Dubai Air Show 2009, the 11th and largest in the biennial series with 890 exhibitors from 47 countries as well as 130 aircrafts on static display, concluded yesterday with an onsite order book of over $US13 Billion. Not bad for a recession, but significantly less than in 2007. It remains nonetheless a very important event for the industry, and as such draws a lot of attention from all corners of the world. Many get a chance to experience the show in person, but more follow the developments online. Here is my review of this year’s coverage on the web.
AEROSPACE & DEFENSE MEDIA
Although the show was well covered by worldwide mainstream media, the top three aerospace and defense magazines dedicated significant resources to the event. Aviation International News, Aviation Week and Flight Global each created a landing page dedicated to the show on their websites. Flight Global reprising and expanding on its great coverage at Paris (see “Paris Air Show Online Coverage”), provided a much more esthetically pleasing experience than the other two organizations.
However, many will argue that it is the content that is important. But judging strictly by the numbers, Flight Global also comes out ahead in this area.
Although overall less online content was generated than at Paris, some of my favorites were there. Flight Global’s daily video wrap-up by Mary Kirby (@RunwayGirl) and Jon Ostrower (@FlightBlogger) is always excellent, although they quit a day early to my great surprise and disappointment. Flight Global also brought out a full WYSIWYG version of their daily publication, catching up to Aviation Week which has had theirs at both shows. AIN did not provide theirs.
I feel that AIN was the least “Online” friendly of the three. Aviation Week did not seem to improve from Paris. In fact, I feel they went backwards, as they had only 1 video and a much disorganized Twitter presence (see below). Also, they decided to place a full screen Airbus A380 advertising as an entry page for most of the show coverage which was extremely annoying.
All in all, it was clear that Flight Global came to the show with a well conceived online coverage plan. Their online editor, Michael Targett, confirmed that they put a significant amount of work into their strategy. The web traffic numbers should show that it served them well.
I think Flight Global has set the bar for the other media organizations and the race is now on for Singapore just a few months away. For that show, I would like to see the news segregated in “channels” (e.g. BizAv, Defense, Space, and Commercial) and more online interaction with the trade visitors and exhibitors before and during the show. Singapore Air Show should also have very good cell phone data coverage, so smart phone applications might make their appearance. By the way, Flight Global has already released a primitive iPhone app.
After Paris, AUSA and NBAA, Dubai was the fourth major A&D show where Twitter was used. The organizers, Aviation Week and Flight Global all agreed on a (short) hashtag for the show (#DXB09) back in late October. From November 10th to the 19th, it was used in over 1100 posts by more than 180 unique contributors. It is half the contributions from Paris and five times less than at AUSA. However, I suspect this has to do with the availability of cell phone data coverage more than any other factor.
Looking at the top 10 contributors during the show, @RunwayGirl and @FlightBlogger, both from Flight Global, dominated the stream with 112 and 73 posts respectively. Flight Global accounted for 4 of the top 10 contributors.
The other twitter accounts belong to a variety of users, all very passionate about Aerospace: @Tangosix is a Serbian aviation journalist; @DefenseAviation links to an impressive blog managed by a student from the Mangalore University in India; @InflightCuisine reports on behalf of an online community of over 600 in-flight catering professionals; while @obsalah is the Head of Quality Assurance and Safety for the local company Al Jaber Aviation and has almost 1900 followers. In fact, the top 10 contributors count a total following of over 11,000 accounts. This audience does not include the numerous other people simply following the shows’ #DXB09 stream.
Aviation Week seemed disorganized in their use of Twitter. @AviationWeek and @AvWeekMorris posted very little, but most importantly, they did not use the event hashtag thus missing the majority of the audience. As always, but again from thousands of miles away, @AvWeekBenet carried the torch for the organization by providing a steady stream of updates finishing 15th in the contributor ranks. She also posted on her personal account (@BenetWilson) and was assisted by @ThingsWithWings who posted about various elements of Aviation Week’s Dubai coverage including links to Mike Vines’ great photos. @AvWeekJobs re-tweeted two of these photo links continuing to post “ThingsNotAboutJobs” on this account (Am I the only one that is bothered by this?). As an organization, Aviation Week produced 25 online stories, 29 blog posts and 4 days’ worth of editorial content for the show daily news. Yet, they only posted (collectively) 57 updates on Twitter. What is wrong with this picture?
Another disappointment was the organizers (@DubaiAirShow) participating only timidly before and during the show. They managed 6 tweets in 4 days; two of them re-posts from other contributors. I think they could have done better (see below).
The rest of the industry was equally shy. Honeywell (@HON_Carrie and @HON_KC) contributed the most (25 posts), while @Fly_cessna and @PrattAndWhitney basically checked in. @Airbus, @BoeingAirplanes, @NorthropGrumman, @BAESystems, @ThalesGroup and @RaytheonCompany were noticeably absent from the show stream.
Except for Flight Global, I think the concept of Twitter as a sort of “headline news ticker” that draws people’s attention to the rest of the content provided in blogs and websites seems to still be lost on most A&D companies.
F&E Aerospace continues to do a remarkable job with the physical logistics of putting such an enormous event together. The event’s website contained a wealth of information for Exhibitors, Journalists, and Visitors. They did make an attempt at social media by adding a Twitter account, a LinkedIn group and a social media “Share” button, but these felt like afterthoughts with not much strategy around them. During the show, the website was updated with the official press releases and a few photos. I think a great opportunity was missed.
DubaiAirShow.aero should have been the absolute hub for all online activity before, during and after the show. The organizers are in the unique position to “mash up” content from all the media and the exhibitors in one place. They can share the excitement in the run-up to the event and provide its heartbeat during. Here are three ideas (Are you listening Farnborough?):
Stream information, pictures and video live from the show. Post time-lapse pictures of the exhibit hall construction. Provide live webcam of the press conferences. Update the number of visitors and the onsite order book as streaming data feeds on the home page. Show live video of the flight demos. Make the site fun and addictive so online visitors use it as their central hub well before the event and for its duration. I guarantee it will make more people want to attend next time.
Collect and publish each exhibitor’s website, twitter, and RSS information. Use this information to provide a centralized but segmented news feed (e.g. Corporate, Defense, etc…) directly on the website. Provide a twitter window for the #DXB09 feed.
Create interactive features before and during the show: voting on the flight and static displays by visitors; “must visit” exhibitor lists ranked by journalists; interactive forums about the local hotels and restaurants.
In a global economy, events such as the Dubai Air Show truly have a worldwide appeal. “Attending” the show online will never replace being there in person. However, better online coverage will expand the reach of the organizers and exhibitors, augment the business buzz, and definitely create the desire to be there in person next time. Next up is Singapore, then Farnborough. Let’s see if they learn from Paris and Dubai.