I picked that very old picture of a DC3 in this post for a reason. Jeff Jarvis of the BuzzMachine wrote an excellent post about the opportunity for "airlines to become publishers" and it made me realize how antiquated the airline industry tends to be.
Jarvis notes how the airlines are sitting on a mountain of customer knowledge and potential content, yet doing almost nothing to leverage it. At first I questioned whether travelers would be motivated to provide ratings and other feedback on hotels, restaurants, etc. I also wondered when they would do this, but then I remembered two of the most frustrating aspects of just about every trip I've made in the past few years: layovers and delays. The next time you're in an airport, look around. How many people are tapped into WiFi on their laptop? How many others are using their cell phones? These "airport moments" are the perfect chance to capture this valuable customer information. Bribe them a bit with more frequent flyer miles, as Jarvis suggests, and you just might start a new content base.
To be fair, I doubt any of the airlines would feel the revenue opportunity is significant enough to move into the travel guide business, but what about adding value to their websites and becoming an enabler of the social networks they could represent? Perhaps it's not so much an opportunity for the airlines to jump into this alone but rather a chance for someone to partner with them and show (a) how it can be done, (b) how easy it is to build upon and (c) the value it would offer their customers.
Jarvis closes by asking a great question: "What do my customers know and how do I help them share that?" I'll bet there are plenty of other terrific examples in addition to the airline industry...