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Ep.28 Be the Host with the Most... Bookings! Ready, Set, Optimize w/ Daniel Rusteen!



Short Summary


Discover the surprising secrets behind optimizing your Airbnb listing from an unexpected source - a former Airbnb employee turned industry expert. Daniel Rusteen is back again to uncover the untold stories of working at Airbnb and the insider tips for skyrocketing your property's ranking, captivating your ideal guests, and mastering the art of digital guidebooks. Get ready to revolutionize your hosting game and leave your competition in the dust.





Our special guest is Daniel Rusteen

Daniel Rusteen is a distinguished figure in the realm of Airbnb listing optimization, leveraging his substantial expertise garnered from his tenure in the finance department at Airbnb and his nomadic lifestyle as a guest. His comprehensive insights and unconventional strategies provide valuable guidance for hosts aiming to refine their property listings and enhance the overall guest experience. With a strong foundation rooted in the intricacies of the vacation rental industry, Daniel's pragmatic approach and profound understanding make him an essential resource for hosts seeking to optimize their Airbnb listings and maximize occupancy rates.


In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Maximize your vacation rental's potential with STR property optimization.

  • Set clear expectations to enhance the guest experience and satisfaction.

  • Communicate effectively with guests to ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay.

  • Attract the right guests for your vacation rental property.

  • Optimize your listing title and photos to attract more bookings and stand out.


Action steps mentioned in this episode are:

  • Check out Daniel Rusteen's Profitable Properties Program for in-depth tips and resources on optimizing your property for short-term rentals.

  • Visit the STR Insiders website for additional resources and a special discount on Daniel Rusteen's Profitable Properties Program.

  • Subscribe to the STR Insiders for more insider knowledge and tips to get the edge in the short-term rental world.

  • Explore Hostfully, a digital guidebook service recommended by Daniel Rusteen for creating a comprehensive guidebook for your short-term rental property.

  • Visit the STR Insiders website for more resources and to access social media handles for additional insights and updates.


Effective Communication for Guest Satisfaction

Designing the listing's information, rules, and amenities around a specific guest type can make communication more targeted and effective. Daniel points out that even the title and top five photos of a listing play a significant role in communicating with potential guests, making them crucial factors in a property's success.


Clear Expectations for Guest Experience

A vital part of creating an optimum guest experience revolves around setting clear expectations. Disclosing potential drawbacks such as noise levels or lack of an elevator, allows guests to understand what to expect, leading to fewer negative reviews. 


Property Optimization for Maximum Returns

Planning and strategically organizing a listing is the key to optimizing a property for maximum returns. Daniel advises hosts to focus on the online elements of the listing, like the title, the first five photos, and the summary text. He emphasizes that paying careful attention to these components can help in attracting potential guests and boost the property's visibility on Airbnb.



Link and Resources

🏷️ Use code "Strip" at https://optimizemyairbnb.com/ for a 50% discount!

Subscribe for free episode bonus materials: https://www.thestrinsiders.com/

Join the conversation with Tracie on Facebook: https://www.fb.com/groups/strcentral

Follow Jacquie on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/5starbnb/


 

Transcription

00:04

Tracie

Welcome to the STR Insiders podcast. We share tips for achieving your STR goals. Aha moments, funny stories, and all the latest gossip of this STR life. Listen in as we keep it real and maybe a little sassy. Celebrate successes and own all the mistakes we've made along the way. Whether you're new to real estate investing, new to short term rentals, or a seasoned pro, there's something here for you. Jacquie is an STR property manager who consults with individuals looking to grow their own property management firm. Tracie owns STR consulting and media firms that provide education to investors who want to learn all about STR investing. For more information, please visit www.thestrinsiders.com.


01:03

Tracie

We finished off last year talking to Daniel about international investing and his nomadic lifestyle as an Airbnb guest. Now we're going to share tips on what he's most famous for in the STR industry, optimizing your property, and to keep the party going from last episode, we're going to use his colombian party house as the case study. So get ready for some fun. 


01:21

Jacquie

You are very well known for is you used to work for Airbnb. What did you do at Airbnb? 


01:28

Daniel

And now I am their biggest critic. 


01:32

Jacquie

Welcome to the tribe. 


01:35

Daniel

I worked principally in the finance department, so I saw way back when. And I was there early for sure, but the company was already valued at $10 billion by the time I got there, which is crazy to think about because people in San Francisco didn't know about Airbnb. The vast majority. I would talk about Airbnb and they'd be like, air what? No, that's not on my radar yet. In the headquarters cities just a year later, that's when everyone hear about it because they were the scapegoat of rising rent prices, which, by the way, the prices are still sky high and rising, even though there's a significant amount of restrictions on Airbnbs. In fact, my first Airbnb was a couch in my living room, similar to how Airbnb got started. And I got fined $2,500 a year after I stopped hosting because simply I forgot to deactivate it. 


02:24

Tracie

Wow. 


02:25

Jacquie

Oh, wow. 


02:26

Tracie

Good times. 


02:27

Daniel

Yeah, it was part of the reason why I moved out of the States and one of a few series of events, but that was definitely one of them. 


02:35

Jacquie

Interesting. I saw on your website that you got fired from Airbnb. Is that true? 


02:39

Daniel

Yeah. 


02:40

Jacquie

What did you do? Give us the tea, Danny. 


02:45

Daniel

So I was an accountant in the finance. Finance has a few different prongs. I was in accounting department and I was never an accountant. There's advice that I would have given myself back then and at the know I had a job that was society said it was good. My parents were proud of me. My friends were working at Airbnb. Good benefits, good salary. I was also a CPA. But the advice I would give myself is, if you can't be the best, the top in your category, whatever you're doing professionally, then you're not in the right career. There's always going to be a career path that you could be the best, but if you're not the best and you're just mediocre, then everything is just difficult. Doors aren't going to open up. It's going to be hard to go to work. 


03:26

Daniel

It's hard to get through your task because you have no interest in doing it. And that was kind of me. So that's fine. I got through many jobs doing that, being an accountant, not making mistakes, but not really excelling in any way. Pile on top of that, Airbnb and their great hiring practices. The team was very high level, by far the best accounting team I had ever encountered with. And I was a public accountant where I would interact with accounting teams from dozens and dozens of companies. So eventually it just kind of caught up with me. Hey, this isn't right for you. This isn't a good fit for you. It's not a good fit for us. And so they gave me a few months to search within the company and see if I could get a job anywhere else. 


04:07

Daniel

And there was only one place I wanted to get hired, and that was business development. But I couldn't convince them that an accountant would be good in business development. I tried, though. I tried mightily, including a handwritten letter to the head guy who did something with visa. I forget now, but he shouldn't have been working at Airbnb. He was like super important and rich and successful. So I couldn't convince them, although I think I should have because I left Airbnb. When all was said and done, I walked out of the door with $15,000 in Airbnb credit that I earned via a competition, company competition open to only to employees. How many hosts you could refer? And I referred three times as many hosts as the second employee who was in the marketing department. 


04:52

Tracie

Well, that seems like a pretty solid example of business development, but apparently they didn't hear it, so that seems to have been their loss. 


05:00

Jacquie

I bet they regret that now. 


05:04

Daniel

Well, I got brought back, so a different team hired me back shortly after I left, I don't know how long it was. Maybe it was a month maximum, but I feel like it was like a week. I was already back in the office like one or two days a week. I was in a marketing type role. This is when they were recruiting hosts. So I was recruiting hosts in San Francisco, and again, I was first in my class in this whole department. It wasn't a big department, but in the whole group here, I was the first in every single metric. In terms of how many hosts did you refer, how many actually signed up and became active hosts? How many of those active hosts, how many reservations and income did they bring in? So that's when things started clicking for me. 


05:44

Daniel

Like, wait a minute, should I do something else here? I had a good job, society, blah, blah. So for me to scratch that and do something else was a big deal. And when I walked out of the door on that was a Monday evening. This is a common story, but I felt it personally. When you fired, you're like, well, what am I going to feel like now? I don't have a job. Luckily, I've always been good with money, so I was a saver. I had some backup money. I wasn't going to go broke in the next month, but I felt this weight lift off my shoulders. It was the strangest thing. I was like, I'm fired. I feel so great. I don't have to go to work tomorrow. This is awesome. So I played golf. 


06:23

Daniel

It was January while I looked for other jobs, but that was my time at Airbnb. Yeah. And I don't really have anything bad to say about the company. I'm so grateful for that opportunity. 


06:34

Jacquie

Another thing you're very well known for is ranking high in the platform. So give us your top three tips. 


06:44

Daniel

So I'm just going to stick with the basics. Because the basics, most people still need to adjust. All problems fit into three buckets. One is where do you rank? Your ranking is bad, or that's your online optimization number. Two is your hospitality, which results in reviews. And three is pricing. So right now we're talking about just one of the three. So I want the audience to know that because doing this isn't going to make you a success, you need all three. So the top three is going to be title, first five photos and summary text. 


07:16

Jacquie

Well, Danny, we hold up your Airbnb listing. 


07:21

Tracie

We have questions. 


07:22

Jacquie

We have so many questions. The Belmont Penthouse. 


07:26 Daniel

Belmont. 


07:28

Jacquie

Belmonte. 


07:30

Daniel

Oh, hey, Belmonte. Penthouse in Columbia, correct. 


07:34

Tracie

The first question is, I noticed it's for sale. 


07:37

Jacquie

Is that correct? 


07:38

Daniel

Everything is for sale. 


07:40

Tracie

Hey, I love that answer. That's right. True entrepreneur prices. Yes, I love it. 


07:47

Jacquie

My first question is, what is your guest avatar? 


07:51

Daniel

My guest avatar is a 30-40’s year old male, single, coming with a group of friends, 50% of them. It's their first time coming to Medellin, and they're there for three, four days. They're not there for work, they're there for enjoyment. They're staying in an area where there's good dining, there's good nightlife. They don't speak Spanish. That's my avatar. 


08:15

Tracie

So it's a four bedroom, right? 


08:18

Daniel

Correct. 


08:19

Tracie

And you sleep eight, but you also have eight bed. Like, do you get a lot of groups of guys are?


08:31

Daniel

Good, good hack! On Airbnb, you can choose a variety of beds. The guest doesn't care. Typically, I've never had a complaint if it's a sofa bed or a cot or an air mattress, but Airbnb counts some of these as beds on Airbnb. Some of them they do not. It is in your best interest to have the number of beds. So if I have four beds and four air mattresses, they don't count air mattresses as beds. So I would only show up as four. Well, what if I have a group of eight searching for eight beds? My listing wouldn't show up. So I say those four beds. I make sure those four beds are counted as beds on Airbnb. And so I have eight beds on there. So I have four actual beds and I have four blow up mattresses, which I have identified, I think, as maybe couches or something. Never a complaint, but now I show up in more searches. 


09:21

Jacquie

Interesting. Yeah. 


09:23

Tracie

I did notice that it was after four. Like, if they wanted the extra beds, they needed to let you know in advance. So it's clearly not something that's just set up in the listing. But that makes sense that you're basically hacking the search algorithm. 


09:36

Daniel

Yeah. Well, in my case, they don't need to know in advance because they're just in the basement. But there is a charge. I don't really want eight people. If you want to pay me $75 person, so the average nightly rate is 500. If you want to pay me at $75, which isn't too cheap. So if there's five people booking, that's 125. So extra additional person is 75. So it's not that much of a discount, then. I'm happy to accept, but the vast majority of my reservations are four people. 


10:03

Jacquie

I'm so curious, what is a social bathroom? 


10:07

Daniel

Oh, a social bathroom. Oh, interesting. That's just the bathroom, like, in the living room, where everyone can use, available to the public. Yeah. 


10:16

Jacquie

Okay.

 

10:16

Tracie

Got it. 


10:17

Daniel

That's not a thing. No. Yeah, it is. What do we call it in the US? 


10:20

Tracie

I mean, I normally just call them hall baths. Like, it's the hall bathroom. 


10:24

Jacquie

We weren't sure if it was a joke. We were like, oh, are people hanging out in the shower together? 


10:28

Tracie

What kind of parties going on in the bathroom? What kind of situation have you got there? 


10:34

Daniel

It's a colombian thing. Like, you would never buy a house without a social, Banyo social. So that's like a thing? That's like a category. Okay. You have these many bathrooms in there. Yeah. So that's just a hop over from the local culture, I suppose, but that's not my avatar, so they're probably wondering the same thing. 


10:53

Tracie

Yeah. To your point, I noticed that you allow visitors, which is interesting. I don't. But I also noticed there was a charge for the second visitor. Is that something to do with the concierge or the building, or is that just another revenue stream? 


11:10

Daniel

I hope none of my future guests are going to find this. Sometimes they do. I have had guests who reach out to me and they're like, oh, you're doing this because of that? And I'm like, oh, you've seen me somewhere else besides my Airbnb profile, where I'm at, and my avatar. As I said, they're single men. And Colombia, one of the things known for is they're attractive women. So a lot of guys come there with their eyes wide open. They're like, I hope I can meet a gorgeous colombian woman. And so oftentimes the question is, do you allow visitors at your house? Because a lot of the hotels, they allow visitors as well as is normal, but they charge, like, an absurd amount, like $100 or something. 


11:49

Daniel

To have anyone in this is a common question for my avatar, so I make that, I highlight that and let them know that guests are allowed. In my case, I have a 24/7 security guard, so anyone who comes in, they record the name, they take the id. I have daily cleaning, so my maid goes in and sees how many guests booked, how many guests are there in the morning. It's a party house as well that comes with goods and bads. But party house, I mean that in the truest sense, where the vast majority of reservations are, like, coming to party until 2, 3, 4, 5, 6:00 a.m. So I'm just speaking to my guests what they're going to ask me, and that's what I'm highlighting in the listing. And I don't actually charge for extra guests because I'm not in that business. 

12:32

Daniel

It's a lot of extra work. It takes a lot of extra money to charge for extra breakfast and a few drinks and visitors and this and that. So I mostly don't charge for any of that extra stuff. 


12:42

Jacquie

I was fascinated by your space section. Typically, people use the space section to really detail what they're going to find in their space. But you used your space section to cover feedback from guests, positive and negative feedback, so that guests know exactly what to expect. It almost feels like you're anticipating the questions and people's needs by how you fill out your listing. Tell me more about your strategy with the space section in your listing. 


13:13

Daniel

Yeah. All negative reviews are the result of mismanaged expectations. I'm doing my taxes right now. My accountant is doing my taxes. Not me, actually, my accountant. I submitted my taxes in June, so it's September. And I emailed them and I said, hey, when are they going to be ready? I was like, september 22. The guy just responded, said, like, we're working on them, which I was like, terrible customer service. So I reached out, like, a week ago, and I said, hey, guys, can you give me an eta? They're due October 15 because I'm an expat. They're due a little bit later. And he's like, yeah, I think we'll be done in 24 to 48 hours. And I just got email yesterday with a bunch of questions. So why am I saying that? Well, they're not setting my expectations. That's why I'm upset. 


13:58

Daniel

It's like I'm in a virtual prison. Like I have no idea what the future. When are you getting them? Oh, now you need questions answered. All of my text and my communication, and when I do a live check in, it's all about setting expectations and resetting expectations. So I know that a positive is a negative for some people. I mean, I have no elevators. You have to take the stairs if that's a big deal for you. I don't want you booking my listing. You're going to have to go up and down five, six times a day. So I want you to know that up front.

 

14:29

Jacquie

I love that. I'm about to go overhaul all my listings. 


14:34

Daniel

I have a concept called three pros and two cons to help hosts, because hosts are, they do good, they get in their sales mindset. But a negative does not mean a guest is not going to book there. You're just setting expectations. My neighborhood is up and coming. Something like that. That's okay. The guest understands what your offer is, which is a combination of your price and your value that you're offering. A lot of the times hosts don't properly offer value. They have a lot of value in their house, but they don't let the guests know about that. I call them fpg’s, future potential guests. So that's one way a host can put themselves in that mindset to think about, hey, everyone has negatives. What are your negatives? And how can you phrase them in a way that doesn't scare away guests? 


15:17

Daniel

One would be like, I have a baby living upstairs, a family living upstairs. Oh, that's. Careful how you word that. You should say that to avoid negative reviews. But if you word that in a particular way, that would be something where someone would not book your listing if they heard that. So there's some things that someone just wants to know, okay, the neighborhood isn't. You're not living in a luxury neighborhood. I could do with that. There's noise. I had that one host told me, just want to let you know there's noise. You're next to a busy street. There was noise, but I couldn't get upset because the host told me. I said, okay, but it looks nice, and it's where I want to. I. So I stayed there. So three pros and two cons. 


15:53

Tracie

Got it. It's important for anyone listening to understand also that, Danny, your place is stunning. So it sells itself off the page for one. And you clearly know who your guest is. We knew who your avatar is before we asked. We just wanted to hear it from you because it's designed and curated specifically for that guest. And I love this. Two pros and a con approach to covering all of the facets of the property. We're all about managing expectations. It really is a great idea, but it's the whole package, right? As you said, we're talking about one piece of a much bigger grand strategy. Your design and your copy and your amenities and even your rules about guests are all drafted around this one guest that you're trying to attract. 


16:50

Tracie

And clearly, you're doing it very well because your nightly rate and your occupancy is through the roof. Having that vision and that specific brand identity, I think is really important to a lot of the listeners to understand is that you can't be everything to everyone and be really great at it. You have to kind of understand what your niche is. 


17:14

Daniel

That sentence is very deep. And I'll just touch on it a little bit. Airbnb is in the

business of making you cater to everyone, how they lay out their website. Everything's the same. So it's pretty difficult to separate yourself from the competition. So you have to take everything into consideration. 


17:32

Jacquie

I have to know. I just have to know. I have to know your strategy around the title and the top five photos. I'd love to hear it. 


17:40

Daniel

The title hosts are very confused because they used to show Airbnb has three pages before you can make a reservation. P one, p two, p three. P one is the first page. You want to search the location. There's no optimization hosts can do on that page. You're just hoping the guest goes to your location. In my book, one of the chapters is the guest search behavior. This is apart from me working at Airbnb. This is, I feel my most unique aspect is my perspective of being a guest. No other expert on the face of this earth lives in Airbnbs and has that perspective. So one of the chapters is, well, how does a guest actually search, and how do we optimize each of those levels? 


18:20

Daniel

So I talk about on P two, which is with the map on the right side, if you're looking on desktop, what are the potential optimizations there? So Airbnb removed the title from there, and then they put it back. But they put it back in a way that no one's really seeing it. It's grayed out and it's kind of down below. So p two, essentially, the title is no longer on P two. If you have emojis, you can get rid of them. They're no longer colored, they're not useful. If you have a great title, you could keep them because it still catches the attention mentioned on P three. So I have now the title is for the guest, if you keep that in mind. So you have to know your guest avatar and what are they wanting. 


18:54

Daniel

The title has become the most important text in the past. It was different because the guest saw it on P two and it encouraged the click. It no longer encourages the click. So on P three, what you want to do, that's the first thing that guests read the title. So what you want to do is you want to draw the guest's attention there somehow, if you can, any way you can. Airbrush has limited how you can do that. And then you want to speak to the guest in terms of amenities, what are they getting? They already know the price. They probably already filter that on P two, what are they getting? What is the top. If you could fit five amenities. Sometimes people are able to fit five, but three. Three to five amenities in your title. 


19:31

Daniel

But the amenities are important to the guest. They may not be your most important amenities. Think about who's booking. If it's a family place and you have some themed rooms, and those themed rooms are obviously visible on the COVID photo, then you don't also want to put that in the title. You're doubling up information. So the COVID photo should never be the same thing as the title. Or you have a rooftop hot tub. You shouldn't say rooftop hot tub. Or if you have a four bedroom, four bathroom house, you wouldn't say four bedroom house, which a lot of people do. Four Br. That's repeat information. So whatever those amenities might be, for me it's daily cleaning and breakfast. It's flexible guest policy. It's flexible. Check in and check out. 


20:08

Jacquie

You're speaking my language. Just going to throw that out there. Thank you for confirming everything I do. 


20:15

Daniel

Great. 


20:17

Jacquie

I appreciate you and your top five photos. I'm curious about this because I feel like I know, but I feel like I'd keep trying. I'm still experimenting with it. What is your strategy around your top five photos? 


20:28

Daniel

They should be your best five photos in terms of visually your best five photos, not necessarily the rooms that the guest is going to use the most. So it has to be visually pleasing or the guest is going to use the room. Well, let me give an example while I think through that feedback. So I used to have my kitchen, which looks nice, opens up to the jacuzzi in the top five. But then I realized no one's using the kitchen except asian guests. And my asian guests are less than 10% of my reserving guests. So even though my kitchen looks nice, visually looks nice, you also have to balance that with, well, do guests care about it, though? And what are your other photos? If I didn't have any other photos, that was like clearly my best photo, that would be number one. 


21:08

Daniel

But I have other photos. So I moved that to the last half of the set of the photos. 


21:13

Jacquie

I love that. I always like to leave a little mystery in photo number one. I don't want them to sum up my whole listing in that first photo. Right. I want to pick a photo that's going to get them to click and look further. Sometimes I feel like there are photos that are beautiful, but I feel like they sum up my whole listing in one photo and I don't want to use that. I want to get people to click further. If that makes sense. 


21:33

Daniel


Yeah. One trap that I see hosts falling into is their cover photo is too detailed, there's too much going on. So each photo, especially on mobile, should just be ideally one thing, whether that's the dining table, whether that's the kitchen, whether that's the jacuzzi. Just one thing, because a guest isn't spending a lot of time per photo. So you want them to know exactly what it is real quick. 


21:57

Tracie

I've seen this new trend where people are doing quadrants for their lead photo, so they're getting like four smaller photos in that lead photo. Have you seen that at all? 


22:08

Daniel

Yeah, I've seen that. I'm not a fan. It looks spammy. It's oftentimes not well done. So they're not spending 8 seconds going through each one of those four quadrants. Typically there's text on it. I have been doing something different where on my cover photo I kind of gray out one side, but lightly, and I add text, three, four things to that cover photo so they can still see what's behind, but they also have some text to read. I'm testing that out currently. So TBD, I've been giving it to some if you buy a super host optimization from me, which is where I go in and optimize your online listing, that's one of the photos that I include, and I've gotten good feedback. Hosts seem to like that, but hosts always don't love the stuff that actually works. 


22:50

Daniel

It does look cool, I will admit, but I'm still testing if it actually works. That's the most important thing for me. 


22:55

Tracie

What percent of your bookings at this point are direct versus Airbnb? And do you use any other otas, or is it just Airbnb indirect? 


23:06

Daniel

Just Airbnb and direct. 


23:09

Jacquie

And I guess for our listeners, we know why we are just doing direct booking and Airbnb. But for our listeners, do you want to kind of explain why you only have Airbnb and direct booking? 


23:20

Daniel

In an ideal world, you only need Airbnb because it simplifies your life. All of your reviews are concentrated on Airbnb. Whoever ranks number one on Airbnb is making Airbnb the most money. That kind of makes sense. So for those reasons, I just try and stay on Airbnb. If you have extreme seasonality and you want to cater, if there's like Ota that's specific for snowbirds or mountaineers, then maybe you want to open up to a third OTA for just in my opinion. Ideally, if you're in a city that can just support an Airbnb then that is ideal for me.

 

23:56

Tracie

I noticed you used a digital guidebook. Is there one that you are fond of or what's your opinion on the different ones that are out there? 



24:05

Daniel

Yeah, I do use a digital guidebook and I suggest everyone use it. It's free. Various services are free. I'm currently using a service called hostfully. 


24:14

Tracie

Yay. Yeah, me too. 


24:17

Jacquie

Thank you for joining us and hanging out with us. I do. However, I don't want to end this without you offering a promo code, so. 


24:25

Daniel


Strip will give you if you would like to join your listeners, 50% discount off of my program. You'll provide a link as well. It's like an extension of my book. We're going through all the concepts in the book plus some more. Like my vacation rental market analysis. You get access to a forum where the members are where I am and you get some free goodies as well. If you're going to buy some stuff on the website, being a program participant, you get some free stuff. You also get some bonus stuff. I gave away some free audiobooks, the pdf guidebook. I test it with the group participants, give a few versions away to improve the product. So I hope to see many of your listeners come and join us. 


25:03

Tracie

Oh my gosh, I have so much to change based off of this episode. I hope you are bubbling over with ideas to tweak on your listing too. If you want even more tips, be sure to check the STR Insiders website and both of Daniel's episodes for more resources and a crazy discount on his profitable properties program. We'll see you soon. 


25:30

Jacquie

If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so grateful if you rated and reviewed it. Also subscribe for more Insider Knowledge. We can help you get the edge in the STR world. You can find additional resources for your STR journey as well as our social media handles at the. 




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