When a travel tv channel. goes online: a map

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1 When a travel tv channel goes online: a map Giulio Lizzi a, Francesca Borrione a, and Lorenzo Cantoni b a University of Perugia, Italy b webatelier.net Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland Mapping the Magazine 3, Cardiff University 2011 Abstract In this paper, digital hybridization of television travel channels is studied, presenting how they are using their online presence to extend their reach and widen their business. Thanks to a grid, designed to cluster all types of content and functionalities offered online by 30 travel channels and programs, a picture of their actual use of the internet has been taken and discussed. When entering the online world, travel channels get many elements that are not affordable through broadcasting, while at the same time losing other elements. But this process is not just a matter of adding or removing features, rather, it requires to a deep re-consideration of travel representation itself, offering venues for new business models and for a new alliance between the channels themselves

2 and their audience. According to Grierson (1966), documentary is the creative treatment of actuality, and gives meaning to time and space fragmentation. The camera works as a filter on reality and the filmmaker uses his cine-eye (Vertov, 1924) to catch the unaware. Representation of reality is the result of the filmmaker s ability to discover the truth and propose it to the audience. While TV focuses on audio-visual suggestions to draw the audience s attention, the web is an interactive space that allows to get, share, and produce texts, photos or videos. In the websites analysed, users can create and re-create impressions, discover places, search on interactive maps, build their own travel plans. This paper also focuses on how travel channels on the web are using web 2.0 functionalities in order to give a more complex representation of the world and also a deeper awareness about intercultural dialogue. 1. Literature review 1.1. Documentary as a creative treatment of actuality In this paper, online communication of travel channels is analyzed. According to Lev Manovich, as the role of a computer is shifting from being just a tool to being a universal media machine, we are increasingly "interfacing" to predominantly cultural data: texts, photographs, films, music, virtual environments. In short, we are no longer interfacing to a computer but to culture encoded in digital form. Manovich introduces the term "cultural interfaces" to describe evolving interfaces used by the designers of websites, multimedia encyclopaedias, online museums, computer games and other digital cultural objects (Manovich, 1997). We have three key cultural forms: cinema, printed word and human-computer interface (Manovich, 2001): cinema as moving image, camera techniques, narrative schemes, editing; printed word as the most important part of the traditional cultural form; HCI as how the user interacts with the computer technology. Cinema and television use similar codes. The camera works as a filter on reality, as the filmmaker uses his cine-eye to catch the unaware in his own perspective (Vertov, 1924). Representation of reality is the result of the author s ability to discover the truth and propose it to the audience, which is made up of people with different perspectives and cultural backgrounds. According to Grierson (1966), documentary 2

3 is the creative treatment of actuality, and gives meaning to time and space fragmentation. As television is shifting in the multimedia environment, the integrity of the message is broken into different elements such as audio, video, text, image. But that integrity is not definitively lost, as users are able to explore the multimedia environment and build their own perspective and path, following their own interests and needs. That is an actualisation process (Levy, 1997), which needs human creativity to be undertaken Online channels as a new way of experiencing travel Fürsich and Kavoori (2001) noted five reasons why travel journalism needed to be studied more deeply: (1) the boom of the tourism industry; (2) tourism and its impact remains under-studied; (3) leisure is a significant social practice; (4) travel journalism is an important place for international communication research; and e) travel journalism has special contingencies as it is a highlycharged discourse strongly affected by public relations. The advent of the internet, among all the previous media, has deeply changed our perspective on tourism. In fact, there is a significant difference between watching travel tv channels and visiting their websites. In tv travel programs, the author has a main role: s/he is the cine-eye and has the fair perspective on the subject; s/he knows what to tell, how to tell it and how to capture the audience. Using images, s/he can educate the audience in understanding different cultures, traditions, places and people. This is a peculiarity of the authorial documentary. In fact, websites being based on an interactive structure and offering sharing tools enhance the heuristic dimension, since users can explore and find their own path. Websites needs the user. Travel websites offer the elements of tv programs (such as video, audio, text) combined in an interactive platform, where users can find information, imagine and plan their own trip, and somehow moving from the virtual to the real. Travel websites offer a new way of traveling. Besides, thanks to the web, users are able to virtually explore places and then plan their own real travels. In video-documentaries, the author has a main role. In fact, video-documentaries are based on a professional expertise. Depending on the author/director s intention, video-documentaries can yield different perspectives such as educational, historical, anthropological, cultural, informative or entertainment-oriented ones. The author has a main role in tv travel programs, too: they are the 3

4 eye and have their own perspective on the subject, they know what to tell, how to tell it and how to capture the audience. With images, they have the ability to educate the viewers in understanding different cultures, traditions, places and people. The viewer senses that the image is not just an indexical representation of some part of the world, but also an indexical record of the actual encounter between filmmaker and subject (Nichols, 2010). This is a strong quality of the authorial documentary that websites based on interactivity user-medium and on sharing experiences and opinions don t have. However, users become authors themselves, thanks to web 2.0 functionalities and self-made contents The digital hybridization of tv contents The digital hybridization of travel channels is not merely a matter of transcoding contents from a medium to another. Actually, it determines a gap between the unities of time and place, proper of the tv contents, and the open dynamic hypermedia context, proper of online contents. According to Lévy (1998), virtual is not the opposite of real: possible is the opposite of real and virtual is the opposite of actual. Real can be logically deducible from possible, and vice-versa: human creativity is not involved in this process. On the contrary, moving from virtual to actual, and vice-versa, is an act of human creativity. The virtualization process includes three steps: the grammatical, the dialectical, and the rhetorical one. The digitalization phase embraces only the first and the second one. The first step is inventing a new grammar: the digital language. The second one which introduces the dialectic between the real and the possible is encoding a video content into the digital language (i. e. YouTube): that is the dialectical substitution of a material object with its digital matrix. If a tv content recorded on a single physical support belongs to the domain of the real, its digital matrix belongs to the domain of the possible. We perceive a digital tv content as a richer one in terms of possibilities of realizing it in different ways in comparison with the same content recorded on a single physical support. Both potentialization (moving from the real into the possible, such as digitizing a tv content) and realization (moving from the possible to the real, such as recording a copy of the tv content) are logical operations performed by computers: there s no need for human involvement. The third rhetorical step which introduces the dialectic between the actual and the virtual is creating a hyper-media context by transforming a tv content into a 4

5 problematic (Lévy, 1998). That problematic exists only if we take into consideration the humanmachine interaction and not only computer-based processes. A hypermedia can t be logically deduced from the source tv content. It is the result of a series of decisions: adjustment of the size of the nodes and basic modules, arrangement of connections, structure of navigation interface, etc. If digitalization is a logical operation performed by computers, virtualization is an act of human creativity (Lévy, 1998). Both virtualization (moving from the actual to the virtual, such as transforming a single tv content into a problematic or hypermedia) and actualization (moving from the virtual to the actual, such as exploring a hypermedia by following different paths) are intentional operations (Lévy, 1998). The virtualization process is an ethical issue, because human will has a fundamental role both in determining its quality and building a collective intelligence (Lévy, 1997). 2. Methodology The approach used for this study is a quantitative methodology, which helps in finding and ranking content and functionalities of a large number of websites. This methodology investigates the presence of a given type of content or functionality in a set of given websites (Cantoni et al., 2007). Being a quantitative approach, it does not provide information about the quality of the information or communication. The main objective of this study is to describe the domain of online travel channels and to understand how the websites are organized to find design patterns and business model patterns. Particularly the study investigates: (i) the most complete websites, (ii) the most frequent design patterns and (iii) the business model of the online travel channels. The procedure is standardized: after choosing the domain and the sample websites, the inspector should create an analysis grid based on indicators. One indicator is a type of content or functionality given by a website; a type of content or functionality to be chosen as indicator must be relevant both for the domain and for the end users (Cantoni et al., 2007). The inspector accomplishes an explorative analysis browsing the sample websites annotating all the features of each website and/or taking into account the most important features for the given website or domain. A feature is listed as content when it defines an information published as a text, image, audio, video; it is listed as a 5

6 functionality when it defines an action that readers can do on the website, such as acquiring, sharing, producing information. When the indicator grid is complete, the group of websites is ready to be analysed. The inspector goes through the websites giving marks to them with respect to the indicators given in the grid; the grades are 1 and 0. Value 1 simply indicates that the type of object represented by the indicator is present; there is not any evaluation on the quality of the information. The creation of the analysis instrument and the data collection is based on a five step indicator-based methodology. Domain identification: The selection of the tourism channels was suggested by recent studies concerning the increasing relevance of soft-news journalism in the editorial market. Hard news generally refers to up-to-the-minute news and events that are reported immediately, while soft news is background information or human-interest stories. Politics, war, economics and crime used to be considered hard news, while arts, entertainment and lifestyles were considered soft news. But increasingly, the lines are beginning to blur. One difference between hard and soft news is the tone of presentation. A hard news story takes a factual approach: What happened? Who was involved? Where and when did it happen? Why? A soft news story tries instead to suggest, entertain or advise the reader, and promises news you can use. Online behavioural targeting has emerged as new mantra. Traditional publishing companies are investing in electronic publishing whose contribution to revenues has been increasing. Acquisition of electronic publishing entities by traditional publishing companies corroborates the accent of electronic publishing in recent times. Also, entering in the e-tourism business is a big opportunity for editorial companies to find new business models. Key players identification: The second step is the identification of the main online editions of travel programs. The study focused on the following languages: English, French, Italian. Alexa.com has been used to select the most popular online editions of travel channels. Then, 10 of the most representative travel programs for each of the three chosen languages have been selected. Indicators identification: The third step of this methodology is the identification of indicators to describe in a quantitative manner types of contents and functionalities of every website, and the definition of an analysis grid with these indicators. A group of websites has been chosen randomly among the sample (30%, n= 9); each website has been analysed and types of contents and 6

7 functionalities have been annotated on post-it. A card sorting activity helped to organize contents and functionalities and to merge similar ones. Card sorting can provide insight into users mental models, illuminating the way that they often tacitly group, sort and label tasks and content within their own heads (Rosenfeld & Morville, 2002). The technique has proved very useful in helping to organize several pieces of information or concepts. It entails providing a group of users with a set of cards; written on each card there is a concept or piece of information from the information library that needs to be organized. Users then sort the cards with similar concepts into piles. The result suggests how users would organize a given set of concepts, which can be a valuable information when organizing a system or website (Faiks and Hyland, 2000). In this context a so called closed card-sort technique has been adopted: users are presented with the cards to be sorted and the names of groups that the cards should be sorted into (Tullis & Albert, 2008). In this case it implies that categories have already been identified, according to a narrative, and users just assign each indicator to a category. The created grid presents 111 indicators, grouped into 8 areas and 25 categories. The 8 areas describe a narrative path and represent the following steps: the indicators grouped into the Information about the channel (area 1) help to understand how the channel presents itself to the readers, as they ask Who are the authors? Are they reliable?. The indicators grouped into Text (area 2), Audio (area 3), Photo (area 4) and Video (area 5) areas help to understand what kind of content the channel presents to the readers, and what kind of functionalities they can use in order to share and even produce UGC (User Generated Content) using web 2.0 tools, such as social networks, as they ask What can I find here? What can I do here?. The indicators grouped into the Purchase process (area 6) area help to understand what kind of travel suggestions the channel presents to the users, and what kind of functionalities they can use in order to plan and book a travel, as they ask Where should I go on holiday? How can I plan and book my trip?". The indicators grouped into the Community (area 7) area help to understand what the readers can do when they register in the community forum, as they ask What kind of functionalities can I use in order to produce and share content within the community?. The indicators grouped into the Mobile area (area 8) show how users can access the online channel via mobile devices such as iphone and ipad. 7

8 Website analysis and data collection: the inspector marks the presence or the absence of each indicator for each given website (presence = 1, absence= 0). For example: 1 was assigned to indicator Weather forecast even when no weather info was actually on the website, because there was a link to the website of forecasting service. In the same way, when no shopping catalogue is on the website and there is a link to a generic shopping catalogue (but not specific for travellers), 0 was assigned to indicator Travel shopping catalogue. Please note that this is not a qualitative score: 1 means simply that the object represented by the indicator is on the website (or directly accessible from it), but no evaluation of information quality is given, nor on the correct/smart positioning of the object in the navigation of the website. Figure 1 shows an example for the channels data collection; Travel Channel, for instance, has 70% of the indicators clustered into the Information about the channel category; CNN Travel has 46%. Fig. 1. Example of score for category. Figure 1 highlights the way the analysis grid has been created: indicators are grouped into categories, and in areas; Channels are then listed and values are assigned to each channel. 3. Results In the next paragraphs the results of the analysis have been investigated. Particularly, (i) the most completed websites, (ii) the most frequent design patterns and (iii) the business model of the 8

9 online travel channels are described. Figure 2 shows the most completed online channels analysed, from the 1 st to the 30 th position The most completed websites The highest presence of indicators was found in Travel Channel (with 70% of the indicators) while the less completed channel is Sì, viaggiare (19%) MAN VS. WILD (Discovery Channel) TRAVEL CHANNEL NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVEL CHANNEL MSNBC TRAVEL Fig. 2. The most completed online channels analysed, from the 1 st to the 30 th. The following table describes the tendencies within the three language markets. Market All English Italian French Average Max val Min val Mode Table 1. Results for each language market. DISCOVERY ADVENTURES PLANET EARTH (Discovery) GAMBERO ROSSO CHANNEL MARCO POLO FAMILLES D'EXPLORATEURS - TF1 ABC NEWS - TRAVEL CHANNEL CNN TRAVEL NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL - ITALIA BBC TRAVEL CBS NEWS TRAVEL MISSIONE NATURA PATRIMOINE - FRANCE 2 THALASSA - FRANCE 3 DONNAVVENTURA CUISINES DES TERROIRS - ARTE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL - FRANCE CARNETS D'EXPEDITIONS - FRANCE 5 DOCUMENTAIRES - FRANCE 5 ECHAPPEES BELLES - FRANCE 5 RENDEZ-VOUS EN TERRES INCONNUE - FRANCE 2 PIANETA MARE DOVE TV (SKY) TRAVEL & LIVING (SKY) LINEABLU VOYAGES.FR Sì, VIAGGIARE 9

10 Table 1 shows that among the three different market, the English one seems to be the most interesting. It has the channel which hosts the highest number of indicators, and presents the highest mode, while Italian and French channels are the less completed ones in terms of indicator presence The most frequent web design patterns Figure 3 shows the most frequent design patterns within the online travel channels analysed. Macro areas indicators have been grouped, and indicators have been normalized and presented in percentage Fig. 3. Macro Areas indicators. The macro area Information about the channel is the one which has got the highest presence of indicators. The media sections area (text, video and photo) rank second, before the area that collects all purchase indicators. Mobile area, with 33% presence of indicators, highlights new and interesting applications, such as video-podcasting. Then indicators for the 25 categories have been exploded in figure 4. Notably the first three categories refer to information while the last ones refer to multimedia audio contents (media sharing, audio contents and audio functionalities) and to the booking process. 10

11 REFERENCES LEGAL ISSUES FURTHER INFO REGISTRATION CONTACTS GET ARTICLES/ OTHER CONTENTS VIDEO CONTENTS ADVERTISING SHARE ARTICLES/ PHOTO CONTENTS PURE TEXT SHOPPING GET TRAVEL IDEAS BUY TOURISM APPLICATIONS VIDEO HAVE YOUR SAY PHOTO DIARY/REVIEW VIDEO SHARING PHOTO SHARING AUDIO CONTENTS AUDIO PLAN/BOOK A Fig. 4. Percent value for categories presence. 10 categories are present at least in 49% of the online channels analysed. Most of them ( References, Legal issues, Further info, Registration, Contacts ) concern the information area. One of them, Advertising (52%), concerns the business model (the Purchase process area): it s important to notice that 87% of the online channels have advertising banners, and 33% have get involved banners, offering the opportunity to became a responsible tourist. Besides, one sub-category concerning the business model is present at least in 50% of the channels analysed: Advertising (50%). Interactivity has also an important role: Get article (78%) and Share article (48%). Thus, the editorial strategy and the design patterns seem to reflect the following goals: (1) present the channels as reliable sources, and keep in contact with readers; (2) create a new business model; (3) improve interactivity. 3.3 The business model The business model of the 30 online travel channels has been analysed using 26 indicators grouped into 5 subcategories and one category, as shown in figure 5. Figure 5 presents an overview of the business model of the 30 online travel channels analysed. 11

12 Fig. 5. An overview of the purchase process in the 30 online travel channels analysed. Figure 5 shows that the indicators grouped into the Advertising (52%) and Shopping (41%) areas are the most relevant in the business model of the online channels analysed. Figure 6 shows a detailed view of the 26 indicators concerning the purchase process. Fig. 6. A detailed view of the purchase process in the 30 online travel channels analysed. Figure 6 shows that 5 indicators are present in at least 50% of the online channels analysed. Advertising banners and Search articles/reviews by destination are over 70%. Search 12

13 articles/reviews by type (70%), and Travel suggestions (66%) have also an high score. A new business model is emerging, as readers can directly book the travel suggested by the channel. 4. Discussion and conclusion 4.1. All-news channels and travel programs Travel sections of all-news channels ABC, CNN, BBC, CBS and MSNBC have an informative approach based on textual contents. In fact, they offer detailed articles that can be searched by date, destination and on an interactive world map. They can also be commented by the users and shared on social networks. CNN allows the users to plan their own trip and to book Hotels. On the contrary, travel programs have a different approach. They offer a wide range of multimedia contents and web 2.0 functionalities, so that users can virtually live a travel experience and then turn it into a real one by planning and booking a real trip Games Games are among the most interesting functionalities offered by the online travel channels. They are offered by 4 of the 10 English-language websites analysed. There are many kinds of games: quizzes, memory games, role-playing, virtual maps, etc. For example, National geographic and Planet Earth use the game as a way to help users discovering places, people and cultures, through an exploration path, devoted to explain historical-archaeological, naturalistic, astronomical, anthropological aspects. Man vs. Wild games section is mainly dedicated to the program s viewers. Games have many interactive functionalities and give users the chance to test their knowledge about the topics discussed in the episodes Mobile Many online travel programs 11 of the 30 analysed offer mobile applications for iphone, ipad, Android and Symbian mobile phones. MSNBC mobile application offers the possibility to know your current location on a map and to get related notifications. This application also offers travel news, articles dealing with destinations, travel suggestions, videos and photos, advertising banners. CNN free mobile application offers: travel guides; travel tips shared by CNN correspondent; latest 13

14 news and in-depth reporting on destinations; get involved banners. ireport section gives the opportunity to upload and share user generated news. Actually, mobile applications tend to enhance the paper travel guides, lead tourists to discover the destination and its cultural, geographical, historical aspects and fit them in Business models and ethics Travel channels heavily rely on sponsorship from the tourism industry, an uneasy marriage, which carries with it immense ethical implications. Most of online travel channels adopt a business model based both on contextualized advertising banners, and on online stores offering DVDs, books and travel-related gadgets. Some other ones adopt a new business model, based on built-in booking engines or even on third-party ones. Actually, some online travel channels offer their users a chronologically-ordered archive made of videos, photos, texts, and also episodes and news. These multimedia archives cover a large range of topics and destinations and let users (a) choose their preferred path, (b) compare possibilities and prices, (c) discover unexpected content and travel suggestions adopting sort of serendipitous approach (Spagnolo et al., 2010), and finally (d) buy a vacation. As users are free to choose among a large number of suggestions, even drawing a trip solution based on their own preferences. This new business model could work as a basis for a new ethical model in online travel channels: a model in which the close connection between published information and economic revenue is made explicit, and where the publisher takes full responsibility for high quality information. Another relevant element of the design patterns of online travel channels concerns the ethicsoriented banners such as the get involved ones, that are hosted by 10 of the 30 online channels analysed. Actually, public attention on the issue of responsible tourism just as on earth-care and cross-cultural tourism ones is grooving. For example, Planet earth website hosts a link entitled our partner: nature conservancy, where users can find information on how to donate for earthcare projects. Besides, Man vs. Wild hosts a link entitled Planet green, a tv channel specifically devoted to earth-care issues, such as stainable living and energy conservation. Both Planet Earth and Man vs. Wild channels host a link entitled How staff works offering information on how to promote an eco-friendly thinking. Online National Geographic channel has a section devoted to 14

15 Sustainability at National Geographic, where user can find information about green philosophy and earth-care initiatives. These elements offer venues for new business models and for a new alliance between the channels themselves and their audience. References Baudrillard, J. (2002), Selected writings. Palo Alto: Standford University Press. Beeton, S. (2005), Film-induced tourism, Clevedon, UK: Channel View Publications Ltd. Bettetini, G. (2002), La conversazione audiovisiva. Problemi dell enunciazione filmica e televisiva. Milano: Bompiani. Buckingham, D. (2003), Media education: literacy, learning and contemporary culture, Cambridge: Polity Press. Burns, K.S. (2009), Celeb 2.0: how social media foster our fascination with popular culture, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. Casetti, F. (2002), Dentro lo sguardo, Milano: Bompiani. Faiks, A., Hyland, N. (2000), Gaining Users Insight: A Case Study Illustrating the Card Sort Technique, College & Research Libraries 61, no. 4. Fidler, R.. (1997), Mediamorphosis. Understanding new media. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press. Fürsich, E., Kavoori, A.P. (2001), Mapping a critical frame work for thew study of travel journalism, International Journal of Cultural Studies. London: Sage. Grierson, J. (1966), Grierson on documentary, London: Faber and Faber. Hicks, J. (2007), Dziga Vertov. Defining documentary film, New York: I.B.Tauris. Jennings, J., Polovitz Nickerson, N. (2006), Quality tourism experiences, Burlington MA: Elsevier. Kilborn, R.W., Izod J. (1997), An introduction to television documentary: confronting reality, Manchester: University Press. Lacey, N. (2006), Image and representation: key concepts in media studies, New York: Paperback Levy, P. (1997), Becoming virtual, New York: Basic Books. Lizzi, G. (2009), Elementi di riflessione per un etica della comunicazione orientata al bene comune, Grasselli, P. (ed.), Idee e metodi per il bene comune. Milano: Franco Angeli. Lizzi, G., Cantoni, L., Inversini, A. (2011), When a Channel Goes Online: A Case Study in the Tourism Field, in R. Law, M. Fuchs & Francesco Ricci (Eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2011 Proceedings of the International Conference in Innsbruck, Austria, pp Wien: Springer. Manovich, L. (2001), Language of new media. Cambridge: The MIT Press Manovich, L. (1997), Cinema as a cultural interface, Manovich.net.. Available at: Marazzi, A. (2002), Antropologia della visione, Roma: Carocci. McLuhan, M. (1994), Understanding Media. The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: The MIT Press Negroponte, N. (1996), Being Digital, London: Vintage. Nichols, B. (2010), Introduction to Documentary, Blommington IN: Indiana University Press. Nichols, B. (1991), Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press. Roesch, S. (2009), The Experiences of Film Location Tourists. Clevedon, UK: Channel View Publications Ltd. Rosenfeld, L., Morville, P. (2002), Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Sebastopol, CA: O Reilly. 15

16 Sandlin, J.A., McLaren, P. (2010), Critical Pedagogies of Consumption. New York: Routledge. Spagnolo, L., Bolchini, D., Paolini, P., Di Blas, N. (2010), Beyond Findability, Journal of Information Architecture. Vol. 2, no. 1, Available at: spagnolo. Tullis, T., Albert, W. (2008), Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics. Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Vertov, D. (1984), Kino-eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Werthner, H., Klein, S. (1999), Information Technology and Tourism: a Challenging Relationship, Wien-New York: Springer. 16

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