MapQuest ramps up travel services with Pinterest-style Discover planning and sharing platform
But with 40 million unique visitors a month still using the core mapping product (and “mapquest” regularly one of the highest travel-related search terms in the US), its decision to introduce a Pinterest-style service could be an obvious move.
The AOL-owned company says it wants to position itself at the heart of the travel planning process, allowing users to browse content (images and editorial), create collections of trip ideas, discover new places in a destination and share around their networks.
MapQuest Discover is a beta product being launched this week, combining content from an in-house writing team as well as other sources such as AOL Travel and Gadling with recommendations and leaderboards of the most popular things to do in a destination.
The service looks and feels very similar to the Pinterest “boards”, where users can essentially curate content into collections for safe-keeping as they form ideas for a trip.
These collections can be shared on Facebook, Twitter et al, but also edited to become depositories of images from a user’s trip. A blogging/journal element provided by recent acquisition Everlater is on the cards for early-2013.
Alongside the board service, and with the vast majority of traffic to the existing mapping service (desktop, mobile web and apps) comes from North American users, MapQuest has initially created around 30,000 city pages for the US and Canada.
Each page features points of interest, a map, links to collections of content and the opportunity to book some services such as hotels (by way of an affiliate deal with Hotels.com).
One particularly clever aspect of the new city pages is how MapQuest has managed to create the leaderboards of things to do in a destination.
Building on its Vibe service launched in October 2011, MapQuest has crunched the data captured when people are searching for directions in a location to pinpoint which might be the most popular restaurants or other products.
An algorithm has been programmed to recognise when a search on the service is most likely to have come from a local just looking for domestic-type service, rather than someone from out of town looking for a leisure activity.
MapQuest is hoping the ability to create collections of any content related to any destination around the world could naturally lead to it beginning to find relevance (and users) in markets outside of its traditional stronghold of the US.
It hopes to make money from the affiliate products but also allowing travel-related companies (such as hotel chain IHG, a launch parter) to sponsor branded pages of content.
Kevin May is a senior editor and one of the co-founders at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and will be publishing his first book - a biography about electronic band, Depeche Mode - soon.