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For 15 years, the eTourism Summit in San Francisco has been the leading conference where the travel industry and online marketing have intersected. It has been the place where people more comfortable with talking about thread counts and the number of sunny days in a destination have learned their way around banner ads and click through rates. Now Jake Steinman, the producer of the eTourism Summit, is launching another event, this one on the East Coast. DigMe (short for “digital media,” by the way) will be held from June 9 to June 11 at the Manhattan NYC, an Affinia Hotel.

As fundamental shifts from sponsored content to advances in analytics are radically changing digital marketing, many companies are unsure where to go next. Joe Diaz, a cofounder of AFAR, will be among the presenters, along with representatives from Facebook, Expedia, Google, and TripAdvisor. They, and other leaders in both the digital and travel spaces, will make sense of the changing landscape.

We sat down with Jake to discuss DigMe, why everyone involved in travel marketing should attend, and what they can hope to walk away with when the event is over.


AFAR: How do you approach creating a conference like the eTourism Summit or your new project, DigMe?

Steinman: Before I started the eTourism Summit, I owned a magazine for 18 years, which I sold in 1993. When I decided to start a conference, I wanted to build it like a magazine, with sessions that are short and concise. They can last anywhere from 45 seconds to 3 minutes to 15 minutes. Most marketers are liberal arts majors and they have recently found themselves thrown into a world that turns on data and technology. Part of the goal of the conferences is to make “big data” less intimidating and the format helps with that.

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AFAR: How can DigMe help tourism boards and smaller companies in the travel industry navigate the new landscape?

Steinman: The biggest service we can provide is helping them understand what is available and what is most useful. All the things we are focusing on at DigMe are ambiguous terms. Sponsored content or native advertising, for example, mean very different things from publisher to publisher. Also the number of options available depends in huge part of people’s budgets. If you have a $2 million budget you can utilize big data, the latest technology, and all its most sophisticated elements, but with a smaller budget there are different, though still interesting, options. At the end of the conference people will leave with a better understanding of content marketing and other recent developments.


AFAR: What are travel companies doing wrong? What do they need to understand that they don’t yet?

Steinman: They are afraid. People with mid-level budgets are reluctant to stick their toes in the water and when they do they don’t know how to appropriately measure their results. There is a huge range of technology they could use but they have trouble sorting it out while they are being bombarded by offers from vendors. Some turn over the role of making sense of the technology to agencies. It’s a confusing marketplace and the reason we are creating DigMe is so that companies can learn about everything that’s available.


AFAR: Where do you see digital marketing going next?

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Steinman: Recently, everything has been changing every year. Some of the things that have been tested and were available only to GM and Proctor & Gamble are now coming down in price and are available to a wider group of marketers. There is incredible competition and we have seen prices for some digital services come down by up to 75%. Specifically, I see some exciting new components on line from Facebook. Also there are lots of new companies in the GPS and mobile spaces. Wearables will be big. In fact, we will be testing a range of new devices on the market and reporting on the results at DigMe. There’s a lot going on and a lot more coming.

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