BREAKING NEWS & VIEWS
AFAR Mag Taps Instagram Vibe For Travel Sharing App
Monday, April 30, 2012
The app is simplicity itself. The user can search or post images from travels around the globe. The interface segments functionality very neatly into Discover (search locations), taking and sending pictures and comments, and Saving others' posts. The user can explore the search results via a series of thumbnails or a list of thumbnails with the lede from each user-made blurb.
The app works because the content is very, very good. The readers of AFAR are people who are into travel. They not only have a good sense for what types of images are attractive to their like-minded travelers but also their text entries are usually very helpful. For my own upcoming trip to Florence, Italy, for instance, I found within minutes a host of inspiring ideas and tips, locations I didn’t think to visit, and a general sense of the place I don’t think I would have gotten from the usual travel sources. Even better, there was very little in this trove of content that was trivial. I found myself lingering rather than quickly triaging.
AFAR rightly calls these entries Highlights as a way to distinguish the app from the typical social media tool that calls for ephemeral “check-ins.” The app is also programmed. The magazine recently finished a six-week contest called CATCH! That invited users to enter photos according to revolving themes, with a grand prize winner sent to India. According to the magazine, the contest resulted in a 44% spike in site traffic, since users could post and share images both on the Web and the app. But about half of the 1100 Highlights added to the galleries were coming from the app.
Another strong design and editorial decision comes in the addition of Highlights from the AFAR magazine editors themselves in a special Magazine tab.This is a good way to integrate the magazine brand and keep its form and function aligned with the overall aim of the app itself.
There are weaknesses here, to be sure. The search function seems very good, but there is no easy and clear way to make your way back to the home page. I also wished for the ability to follow specific travelers in the app. The “Social” aspects of this social media app are not as well tuned as the “media” aspects.
Still, this is for other magazine publishers a great example of how to leverage the expertise and enthusiasm of your audience to polish, tame and curate an otherwise messy social media genre. This is something closer to a travel Instagram but with editorial direction and user-generated quality.
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