SM: What are your top target segments?
CL: We’ve been called the “long tail of travel websites” but that’s not completely accurate. RandMcNally.com, LonelyPlanet.com, WAYN.com and AreaGuides.net are hardly long tail publishers. These are premium properties with deeply integrated advertising packages that command high CPMs. Generally speaking, we make most of our revenue comes from connecting large travel advertisers with the niche travel websites.
SM: How did you penetrate the market and get early traction?
CL: Hard work and creative credit card pay-off programs. Seriously—we stayed under the radar, kept our focus, listened to clients’ needs and avoided going off a cliff chasing the next big thing every other month. I don’t know if you want to call it healthy skepticism or contrarian thinking, but we have avoided a lot of dead ends that were billed as ‘the next big thing.’ We were able to sign up a lot of great websites by going after the ones no one was looking at. We signed on travel publishers that had never had advertising before, ahead of ones that were with other networks.
From a market penetration perspective, we were pretty aggressive early on in going after travel advertisers. We knew we had a valuable audience and we weren’t shy about trying to shake up the agencies that just photocopied the previous year’s media plan for the coming year. What got us early traction was developing the trust and reputation of our advertisers and publishers and keeping business.
Once we were able afford Comscore and prove—through third-party data—that we had the largest travel information audience online (bigger than Yahoo Travel), then we came of age as a media outlet.
We were able to build the largest travel information audience online for less than $500,000 in investment. That’s something that I hope all our first hires will look back on with pride.
SM: I love it! Congratulations, Cree. You’re a down-to-earth guy.