5-Star Treatment for Apple Users on Orbitz

Soon after I joined Skift, the Wall Street Journal ​ran an article that made many people think Orbitz was displaying higher prices for visitors who were using Apple products. in truth the prices weren’t different, they were simply organizing the default results page with more four- and five-star properties on the first page. Orbitz knows from years of user patterns that people who book on an Apple device are much more likely to do a four-star joint than a three-star one.

Considering all the ways consumers are targeted online, this doesn’t seem egregious to me. The search results page on a site like Orbitz never is going to tell me the perfect place; it will always be a mix of paid placement and profiling.​ So why not serve me up results it knows I’m going to buy anyway?

Leaving Frommers.com to Launch Skift.com

After nearly six really good years at Frommers.com I’m leaving to launch Skift.com, a new travel intelligence brand. Skift is the brainchild of my co-founder and CEO Rafat Ali. At Paidcontent.org, the company Rafat founded a decade ago, he redefined how digital content was covered and used the site’s voice to help break down the artificial barriers between online, print, and other forms of media. With Skift, we’ll be looking at travel news and information in a way that builds upon the work of great consumer and industry publications by adding compelling original reporting, intelligent curation, and data-driven products that help readers discover more from the information around them. And we think that travel is a lot more than we’ve become accustomed to thinking it is, too. We’re going to cover local discovery services just as closely as aviation and mobile apps as fervently as OTAs. Please visit us in early July to see how we’ll do it all.

Thanks.

Port Authority Cleans up NYC-area Airports

Just before the holidays, I worked with Frommers.com contributor Sascha Segan on two features: World’s Most Beautiful Airport Terminals and World’s Worst Terminals. We wanted to highlight places that did something very well for their visitors as well as highlight those that let peope down — and we should expect more from. The lists came out just before the new year and they quickly caught on, helped on by a collaboration with USA Today, eventually ending up on NBC Nightly News.

Last week the Port Authority of NY & NJ announced changes at all three NYC-area airports (each one had a terminal on the worsts list). At the conference, Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said: “My goal is not to be on the Frommer’s list in 12 to 24 months.”

The NY Post had the best headline: “Stall-e-lujah! Filthy airport toilets get spruce-up.” As someone who flies in and out of EWR on the regular, I hope this is true. 

Are You in a Vacation Rut?

A few days before Irene hit the east coast, I got a call from a reporter at the Boston Herald who was shadowing President Obama and his family on Martha’s Vineyard. She wanted to know if I thought the president was in a “vacation rut.” I argued that being president means it’s tough to take advantage of a last-minute Jetsetter.com getaway, and then our conversation turned into both of us complaining about how few days people really have for vacation every year. One of the reasons people do the same thing every year is that they can’t afford to experiment out of a fear that they’ll blow the few days they’ve got on a destination they don’t like. If we had more time off, maybe we’d be a little more adventurous.

Go to Pittsburgh

For Labor Day weekend last year the family and I drove to Pittsburgh to spend the weekend with friends who had been living there while working on a movie. Being a Philly guy I had always thought of our cross-state rival not so much as a competitor but more like an under-achieving cousin.

Boy was I wrong. I returned from that holiday weekend and explained to my Philly friends that Pittsburgh is what Philly could have been if it had a decent mayor and set of business leaders during the last decade. I pitched a few articles about it and AirTran’s inflight mag Go let me do a Pittsburgh 101-style piece for its “The List” feature.