[photopress:air_sohucom.jpg,full,alignright]The facts are easy. Sina.com, China’s largest portal with over 100 million monthly unique visitors, together with Qunar.com, China’s largest travel search engine with over 8 million monthly unique visitors is going to launch “Free Talk Travel”. This will be a blog publishing platform that will allow Chinese travelers for the first time to share their travel experiences in an innovative and interactive way.
Kevin Zhu, Life Channel Editor of Sina.com said, although it sounds like flack-speak, ‘We feel that Qunar will provide us the right travel industry expertise and consumer insights to co-develop this exciting new project. Both the blog platform and travel e-publishing are sure to be well-received by our users.’
Denise Peng, VP of Product Development at Qunar.com, ‘Sina is the right partner for us as we expand our service offering into the realm of travel 2.0. We’re looking forward to an outstanding cooperation!’
Well, yes. It will work but there is a tremendous potential problem which every similar site has already faced. Airlines get their staff to write in as innocent users lauding the airline to the skies. This is so common that most savvy users ignore all the positive comments and just look for the negative ones.
Keeping such a blog clear of flackery is well nigh impossible. An airline wants favorable mentions, the PR asks a friend and then another friend. And so it goes on.
An intelligent reading can spot when this has happened because the reports are over-enthusiastic. But it is almost impossible to police totally. No doubt this blog will be a success. But, equally, no doubt it will contain a fair amount of lying puffery about airlines and other travel facilities.
(The illustration comes from Sina.com and, no, there is no indication which airline it might concern. This is called diplomacy. And the picture is nicer than another aircraft.)