Lately, discussions about press trips* and their appropriateness in a newsroom have consumed more of my time than I would like, which is to say they have consumed an amount of time greater than zero minutes. I was once an ardent proponent of no-trips-ever policies, but my stance has softened…
To say nothing of going out for drinks or dinner with a publicist. The problem isn’t the free stuff, is sending someone who has no context for the free trip (or even the free meal) and can’t at least make the effort to asses fairly.
“The Ace Hotel is a luxury lifestyle hotel designed to appeal to creative-class jetsetters. There’s an Opening Ceremony and a Stumptown Coffee, very dim light, black walls, a general den-of-sin/debauchery vibe as filtered through a corporate imagination, and also a lot of stylish Nordic people. Sometimes brands like Converse get hotel rooms here and have invite-only, hotel-sanctioned sales on exclusive items inside the rooms. We are the generation who bought more shoes and we’re getting great deals on exclusive items at the creative class luxury lifestyle hotel.”—Aww, look how much better David’s writing has gotten now that he’s learned to capitalize on his “BlackBerry.” Also note that Converse is renting that room because no sane human being would want to sleep in an Ace Hotel.
Colin and Alex both pointed me to this excellent post on the problems involved in getting good at cities. Obviously, in both my previous experience as a travel writer and in my current position as co-founder of Fortnighter, it’s something that occupies my time.
What we have to solve for at Fortnighter in part is simply getting people in the right place. That’s what Nick touches on when he wonders how we can convey to visitors to NYC that despite the majority of the hotel stock being in CPW and Times Square, those are not the most fun parts of the city.
This is really two problems. One is that based on volume, those are the most fun parts of the city, for a chunk of people. Above a certain ranking—and remember the average rating on TA is 3.7—hotels are highly rated on TripAdvisor because they have the most visitors, essentially, not because they’re objectively good. The volume itself isn’t the problem, it’s that the volume skews the results of recommendations.
The result is that those suggestions—I urge you to take a look at TripAdvisor’s list of NYC’s top ten best hotels but be sure not to do it while you drink milk, lest it come out of your nose—are bad for BOTH sets of people. If you like Broadway and want to stay somewhere inexpensive but nice and cheap near Times Square? There’s a hotel for you (I dunno, probably the Element or the Best Western President, neither of which are in TA’s top 20) and if you like all that hipster shit, just stay at the Standard and please don’t complain to me when you are up all night because people in the rooms on BOTH sides of yours are being loudly amorous.
Meanwhile, we all know that guidebooks are one-size fits all, and that the contents are limited, to say nothing of dated. The main problem for both sets is that these recommendations aren’t really for “people like you” since, well, they can’t be. Even Foursquare is great… if you like things that the average Foursquare user does. (Sorry, Dad).
We focus on a couple things at Fortnighter. One is that our questionnaire for having a writer build a set of recommendations for a trip is comprehensive. Even so, we find that people want to tell us even more than we give them credit for. We were worried that people would withhold information about their trip, but instead, we often get their whole life story, along with a window into a very specific set of needs ( a CD store where they can listen before they buy, restaurants in France that don’t cook with too much cream(!), etc). That’s something that filters on UGC just can’t do since their automatic assumption is that people don’t really want to share much beyond price and quality parameters.
The second is that sometimes it’s not about the recommendation, it’s about putting the traveler in the right place. If you have a certain set of interests, you’ll often find areas that have a cluster of activities or shops that will appeal to those interests. With UGC, the hard part is expressing to the machine what those interests are; with guidebooks, you’re stuck reading between the lines of how that writer may have expressed (if at all) those interests. We make clustered recommendations—go down this street, see these set of shops, explore here—because the best kind of travel is like stumbling upon a good radio station. You hear a mix of what you like and what you didn’t even know you WOULD like but you’ll remember for a long time. That’s what I believe a great day in a city is like, and it’s the kind of thing we aim to provide as a service.
“According to a source at an L.A. entertainment company, the firm does enough business with United to qualify one of its top executives as GS class. Jason Reitman is also said to have been given GS status after directing 2009’s Up in the Air, in which American was featured prominently. (Reitman also has top status with American.) United is the preferred airline of WME, ICM and Warner Bros.”—
I’m very heartened to hear that making a film about the sad detachment brought on by the cocoon of luxury travel hasn’t stopped Reitman from accepting the perks of luxury travel.
“There comes a moment in all hangovers when the sufferer comes to a fork in the road. To the left lies death. To the right, madness. Brunch is down there too. For let us be plain: The perfect hangover cure is a cold Coke and a swim in the ocean, followed by a nap. Brunch in contrast offers only lukewarm coffee and watery bloody mary mix, harried servers and shoe-leather bacon. It may promise redemption. It generally delivers nothing of the sort.”—
“Today, though, no matter what happens to it, Detroit is once again part of the national (and global) conversation. This is all that could ever be asked, after all. Magical solutions to its brokenness do not exist. And at day’s end, Detroit must save Detroit. But I now take comfort in the fact that the world will be watching, lending a hand where it can, if Detroit will let it do so.”—The Incorrigible City’s valedictory post to Detroit.
…if you look at the most successful sites which link out — Fark, Reddit, Techmeme, Memeorandum, Drudge (and Drudge above all) — they’re all incredibly ugly. And I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s actually as much a feature as it is a bug. The ugly is good, because it drives you away. And the reason you go to that website is to be driven away.”
With that in mind, “we’re aggressively anti-pageview,” Salmon says. “We don’t want people to stay on that site. We just want people to go away.”
“There are people in the world who have the power to change our values. Have you ever been with a girl who made you want to quit the rest of your life? Did you ever say, ‘I want to quit my life and just f—kin’ snort you?”—
Joel McHale, host of E!’s clip-fest The Soup and star of the NBC sitcom Community, grew up in the Seattle metropolitan area (specifically Mercer Island) and enrolled at the University of Washington in fall of 1991, just as punk was breaking. “As a kid, I didn’t know any better—I…