier/advertiser talks to the customer. This saves millions in costs. This is how you can be one of the biggest travel sites on the planet but with less than a 100 staff (last time I heard).

But (as I said in my comment to Dennis' first post) signing and managing exclusive deals takes time and a team. Call it a revenue management team or a hotel market management/contracting team. Either way it is a group of sales and revenue professionals who need to talk weekly/daily to suppliers. In the OTA world this means local market people - lots of them. Plus if you are going to load exclusive deals you are going to need to talk to consumers when those deals are not what they are supposed to be. This means more people which means higher cost. All of this adds up to a significant operational and cost change for Kayak

I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Am I missing something?

Reading the BOOT - syndication options

In addition to being able to consume all the BOOT you need here at or, you may be interested to know the industry news aggregation sites that carry a BOOT syndication feed . Here are three sites that carry copies of BOOT content that might be of interest:

Thanks to Brit for the photo on Flickr

Sunday, January 10, 2010

EveryYou and Customer Reward: When an upgrade is not the right response

My EveryYou concept is about developing specific and targeted recommendations (which can include rewards) of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time. I had a chance this week to experience an example of the deficiency of customer profiling and standard practice and thus a place where a more individualised (EveryYou) approach would have been much better.

I have just bought a house – should be celebrating. But due to a twist of fate and timing I have to spend the next two months in a serviced apartment before I can move into the new house. It is nothing too dramatic but gave me a chance to sample the serviced apartment market. I won’t mention the provider but they very kindly offered me a complementary upgrade to a bigger apartment with a view. Of course I was pleased to accept. Just prior to check-in we settled all the details of the stay including the deposit payment and my confirmation that I would be brining by wife, seven year old and three year old.

On check-in we discovered that the upgraded apartment was much bigger than expected, had great views over the park and had the bonus of a separate study/office. But we had to move out immediately. As large as the apartment was, it was completely unsuitable for children under 12 let alone 7 and 3. Firstly the bedrooms were on two separate floors. Meaning that my wife and I would have to sleep on a different floor to the children – not acceptable when one of the bedrooms is right next to the front door that cannot be locked. Secondly the study/office (on the second floor) had two windows at child accessible height that could easily be opened and pushed outwards. Easily exposing a young curious mind to a ten floor drop and instant death. Either we put the children in a bedroom next a door where the three year old could leave the apartment without us knowing or in a bedroom near a study with easy access to a deadly drop.

When we spoke with the front desk, they could not understand why we wanted to move (clearly not parents) and especially could not understand that we wanted to turn down the upgrade and take a smaller (but safer) apartment. This exposed two things to me. Firstly how “the upgrade” is one of the few (if not the only) pre-check in reward that a hotel/serviced apartment has set for sharing with consumers. Secondly how in the serviced apartment market the staff are not as well prepared as hotel staff for non-standard request.

Under a generalised profiling system of customer rewards, it is clear that the vast majority of customers would love to receive an upgrade. But trusting generalisations and profiling can lead the hotel/apartment sales rep to use it as a reward when deeper analysis would show that other rewards would better impress and therefore make more loyal a customer. If my wife and I were on our own or with adult travelling companions (ie the "weekend holiday away with friends" version of me) then the upgrade would be perfect. But if the accommodation provider had spent the time analysing and using the data they had on me for this trip (ie the "parent" version of me) then they would have determined that the reward I would have been more interested in would be a twin room as the second bedroom or an apartment closer to the swimming pool or free car parking. On another occasion (ie the "business traveller" version of me) it would be free wifi rather than a bigger apartment that would be the perfect reward. Generalised profiling is no match for taking the time to use data provided by customers and technology available to suppliers to target rewards/recommendations suited to not just the individual but the version of the individual that happens to be travelling at the time (EveryYou). Using these techniques would prove to my landlords for the next two months that a upgrade is not always the reward it should be.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Qantas to Amadeus – what the hell was that???!?

In 2007 Amadeus and Qantas were riding high. A joy filled press release heralded that their relationship would bloom for another ten years. The then CIO John Willett was full of praise saying
"The development of Altéa [Amadeus' airline customer management system], which has become the leading customer management solution for airlines, has been a milestone for the industry and we expect that the next 10 years will help us to innovate further,"
A year later there was a new CIO at Qantas (Jamila Gordon) and the good times continued. The companies announced that the Altéa system was fully implemented. Gordon was filled with the joy and expectation that can only be found in press releases
"Exceptional customer service is a key competitive weapon and you can only deliver this by understanding the needs of individuals which is what the integrated Altéa system provides." She added, "As the operating environment for airlines gets tougher, it is essential that technology is able to both deliver greater operational efficiency as well as support the implementation of policies that build customer loyalty and drive increased revenues."
Remember those words “deliver greater operational efficiency”.

Fast forward to Jan 3 2010 and the Amadeus and Qantas bromance took a blow (though it does not look fatal) when the Amadeus Altéa system appeared to suffer a world wide hour long blue screen of death crash-a-doodle-do. Automated check-in came crashing down. Customers were stuck and airline crews abused. Qantas firstly called it “intermittent” (SMH) . But later an ABC commentator found out that the system had crashed on three separate occasions during the outage period. Delays, angry customers and twitter rant–a-thons ensued.

Unlike the PR love-ins of the previous announcements, Qantas was very happy to very publicly blame the whole thing on Amadeus. Newly appointed Qantas spokesman David Epstein used all of the tact that his former Labour party bosses are famous for by being very polite in his finger pointing but stating clearly and cleanly
"We are seeking assurances this won't happen again,"
(according to a report from the ABC)

The Herald Sun very neatly summed up the response from Amadeus to the blame game “Amadeus could not be reached for comment”. I bet they couldn’t.

Thanks to Aaron Frutman over at Flickr for the phot of Kobe in flight

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Agoda and Booking start to integrate inventory - first steps

Thanks to a reader who sent through a screen shot of the search results from a page for a secondary destination in China. The page shows 15 contracted hotels at the top of the sort order then a line/marker that says
Hotels below are offered by other companies in the Priceline Group
Below this line is a list of hotels in the same destination but provided by Agoda not A click on one of those pages sends you to the Agoda booking system (ie link relationship and white label not full inventory integration).

This is the first hint of integration between the Priceline owned Asian based Agoda and Euro based This is not a full back end integration like we have just seen for AsiaRooms and LateRooms. Mainly because it will be much harder with Agoda and Booking operating on different models (merchant vs commission) and I think that Agoda's owners are still in the earn out process part of the sale to Priceline. When the sale was announced in 2007 the earn out period was listed as three years. Integrations during earn outs are hard as the business working under the earn out is completely focused on achieving the earn out targets rather than internal integration needs. As the earn out period starts to close (ie end of this year), I expect to see even more integration between the two businesses.

Here is a screenshot of the search (Zhuhai China)

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Logo: its a 21st century thing - I think

It is a day for Expedia webite posts. Thanks to Ciprian Morar for alerting me to the new logo. Gone is the softly swooshing yellow aeroplane on a bright blue background evoking happy thoughts of travel and living in the noughties. Hello to the sharp pointed rocket ship that blasts forward into the second decade of the 21st century- a world of darker hues and serious companies. No more Mr Nice Guy and next stop the moon. What would Freud say about this change? What do you think? Here is the old one.

More Expedia display trials - defaulting to hotel search in Australia

Late last year I shared with you a screenshot showing that were trialling a Wotif list like display for hotel results. With the new year I can see that they are trialling a new home page with larger widget and hotels as the default for search. First sale of the year is a 50% off hotels. Is Expedia giving up on Air in Australia? Screenshot below.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

2010 Predictions: The BOOT on what to expect for 2010 in the online travel industry

You think 2009 was full of surprises. Well fasten your safety belts, lock in the tray table and get ready for the turbulence, change and excitement that I expect 2010 to bring.

Here we go - I have five predictions for 2010 (two of them drawn from my contribution to the Tnooz post "Tnooz predictions for 2010"):
  1. The non-refundable not enough: 2009 was the year of the deal. Lastminute specials returned and ADR/Ave ticket price fell through the floor, past the basement and almost reached magma. But the main (maybe the only) weapon in the 2009 deal war was the non-refundable. I predict that to win round two of the deal smackdown will require suppliers and intermediaries to come up with something more creative that just non-refundables The non-refundable is successful in driving demand while protecting "normal" pricing (ie BAR). But it is a crude weapon - targeting only those with no scope for a change in plans. Driving demand in 2010 will mean finding additional market segments. Which in turn will require more creativity and subtlety in pricing and deal structures than afforded by the non-refundable. Jeremy Philips in a review on of the book "Priceless" by William Poundstone ran an interesting quote that summarises the prediction here. As Robert Crandall, a former CEO of American Airlines, has said: "If I have 2,000 customers on a given route and 400 different prices, I'm obviously short 1,600.";
  2. Year of the app: mobile may finally be here as a force in online travel but in 2010 the action will be in "apps" not phones. By app, I mean a piece of software designed to perform a function where the function is stand alone but can only exist as part of an operational eco-system. I am not thinking just iPhone here. Though the numbers are extraordinary. On March 27 2008 Apple launched its SDK to the public. Just eighteen months later (Nov 4) they announced more than 100,000 apps available for the iPhone and more than 2 billion downloads. But this is only part of the app story. On May 24 2007 Facebook opened up its platform for third party application development. On their stats page (checked 3 Jan 2010) they are claiming 500,000 apps. It does not stop at smart phones and social networks- HP have launched a printer with an interface and app store. The easy part of this prediction is to say that app numbers will grow again both in number (they will more than double in 2010) and in platform (more sites and more phones launching more of them). The real prediction is that I think the app trend equals a change in how web services are accessed. While not the death of the browser, the rise of the app is a sign that the browser is no longer an essential part of the Internet experience. Further proof that we have left the Web 1 era that defined web success through website stickiness and are well into the Web 2 world of syndication being the success measure. That confining your internet viewership plans to the computer and browser is a doomed strategy;
  3. New marketing measurement metrics will emerge: The very mature online media and advertising world has settled into a comfortable metric duopoly of clicks and page views. Measuring audience reach and advertiser value by either the number of clicks generated or pages views. I predict for 2010 that we will see a new metric emerge. Not sure what it will be but it is clear to me that the market is looking for a measure of engagement rather than traffic. A way of showing marketers that consumers have taken in a brand message not just clicked on a link or maybe glanced at a flashing 468x60. The portals have had behavioural targeting technology for more than two years (Yahoo! has Blue Lithium, AOL has Tacoda) and Google is looking for the Next Big Thing to be video advertising (read more in interview with Rob Torres of Google reported on Tnooz). These are clear indicators of the need for a new metric;
  4. Consolidation in the sector (surely!). This is a left over prediction from 2009. The conditions in the year of the GFC seemed perfect for consolidation. Stock prices were depressed, cost cutting acceptable and appetite for organically funded expansion low. But we saw virtually nothing that could be called a “big deal”. There was deal activity but at the lower end such as through regional tuck-ins (ie Travelocity buying Travelguru, and Ctrip buying EZtravel), small local deals (ie Wotif buying GoDo) and constant content site acquisition by TripAdvisor. With bankers chasing bonuses and companies chasing growth in 2010, I expect to see some consolidation in the big end of online travel town (from Tnooz post); and
  5. Recommendations as the future of online travel: Search – as a means for customers finding what they want in online travel – is no longer as effective in 2009 as it was in 2005. Two causes – the explosion of content through the UGC revolution and consumers desire to seek answers to open ended questions (ie where should I go next) that are not easily answered by a search model based on taking you to one site. 2010 will see even more investment by start ups and established companies on different ways of searching and on methodologies for recommending. The long term future is the ability to generate a recommendation of one based on the individuals unique combination of desires, needs and interests of an individual at a particular point in time (EveryYou). The 2010 future is increased profiling, increased data collection and even more start up activity around search and discovery (from Tnooz post).
Close the door, buckle up, it is time to push back and take off. It is 2010 and the BOOT is back.

If you are interested - check out my 2009 predictions

thanks to pfala for the photo via flickr