Google To Take Over Marketing Travel Destinations Through Video?
By Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen
Tuesday, 3rd June 2008
In a post this week in Business Week, Catherine Holahan talks about an interview with Rob Torres, Google's managing director for Travel where she gets the skinny on Google's plans for the "$90+ billion global travel ad and sales market."  Looks like Google has set its sights on Travel Destinations as a revenue opportunity.  (Do they really need any more revenue opportunities??)

As Holahan outlines in her post, Google is trying to take back control of the "advertising" opportunities around what now is primarily user generated content posted by the general public to the leading video sharing site YouTube.com (of which Google owns of course). 

Google's Rob Torres points out the following, "the goal of the goal of Google's travel division (aside from generating revenue or course!) is to give users a destination where they can research travel plans, read user reviews, and see user uploaded videos and photos." Already, about 50% of travelers use some sort of online social media site to research their plans…why not give them a one-stop shop for travel information," says Torres.

So Google's quest is to "help" Travel destinations and the associations and tourism boards that run them by helping them distribute canned and "advertorial" web TV spots (paid for of course by the destinations), on YouTube.com -  and then lead users to other content including paid search Ads, instead of encouraging advertisers to purchase ads around user generated content.

Check out the example that Holahan refers to in the article – New Zealand, which to date has had 884,621 views – nice!  In addition, they have posted 40 other video's to YouTube.  Currently when you do a search in YouTube.com for the term "New Zealand" the top result is this video, and not the user generated video's posted by users.  Most other travel destinations when searched on YouTube serve up video's posted by users that are not advertising messages professionally created.

According to Marion  Edward in "Mouth/Mouse: Social Networking and the Travel Industry, "YouTube has already grown to serve more than 100 million video views per day and is receiving more than 65,000 video uploads daily…with a user base ranging from 18-49, spanning all geographies."

There are however tourism destinations already actively posting video's to YouTube and other video sharing sites such as Yahoo! Video, Break.com, and Metacafe.com,  but user generated content seems to still be the most watched video's.  I am sure that Google will make some changes to the algorithms that YouTube.com uses to serve up search results…then this medium becomes less of a social network (which is the origins of the site) and more a "pay to play" advertising vehicle like search.

Some great examples of destinations already posting video's include; Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, and Nova Scotia Tourism.

My take?  Google wants to make sure that they are capitalizing on the revenue opportunity the YouTube.com presents – which is fairly minimal if destinations are simply advertising in conjunction with user generated content, and many are not yet comfortable with that.  Advertisers seem to still want "control" over the message and have not fully embraced "endorsing" user generated content and reviews.

So here it is right from the horse's mouth… "Fueling Google's travel plans is consumers move to researching and booking vacations online. In 2007, more travel sales were booked online than in person, says Google's Rob Torres. "That means travel marketers, many of whom already spend millions on search ads and the like, will likely shift more of their budgets to the Web…rather than try to convince travel marketers to advertise on user-generated videos, they can sell sponsored destination pages on YouTube where travel marketers can post their own videos and influence or control what types of content users upload."

Then Google can also sell other forms of advertising, such as search ads, to drive traffic to the site." There you have it!  Now that does not sound like it is all about the user experience now does it?!

Sounds like a smart idea (google is usually pretty smart from what I hear!!) – but will the users who consume YouTube.com embrace an advertising message over user generated content?  Is there room for both?  I guess we will see!

About A Couple of Chicks:

Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen are the co-founders of "A Couple of Chicks," a non-intimidating approach to Internet Marketing, e-Distribution & Revenue/Campaign Measurement. The "Chicks" specialize in using Creative, Distribution and Technology together to bring clarity to marketing on-line. Visit www.acoupleofchicks.com for articles and information about Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing
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