Saturday, September 21, 2013

USAT | N.Y. firm files lawsuit over Hilton portal

A New York City publisher and technology consultant has sued USA Today over development services it provided for a digital news portal called The Point, launched two years ago for Hilton hotels.

UrbanDaddy filed the complaint yesterday in New York Supreme Court for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets, the company's lawyers said in a press release.

USAT launched the site in 2011 to stem circulation losses after Hilton and other hotel chains stopped supplying print copies of the paper to guests, according to the press release.

UrbanDaddy seeks monetary damages plus injunctive relief against further development and use of the Point and other similar services.

It's unclear whether the Point has been successful. In July, CEO Gracia Martore told Wall Street analysts that it's now available in more than 3,000 Hiltons, where it generates 130,000 unique daily visitors. That's an average of only 43 per hotel, however.

Hilton pays USAT a fee for the portal, and the newspaper also gets advertising revenue.

The newspaper says the Point offers hotel guests a "unique blend of world, national and local news; local guides and tools, including top picks from local insiders, and premium digital entertainment content."

Related: USAT's about page breaks down the company's divisions.

11 comments:

  1. I stayed at a Double Tree by Hilton a few weeks ago and I logged onto the wifi system. I saw the weakly designed USA TODAY portal or whatever it was. All I cared about was getting the wifi activated. Once I was "online" I "stepped right over" the USA TODAY portal and continued about my business. It was no different than me stepping over the paper as I walk out of my room. I must admit though, I actually picked up the USA TODAY newspaper a few months ago and promptly placed it where it belongs - the trash.

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  2. Why would Martore highlight such a low-traffic site?

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    1. Because she thinks 43 daily visitors is a win! Remember, she's the former Gannett CFO who loves tinkering in MS Excel. If anyone, she would know a good number from a bad number. I actually don't think she has a clue what web traffic is. It's David Payne who needs to step in and talk about this. Someone just fed her those numbers and she hasn't taken the time to think through how ridiculous they are. But, it's interesting that she will keep quiet about how many jobs she eliminated over the past couple of months, but taut these Hilton numbers huh?

      Next time I stay at a Hilton I'll take pics of the horrible intro screen for "The Point" and post it on my twitter account - @effgannett. From what I recall the first time I saw The Point, the USA TODAY branding is so small that you have to look 2-3 times to figure out it's there. They must be giving it away because there's absolutely no way I'd buy ads on it. The problem is that when travelers log onto a hotel's wifi, all they care about is getting connected. They don't care about getting news and weather tidbits. Once they are logged on, they have their own sites they go to for everything they need when they travel. This portal thing is a major fail - it will not make any money. I hope they lose their shirts with this lawsuit.

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  3. A few years ago, Martore and Dubow requested a meeting with one of the staff's columnists to get a bead on the Internet. This was in 2005. True story.

    On the other hand, 43 visitors per hotel is not necessarily a bad number. If a hotel has, say 125 to 150 rooms, that is not a bad percentage.

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    1. True. I was picturing hotels with 300 rooms. But maybe those aren't so common.

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    2. Across all brands, Hilton's average room count is 165. At 62% occupancy, 50% of rooms hitting the USAT landing page (which is what we projected), the number would be 51. So we're a bit short of that. But fine. Thin the heard a bit - and we'll be good!

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    3. Ok, let's say that they are averaging 43 daily "visitors" in a hotel with 100 rooms, 150 rooms, or 300 rooms - pick your size. What IS a visitor actually? I know for a fact that they can't tell you.

      If someone did what I did and just logged onto the wifi splash page (or intro page or whatever they call it page), clicked on the "sign me into the wifi" button, does that count as "visiting?" That "click" or "hit" or whatever you want to call it means nothing. So, 43 people on average log into the point portal page once a day and they do is click to get on the wifi to get counted? If I had advertising dollars to spend, the point would not be the first place id place my dollars.

      Now if by some miracle some smart web analytics wonk figured out how to measure (accurately) the activity is happening with those 43 people when they go to the first screen, then maybe - just maybe they might have a story. But, out of the time and investment made to get this started, it will not be worth it.

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    4. Yes, that would be a visit/page view that would form inventory sold to advertisers.

      And yes, that analytics software exists. So, if advertisers don't get results, they won't renew.

      And yes that analytics software exists. So, if advertisers don't get results, they won't renew.

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  4. How long are they going to keep the dozens of Travel Media Group employees around? They are bringing in zero dollars while other divisions are laying off. And to think all USAT got a 1.5 percent increase. When's the last time you saw an increase Gannett? And GPS is RIFing to make up for the USAT shortfalls.

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  5. They'll keep them for many years. Smoke and mirrors. Gracia loves that shit!

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