Thursday, November 06, 2008

More thoughts on UGC and Editorial content drawn from VFM Leonardo deal and email from

Editorial vs User Generate Content (UGC) has been a big theme here at the BOOT. Recently I discussed the great start but missed opportunity in the launch (editorial content). Earlier in the year I looked at a half a dozen companies using different approaches to UGC (not all of which are successful).

I had cause to think about this again today on the back of a press item and an email.

In the press ( 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 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 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?


Dave said...

Nice post that hit close to home! As a commenter to a previous post touched upon, it is easy to have too much UGC.

Editorial or guide book style content has traditionally been useful to many travellers because the 'role' (for want of a better word) of the author was relatively clear to the reader.

USG is great (in theory) at providing an 'insiders' or more realistic appraisal of what a destination/product/experience is really like. I say in theory because in reality, USG easily becomes a molasses of comments that really don't help a reader that much.

TripAdvisor is a good example of this. Pick a chain hotel in any major city and there will be 300+ reviews. With this many, there will always be a large range of +ve and -ve views but the problem becomes one of whose review to believe.

Without having some way of deciding whose review to believe, UGC is actually less useful than EGC. With a Lonely Planet or BA inflight mag, the decision of how much weighting to place on a recommendation is pretty easy to make - I read their other articles about a known data point such as somewhere I've been before and see how well it matches my opinion.

With current versions of UGC sites, this is very limited. On TripAdvisor for example, I always check the country of origin for reviews citing poor service. Rightly or wrongly, I then discount the review if the author is American because I believe Aussies and Americans have different expectations to service. Without some formal way of doing this however, I have no way of really knowing how well the individual American's review reflects my reality or one of the other 7 billion realities out there.

The answer is some kind of filter and hopefully I'll be able show you a working solution in a few months!


Anonymous said...

Airport parking, I totally get the need for this site. Having worked for myself I have spent way too much time thinking about this topic and resenting the fees.

Top tip for the independent consultant at Melbourne Airport.

There is a little know bottom enterance to the Melbourne Long Term Car park which is only 5 mins walk from the Tiger and DJ terminal entrances. The walk to the car is a nice refresher after a long day in the suite. Follow the perimeter fence left towards the Tiger Airways water tower. Walk to the termianl following the taxis feeder rank. The coffee at the cafe for the airport workers is better and cheaper that the turgid terminal offering of $3.50 worth of froth with a smile.

Tim Hughes said...

thanks to both for the comments. And apologies to all for the terrible number of typos and spelling mistakes in the original version of this post. Hopefully now corrected

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Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your comments about what you want from an airport parking website. We will take it on board for our airport parking website
We already have airport parking options for all australian airports along with the USA, Canada, New Zealand and are currently adding UK airports.

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