There's obviously going to be a lot of hype surrounding Offbeat Travel Guides, because David Sifry - founder of Technorati - is also behind this project.
The concept is simple, as David explains in this video interview: you enter where you’re going to, where you’re coming from, your name, and when you’ll be there. You can even add the hotel you'll be staying at, if you wish.
A behind the scenes search (Technorati knows all about live web-crawling) grabs background information on your destination from Wikipedia, Wikitravel and 'other sources'; uses the dates you entered, to search for what's happening according to Zvents, Upcoming and Eventful; then gives you a graphical AccuWeather weather forecast, to give you an idea of what to pack; and even produces street maps showing your precise location, if they found your hotel.
Try it, by all means.
Of course, you could just as easily search 'What's on When', Wikipedia, Wikitravel, other travel-related resources - and even the weather - by switching around in the TravelNotes toolbar; visit the official tourist information websites from the Travel Notes destination pages; or even watch the weather videos before you go. For free.
So What's so Upbeat About Offbeat Guides?
If you're strapped for time, don't have the TravelNotes toolbar installed, or just don't like searching around the Internet to do your own research on your travel destination (which is often half the fun) then Offbeat Guides could be made for you.
Marina Kosmatos, who spent four years working for Lonely Planet, is also on the team - to help curate some of the travel content.
However, I feel Offbeat Guides are a little ambitious by claiming to have over 30,000 destinations covered; as some of the more 'offbeat' destinations I tested didn't return enough quality information to justify the asking price.
At least you can try before you buy and deselect the information you don't need; to keep the weight of the guide down - but not the price.
The full colour printed guide comes in at the hefty price of $24.95, while a downloadable PDF guide costs just $9.95.
Travel Guidebooks are considerably cheaper than Offbeat's printed guide, but are often out of date before they're published; and you don't get the money-back guarantee that Offbeat Guides offer, if you're not satisfied. There's also a support forum, if you're having problems.
Each seperate destination means purchasing another guide; but if you're doing your own research, all it costs you is your time.
Offbeat Guides also offer an affiliate program.
To make affiliate programs work though, you need to spend time on them - and believe in the product.
Just sticking up links and banners is easy enough but, to succeed, you will also need to know what's working and what isn't.
Therefore, the need for statistical data is vital.
Personally, I'd like to see 'which destinations people are looking into the most', 'which destinations are being purchased' and 'best conversion rate for destinations researched - to destinations purchased'.
At the moment, these sort of statistics aren't made public (even behind the affiliate dashboard).
There are banners and a widget available, for affiliates to promote Offbeat Guides with.
Added 5th Feb, 2009:
The banner code in the affiliate section now generates the affiliate id.