FW: Blogs: A Success So Far

When I posted "Record-Eagle Blogs" on June 9, I should have shared the whole
back story....

Jeanne, Alison, how's it going, two months in?

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeanne Hubbard [mailto:jhubbard@record-eagle.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 08, 2006 12:35 PM
To: Bill Thomas; Mike Tyree; Alison Widmer; Ann Reed; Jacki Krolczyk;
Triston Kirt; Dan Roach; Maia Conway; Loraine Anderson; Kathy Gibbons; Dave
Cc: Andrew Langhoff; Sean Polay
Subject: Blogs: A Success So Far

As many of you know, we launched our new blog site
(http://blogs.record-eagle.com) last month on the 26th of May. Since the
launch, the blogs have gotten some pretty good traffic: 6,460 page views for
the period of May 26 to June 7.

Much of the launch success is due to Sara Robinson's blog from the National
Spelling Bee (depsite the fact that no refers were made in the printed
paper). She wrote with an excellent voice and her posts were always fun to
read. I'm hoping to keep her on as a blogger and we'll be talking soon about
blog ideas for her. If you have suggestions, feel free to shoot them to me.
I'll keep you posted on what we come up with.

We've also got Dee Blair blogging about her garden, Andrew Dost about being
on the road with his band, and yours truly with a rather bland but
informative blog about web site issues.

Please keep your eyes and ears open for other blogging opportunities. If we
have a resident heading off to do something interesting, let's pitch the
blog idea to them. It's easy and can be done from any Internet connection.

Also, if there's any interest within the newsroom for staff to have their
own blog(s), please let me know. I can set up a quick training session and
can discuss content ideas. Some ideas for blogs:

- Book Blog. What are you reading, what books do you recommend?
- Internet Blog. What's happening online in our area of the world? A place
to highlight local web sites and online articles about local issues.
- Photography Blog: post a daily photo of the region and talk about how the
shot was taken, discuss photography methods, etc.

There's so much we can do, it's really wide open. Those are just a few ideas
off the top of my head.

Jeanne Hubbard
Traverse City Record-Eagle


FW: New twist on sports blogs

A bit belated in sharing this. But became reacquainted with it as I was going through older e-mails this morning....

From: Patrick Mullen [mailto:pmullen@th-record.com]
Sent: Monday, June 05, 2006 5:00 PM
To: alanghoff@ottaway.com
Cc: spolay@ottaway.com
Subject: New twist on sports blogs


We created a baseball blog for NY sports fans. The thought was to create a place for NY sports fans to talk about the game—during the game. We added headers for special match-ups like the mets/braves, ny/boston and the subway series. Our NY sports columnists will chime in during batting practice tonight. They will be able provide some real-time coverage of something only folks in the ball-park are able to see….

Let’s see how it goes. If it starts out well we will improve the platform over time.




Go Yankees!


FW: Internet fails in the travel fringe

Sean Polay sent you a post from NewsGator.com:

Internet fails in the travel fringe

All Ka and I wanted was to trot three teen and near-teen kids over to an East Coast beach, within driving distance, for a long weekend.

Three plus two makes five, about two too many for a comfortable stay in one hotel room. Two rooms near a beach would be expensive, and no hotel will guarantee adjoining rooms anymore. So we hoped to find a condo, villa or small vacation house.

Starting the end of next week.

And that's where the fun began. Not fun as in "ha ha, look how easy," but fun as in "this @$%&*! thing is driving me insane ... maybe we should just camp in the back yard!"

What we found is the Internet becomes little better, and sometimes worse, than a remote phone book for locating a place to stay in those circumstances.

We had turned to the Internet in the first place because we knew most travel agents have no incentives to work very hard, if at all, to book lodging on itineraries where no flights or resort packages are involved.

Mainstream travel sites, including Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Hotwire and Hotels.com, work fine for mainstream travel: book a flight on a major airline, reserve a room in a chain hotel, rent a car from one of a half dozen brand-name providers, get rewards program credit for all of the above.

But they outright break when you try to tell them a family of five wants a place to stay together, the Rev. Al Green be damned! Some of the user interfaces simply won't let you attempt a search for lodging for two adults and three children, unless you start your search assuming you will split them into two rooms. Others will, but since most of the chain hotels limit occupancy to four humans per room, they seldom return any usable results.

Hotels.com supposedly lets you focus a search on condos and other vacation rentals, but results still appeared to contain quite a few chain hotel rooms that would not be big enough.

I tried kayak.com, one of the newer travel metasites (meaning it searches across many of the other travel search sites). I like the way it works, and that trial was enough to get me to consider using it in the future. But it, too, still focuses too much on mass-market travel and not family vacation lodging.

Next stops: smaller, regional sites from local real estate companies, leasing agents and rental aggregators. These sites, without exception, were maddening in their inconsistencies, untimeliness and what I call "rotten Easter eggs" -- waiting until after you drilled several steps into the process to tell you something you really needed to know before you started.

Best examples:

  • Sites that let us put in our arrival and departure dates for a 4-day trip around a weekend, and find good-looking matches, only to get a rude alert when we tried to reserve that said the properties were available only for weekly rentals beginning on Saturdays.
  • Sites that gave us good-looking matches that, it turns out, show up as available only because the property managers have not updated or integrated their reservation calendars in months or even years.
  • Sites that simply list dozens of properties by cutesy labels, with no search at all, forcing you to browse every detail listing to find the ones that even could work -- then find they're booked up.

Perhaps, you say, we set ourselves up for this failure by trying to book a last-minute stay on busy beaches in peak season. I won't argue with that. But last-minute deals can be found -- just, apparently, not on the 30 or so Internet sites we have tried so far.

Where does that leave us? Using the "Outernet," and having better luck. We're getting recommendations and leads from friends who live, or have lived, in the areas we're targeting. We have some phone numbers of leasing agents who may have some last-minute openings. Worst case, we'll book rooms a bit off the beach, but it appears our offline contacts will beat all these online efforts Real Soon Now.

I'll keep you posted.

This episode certainly reveals a tangible Internet business opportunity in local markets with a critical mass of vacation rentals. And it is proof that technology alone, in the form of databases with search engines, can't efficiently address many human wants on the fringe without, well, human attention.

Message from sender Sean Polay: Note Jay's last paragraph. But in addition to the business opportunity, this exemplifies the kind of "make-my-life-easier" content Andrew and I have been talking about.


Good example of a landing page for a hot-topic story

Am just back from a day-and-half excursion to Massachusetts, where conversations throughout the day yesterday were focused on the collapse of ceiling tiles from a tunnel that connects Logan Airport to the Mass Pike and I-93.

As I fired up my e-mail today, an alert came in from boston.com, reporting the latest development. Links in that story led me to a related story, which in turn led me to boston.com's landing page for their ongoing coverage. Talk about a best practice!

The landing page has links to stories, photos, related video (boston.com includes the site of their partner, New England Cable News), and forums. They also already had a commuter blog, which is linked from this landing page because of it's ongoing focus on the incident's impact on area drivers.

(Eugene, this would be a good model for the Galante landing page we spoke about Tuesday! Pass on to Eric, if you wouldn't mind...)