From fast food menus to iPods , we've become a society obsessed with customization. Dave Sifry, the founder and former CEO of Technorati, obviously kept that in mind with the first public beta product of Offbeat Guides: On-Demand, Personalized Travel Books.
You can preview the product at offbeatguides.com, which includes 30,000 city destinations around the world,including New York, Paris, Rome and Tokyo, as well as smaller cities in the U.S. and abroad.
You may recall Jason's post from Sept.3, when he offered his take on Offbeat's model and praised Sifry's passionate crew .Sifry follows one of the key principles in Alan Adamson's BrandDigital: Call attention to what makes your brand relevantly different.Offbeat's design of On-Demand Personalized Travel Books is simple yet overlooked concept:Travel books that are arranged according to your own input and schedule, rather than that traditional guide, which is typically compilation of general facts regarding your destination.
Sifry explained Offbeat's model in his blog, Sifry's alerts. He admitted that they're a company run by techies who frequently travel, and explained how that aspect makes Offbeat Guides friendlier to the average traveler.
We're travelers, just like you. We value your time, so we focused on simplicity. To get started, we only ask you 5 questions. From that, we show you a live preview of your guide, with sights, attractions, restaurants, and hotels - but we also pull in all the local and contextual information we can find, tuning your guide just for you, your preferences, and your trip details.
The five questions ask you to provide the following info:
- The city you're traveling to
- The city you live in
- Your name
- Your travel dates
- Where you're staying
Once you plug in your answers, you're given valuable info, including:
- timezone differences from your hometown
- electrical plug differences
- embassies and consulates nearby
- differences in tipping policies
- exchange rates local
- weather forecasts
- local festivals, events, and concerts that coincide with the dates of your stay.
For my own trial run, I searched for the only city I've lived in besides Merritt Island: Birmingham,AL. I figured that since I was already familiar with the area, I could determine the efficiency and accuracy of the Personalized Travel Book.
I filled out each section and proceeded to the next page, which contains a list of chapters you can add, edit or remove from your guide,including attractions,dining and many categories that you see on every travel site. But after a closer look at the city overview, you'll see how Offbeat was designed to help with many of the questions you may not think of until you're in the city. Answers are offered in detailed descriptions and quick tips.
For example, when I searched events chapter, it included an amazing amount of info-18 pages worth of events occuring JUST within the dates I listed, (Nov. 25-30,2008), but there's also valuable quick tips in one page chapters, including contact and stay safe.
The Contact chapter provides a link to .bhamwifi.com to find free Wi-Fi hot spots in the metro area, so you can plan your daily route accordingly. Consolidating valuable info on one page, like Wi-Fi hotspots, prevents those aggravating searches that get us sidetracked in the middle a busy trip.
The StaySafe section listed a service that I wasn't aware of when I lived in Birmingham- CAP (City Action Partnership) CAP is a bike patrol that deters crime and offers vital assistance in downtown Birmingham, with free security escorts, directions, assistance with a dead car battery, etc. Services like CAP keep the out-of-towner from being stranded in an intimidating in an unfamiliar environment, a situation that can ruin any business trip or vacation.
Once you've finished your customizing process, you can download the guide in PDF form for $9.95, or you can pay $15 more to get the PDF form plus a hard-copy book version of the guide for $24.95. Consider it this way, you're essentially getting a personalized, up-to-date book and PDF for the same price you would pay for an annual, general publication by Frommers or Zaggots.
Offbeat Guides' On-Demand, Personalized model could prove to be a format that many of the major travel guides choose to copy in the near future.