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Can you quantify media hosting?

Thoughts on exchanging tourism inventory for media exposure
Created by Des Langkilde
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How do you quantify the value derived from exchanging unsold travel & tourism inventory for media exposure?

The concept of converting unsold inventory into marketing assets is equally relevant when applied to hosting travel writers (or any media specialist, for that matter).

Unsold bed-nights or packaged tour itinerary tickets, empty seats in restaurants, on tour coaches, and on airlines are very much like perishable products in the FMCG sector – if they're not sold by the due date, they’re gone forever.

Historical data, however, should provide an indication of average unsold inventory. In the accommodation sector, for example, global average occupancy rates for hotels can range anywhere between 60% to 80%. In South Africa, the occupancy rate of hotels and similar establishments in 2021 amounted to just 23%. (Statista, Nov 8, 2022).

In financial terms, this means that hospitality establishments are losing  between 20% to 80% of their inventory. Inventory that could easily be converted to media exposure, accounted for as marketing expenses, and thereby attract potential new customers.

Quantifying Exchange Value

Simply compare the value of inventory (rates, seats, etc x PAX x number of nights / tickets) to the media's rate card or circulation / subscribers / followers.

This equation will provide, what I call an "eye-ball" rate (for brand awareness). However, what you really want from the media is click-throughs to your website or booking engine. Click-throughs are the ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who view the online story or newsletter.

Now, compare their click-rates to cost per click (CPC) rates for online advertising. These vary by social media channel. In 2021, the CPC rate cost for LinkedIn was $5.26 and $3.56 for Instagram. $3.21 for YouTube, $1.50 for Pinterest, $0.97 for FaceBook (Meta), and $0.38 for Twitter. (DeFazio, 2021). On Facebook you'd pay $12.07 per 1000 impressions.

From a travel writers perspective, quantifying reciprocal value is somewhat elusive. Most travel writers / bloggers are willing to accept hosted invitations because it provides an opportunity to add content to their travel blog. Or, for freelance writers, a story that can be pitched to publications for a fee (although few publishers are willing, or indeed able, to pay for content). Some freelancers may self-publish their content on social media channels or on media channels such as YouTube, Medium or LinkedIn.

Either way, their value can be hard to quantify as few have rate cards or even hourly rates. They rely instead on their volume of followers, subscribers, or readership / viewing stats, which can be hard to quantify.

Publishers of reputable media titles, of course, do have rate cards. Which makes comparing the value of inventory being exchanged for media exposure a lot easier to account for.

Voucher Exchanges

Another way that travel & tourism service providers can quantify hosting media is to barter vouchers in return for advertising or featured reviews.

Back in my years as the publisher of an international travel trade magazine, I'd often accept vouchers in lieu of monetry payment.

Reciprocal value was easily determined by dividing the tourism service providers rates by the full page media rate card. Invariably, accomodation vouchers would be all-inclusive for two PAX sharing, exclude peak periods, and have an expiry date. I'd then use the vouchers as staff incentives, client gifts, or sell them on discount deal websites to covert to cash.

👉 What's your view on quantifying media hosting? Add your comments below!

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Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

As a travel writer, I probably have a one sided view on the value to tourism service providers of hosting media. What's your view?

1 month ago
Publisher Acquisition & Development, Awin

It's one reason I like affiliate marketing; it can be combined with paying for a blog post or subsidizing the stay, but it's a great way to track how well the article actually performed and see if the writer has a truly engaged audience based on clicks as well as sales.

1 month ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

A very pertinant point @JeannineCrooks. Can you elaborate on Affiliate Marketing for those TM members who may not be familiar with the term & how it works? (would make an interesting post).

1 month ago
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

Here's an (old but relevant) article from Jean's company Awin about Affiliate Marketing on our blog archives:

www.travelmassiveblogarchive.com/2017/11/generate-affiliate-income-on-awin/index.html

1 month ago
Publisher Acquisition & Development, Awin

Thanks for sharing that, Ian! I'd forgotten that was on TM. Though some of the links need to be updated, the principles are the same.

Affiliate marketing enables travel writers to continue to earn from a post for years to come; it happens when someone clicks through a link from your post to the OTA or the hotel chain or manufacturer, then purchases the item/makes a reservation etc. Once that item has been delivered or the reservation has been consumed, the travel writer receives a commission based on the amount of the sale.

For the hotel/manufacturer, the affiliate program enables the hotel to see the number of clicks generated by that article as well as the number of bookings that actually came from the post. That enables the hotel to see who truly generated sales in addition to awareness. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

I'm glad to answer any questions about it for anyone, anytime.

1 month ago
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Thanks for the info, Jeannine & Ian. I have a question: how does Awin overcome Google's link rules? Some years back, I had my website black listed for "non-compliance". It took months editing hundreds of articles to add "no follow" to every link before Google lifted the penalty.

1 month ago
Publisher Acquisition & Development, Awin

Hi Des, that was definitely some years ago. By default our links are "no follow" so it hasnt been an issue for our affiliates for many years. Google has also learned a lot; they once operated the Google Affiliate Network (GAN) and learned to differentiate the good links from the bad when it comes to affiliate marketing. I can't speak for every network, but for our two networks - Awin.com and ShareASale.com - I can say that you will not have any issues with Google for having affiliate links on your site.

1 month ago
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Des.

I don't think it's fair to go down the path of holding content creators to account for click throughs to a hotel booking from their channels. Why? Because it's so easy for referrals to be unaccounted for. Here's a few examples:

1. The consumer reads about the hotel on the blog, then goes to Google to search for the same hotel and ends up booking via an OTA.
2. The hotel can't track conversion on their own website.
3. The customer forgets where they found out about the hotel ("I saw it while scrolling Instagram")
4. The customer reads about the hotel on their phone, then books via their laptop (no cookies).

It's just so easy for the referral from the content creator to get lost — so it's unfair to hold them to account via direct traffic (of course, that should still be measured).

There's also different kinds of content for different phases of the booking funnel. If the purpose is to deliver high-converting traffic to the hotel websites, then that needs tactical travel writing with expert keyword analysis and research. The hidden value might be in a back-link to the hotel from a high DA (domain authority) blog... not the content itself. And then how do you measure that.

I feel the challenge with barter between accomodation and bloggers is that on either side there can be wildly different expectations. Furthermore, if the premise is to compare rates on either side on the assumption you're exchanging real-world value, one side will almost always have to compromise in order to make it a net-zero transaction.

There's definitely some value in unsold inventory and an opportunity to get bloggers and accomodation providers to work together — but also many challenges!

1 month ago (edited)
Founder & Director of Mappy Hour

I think this is a really important point Ian. Such a key part of marketing is the continued brand building and messaging around a property. This is where media/storytelling really thrives whereas direct clicks could be easily achieved through paid ads. Both work well together but expecting one piece of media to accomplish this alone seems unreasonable.

1 month ago
Publisher Acquisition & Development, Awin

Thanks for sharing your concerns, Ian.

Concerning your first example, “1. The consumer reads about the hotel on the blog, then goes to Google to search for the same hotel and ends up booking via an OTA,” there are a couple things to consider here. First, one of my greatest frustrations with travel bloggers is that many fail to put a link on their posts to the hotels; if a link was in the post, the consumer wouldn’t have to go to Google to find the property. Second, if the consumer did end up going to Google, then that consumer was not engaged with that blogger; the blogger didn’t bring the consumer to the hotel.

For your second example, “2. The hotel can't track conversion on their own website,” the hotel can track the conversion if they have an affiliate program; that’s the whole point of having an affiliate program.

For your third example, “3. The customer forgets where they found out about the hotel ("I saw it while scrolling Instagram")”, there are a variety of techniques to place affiliate links into social media, thus enabling tracking. If the customer merely saw it on Instagram but didn’t click, again, the level of engagement is weak.

For your final example, “4. The customer reads about the hotel on their phone, then books via their laptop (no cookies),” a technology called cross-device tracking was introduced almost 8 years ago which enables most affiliate networks to associate the mobile device with the laptop and the desktop of the same user. This ensures that the transaction is tracked and the correct affiliate is awarded the commission.

There absolutely are different kinds of content, and the hotel needs to decide what results they expect from each travel blogger. Regardless of the kind of content, however, including an affiliate link will never hurt a post, but will definitely give the hotel owner greater insights into audience engagement. Views definitely have tremendous value as well, as long as it’s the views specifically of that post and not the site in general.

1 month ago
Publisher Acquisition & Development, Awin

True, Sarah, it’s not hard to generate direct clicks, but it can be very difficult to generate quality direct clicks that actually become bookings rather than just hunting for information. In the meantime, it can become quite expensive, as most search engines like Google are focused on generating clicks (revenue) rather than sales (no extra revenue for the search engine). I’m not suggesting that one piece of media be the sole marketing effort of the destination, but it also shouldn’t be overlooked. Good media/storytelling will often make the consumer want to learn more and visit the site. Whether that’s through an affiliate link or a direct link, a key indication of engagement remains the click.

1 month ago
Ian
Founder, Travel Massive

We're deviating from this discussion, but the days are numbered for cookies and cross-device tracking. Tracking consumers (single or cross device) is a gauntlet as almost half the web uses ad blockers or privacy browsers to stop invasive advertisers. Online marketing has become an arms race of advertisers vs consumers. The only guaranteed referral is a direct link or unique promotion code at checkout — and a hotel could implement these without an affiliate network.

Watch over anyone's shoulder when they are doing research + booking and you'll observe that consumers don't browse/book with a single tab open — in a multi-tab world there is un-referred leakage from blogs to the preferred method of booking. Pinning the blame on the blogger in the case where the consumer copied+pasted the hotel name into their favourite OTA is not a fair assessment.

1 month ago
YouTube | Marketing Strategist, African Travel Crew

Some valid points made Des. I am determined to find a solution to this:

Back in the day when I owned a Lodge or two if I placed an advert or paid for an article in a publication and received no enquiries from either, I would not publish or advertise with said publication again. Granted this was pre social media and internet days, we relied on providing an experience that exceeded expectations and word of mouth. We also had a policy that anyone working in the industry could stay with us (accommodation comped, meals and drinks paid for), provided we had space.

This built us a network of people in the industry that constantly referred us. (We also paid commission on bookings). This I think in today's times would be inline with Jeannine's affiliate marketing preference.

I personally feel that establishments to a large degree are lazy marketers, very little thought seems to go into planning a sales funnel that is quantified and measured.

For example we asked every person who booked "where did you hear about us"... I have not been asked this question in years. This helped us in determining where to put our marketing and advertising spend. In short there seems to be a lot of noise and no strategy as a result of poor planning.

When it comes to "influencers" and bloggers, the challenge I have is that the products are looking at follower numbers and not the audience. For example the big provincial DMOs love using celebrities for campaigns, which result in very little to no return for the destination or products. Just because they are a popular musician does not mean they have an audience that travels or spends money.

Don't get me started on the numerous "look at me living my best life" posts I see across the social media platforms.

I hear Ian when he says a good picture or blog helps with awareness, but it needs to be the RIGHT audience, there are to many jack of all trades type content creators who use tourism in my opinion are just pitching for a free holiday and to look rich and famous (these people have no place in the eco system).

A bit long winded, but in short, products need to start putting in a little more work and strategy to achieve set goals.

1 month ago (edited)
Travel Blogger, Walk4Africa.org

Too true, Neil. A social media post featuring the "influencer" high-five jumping with the Lodge in background does more for his/her ego than the lodge. In my experience, most successful article posts (in readership terms) focuss on something that is uniquely relevent to the lodge (cheetah repopulation programme, the "Shy Five", endemic flora, etc), which sparks a desire in the reader to visit the lodge.
Sadly, very few travel writers bother to find unique angles. They report, instead, on the lodges facilities - info that is easily found on the lodge's website. Likwise, very few online surfers bother to read long-tail conent (short concentration span?). If the image, headline & into paragraph doesn't intrigue, they're out of there.
In your experience, how do YouTube video clips compare to written story telling content?

1 month ago
Publisher Acquisition & Development, Awin

You are so right, Neil, about the problem of focusing on influencers with a huge audience. I actually discourage that with our hotel merchants. I’d rather have 5,000 engaged readers who want to enjoy the same adventure as the blogger than have 1,000,000 readers who don’t really care about anything more than pictures of the famous face, regardless of the destination in the background. When I was writing articles for Sunday travel sections, I always did try to find what made each destination special, what the audience would enjoy about visiting there; the destination was the hero, not the writer!

1 month ago
YouTube | Marketing Strategist, African Travel Crew

Well said, and the reason I'm sure you had a loyal readership.

1 month ago
YouTube | Marketing Strategist, African Travel Crew

Pretty much the same, if the thumbnail, title and intro doesn't intrigue you've lost them. However interestingly my small channel has more viewers per month than some of the large South African travel publications.

I think we are straying off your original question as to how do you quantify media hosting. The short answer from me to sum it all up, would be for the establishments to firstly ask all people calling to enquire or book "where did you hear about us" , secondly to plan media trips well and to have a target or end goal; possibly provide affiliate links or codes to media to include in their articles or posts in order to track origin, and finally to product ( establishments) need to move away from numbers and start looking at target audience/ customer.

1 month ago
Head Chef, Travelfish Pty Ltd

A friend who does PR for a luxurious hotel here in Bali told me they primarily comp people off of Instagram, but when the request comes in, rather than paying much attention to the bazillion followers the person may have, they scroll down to see if they’ve been comped at similar properties and if so they pay a lot of attention to (a) the engagement on those posts and (b) particularly the comment questions. They assigned a far higher value to comments that were specific questions (the sort a potential booker would ask) rather than the generic “awesome” style comments. If the instagrammer could demonstrate real engagement against this sort of criteria, they’d be comped no further questions asked. They combined this with proactively asking guests about discovery. She said it had proven to be a very successful approach—but required effort from both sides of the equation.

1 month ago