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Roll Up, Roll Up, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul Awaits.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Saturday, 27th March 2010
 

Yeoh Siew Hoon spends a day lost in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul and finds the experience eerily similar to that of the World Wide Web V2010, Lonely Planet notwithstanding.

I spent a morning wandering around the Spice Market in Istanbul and I think I lost my sense of smell just from the sheer assault on the olfactory system.

I then spent the next morning in the Grand Bazaar where again, I experienced a breakdown of the senses and quickly became disoriented (ie lost) and confused (ie lost) from all the choice of merchandise, combined chatter of the merchants and shoppers and always, someone trying to get your attention to sell you something.

It's a bit like the Internet really. You go in there with a vague sense of purpose and you end up distracted, diverted, confused and even flummoxed.

And just when you thought you had it all kind of figured out, another new alley opens up, full of promise - merchandise that looks about the same but wait, isn't that the colour you want and maybe, just maybe, you could get it cheaper?

PhoCusWright's CEO Philip Wolf calls it "the new chaos" - the proliferation and fragmentation of device, channel and platform.

You thought you had search figured out? Uncheck that. You thought you understood social networks. Uncheck that. You still struggling to figure out what content people will pay for? Check that. You confused over the number of devices that are coming out? Continue to be.

"With the universe of content exploding, SEO strategy just got worse," said Wolf. "There's a lot of tension about content. More publishers are putting content under paid benefits and behind firewalls.

"The strains on search will become more complicated, we can't even predict what will happen."

At the bloggers gathering organised by PhoCusWright at ITB Berlin, it was also interesting to see what social networks bloggers were using and for what.

The majority were using Twitter for curating editorial content, most found Facebook better for business than Twitter and the power of LinkedIn ads for recruitment purposes was mentioned.

The iPad, it was agreed, would put a stop to newspaper deliveries at home. It would also create lots of different content applications - "snackable, chargeable, brandable - just like potato chips," said Wolf.

When asked what was Lonely Planet's thinking about potato chips, sorry, content, CEO Matthew Goldberg said, "I'm a believer that not all content should be paid for - only differentiated and useful content. Travel is a good place to charge."

When Goldberg took over, following BBC's acquisition of Lonely Planet, revenues were split 75% from the core business and 25% from emerging channels. Its three-year plan is to achieve a 65/35 split while increasing the core.

And just as you think print is dead, Lonely Planet is launching a new magazine in the UK and soon, India. "I don't think print is dead. You just have to rethink what business you are in. We are not in pulp and trees," said Goldberg.

The same goes for the mobile platform. "The key question to ask is what business you are in. The rest is just about platforms and what platforms travellers prefer."

I think this is a good question to ask in this time of the "new chaos". What business are you in, what purpose do you serve and what do you want to achieve?

Otherwise, you could end up in a place like the Grand Bazaar and end up with carpets and silks that you don't need.

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com. Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at the cafe for travel insiders.


WIT 2010: October 19-22 SUNTEC Singapore ~ www.webintravel.com

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