Run Away With Elvis during the Bay to Breakers is one of Lee Foster's Local Tips in the San Francisco presentation on Google's Touringbird website
Run Away With Elvis during the Bay to Breakers is one of Lee Foster's Local Tips in the San Francisco presentation on Google's Touringbird website

By Lee Foster

Will Google become a content publisher, in travel and other subject areas? Could Google’s new Touringbird product in travel be the start of a trend? Every writer/author has a stake in the question. Google is so prominent. Consequently, whatever Google decides to do may shake up the market.

Google recently asked me to participate with Local Tips in the San Francisco segment of its new travel content product, Touringbird. The project now covers 20 major worldwide cities. As a result, I have seven such tips in the rollout.

Google appears to be moving ahead energetically with its own travel publishing products. Because of Google’s prominence in anything it touches, this development is likely to interest the travel journalism community. Other writer/author/publisher communities could be afected..

The product, Touringbird, is visible on mobile and desktop at

It appears to be a website with all the facility of an app.

The product seems like it is designed to help travelers figure out the most prominent things and then the hidden things to visit in a city. Most noteworthy, it offers free or paid touring suggestions. Certainly, the website has information, local tips, and booking options all in one place. Most of my Local Tips are for free. Probably, the long term revenue for the product seems to be based on affiliate tour sales.

Touringbird is From Google Incubator in Switzerland

I enjoyed working with Google on my San Francisco content. Furthermore, I like to supply local expert travel tips to anyone. I am a San Francisco Bay Area and California specialist.

The Google payment to me for content comes in two forms: some cash money and some “Google juice,” meaning Google’s beneficial promotion of me and my website.


The cash money in Euros went into a new Payoneer account that they required that I set up.

The “Google juice” is the way my bio, bio photo, and website reference to gets carried forward. The link to me is visible but not live in the product. Every time someone looks at my tips, my identity shows. I find “Google juice” moderately addictive.

The Touringbird project proceeded forward quickly, managed by a highly competent editor. The editor is Marla Cimini, who knew exactly what she wanted.

Timing was tight. I had to juggle other assignments. I wish I could have had more time and gotten more items into the rollout.

The entire operation was run out of a Google “incubator” in Switzerland, mysteriously called Area 120. My contact’s name is Sher Khan. I must say I love the internationalism and youthfulness of this entire can-do team.

My Local Expert Tips

My first items in the Touringbird system (seven of them live at rollout) are

-Witness the nightly art illumination of the Bay Bridge

-Hike lovely Limantour Beach at Point Reyes

-Hang out with two-ton Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo

-Immerse yourself in the nostalgic Beach Chalet murals

-Visit Precita Eyes gallery to enjoy the Mission District

-Run away with Elvis

Run Away With Elvis during the Bay to Breakers is one of Lee Foster's Local Tips in the San Francisco presentation on Google's Touringbird website
Run Away With Elvis during the Bay to Breakers is one of Lee Foster’s Local Tips in the San Francisco presentation on Google’s Touringbird website

-Peruse an authentic herb shop

-See where sourdough bread was invented

I have an opportunity to contribute more to Touringbird as the product develops.

The operative word for the product appears to be “experiences.”

The full title is

It’s all about the experience

Touringbird helps you explore, compare, and book experiences—all in a single place

It seems as if Google is counting on the average modern traveler to want an ever more “special” experiences.

My instructions for choosing subjects for tips included guidance that the ideas must be new and special. Therefore, my ideas should be so fresh that “they wouldn’t be found in guidebooks.”

The Prominence of Google and Airbnb

My encounters with Google are always watchful and respectful. Above all, Google provides perhaps 80% of the traffic for the 480 articles on my website with their Google Search. Google has paid me a little cash money every day since 2002 for Google Adsense Ads running on my website.

My participation in Google reminded me of my recent immersion in the Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco. Some of you may have read my write-up with photos on that at

Airbnb is the world of the gifted, talented, healthy, and wealthy young. Consequently, my presence at age 75 raised the temporary demographic in the building to slightly above 25.

The similarity between Google Touringbird and Airbnb is on “experiences.” Though Airbnb is a lodging company, if you look at its website, you will see also many special tours and much travel content. Tour write-ups are a major part of their operation. They call this segment of Airbnb “Experiences.” One might peruse and purchase from their site not lodging, but the  option on “Experiences.” The quest is for the special, possibly quirky, opportunity to do “Guided Yoga on Baker Beach at Sunset Before the Golden Gate Bridge” for a price etc.

The Google product seems to be based on the assumption that a traveler will want to tackle the major attractions in a destination in the first day or two, then move on to a private and immersive personal experience in the remaining days. The website seems to address the person who has a few days to a week to explore a destination.

Who knows where Google will go next in its efforts to develop travel content publishing products and ventures?



  1. Hi Lee, I can’t wait to see more of your local tips in SF and beyond. Thank you for your help with Touring Bird.

    Lax Poojary

  2. Thanks, Lax. You’ve done a great job getting this Touringbird launched. I wish you all the success in the ongoing effort.

    (For the public: Lax is a leader in the Google team that developed Touringbird.)


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