Ross Borden, Matador co-founder, speaks in front of a packed house at ITB Berlin. Photo: Lola Akinmade

Digital Storytelling: The New Face of the Travel Industry

by Carlo Alcos Mar 7, 2013

ROSS BORDEN, who co-founded Matador in 2006 and led the company in becoming the largest independent travel publication in the world, gave a keynote talk to a packed house at the ITB Berlin conference yesterday. Billed as the “world’s leading travel trade show” the conference attracts a multitude of players from the tourism industry including Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), tour operators, hoteliers, and destination tourism boards.

Ross’s talk — “14 Proven Strategies for DMOs: How to succeed with digital storytelling + viral content + social media” — was an extension of Matador’s successful model of working with partners in creating custom content and advertising campaigns. In the talk, he speaks of the decline of the model of “traditional display ads alone” — stressing the importance of targeting the market and producing varied and engaging banner ads, as well as producing custom content that is sharable and authentic (as opposed to “advertorial”).

Ross held nothing back in his evaluation of the current landscape in travel publishing and working with DMOs, calling into question everyone from travel bloggers to self-proclaimed social media mavens and ninjas. He also questions the traditional fam (press) trip, in which gangs of bloggers and journalists are shepherded around on tightly packed itineraries: “Packaged experiences make for packaged content,” he says. His suggestions on “how to fix press trips”:

  • Select journalists with real reach
  • Avoid groups if possible
  • No handler
  • Balance points of interest with lots of free time
  • Clear content expectation

Some of the suggestions he puts forth to DMOs as part of the 14-point strategy:

  1. Get your message across with solid storytelling and sharable content.
  2. Reverse engineer press trips (designing trips not around showcasing a DMO’s “products” but to facilitate the journalist actually having an independent, immersive travel experience).
  3. Effectively assess the reach of a blogger or journalist before sending them on a trip.
  4. Connect with influencers (e.g., our Matador Ambassadors program utilizes people with significant reach in their respective genres / industries).
  5. Pick great titles (descriptive and Google keyword rich / numbers are good, but “Top 10s” are out).
  6. Strive to be 100% original with your content.

The conclusion from Ross’s talk: A sound content strategy will drive traffic and transactions to partners, help you win on social, and allow you to create your own success on the web.

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