This week’s top story deals with the “billboard effect.”

The famous phenomenon, coined by Cornell University professor Chris Anderson in 2009, suggested that hotels received a lift in reservations made on their own websites simply by listing their properties on online travel agency platforms. In recent months, however, research has emerged suggesting the impact of the effect has been on the wane.

What do industry insiders believe is causing the decline? Read on for more details.

The Hotel “Billboard Effect” is Declining, According to New Study
The “Billboard Effect,” a consumer behavior where hotel shoppers would first visit an OTA like Booking.com or Expedia to get prices before buying their room on the hotel’s website, appears to be losing traction according to new research. Hotel consulting firm Kalibri Labs, which created the research as part of its Distribution Channel Analysis Report, says that industry consolidation moves like Expedia’s acquisition of Orbitz earlier this year are contributing to the OTA’s growing clout. Read more

Google Tests New “Mobile App Demos” Ad Unit  
Helping mobile users find and download branded apps remains an ongoing challenge for many marketers, both in the travel industry and beyond. This week Google launched a new digital ad format called “Trial Run Ads,” which lets mobile users virtually try out promoted apps before choosing to download them. The digital advertising giant hopes that new layer of interactivity will prove a more effective method of driving downloads in the brutally competitive world of app marketplaces. Read more

United Airlines Equips Airport Staff with iPhones to Boost Customer Service
United Airlines, a carrier which has faced a range of customer service and logistical challenges over the past few years, plans to arm more than 6,000 of its airport frontline staff with iPhone 6 Plus devices starting next year. United staff will be able to use the devices to print boarding passes and search for alternative flights for stranded customers, something the airline believes will help solve issues during bad weather and busy travel days. Read more

Study Suggests Social Media Has “Negligible” Impact on Hotel Bookings
Hotel owners, particularly those who operate small independent properties and B&Bs, should skip the Facebook page and refocus their marketing efforts on OTA sites, according to new research. eviivo, a UK-based booking management tech company, released the results of a study finding that Facebook was responsible for just 3.3% of web traffic to hotel websites and just 0.75% of bookings. This was compared to 74% of bookings coming from OTA sites like Expedia and Booking.com. Read more

Intercontinental Hotels Joins Uber Partnership Bandwagon
Intercontinental Hotels is launching a new partnership with Uber, joining a growing range of hotel groups, including Hilton and Starwood, who have formed alliances with the ride-sharing service. IHG will integrate Uber ride-booking functionality into its own app, while also offering 2,000 IHG Rewards points for new customers who sign up with Uber. The partnership is part of a growing trend towards hotel apps which try to offer travelers a range of utility beyond the hotel’s typical “core” services. Read more

Suggestions to Better Personalize the Online Travel Buying Experience
The travel industry was among the first sectors to pioneer the burgeoning world of e-commerce back in the 1990s, but according to some observers, the industry hasn’t done enough to keep up with the ever-evolving changes impacting digital commerce in 2015. According to one recent opinion piece, this is particularly true in the world of personalization, where implementation of tactics like pre-populated customer information, sophisticated cross-selling of related travel services, and personalized alerts while en route remain the exception, rather than the norm. Read more

Photo Credit: The "billboard effect," a phenomenon where simply listing hotel rooms on an OTA site would lead to more direct bookings, appears to be on the decline. David Evers / Flickr