Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Beware - "One Size Fits All" Regionalism Can Be Very Expensive

Many businesses like hotels pay companies like AT&T for clicks from advertising on their search engines.

But because AT&T views the entire world in a centric model, it can be hugely expensive.

In a centric area, say, like Atlanta or Charlotte, it is still unlikely but more probable that a guest may stay in one of the cities ringing that city in the center.

But in a polycentric region like the Triangle, where there is no dominant center, research has shown it is highly unlikely that guests would stay in a city other than their true destination. When it does happen, it is often through obfuscation and results in very unhappy guests who don’t visit somewhere to be a commuter.

But the real cost is when a company like AT&T dings a hotel in one area for searches in another. For example, one hotelier in the far west part of the Triangle reported being dinged for searches in Raleigh in the far east part of the Triangle and again for searches in communities halfway to Greensboro.

It all comes down to misuse and misunderstandings about regionalism… that all regions aren’t alike and formulas can’t be applied universally. It is also because phone companies like this long ago abandoned the genius of the original “yellow pages,” where people could count on finding nearby businesses. Today, a listing is typically a mishmash of things close by and things from anyone from anywhere who buys in to appear located close by.

If you dismiss the inconvenience to travelers, try staying in Newark or Stamford next time you travel to the heart of New York City… or San Jose when you want to visit San Francisco… or Tacoma when you visit Seattle and don’t want to miss the parking lot they call Interstate 5.

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