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SideStep Buys TravelPost

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SideStep acquired TravelPost for a combination of cash and stock. TravelPost will become a wholly owned subsidiary of SideStep.

According to the press release, "TravelPost.com has grown into a leading source for unbiased user-generated hotel reviews and ratings, travel news, information resources and travel blogs. The company has excelled at organizing travel information to improve the way people research and shop for travel."

TravelPost, with over 500,000 hotel reviews on its site, might be the smartest little travel site you've never heard of. The coolest feature is the ability to filter hotel reviews by Age, Gender, Budget, and Trip Purpose. TravelPost requires the reviewer to enter demographic information before posting.

As Sam Shank, CEO of TravelPost explained, I'd take trips off of my friends' advice or itineraries and have an amazing time because I'd stay at the right hotel or go to the right restaurant for me. [TravelPost] was a way to automate that word of mouth process."

TravelPost already is a close partner of SideStep, providing a subset of the hotel reviews found on the site. SideStep also works with PowerReviews and offers expert editorial content. SideStep has been an advertising partner of TravelPost for the last 6-8 months.

According to Sam "We have direct relationships with the Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and direct relationships with a majority of the major hotel brands like InterContinental, Hilton, and Marriott. We don't see any of that presentation changing on TravelPost in immediate future, but this acquisition lends itself to lots of experimentation."

Asked if there's a conflict with these advertisers since some of the major OTAs, Expedia and Travelocity, don't work with SideStep, Rob Solomon, CEO of SideStep responded "we're a media company – we want to work with the best advertisers in the space. We'll continue to work with the OTAs. Expedia and Travelocity don't participate in search on SideStep, but they spend money on SideStep in the form of deals and graphical media. While they [OTAs] say they don't want to commoditize their offerings, SideStep had 5 million uniques over the summer. [The OTAs] will wake up and realize have to participate. Travel search is a very real model and a legitimate part of the travel ecosystem. We're where NexTag, Shopzilla, and Shopping.com were 4 years ago."

It's interesting to note that Rob is the former GM of Yahoo! Shopping and Sam is a former employee of NexTag, so they both have plenty of experience with vertical search.

Sam and Rob both stressed the core of this deal is about user generated content. Sam explained "in travel, word of mouth and [recommendations from] friends are key. There's no better source of information than other people like you." Rob added "TravelPost really increases the corpus of information that's out there by allowing users to express their opinions. When you combine TravelPost with our scale, the consumer ends up winning."


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