Skip to content is Almost Awesome

April 12, 2007 is an idea whose time has come: user generated video about travel. Edited and organized by a brand that young, hip travelers know well: Lonely Planet. This concept first surfaced with a website that I was touting awhile back called That site has since become a company marketing site for the concept’s creators. Frankly, I am not sure why they took down that site so quickly. Local people would put up 2 – 5 minute videos giving a “tour” of their neighborhood. It had a cool click-able map index, and there was a lot of great videos showing a lot of great places all over the world. I wasted a lot of time on that site. I am also not sure about the new TurnHere business plan, but that is a whole other post.

At any rate, the site is the latest in Lonely Planet’s well constructed content strategy. They have been developing the type of hip, irreverent, non-traditional content its core consumers love for awhile now. And they have gotten distribution on the Discovery Channel and on Current TV. This website continues to provide absolutely dead on content for one of its core segments: the younger, yet to strike it rich jet set. These people are savvy and passionate travelers who don’t mind roughing it. They are young, well educated, and are thus probably first movers when it comes to emerging web 2.0 technologies and trends. So creating a broadband destination where they can go to talk about, blog about read about, and share videos about one of their biggest passions is a great idea.

In its simplest form, the destination fortifies the notion that Lonely Planet is hip and cutting edge (among an audience that probably really cares about stuff like that). More interesting, is the upside this site presents. By developing an audience and destination online, it creates a platform from which it can eventually launch its own programming, forgoing traditional distribution channels altogether. Strategically speaking, this is a marketing effort with an embedded option on an entirely new line of business. Best practices would dictate that a proper risk adjusted valuation of that option be reflected in the overall “marketing” costs of this venture. Of course, if the core strategy here is to create this entirely new platform, the marketing benefits would need to be evaluated and accounted for in the overall project payback. More and more, next generation content will afford marketers and publishers these types of opportunities, and enterprises would be well served to acknowledge, and properly value that embedded option.

I do hope they make a few changes to the website. For one, they need to make it easier for wanna-be bloggers (video or otherwise) to create visibility. While the channels Lonely Planet has created are interesting, it would help to showcase other users who are producing interesting content by directing people to those channels as well. It will also be interesting to see how much they are able to monetize the content beyond the banner ads they currently serve. Particularly, if consumers are willing to watch pre-rolls in front of much of this content. Perhaps there might be a strategy of keeping most of the user generated stuff ad free (or monetized via banner and search), while monetizing the Lonely Planet produced content via pre-rolls. Other users that are able to create compelling channels and content consistently could also get advertising with revenues being shared. Not having spent enough time on the economics, I can’t tell if such a strategy would be viable, but it certainly seems compelling.

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