Post 2: Lonely Planet’s digital media strategies

I promised I would divide the Lonely Planet guest lecture into two posts, but as I realise two is not enough (or it could have been had I been able to weave them together, something Lieu and Dijana are much better at), so I will go into three posts:

Post 1: Lonely Planet on editors and digital publishing
Post 2: Lonely Planet’s digital media strategies
Post 3: Lonely Planet’s social media strategies and competitors

What is Lonely Planet (LP) doing in the sphere of digital publishing and social media? Besides their products of ibooks, city guides for smart phones and phrasebook apps, LP has:

All with the help of 500 well-travelled staff, 220 authors, and three offices in Melbourne, London, and Oakland, California. They also have TV shows (now why didn’t Vivek mention that?). Maybe that’s why they’ve sold 100 million guidebooks.

Note: Anything in quotes is by Vivek or Jane, the guest speakers from LP.

LPs digital media strategy can be summarised by this line by Vivek: “We’ll give you the best, even if it’s not ours”.

Lonely Planet’s website

You know a company is aiming for an online presence when it changes its name from Lonely Planet Publications to Lonely Planet to better represent their digital output.
In the lecture, Vivek outlined the important factors to make a website great: readability, colour, easy navigation, search engine optimisation and all the other things we learned in class. The LP website does just that. I looked up Turkey (ahem…Turkiye) on their site. I got content from their site, as well as Our Favorite Turkey blogs (more on that later), links to Turkey threads on the Thorn Tree forum, a form for flight deals by Kayak, and the latest headlines about Turkey by BBC who has a 75% share in LP. Plus, you get to rate, vote, and review, which makes LP not just a big name in travel publications, but information that is constantly updates by anyone and everyone.

Thorn Tree forum and related links

It helps that LP puts all their related links, including forum threads, together. For example, on a page about Paris, you’ll also get links on cycle-friendly roads, best travel books on Paris, LP-linked Paris blogs, LP products on Paris,  and Paris threads on the Thorn Tree forum. LP’s Thorn Tree forum is the oldest travel forum. There’s a new post every 12 seconds.


Email has lost attention over the years, but it’s still important to many companies, including LP, that rely on emails to send our aggregated content to its subscribers. Moreover, it serves as a great tracking tool (so it’s not only Facebook we should be paranoid of). When you add an image into an email, the image has an HTML code that sends a message to the server to draw up the picture when you want to see it. That way, companies can see what’s picking up interest. Also, you can see where your subscribers are located too.

Blogs (the Best of the Net experiment)

LP believes in harnessing the community, so they initiated the Best of the Net program which aimed at “not getting commissioned content, but a worldview”. LP’s fine with mixing their authors’ topics with users’ topics (but they will let you know which review is by an author vs a member).

When LP staff began stumbling on more and more great travel blogs, they decided to make use of them. In their online subscription form, they included a box that you could tick if you had a travel blog that you think LP would be interested in). Sounds like a great idea, right? LP decided to go ahead with it.

They didn’t expect thousands of people ticking the box, so Vivek and the other digital content editors scratched their heads and wondered what to do. They began adding a lot of the blogs onto their site as links, but stopped at 200 until they could figure out what to do with the rest. “Maybe we’ll have a rating system [for the blogs]” he added.

LP benefits from these bloggers, but LP is not just a receiver. They give and receive as much as possible. The blogs that make it on the Our Favourite (Country) Blogs have their posts up on LP’s site, which includes an ad and a link to the blog, which means publicity and revenue for the blogger. They even put a note on the right side just to let you know. Nice!
During the lecture, one person wondered about LP directing users off its own website. Vivek replied, “It would be foolish to cage people on our site because they will go elsewhere for that information.” Hence, that summarises LP’s position: give people the best information or show them where it is. It still makes you the trusted guide you always were.

Tell me: I know I have mostly praise for LP, so share your criticism. What is LP missing? What can they do better?

Posted in culture, Google, Lonely Planet, reading, trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sesame Street does Old Spice

I just had to share this with you.

Posted in YouTube | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Post 1: Lonely Planet on editors and digital publishing

The lecture on Wednesday answered these questions:


  • What is an editor?
  • What is epublishing/digital publishing?
  • What are the differences between print and digital publishing?
  • What challenges do we face in this sphere?
  • What is Lonely Planet doing in this sphere?

I didn’t think they would start with the basics. This lecture would have come in handy at the beginning of the semester. Classmates, I’ll will try not to mention things you already know, but will focus on how the questions were answered. I will cover this lecture in two posts. This post will focus on the first three questions.

Lonely Planet embraces the changing face of publishing. They link to the best stuff even if it is not theirs, talk with their users/customers, and keep churning out products for the changing market. Both speakers were really enthusiastic and positive about digital publishing. I will have more on this next week.

About the guest speakers


32 years. 32 countries.


Both guest speakers were cool. Even their names sound cool. First was Vivek Wagle, head of editorial, primarily digital content, of Lonely Planet . Everything about him from the fact that he has a philosophy degree from Harvard University to the fact that he visited 32 countries by the age of 32 makes him worth listening to.

Second speaker was Jane Nethercote, senior digital producer at Lonely Planet and former website and managing editor of I had to leave before she got to speak (although she did contribute), so I leave it to my other classmates to fill in more about her and hope that she mentioned something about her background in film.

What is an editor?

Edit comes from the Latin word e ditus, which means “to bring forward”. Vivek likened editors to DJs because both need to cut up and mash from a variety of sources, understand the crowd’s interests at different times, and have the skills to use others’ works. I’m guessing Suneel would know this best.

What is epublishing?

Vivek added that he doesn’t like that term since it’s “so 2002” and that “i is the new e, and u is the new i” (ePublishing < iPublishing < uPublishing). He stuck to “digital publishing” and went on to describe in detail the four different forms. Most of these we covered in class with Sarah, but I’ll share a few quotes from his lecture.

  1. Digital content: “Design has to be translated to screen.”
  2. Online content: “Facebook and Twitter had more people clicking on links because of recommendations.”
  3. Platform (iPad ): “We’re in Harry Potter world. All of a sudden, we have moving images in books.”
  4. Apps: “You give it info so it gives you more info.”

What are the differences between print and digital publishing?

Just in case you need the answer, here’s a convenient chart.


Print vs Digital Publishing


Posted in Facebook | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Google vs Facebook: Battle of the Online Giants

Facebook was always behind Google in Internet traffic. But not in August of this year. According to All Facebook, the “Unofficial Facebook Resource”, the latest peek into the weekly share of American Internet traffic shows Facebook is beating Google.

See the jump from May 2009 to December 2009? Amazing! I wonder if the increased availability and reduced prices of mobile Internet services had anything to do with it.

Is it surprising that these sites dominate Internet traffic? These two online giants continue to thrive because they develop and tweaking their sites to suit users and offer more services. Facebook did not always have News Feeds and there was a time before Google had AdSense. Google tweaked its search algorith 450 times in 2007, and Facebook became infamous for its redesigns. Users are now used to and even welcome the changes and new applications.

Now the rivalry between these two are growing. Caroline McCarthy of CNET Social gives us a briefing about the current standing:

You could put it this way: Facebook dominates the social Web, and Google dominates everything else. Google wants to wrest a bit of control of social media from Facebook; Facebook plans to use the vast network of connections and communication channels it’s built to more or less conquer the rest of the world. It’s the case of a giant with a glaring Achilles heel versus a smaller, more nimble player with a finely-honed skill that can attack its competitor right where it hurts.

Google’s Achilles heel might be its streak of failures when it comes to social media, and Facebook is dealing with a lot of flak regarding privacy concerns and is taking careful steps into other zones. Facebook already has Marketplace, Places, and now Questions. All Facebook maps out the sites’ development over the years. This is where they are now:
Will Facebook be able to conquer? What makes Facebook strong anyway? Users. Lots of them. A year ago, there were 250 million of them. That number has DOUBLED to 500 million users who use Facebook for an average of 55 minutes a day. 500 million users who tell Facebook sponsors exactly what they like and what they don’t. Google may be able to collect data, but Facebook is making major strides in the e-commerce battle.

Google has one-upped Facebook with Priority Inbox to add some peace in the noisy world of the Internet that becomes so overwhelming. In the land of everything, the Priority Inbox adds relevance so that instead of everything you get to focus on that which matters to you.

What do you think could lead Facebook to surpass Google?

Posted in Facebook, Google, privacy, research, search, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Most dangerous places to surf the net

In my last post about Turks and the Internet, I warned readers to beware of surfing the net in Turkiye.  Here’s the reason. Internet security company AVG revealed most dangerous places to surf the net. Which country’s at the top of the list? Turkiye.

But it’s not just the Turkiye. Russia comes in second, followed by Armenia and Azerbaijan. The US ranked ninth.
AVG looked at the number of times it had to deal with security issues in the month of July 2010. Data was gathered data from 144 countries and 124 million PCs. The more AVG had to step in, the more risky it’s considered to surf the web in that country.

Exactly how risky are we talking? Let’s look at which country is considered “safe” in order to understand what is considered “danger”. Japan was one of the safest countries, with only one in 403 interventions needed from online threats. Turkiye? ONE IN TEN. Russia came close with one in 15.

Where does Australia stand? Our land down under was ranked 67th with a one in 75 attack ratio. So not much to worry about, but still way behind in online safety and nowhere near the safest countries: Sierra Leone (one in 696), Niger (one in 442), and Japan. Continent-wise, South America was the safest.

AVG spokesperson Roger Thomson offered some insight as to why web surfers in some countries make surfing so risky:

Some of this may be a tendency to access semi-legal or illegal download sites, while some of it probably is down to being less cautious when it comes to sharing links and files online.

Techcrunch article had further comments by Thomson:

According to the study, users in the high risk Caucasus region (Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) were hands down more vulnerable to attack, most likely because of higher frequency of accessing illegal download sites, as well as the continuing popularity of INTERNET CAFES [emphasis my own].

So it’s wasn’t just online gaming and Russian dating sites that was the problem. It was illegal downloading. I’d be lying if I said I was surprised. My cousin’s music downloads of over 300 artists could only be done via bulk downloading or weeks of wasted life. I can’t remember the last time my cousins brought home a legally purchased movie. Blockbuster and Netflix would never make it into Turkiye, not while the country has an end-user piracy rate of 68%.

(Side note: In case you need it, AVG’s free anti-virus software currently has the highest CNET editor approval of all free anti-virus programs.)

Posted in culture, security, trust, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Turks and the Internet

Top 10 Countries on Facebook

Being Turkish, I dived further into Turkiye’s internet usage I linked to a study on global Facebook usage in my last post because I was suprised with country rankings for Facebook users:

  1. US: 111 million (no surprise)
  2. UK: 23 million
  3. Indonesia: 19 million
  4. Turkiye: 18 million
  5. France: 15 million

China would have outranked them all if Facebook wasn’t banned in China or out of fashion, as GeGao writes, Japan would have beat UK if Facebook could compete with the culturally appropriate Mixi, and the most connected online nation of South Korea prefers Cyworld. But I am not surprised Turkiye landed 4th place. I’m surprised it didn’t pass Indonesia, but then again, I don’t know Indonesians’ Internet usage.

Back to the Turks. This identity confused country has a population of 76.8 million with 24.4 million Internet users. If there are 18 million Facebook users (assuming they are individual users and not tween boys setting up multiple accounts for online dating purposes), that means 75% of Internet users have a Facebook account. This is surprising considering Turkiye was and still is far behind national Internet connectedness with only a third of the country online, maybe due to government control that lead to the banning of YouTube and other sites they deemed harmful to nationalistic feelings.

How is Turkiye doing now? According to a 2009 comScore report, Internet users in Turkiye were found to be the most engaged users in Europe, spending an average 32 hours and viewing an average 3,044 pages of content per month.

Commenting on this report is Mike Read, managing director of comScore Europe. He says, “Much of this heavy engagement is driven by usage of social networking and entertainment media sites, which maintain users’ attention for extended periods of time.”

Not a Turkish Internet cafe, but looks just like one I visited. From David Richardsonn (cropped image). Click on picture to go to website

My general understanding of Turks leads me to believe that that Turks like being connected, entertained, and up to date. A few no-other-choice visits to local Internet cafes in Turkiye proved to me that boys love online gaming and chatting up Russian girls via Skype or MSN Messenger. This connection between Turkiye, the Internet, and Russia  goes deeper than I thought. If travelling overseas, beware of surfing the Internet in Turkiye and Russia. More on this topic next week!

But until then…

Tell me: How do you think culture affects Internet usage?

Posted in censorship, culture, Facebook, research, USA, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

YouTube scores record of 100 videos per US user in May

First, let’s look at the facts:

For the first time in YouTube history (Feb 2005-Sept 2010), the average American YouTube user has watched 100 videos in one month (May 2010) according to comScore (that’s 14.6 billion videos for 144.1 million viewers). This number is small considering 70% of YouTube traffic is outside the US (which is the same with Facebook) based on research by Website Monitoring. Globally, YouTube gets 2 billion views per day. The average video was 4 minutes long, and the average visitor spent 15 minutes a day on the site.

The research by Web Monitoring also draws attention to the subscriptions to YouTube channels. Guess who has the most subscribers on YouTube? The Music category is the most watched with YouTube’s most popular video being Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance at 185 million views. Despite the video’s popularity, record company Universal Music Group is not in the lead with 1.1 million subscribers.

With 2,667,874 subscribers and 86 million page views, US comedian Ryan Higa (nigahiga on YouTube) has the most subscribers and is (apparently) making a pretty penny with his comedy videos, this one probably being the one that shot him to Internet stardom.  With half of YouTube users are under 20, it makes sense that someone in that demographic would be leading.

Now, my reactions.

1.  OMG 100 videos! I was slightly surprised, but then did the math, and realised that 15 minutes a day is little compared to the hours spent watching TV.

2. Lady Gaga? As creative as Lady Gaga may be, I was happier when Evolution of Dance and Free Hugs were the most popular videos. The first was funny and nostalgic, and the second was inspirational and heart-warming.

3. Go NigaHiga! I’m happy that YouTube still remains the channel of The People (formely known as the audience). The subscriptions to amateur content creators is proof of that. It brings about that democratic feel of the Internet.

What did you think after you read the facts?

I wonder:

  • Will we watch more videos online and less TV?
  • Where do you see YouTube 5 years from now?
  • YouTube reigns over all video sites, but does anyone complain?
Posted in Facebook, research, YouTube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment