If airlines became publishers

Furthering my ruminations on the social airline….

Today’s NY Times writes about travel publishers still trying to figure out the web (they’ve been trying and failing to figure it out since the web’s start; I worked, frustratingly, with Fodor’s back in the ’90s as it tried to find a strategy). It says that among their tactics is licensing book content to airlines to display on their seat-back entertainment systems.

But that should be a two-way exchange. Airlines should capture the knowledge of their wise-about-traveling crowds. Imagine if, on return trips, the airlines asked us the hotels where we just stayed and ate and invited us to rate and review them. Imagine if they asked natives to share some inside tips on eating and shopping in their towns. They have a currency to pay for the information: They could reward us with frequent-flier bonus miles. Because they know who we are, they could even start to anonymously aggregate other data around this: ‘American Express Platinum customers recommend….’

The airlines would gather an incredible data base of live knowledge of real travelers with fresh knowledge. They’d outdo TripAdvisor over time. Or they could license their content to TripAdvisor or some of those travel publishers. The airlines could themselves become publishers by listening to and capturing and sharing the knowledge of their customers. But first, the an airline needs to think of itself as a platform for travel and of its customers as networks.

This should be a basic question of any company or industry in the internet era: ‘What do my customers know and how do I help them share that?’

: LATER: TravelWeekly is interested. So is book publisher Joe Wikert.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com Max Kalehoff

    Jeff,
    You’re asking the airlines to actually listen. With exception of a very few, do you really think that’ll ever happen anytime soon? I agree 100% with your thinking, but passengers don’t like airline experiences. In fact, passengers consciously and subconsciously become frustrated and PO’ed whenever they’re on a plane. For an airline to get travel feedback like you describe, they’ll first have to get over the first listening hurdle: acknowledging how much nearly every airline experience sucks to begin with. Then they can think about the publishing business.
    Max

  • http://www.ikiw.org Stewart Mader

    Jeff,
    JetBlue would be the ideal airline for this, with their better reputation than most carriers, the fact that they’re known for pushing the envelope and trying new things (TV in flight, the new Times On Air programming partnership with NY Times, WiFi in flight), and their new Blue City Guides. The guides are a good start, and having crewmembers blog is a step the right direction, but it’s only one-way and what they need is something two-way (I suggest a wiki: http://www.ikiw.org/2008/01/03/the-1-thing-jetblue-could-do-to-make-its-blue-city-guides-successful-is/) to engage customers, keep them on the site, contributing, discovering new places, and buying travel. And, as you suggest, giving a little incentive in the form of a few FF points would definitely get more than a few people to contribute.

    In my post (http://www.ikiw.org/2008/01/03/the-1-thing-jetblue-could-do-to-make-its-blue-city-guides-successful-is/) I suggested to JetBlue how a moderated wiki could work for this, and I’d love to get JetBlue’s attention and see if they’d be game.

    Cheers,
    Stewart

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  • http://www.budgettravel.com Sean ONeill
  • http://cgmtrends.wordpress.com Martin

    Jeff,
    I think that is a great idea and might become a reality in the near future. Slowly but surely main stream companies are begging to under stand the potential of tapping into the consumer data base. The CGM (consumer generated media) movement that was boosted by web 2.0 websites and platforms has gone mainstream.
    Having passengers provide insight and tips right after leaving their travel destination provides fresh and accurate info that could be highly valuable for other travelers. In addition, what better time to write about and recommend places you liked then on a plane ride back home.

    http://www.cgm.trends.com

  • http://trippenbach.gmail.com Philip Trippenbach

    This all sounds like a great idea. I’m all for livening up my trans-oceanic flight with a couple of networked games.

    But what if one of the games is crashing the plane?

    http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2008/01/dreamliner_security

    It’s not an argument against, but there are issues that need to be resolved here before we link up the passengers’ computing power and the plane’s electronics . . .

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