TripReactor helps sites generate revenue with native advertising
Boston startup TripReactor aims to help companies make money by offering advertorials, or “native advertising.”
The company offers “pop-out travel guides” that curate activities, restaurants and hotels at particular destinations, with a platform’s editorial paired with advertising from relevant travel brands.
Last week, TripReactor began powering ads for its first client, infotainment portal Boston.com.
Vagabondish, a meta blog that primarily features the content of star travel bloggers worldwide, is next in line to trial the service.
TripReactor, founded by a team of former engineers from Microsoft and IBM, was a 2012 finalist in MassChallenge, a $1 million startup accelerator and competition.
It has raised a five-figure seed round from Boston and NYC angels, including David Chang (of PayPal), Scott Heller, Mario Ricciardelli, and Mike Dornbrook.
Q&A with founder Michael Raybman:
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves?
TripReactor is a native advertising platform for travel and lifestyle content.
We extends publisher webpages to let people find relevant deals, local spots, hotels, and other travel products uniquely matched to each piece of content they are reading.
Our goal is to make advertising so relevant that people can gain value without even clicking on it. When they do click on it, it becomes a “call-to-action” of editorial content.
All of our display units are highly content-rich and interactive, so users can both learn something new and qualify themselves as potential consumers if they are interested.
As a result, suppliers get stronger leads and higher click through rate (CTR), while advertisers get revenue and stickier users.
We make money when advertisers pay for clicks, impressions, and conversions through our display units on publisher sites.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
We enable publishers to make more money, and enable advertisers to earn more leads from their online display campaigns by visually exposing their brand to consumers who are already looking for it.
Most travel advertisers offer only IAB-based units that are completely impersonal, disconnected from the content they are served with, and convert poorly. Several smaller companies are taking a different approach – like Sharethrough with video ads.
How did your initial idea evolve?
I was previously a big data software developer at Partners Healthcare, and founder of WaySavvy, a consumer travel startup.
We considered going to market with a direct-to-consumer application.
However, with the challenges of a very high customer acquisition cost in a market with inherently low viral coefficient (your friends don’t necessarily travel when you do), it made more sense to go the B2B2C route.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time?
We seek to be the online advertising platform of choice for travel and lifestyle brands.
It’s a big engineering task, given the various existing players in the ad tech industry we will need to interface with, and the amount of data we have to process. (Even today, we’re tracking millions of data points every month).
Thankfully, our team has lots of big data expertise. And beer.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Who clicks on travel banner ads? We sure don’t.
We did the research and found that we’re not alone – 99.95% of online display ads will never get clicked. On mobile devices, 31% of ads will never even get seen.
We believe this is a problem that needs to be fixed. Travel is inherently experiential – you can’t “return” a bad trip, so people rely heavily on editorial content before embarking on a journey.
However, that editorial content is populated with ads that add no value! So, advertisers and publishers lose an opportunity to turn interested travellers into qualified leads.
TripReactor is fixing that.
Travel is fun, engaging, and emotional. Online travel advertising is not.
I’ll note that interstitial travel ads in print magazines are often quite cool! Many of us spend more time looking at those than actually reading articles. We need to bring this experience to the web, at scale.
Great travel startups solve a problem that actually exists and that is probably enough of a pain point that someone would pay for a solution; something the founders themselves want to have as a solution (i.e., they are their own test customers); and a problem that few others realize are worth solving.
Having strong engineering chops matters, too.
TripReactor ticks all of those boxes, at least from the outside looking in.
There’s a clear market opportunity here:
$500 million per year is spent on online display ads in travel alone. More broadly, travel accounts for over 30% of all online spending according to ComScore.
Native advertising has been a huge growth sector in these categories for other content topics, but travel is relatively untouched by digital forms of advertorial.
Out of the gate, TripReactor’s biz dev is a worry point. The team appears weak on sales, so the product will have to sell itself.
A lot will depend on the success of the Boston.com and Vagabondish partnerhips, which will be used as testimonials, case studies and calling cards.
On the bright side, the counterparts they’re selling to at companies will tend to be in their same age cohort, so there should at least be a cultural rapport to work with.
This may turn out to be a niche product, but a profitable one. Will be interesting to follow.
Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.