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Most-read on Travel Weekly: March 5 to March 11

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SpectaclesWhat have our readers have been responding to this week? There are few surprises, given the threat of strikes in Spain (over Easter - thanks for that), a security scare at Heathrow and the horrific quake and tsunami in Japan. 

That accounts for the top four. Down at the bottom is the story we'd probably have seen top in an incident-free week: Kuoni's acquisition of ground content business Gullivers.

  1. Spain suffers as consumers warned over air strikes
  2. Man arrested after heathrow suicide bomb threat
  3. Japan quake: Tsunami warnings across Pacific, Narita closed
  4. Easter strike threat from spanish airport workers
  5. Travelport sells GTA to Kuoni

With the Spain situation topping the list, I've addressed it in the coming week's poll too. We're interested to know where agents will try and rebook clients to if the strikes do go ahead - for options I've gone with the current top four summer sellers (behind Spain itself) according to GfK Ascent. Vote on the homepage until Friday March 18.

The story that earned the most vociferous comments was probably P&O Cruises' 10% discounts for 2012, which some agents felt was a little rich following its commission cuts - made in the name of ending the cruise sector's 'discount culture'.

A reader calling themselves 'The Bard' even weighed in with a short story (allegorical, we have to assume) that began thus:

Spring was in the air. Animals and plants were waking up from their winter rest. The weather was becoming hotter... as was Ted Baker's temper as he heard the latest news from Dingle Dell Farm...

Head to the article to read the rest of the, erm, tale.

One last thing: today marked the first blog post from Aspire, our luxury travel club / website / magazine, courtesy of chief writer Rupert Murray (@rupertmurray on Twitter). Enjoy.

You might reasonably have expected a post from me first thing, but things have been... busy.

Site redesigns are like that, and if you're voluntarily reading something called a 'web editor's blog' there's a chance you've experienced one first hand.

So what have we done? Well, there's nothing in the site redesign as radical as the magazine's shift from a 'trade' look to a consumer one. But and there are four things I want to highlight.

 

Travel Weekly homepage1. Comments, forums and photos

We finally have comments on articles. I know, I know. In our defence, we were for many years on a legacy system and in a corporate structure that made implementing comments very difficult.

Most Read - Most Commented widgetIt was among the first requirements I laid down when we started talking about a redesign after we were bought out.

Suffice to say I've long been embarrassed by it, and the biggest thrill I got yesterday was seeing comments start to come in almost immediately (couple of funny ones on the 'robot agents' story).

You can see which articles are being commented on in the 'Most Read/Most Commented' widget, which appears on every page at the bottom of the right-hand column.

We've also given forum chat and user photos from travelhub a more prominent spot on the homepage... which is the same as saying we're offering you a more prominent spot on the homepage.

2. Article width

The editable area I used to have to play with on an article was about 450 pixels - barely enough to embed a youtube video. I've now got just over 600, which is a far friendlier size for dropping in videos, maps and nice big images.

The site works best at a screen resolution of 1280x800. (Right-click on your desktop, hit 'properties' and go to the 'settings' tab.)

3. Hero panels

The scrolling boxes at the top left of our home and channel pages. You'll have seen these before - they're all over the web.

But again, it gives me the opportunity to use larger images to promote articles, so a big story or a particularly fun feature gets the impact it deserves. I think it works brilliantly with something like the retro ad gallery on travelhub. (Part of the 'Commercal Break' group I've just set up.)

Horizon adI can also use them to embed video. Previously I could only do that on articles, which meant you had to click through if you wanted to watch a clip I was promoting on the homepage.

4. Competitions page

We had a competitions page years ago, but it was jerry-rigged and didn't work terribly well.

The new one is a proper channel page and appears on top-level navigation. It reflects All For You, a new competition and incentive-focused page in print.

How self-explanatory should Travel Weekly headlines be?

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If you're a consumer, you could be forgiven for looking twice at 'Keith Richards to leave ABTA'.

You'd figure out pretty quickly that it doesn't refer to the Rolling Stones guitarist, but the scenario does raise an interesting question for web editors.

richards.jpgWhen we publish stories online, we know our headlines go out 'into the wild' - Google search results, RSS feeds on third-party websites, and so on.

And we know that the audience in those places may have less background knowledge than those who habitually pick up the paper or visit the homepage.

Indeed, they may have no background knowledge. They may have just searched Google News for 'Keith Richards' and found this:

Keith Richards search, Google News, February 23 2010So what do we do when there's potential ambiguity? Pack more information in to clarify matters, or keep it concise and trade-friendly?

For example:

  • ABTA axes professional development role in restructure, or
  • Keith Richards to leave ABTA
Generic headlines can be equally problematic. I ask reporters to avoid lines like 'Agents hit out over commission cuts', because out of the context of Travel Weekly that could be any kind of agent protesting against any kind of commission cut.

'Travel agents hit out at Operator X commission cuts' is more useful to everyone, consumers and travel industry Googlers alike - but again, it makes the headline on the article page a bit less punchy.

With a couple of our stories pointing to guarded optimism from travel agents at the start of 2010, this week's homepage poll wrote itself: a simple 'Here's what we've heard - but how are things with you?' job. 

Peaks period poll on Travel WeeklyAs Robin said in Friday's comment piece, we can't know how the peaks period has gone until proper numbers start coming in a few weeks down the line.

But we do know that, even as Travel Weekly goes to print and people start opening the digital book, the picture is slowly becoming clearer.

So a situation like the peaks period is particularly interesting and challenging to web editors. It cries out to be covered 'live', but there's no event to focus attention - as there is when, say, the BBC does live text coverage of a test match.

I'm reminded of Farmers Weekly, who were across the hall at TW's old publishing house. Their equivalent is the annual harvest, and last year they invited readers to anonymously submit their location and progress. All that went into a broad 'heat map' that showed how the harvest was going in each region of the UK.

Problems with that? Of course. It makes demands of readers. Do they have time to submit data to their trade media? Do they want to?

I'm idealistic enough to think the answers to those questions don't have to be 'no', especially when there's a big shared experience involved.

When snow started falling over the UK on December 17, even the most casual Twitter users were adding #uksnow and a postcode to their tweets, and gabbling excitedly about Ben Marsh's brilliant snow map.

I had an airport pickup to do the following day, and I'm not kidding when I tell you that was more helpful to me than the BBC and Met combined.

For now, I'm just running a peaks poll - and it's gratifying to see that early results do reflect 'cautious optimism', with 59% seeing good summer sales (winter's a different story).

But could we have done more? If Travel Weekly tried to track the peaks period with your help, would you participate?

Are TW and its readers still 'predictable' over Ryanair?

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Twitter hosted some inevitable chatter about the Panorama show on Ryanair.

Former Travolution editor Kevin May, never terribly sympathetic to the traditional bad blood between travel agents and Ryanair, tweeted:

utterly predictable responses from press and readers every time ryanair mentioned

Justified? On this occasion, I don't think so - we ran a straight-up-and-down story on the spat between Ryanair and the BBC, and TTG did the same. Theirs generated (at time of writing) only three comments, two of them pro-Ryanair.

But yes, in the past we've probably been too ready to stir up the antipathy we know many agents feel/felt.

For the record, my impression was that our readers had figured out Ryanair's game plan and were tired of the airline getting undue prominence in the media - I can well remember the fatigue and cynicism that greeted the 'pay to pee' story.

The punchline? As a result, I placed the Ryanair/BBC story at the bottom of yesterday's email news alert... only to find it became comfortably the most-read article.

What the Travel Weekly polls taught us in 2007

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This is what our weekly polls told us about you this year...

Two thirds of you are looking for another job, with a third of jobseekers looking outside travel. That’s not surprising given 64% of you didn’t even get a salary increase this year.

Travel Weekly polls - your window on the world. Sort of

Oh well, at least 73% of you can console yourselves at your work Christmas party – toast the 27% of readers whose Scrooge-like company didn’t throw a bash.

But don’t drink too much, as 31% of you told us you drink more than 15 units per week. Still, there seems to a large sensible contingent among you – 83% said ‘yes, yes, yes’ to Amy Winehouse going back to rehab.

And when a great white shark was spotted in Cornwall, two thirds of you put it down to the traditional summer silly season. Still, you’re not all work, work, work – just over half of you love going on Facebook and you’d rather take a UK break to Cornwall over Blackpool, Wales and Norfolk.

So what’s in store for 2008? Keep on answering the polls on travelweekly.co.uk...

Merry Christmas!

Emily Ashwell, business and community editor

Travel Weekly's most-read news stories of 2007

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As the end of the year approaches, I thought it might be interesting to see which travel industry news stories have pulled in the punters on travelweekly.co.uk.

Trophy

  1. Aircraft collide at Heathrow
  2. DfT decides in favour of £1 ATOL levy
  3. Airline deal could leave two low-cost carriers, say analysts
  4. Flight delays expected as airports increase security measures
  5. Travel agents in £500m money laundering scam
  6. Stella Group buys Global Travel Group
  7. Thomas Cook Group to get Peterborough HQ
  8. Government lifts cabin-bag restriction
  9. Talks continue on fate of Libra Holidays
  10. First Choice shareholders approve TUI merger

It's an interesting mix. Top of the list is an accident, but our readers are no sensationalists: at number two is a solid, need-to-know industry story on the DfT and the £1 ATOL levy.

Disproportionate mainstream media coverage and the potential for more disruption at Heathrow - something of a leitmotif in 2007 - probably helped the collision to number one.

Aviation as a whole looms large. Airport security stories are in fourth and eighth place, while a story about low-costs is at three.

Trade stories reflect consolidation, with TUI/First Choice at 10, Thomas Cook/MyTravel represented at seven and the Stella/Global deal at six.

For the Stella/Global story to be 2007's sixth most read after only a month on the site gives you a good sense of its importance.

There’s also one company-in-trouble story (Libra Holidays, which was eventually rescued) and a crime story at five.

So that’s what our readers have been calling up online this year. Any comments? Or let us know which of this year’s stories were most important for you…

Nathan Midgley, web producer

TW writer wins Caribbean feature award

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A brief break from all the WTM madness to congratulate Travel Weekly's Emily Ashwell, who has won the award for Best Travel Trade Feature at The Caribbean Travel Writer Awards (UK) for her piece on boutique hotels in Jamaica, published last summer.

Emily Ashwell with the Best Travel Trade Feature (Caribbean Travel Writer Awards)

Three blog cheers for Emily...

:-D
:-D
:-D

World Travel Market is go...

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It's a big week for the travel industry - World Travel Market kicks off at ExCel London this morning. There's also the PhocusWright conference in Florida for online travel types - Travolution will be out there blogging, of course.

Here's the scene outside ExCel this morning:

Excel London on the first morning of World Travel Market 2007

And here's the newsroom, which will be centre of operations for Travel Weekly.

Newsroom at ExCel London - World Travel Market 2007

As well as journos and photographers we have video cameras out at the event, so keep an eye out for footage - you can find everything at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2007.

TW on Google News despite 'aggregator' slur

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Travel Weekly has got itself indexed on Google News, but not without a short and surprising to-and-fro with the omnipotent brand.

Google News - now with added Travel Weekly

Its first response read:

We reviewed travelweekly.co.uk and are unable to include it in Google News. We don't include sites that are purely news aggregators, and we weren't able to find any stories on your site that weren't from outside sources.

And there I was thinking the news team that sits not ten feet away was writing articles for us. Heaven knows what they were really up to.

So back came TW:

We are not a news aggregator...I suspect Google may have based its assessment on one of the daily round-ups of travel news that we publish...there are less than ten of them on the site against over 18,000 original articles...

This did the trick.

Thank you for your reply and for providing us with this additional information about your site. We've reviewed your site again and will be adding it to our index for Google News.

Ultimately, Google's service was pretty good when you take into account how much it must have to process - I know Travolution had a far worse time with the Digg customer service team. But as anyone with a stake in a website will know, being unfairly assessed by the big G is scary stuff...

Nathan Midgley, web producer

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