Massachusetts is moving onto the Internet in a new way, creating an online TV channel designed to attract tourists from abroad.
The channel, located at www.usamass.tv, follows a Brit named Tom as he samples a number of tourist sites in Massachusetts, everything from golfing at Highland Links Golf Course in Truro to dining in the North End.
The $250,000 project, paid for by the state, lets users watch whatever is playing or search for a segment they are interested in, much like video on demand.
''It goes beyond a brochure. It's beyond a direct mail piece," said William H. MacDougall, the chief executive of Tourism Massachusetts, a nonprofit agency backed with state money. ''They get a chance to really see the product."
MacDougall said the channel is focusing now on English-speaking foreign travelers, but eventually the effort may be broadened to target potential visitors from French- and Spanish-speaking countries.
The channel currently features segments on Nantucket, Cape Cod, Plymouth County, and Boston. The segments are short on details and long on atmosphere. They're designed to be amusing, visually interesting, and to create a favorable impression. Negatives like the state's mercurial weather are not mentioned.
Even so, a piece on Plymouth County gives the viewer a good sense of what a visit to Plimoth Plantation would be like, complete with a chat with someone portraying Myles Standish.
A segment filmed at Highland Links effectively conveys the beauty of the oceanside course nestled near Cape Cod Light.
There's even a segment where Tom is stopping people on the street in Boston, asking them where they are from. All of them are from abroad, conveying the impression that Boston is a place to which foreigners flock.
''It's not just B-roll stuff, although we have some of that," MacDougall said, referring to the nickname for film footage provided free to broadcast news organizations as a means of gaining free publicity. ''It is about travelers engaging in their trip. We're trying to find an edge as people are looking at various markets."
Anyone interested in learning more about booking a Massachusetts trip is referred to www.usamass.com, which offers detailed information in several languages.
Like other TV ventures, the Massachusetts channel is carrying ads. Right now they are limited to a short video ad from the Jurys Boston Hotel and a banner ad from the Dr. Seuss National Memorial in Springfield.
MacDougall said Tourism Massachusetts will heavily promote the TV site in the coming months with advertising and public relations campaigns abroad. He said the viewing options are somewhat limited now, but will expand.
Stephen Beaumont, chief executive of Narrowstep Inc., the London-based company powering the Massachusetts TV channel, said the Bay State is the first in the country to jump into the TV business. He said London, Glasgow, and Cyprus all have similar initiatives using Narrowstep technology.
MacDougall said Tourism Massachusetts is set up to attract foreign travelers to the state, while the state's tourism office is focusing on expanding the domestic market. He said Tourism Massachusetts has received $4 million from the state this fiscal year. The state is trying to revive its foreign travel market, which took a big hit in 2002 when spending to promote it was eliminated.
Contact Bruce Mohl at firstname.lastname@example.org.