Reporter favourites of 2013 – Sean O’Neill
Tracking travel shoppers across devices, airlines modernizing airfare distribution, and changing leadership at a major global distribution system…
All of these rise to the top of my mind, looking back on 2013.
Advertisers have long sought a way to track users across platforms, such as between workplace computers and personal smartphones. But it’s been difficult to follow users as they switch devices during the typical day because mobile industry players have yet to set on standards for third-party cookies and other ad tracking tools.
Overcoming this problem — in a travel industry first — was Expedia Inc. The online giant began “re-targeting” advertisements at customers who switch between desktop and mobile devices.
The online travel giant used a technology developed by web marketing firm Drawbridge. The tactic lowered Expedia’s cost per booking.
I like this story because it’s a representative example of Tnooz’s signature mix of original reporting and first-person industry analysis. We aim to produce 3D scans of the hydraulics of the digital travel economy.
In mid-December, Expedia updated Tnooz on its cross-screen marketing plans, with a series of initiatives we covered in “Bye-bye cookie: Expedia releases new innovations geared toward a post-Web future.”
Meanwhile, Drawbridge is touting a promotional video to explain how it can help other online travel agencies pull of the same trick. See, here:
Throughout 2013, Tnooz has covered a plan floated by a major airline organization, IATA, to switch to running reservations systems on XML-based languages, which are more advanced than the current standard.
The New Distribution Capability (NDC) would allow airlines to perform many tricks they can’t easily do today. For one thing, an airline would become able to provide a real-time, validated price quote, including all ancillary services, to an agent or traveler at the moment of a request.
I conducted two months’ worth of interviews with major stakeholders and produced a summary of the key debate points.
Since then, there’s been a launch of five pilot projects between airlines and technology companies. Within weeks, a regulatory decision in the US is expected regarding the fundamental principles.
A rival standards body has attempted to get off the ground, but without traction so far.
While this story is too arcane for general interest media sites, the NDC debate is prime fodder for Tnooz’s audience.
One of Tnooz’s strongest suits is its original reporting, which aims to go behind the press releases and dig up the nuanced context — something that newspapers and headline aggregators ignore.
Our same-day report on the larger meaning of a CEO change at one of the three global distribution systems, Sabre Holdings, is a solid example of that.
Like many things written in a rush, it is not elegant. But the piece has stood the test of time in the quality and depth of its analysis.
Specifically, the article detailed troubles at Travelocity, the online travel agency owned by Sabre, that were especially relevant.
The effectiveness of Travelocity becoming an affiliate of its former rival may not be known at until mid-2014, when Expedia Inc reports to investors.
If it looks like the Travelocity hole in the balance sheet has been shorn up, talk of a Sabre IPO may be revived. Several analysts tell me they expect Sabre to go to market by the end of 2014.
NB: 2013 robot image via Shutterstock.
Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.