Since the early days of the Web, travel has been one of the fastest growing segments on the Internet. So much so that it has changed the business model of the airlines and nearly decimated the travel agent industry.
While much of the attention has been on the transactional sites that book travel, there have been many other pockets of innovation in this space. One of the most innovative has been TripAdvisor, a subsidiary of Expedia which was spun off last year from Interactive Corp (IAC). Expedia itself has always been a technology leader, perhaps due to its origins within Microsoft. TripAdvisor was acquired by IAC/Interactive (which then owned Expedia) in the spring of 2004, and is a lead generation site for the travel industry.
TripAdvisor brings together two of my favorite themes in the content industry – lead generation and reviews and ratings. TripAdvisor provides users with travel information and recommendations for hotel accommodations, restaurants and activities on various destinations. The most valuable part of the TripAdvisor content are the ratings. I find their hotel ratings invaluable as a means of finding quality hotels at a reasonable price.
TripAdvisor has recently taken another step up the user-generated content chain, launching wiki-based content branded as TripAdvisor Inside. These special content sections, each focused on a city or state (see example for Inside Palo Alto), are collaborative, user-created editorial pages with sections for history, things to do, dining scene and more. With its recent launch, the content right now is a bit sparse (only nine restaurants in Palo Alto) but that’s sure to grow in time.
Just last week, TripAdvisor launched what they call goLists, where users can contribute lists of places to go, things to see, sample itineraries, etc. Similar in concept to an Amazon Favorites List, this is another example of leveraging the community to create valuable content.
TripAdvisor has done a terrific job in building valuable content, which in turn generates significant leads for their travel partners. Their star ratings and reviews have created a barrier to entry for new competitors, and their new wiki pages show that they understand how to leverage their community to develop more compelling content. In creating a balance that addresses the needs of their advertisers and users, while continuing to embrace new technologies, TripAdvisor is clearly one of the 50 Content Companies that Matter.