Google's MyMaps

Google_mapsGoogle's new MyMaps is one of those features you could classify as "what a great idea and why didn't they offer this earlier?!'  How many times have you told someone an address on the phone and suggested they find it via Google Maps or some other service?  How many times did that person get it wrong?  MyMaps solves that problem because you can do it for them and then share the map with others.

Besides the ability to share your maps, you can mark them up or add photos/videos to them.  Every hotel, restaurant, etc., that currently lists directions on their website should take advantage of this; start with a simple map and add the photos and videos to show your customers what they can expect.

Think about the possibilities this offers for travel services and travel guides.  It's not hard to envision an entire site-seeing trip, complete with video clips, all directed by your handy cellphone.

Google Maps Adds Real-Time Traffic Data

Google_mapsHow cool is this?:  Google Maps just announced they're providing real-time traffic information for more than 30 U.S. cities!  Heck, even Indianapolis made the initial list, so looking forward to using it immediately.

If you're like the rest of us, you don't have a laptop sitting in your car with an Internet connection.  Not to worry.  I just confirmed that this service works great with the Google Maps applet on my Blackberry.  Those Google people always think of everything!

Wiley Grows Again

Congratulations to everyone involved in the Whatsonwhen acquisition, announced earlier today. Whatsonwhen offers a wealth of information about travel and entertainment. I’m particularly excited to watch as Whatsonwhen joins the Wiley family with Frommer’s – these two should provide an unbeatable combination in the online travel world.

USAToday Gets It!

What’s not to like in this announcement regarding USAToday’s revamped travel site? Right down to the new tagline, “Explore. Go. Share.”, I love what they’re doing. Blogs and reader input are core elements. As publisher Jeff Webber says, “We’re taking the inclusion of consumer comments and really bringing that to the fore so there’s a lot more user interaction.”

The article goes on to say that “the goal is to provide a more balanced mix of expert advice from its staff writers with the opinions and insights of travel consumers.” Sounds a lot like the Pro-Am approach Chris Anderson outlines in The Long Tail.

I haven’t used USAToday up to now for any of my travel needs, but I’ll definitely be using the site going forward. I just hope they have the good sense to make all these features easily accessible from a mobile device like a Blackberry or cell phone.

Mobile Content

Although this cnet article talks generally about mobile content and how it hasn't taken off yet, the focus is more on ringtones, games and images.  Nobody wants to read a book on a phone, right?  So why should we kid ourselves into thinking that's another platform for the written word?

First of all, although a book you read still looks like a silly proposition for a cellphone.  A book you listen to, however, is a completely different opportunity.  News and articles are also likely to become big content areas for mobile devices; I already read a fair amount of news/articles on my Blackberry...when I have a signal.

That leads me to the most important point of all: When talking about content on a mobile device, it's all about location and signal.  If I want to catch up on the latest news on the Path ride from 33rd Street to Hoboken, I can't do that via a live connection because I get no signal underground.  Instead, I'm forced to read through only those bits of content that live locally on my device.  (Btw, what's it going to take for the various mass transit organizations to realize they should work with carriers to enable this access and actually charge the providers for allowing them to connect with their customers? Isn't your local airport picking up a few bucks from TMobile to offer their service in the passenger gate area?  The same should be done on the trains.)

Signal availability is obviously dependent on location, what what specific content needs might be tied to a consumer's location?  How about detailed local information on restaurants, directions, major landmarks, etc.?  I'm talking about the type of things you'd typically find in a printed travel guide.  Who has a killer site today that features the richness of a travel guide with the benefits of a live connection?  It seems the door is wide open for an existing content provider to step in and dominate.  After all, wouldn't you rather have that content available on your cellphone and not have to carry around the book?

Google continues bolstering their efforts on the local front, so it will be an interesting race to see who captures the bulk of the traffic in the end.