Travel Guides for the YouTube Generation

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NEW YORK ( -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week:
Traveling the world and letting everyone know about it.
Traveling the world and letting everyone know about it.

What it is: TripAdvisor for the kids. Or travel guides for the YouTube generation. STA has launched an interactive globe that lets roving college students share videos of their experiences jet-setting around the world. The goal was to create an online student-travel community that also promotes STA's services.

The market: Reaching this traveling-student population is lucrative: The market is valued at $229.8 billion.

The void: While some travel discussions were taking place on large-scale social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, there wasn't a travel community geared toward students, said STA VP-Marketing and E-commerce Kirsten Celko. For STA, it is also meant to solve a larger problem the entire travel industry has faced for the past decade: how to drive traffic to bricks-and-mortar stores and agencies. The online site ties into an offline guerrilla-marketing campaign and a sweepstakes.

The site design: Evan Vogel, managing partner at Night Agency, which designed the social site and the offline campaign, said Night considered using an existing globe interface, such as Google Earth, but decided it would be easier on the design and programming side to just create its own. Users can "mouse around" the globe and click on pictures of students who have traveled through various countries to learn more about the country. A window pops up and activates a video in which students talk about the country and their traveling experiences there. Other basic info pops up as well, such as the country's language, capital and population and a gallery of photos. Clicking to book a trip brings up more detailed info.

The ad angle: STA hasn't yet added third-party ads to the site, but it may consider including promotions and ads from partners, Ms. Celko said.
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