How does online travel content differ from print media?

Does the increasing adoption of iPads and similar tablet devices mean we need to re-think the kind of travel content we publish online?

How does the way we interact with print media and the internet differ? That’s something I’ve been considering lately. Traditional publishers currently populate most of their web real estate with content from their print editions.

Traditional wisdom has it that people ‘sit back’ to read and to watch TV, but they ‘sit forward’ when they are online. They are more engaged, typing queries into a search engine, clicking on stuff. If we are talking about the travel sector as an example, they're probably looking for deals or specific types of information rather than wanting to be spirited away to an exotic destination with poetic prose and beautiful imagery.

Following this logic, people often suggest that online content should be shorter, more to the point and more targeted at converting people to purchase than content in print tends to be. Print is a more reflective medium and it’s bigger, so better suited to inspiration and richer description. So you need to take a different approach with your online content and at the least rework stuff created for print quite aggressively before publishing on the net.

As a result, as little as a year or so ago I’d have advocated quite different approaches to creating content for web and for print. I’d have said that simply sticking print edition content online wasn’t likely to work for your business model or your reader/customer. The way people interact with them is just too different.

But I’m not so sure anymore.

I always felt the iPad was a bit of a product extension for the iPhone – “Hey! Why don’t we just make it, like… bigger!” But increasingly I think of all the remarkable products the late Steve Jobs’ will forever be associated with, it’s this one that will be the game- changer. Many of my techno-fan mates who bought an iPad did so I think because it was ‘the next new toy from Apple’. But it’s changing the way we interact with the net - massively. It’s turning the net into a ‘sit back’ medium. The ease of touchscreen interaction – which for the small screen iPhone just felt like an essential just to make it useable - becomes incredibly potent with a larger screen. It makes online content suddenly a much more browseable thing. The ramifications could be huge.

Maybe we need to start thinking about online travel content as being as much about inspiration and reflection as it is about hard detail and conversion. What that actually means right now, I’m not really sure.

What do you think?

Lovely pic by Flickr user: aperturismo

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