Saturday, January 02, 2010

Snow Kidding

Just a quick post to point out two articles in today's Denver Post. The first article is about how Colorado Ski Resorts are leveraging technology to get the word out about ski conditions.
"The snow message is absolutely as important as it has ever been for us," said Vail Mountain's senior vice president and chief operating officer, Chris Jarnot.

What has changed is that everyone with a mobile phone can be a snow reporter — and everyone with a mobile phone or computer can be the instant recipient of the latest snow news.

Not even a year ago, resorts' hopes hinged on snow during televised Broncos games. Resorts issued snowfall totals a day after the snow fell. They bought powdery ads in magazines six months before the season began.

The idea was that resort reservation desks were inundated with calls when football stadiums were frosted white, and last year's photos of untrammeled snow were good enough.

But by 5 a.m. this frosty Christmas week morning, the news of new snow was posted on websites for Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone, the four resorts that host more than a third of Colorado's roughly 12 million annual skier visits. It was waiting in the inboxes of thousands of skiers. Newspapers, radio and TV stations had it ready for morning reports.

Copper Mountain and Sunlight have eliminated the middlemen like Semrow — allowing Web surfers to check the snow themselves via webcam.

"Now we see that blip (of vacation interest and bookings) as soon as the first flake flies," Jarnot said.
And here's the quantification of that shift:
Vail Resorts held back about 80 percent of its multimillion-dollar winter marketing campaign by skipping the traditional one-page ads in national magazines like Outside, Men's Health and Conde Nast Traveler. Instead, the company joined the social-networking revolution and now e-pitches its powder.

The company took the money it would have spent on those pricey magazine ads and kept it for up-to-date campaigns issued through e-mail, newspapers, search-engine display ads and online banners.

It's a plan that works with skiers' changing habits: Where they once booked holidays months in advance, today they are increasingly apt to book the week before.
80 percent. Wow.

The second article was a brief report on the accuracy of ski resort snow total reports. The interesting thing here was not that resorts in New England (the study didn't look at Colorado) tend to inflate their snow totals slightly, it was this:
Ironically, during the study period, a new iPhone application emerged that allows users to report their own snow observations at various resorts.

Suddenly, according to Zinman and Zitzewitz, "exaggeration falls sharply, especially at resorts where iPhones can get reception."
So, perhaps nothing profound here, but another indication of two of the shifts that I think we're seeing.

First, a shift away from traditional marketing and broadcast advertising to more targeted, passion-based, direct-to-those-who-are-interested-when-they-are-interested campaigns, with the resultant elimination of various middlemen (including traditional media). It's also a "just in time" information delivery service, which allows people to much more easily adapt their plans at the last minute ("they are increasingly apt to book the week before"), which I think is an interesting emerging meme that we'll see a lot of discussion about in the next few years.

Second, the continuing rise of user-generated content, in this case real-time snow reports, that - at least in a small way - continues to democratize access to information and transfer some of the power from businesses to customers ( and governments to citizens; and producers to consumer/producers). As transparency increases, behaviors change, which is also another interesting meme I think we'll be talking about.

So, this post is mostly just to point you to those two interesting tidbits, but I do wonder about the potential impact to educational institutions. Passion-based, just-in-time delivery of information and the importance of transparency and users generating relevant and meaningful information for each other - I wonder what we can learn from that?

1 comment:

  1. Both of which help me determine when and where I go (and if I should use a personal day?!) Seems similar to how students are sharing information regarding classes and tests.