Solutions

Where to Ski and Snowboard

"FileMaker fits very well with our requirements. We are able to do all we need to do without outside technical help. There's a revolution going on in online publishing right now, and FileMaker is helping us take advantage of that. And the ability it has given us to work remotely has been the icing on the cake." says Chris Gill, Co-owner and editor, Where To Ski and Snowboard.

FileMaker plays its part in the online development of publishing for the team at Where to Ski and Snowboard

FileMaker helps take advantage of revolution in online publishing.

Overview

  • A FileMaker database has been “at the heart of the WTSS operation” for almost 15 years.

Industry

  • Media: Comprehensive and detailed annual guidebook covering all the major ski resorts in Europe and North America.

Solution

  • Having all the data captured in a structured way enables WTSS to reuse the data in a multitude of ways.

Benefits

  • Hosting FileMaker centrally means the WTSS team can work remotely, benefiting work-life balance and reducing overheads.

Widely-regarded as the British skier’s ‘bible,’ Where to Ski and Snowboard (WTSS) is a comprehensive and detailed annual guidebook covering all the major ski resorts in Europe and North America. Running to 700 pages, it was first published in 1994, became an annual publication a few years later and is now on its 15th edition. While WTSS has always maintained a website, its online operation has become increasingly popular in recent years as more users seek out key information and purchase the guide online.

WTSS is published every September, providing skiers and specialist travel agents with the latest up-to-date information.
WTSS is published every September, providing skiers and specialist travel agents with the latest up-to-date information.

The challenge:

The outbound UK ski industry is big business. Each winter around 1 million British skiers and snowboarders head out to Europe and North America in search of the white stuff. But with a huge choice of destinations to chose from – not only in the US and the Alps but increasingly in regions such as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe – there is one definitive source of information that holidaymakers rely on to help them pick their resort: The Where to Ski and Snowboard guide.

WTSS is published every September, providing skiers and specialist travel agents with the latest up-to-date information: from the altitude of mountains and the type of ski runs available to details about après-ski activities and prices in resort. It also contains a wealth of advertising material from ski equipment suppliers and operators.

This constitutes a great deal of data gleaned from various sources including ski companies, tourist offices as well as research from the editorial team. In recent years, a growing number of reader reviews have also been included in the publication. All this information has to be managed and stored systematically, so it can be easily accessed and re-used for a variety of purposes.

Increasingly important to the company is its website, as rising numbers of people go the website to find out about the guide and purchase it online. WTSS also has plans to create additional revenue streams by delivering the information to mobile users via tablet and smartphone apps. “While sales from bookshops have declined over the years, we have continued to prosper both through online retail and the fact that we embraced digital media from the start,” says Chris Gill, co-owner and editor of WTSS.


It has enabled us to enjoy a better work-life balance and to close our office near Bath, which was a substantial saving on overheads for the company.

—Chris Gill, Co-owner and editor, Where to Ski and Snowboard
Each winter around 1 million British skiers and snowboarders head out to Europe and North America in search of the white stuff.
Each winter around 1 million British skiers and snowboarders head out to Europe and North America in search of the white stuff.

The FileMaker solution:

According to Chris, a FileMaker database has been “at the heart of the WTSS operation” for almost 15 years. “The database is used to manage the business - controlling page proof approvals, ad placements, the hundreds of reports on ski resorts received each year from readers and so on,” he says.

Every year, in the period April to July, each page of the book goes through an extensive process of review and editing, using the desktop publishing tool Adobe InDesign, to incorporate the up-to-date information. At the end of this process, PDF files are despatched to the printers, currently a firm in Italy, and two or three weeks later the book is in the UK warehouse awaiting distribution.

As soon as the PDFs are approved, the WTSS team goes back into each InDesign document, checks the changes and then clicks a button to update the FileMaker database, so that all the current information is stored centrally. This is made possible because each heading on the InDesign documents corresponds to a field in the database.

“Working in this way ensures the thousands of changes made in the previous three months' work are captured in a structured form” explains Chris. “This process takes no more than a couple of days, and once it is completed the whole content of the book is available for selective use in digital media.”

Having all the data captured in a structured way enables WTSS to reuse the data in a multitude of ways. This includes licensing the content to other third party websites, such as The Daily Telegraph, which publishes ski resort updates on it travel pages. It also allows the company to publish key information to its website, which it does by converting FileMaker data to SQL files, which underpin the website.

“We don’t sell the information online but give some of it away for free in anticipation that the quality of the information will mean visitors will be left wanting more and go on to buy the book. A new development is that we now encourage volunteer readers to file resort price data directly in to our database using the Instant Web Publishing functionality in FileMaker,” says Chris.

But one area where WTSS is hoping to make money from digital media is the delivery of content to tablet PCs, eBooks and smartphones. The team is currently researching a number of ways of doing this including converting the data held in FileMaker into XML before pushing it out to various devices.

“We aim to tailor the information to different markets, such as North America, which we feel is potentially a huge market for us,” adds Chris.

Holding all the content in a central database also allowed the editorial and management team at WTSS to form a virtual office three years ago with members widely distributed around southern England. The FileMaker database is hosted by a firm called Rapidhost, which is based in Marlow in Buckinghamshire, while key staff work from home in disparate locations such as Somerset, Suffolk, Wiltshire and Berkshire.

“The move to remote hosting has hugely benefited the company,” says Chris.

“It has enabled us to enjoy a better work-life balance and to close our office near Bath, which was a substantial saving on overheads for the company.”

Information includes details on the altitude of mountains and the type of ski runs available to details about après-ski activities and prices in resort.
Information includes details on the altitude of mountains and the type of ski runs available to details about après-ski activities and prices in resort.

Notable benefits:

  • Information, integrated – With thousands of new updates coming in from various sources, as well as a need to track the progress of ad revenue and page proofs, FileMaker is at the heart of the WTSS business.
  • Data evolved – Means WTSS can repurpose the data for a variety of uses including licensing it to third-party publishers.
  • Web-publishing made easy – Using FileMaker WTSS can easily convert and publish information online.
  • Virtual office – Hosting FileMaker centrally means the WTSS team can work remotely, benefiting work-life balance and reducing overheads.

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