Great post from Jakob Nielsen on the dangers of going web 2.0 crazy from a usability point of view!

Highly poingant as we’re implementing a lot of AJAX at the moment. Overkill is deadly and could trash your conversion rate. Keep it minimal, useful, effective (AJAX is great for some things, pointless for others), simple, usable and give clear instructions where needed.

I agree with his pitch on user generated content as well. Pointless if your audience/customers aren’t ready for it or if you have nothing interesting for them to talk about (that said, great in an emotive environment such as online travel if used wisely).

Since Yahoo bought Flickr it’s all been relatively quiet. Yahoo have made use of it on a couple of occasions, integrating Flickr images into some of their services but other than that nothing major has happened to change the service significantly. It does what it says on the tin and is my photo upload site of choice still.

Some announcements (courtesy of Techcrunch) were made last night which could reveal a new approach, or at least a new string to the Flickr/Yahoo bow.

They are adding new functionality to their geotagging by placing the tags onto maps making it much easier to search your way around the world. This is really just a catch up to Zooomr. The really interesting piece of functionality and the one which has the most relevance to the online travel world is the coming introduction of ‘places’ pages on Flickr.

‘Places’ will be pages which pull together the most interesting photos about a destination and tag associated with it. So you will be able to view pages on for example London/buildings. You’ll be able to explore over 70,000 places through photos, tags and featured photographers. Now, this is sounding like a very good source of destination content for the travel industry!

Here’s an example screenshot (courtesy Techcrunch)


The interesting thing will be to see if these new pages are monetised when they launch in the coming weeks. I’m sure Yahoo will place sponsored links on the pages but will they go one step further and place calls to action to book hotels, flights or trips to these destinations?

I’d say it’s a perfect opportunity for Yahoo. Yahoo Travel is a pretty good site now with their review, booking and destination information. Roll all of this into a location led service filled with great imagery and content and you could have a pretty interesting concept.

Of course the other opportunity for travel companies is what kind of access you will be able to get to these new pages through the Flickr API. Thomson and others already pull photos from Flickr, will you be able to pull content by place now? Much more useful, and less likely to be irrelevant to your users!

Here are the details of the forthcoming changes (courtesy Techcrunch via Scribd).

I love The Onion, and here once again they’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head with this video showing how they (the media) respond to users comments. Really makes sense if you’ve ever run a blog, social network or user generated content based site.

Viewer Voices: Where We Respond To The Opinions Of Our Uninformed Viewers

So what is the most powerful selling tool available to us to market with on the web these days? I often think that the most trusted recommendation (or advert) is another person and it seems I’m not the only one. Nielsen have completed a survey asking consumers what their most trusted form of advertising is, the results are not surprising:

To What Extent Do You Trust the Following Forms of Advertising?
Recommendations from consumers 78%
Newspapers 63%
Consumer opinions posted online 61%
Brand websites 60%
Television 56%
Magazines 56%
Radio 54%
Brand sponsorships 49%
Email I signed up for 49%
Ads before movies 38%
Search engine ads 34%
Online banner ads 26%
Text ads on mobile phones 18%

So, as suspected consumer reviews have leapt into the lead as the most trusted form of advertising. Word of mouth is still king, time for all in online travel to bite the bullet and add reviews to their sites? Maybe, but control will be important so as not to show yourselves in a bad light!

Be careful where your banner adverts appear! When you serve ads through a network it’s really tricky to keep an eye on where they appear and what the content surrounding them is referring to. Yes you can specify the types and categories of sites they appear on, you can even specify the actual websites it gets placed on, but some are finding that this level of control is not enough.

We had an issue a year ago where we were running millions of impressions a day on a behavioural ad network. We were targeting the travel and leisure community and also major portals but somehow we ended up advertising holidays on a link farm site which had a rather less than decent advert for a swingers club on the same page as our advert! Needless to say as soon as this was spotted we pulled that site out of our target group. We could of course have been placed on many other sites like this during that campaign without even knowing it…

And then there’s websites like Facebook. Social networks are really difficult to target for advertising as being full of user generated content you have no control over what your advert could appear next to. Vodafone has now experienced this and has pulled all advertising from Facebook after it’s banner was displayed on the group profile for the British National Party. Vodafone pulled the ad straight away, but other brands such as Virgin Media and Orange have also appeared on that page.

I can’t see how Facebook could possibly control to a granular level where adverts are appearing in relation to the content on the pages. It will be a really difficult task and so if a lot of their big advertisers start complaining about the content on the pages their ads are appearing on it could spell trouble for their revenue streams quite quickly.

This is the trouble with user generated content and advertising. As bad as Facebook content can be I’m sure MySpace is worse. With the increasing popularity of corporate responsibility it is only going to become a bigger issue!

Travel related social network WAYN (Where Are You Now) has opened it’s doors to all users and removed the access restrictions that were once in place.

This seems to be a trend at the moment. Just the other day there was the news that HotOrNot are doing great now that they’ve removed their paid access restrictions. There’s also a rumour going around that the school reunion website Friends Reunited (which was one of the first social networking environments) is doing so badly that they are considering removing all fees for access.

This has to be a response to Facebooks current exponential growth and the already massive MySpace, neither of which have a paid for model and do extremely well for it.

Paid for sites are never as sticky as a free one because users just don’t come back as often and there aren’t so many users to get the mass interest a network really needs.

It will be interesting to see how WAYN do with the restrictions removed. They have the potential to be huge if they get it right and have backing from some eminent people in both travel and the online environment. Of course they still have premium accounts you can pay for but you get all the good functionality for nothing now!

A good post from Pete Cashmore on his Mashable blog here. Pete’s spotted, and disseminated, what instantly becomes obvious the moment you get onto the MySpaceTV site (launched today). It looks very similar to YouTube!

I’m sure MySpaceTV will be hugely successful amongst the MySpace community, but how successful it will be outside of that will depend largely on the content that MySpace can get onto it’s player. It’s going to need to use it’s relationships with media owners (NBC/News Corp anyone) to get prime content on it’s site if it stands a chance of competing. And that’s only competing on copyrighted content, how will it fair on user generated content?

As I said, they’ve got the social networking bonus of MySpace to play on, and you can bet that the player becomes the only video player allowed on MySpace, so they’ll get UGC from there. But will it have the pull to attract the guys who are making amateur films etc as those are the ones who have embraced YouTube so completely.

I don’t think this will kill YouTube to be honest. I think the connotations of being associated with MySpace won’t help, it’s my opinion that MySpace needs to adapt to survive beyond being a playground for teens and they currently show no desire to make that shift.

It looks like MySpaceTV has been launched as a YouTube killer, but I don’t think it will cut it without a killer gameplan as well!