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Travora’s shift into publishing on its own follows media/advertising trends, but its disappointing results in mobile and downsizing may foreshadow new challenges ahead.
There’s lots of change under way at Travora Media after its beta launch this month of Travora.com as it axed about 12% of the staff, gears up for the launch of a Travora iPhone app, and reveals it will phase out the NileGuide and TravelMuse brands over the next year.
Responding to a Skift inquiry, CEO Nan-Kirsten Forte says Travora this week laid off 7 people, bringing the staff total to 54, as the business mix tilts away from direct-response advertising toward more “premium” placements and sponsorships from the likes of Cadillac, Skype and Chase, and “mobile [advertising] sales are going a little slower than hoped so we don’t need to be staffed there.”
Forte says Travora realized it doesn’t need “specialty teams” dedicated to mobile advertising and custom publishing.
“I have been sincerely reallocating resources and investing in the future as well as eliminating focus in areas that were not growing and placing focus in the areas that are growing,” Forte says. “That also results in eliminating positions and/or requiring new types of talent.”
Forte, who arrived at Travora in September 2011 from WebMD Health Corp., says the job cuts came mostly in sales and marketing, but there are now five more people at the company than there were at the end of 2011.
There’s some talk that the job trims are more substantial than Forte describes, but a person familiar with the board’s thinking characterizes them as “procedural-plus.” In other words, they’ve gone a bit beyond what might be considered routine.
From ad network to publisher in its own right
Founded around 2003 as Travel Ad Network, the rebranded Travora Media has attracted some $31 million in funding from the likes of Starvest Partners, Rho Ventures and Village Ventures.
Until Forte’s arrival, Travora had solely been an ad network for travel publishers, but with the acquisition of TravelMuse, NileGuide and other travel sites, Travora now owns its own content and it is fusing it all into the recently launched Travora.com, a travel news and information-provider in beta that’s geared to capture an audience for travel and lifestyle advertisers, in travel and outside it.
But, the business mix for the media company is in transition. “We still run X amount of impressions and pay publishers whether we get paid or not,” Forte says. “That business has never been good for our company. We are de-focusing on or minimizing direct response [and getting] into premium display.”
TravelMuse and NileGuide
Travora acquired the assets of trip-planning site TravelMuse in November 2010, and also picked up NileGuide and its 10Best and Localyte brands in April 2012.
Forte says the plan is that the NileGuide, Localyte and TravelMuse brands will be phased out within a year and their content and functionalities would be folded into Travora.com, which along with the listing site 10Best, will be the featured Travora Media properties.
“The Localyte community will be the Travora community,” Forte says.
In some accounts, NileGuide and its 10Best site took a pretty good hit by Google’s Panda updates prior to the purchase by Travora, and this undoubtedly was a factor in Travora’s brand strategy.
On the mobile front, Forte says a Travora iPhone app has been submitted to Apple.
“In a lot of ways, we built an app, and we just happen to have a site,” Forte says.
Taking stock of the Travora app
She describes the pending app as having parallels with the iPhone’s native Stocks app as the Travora app initially will feature 10 cities with associated news, airport information, weather and a currency converter.
Forte says Travora had to debut Travora.com in beta, with its feeds, before it could launch the Travora mobile app.
Travora.com is slated to have an official launch in December, with a homepage redesign and enhanced commenting tools.
Forte says seven of Travora’s top 10 advertisers are travel advertisers and her overall goal is to transform online advertising to travel audiences as it is way below the standards of magazine advertising and often appears as though it “were shoved into a transaction.”
“The beauty of travel advertising is not what it should be,” Forte says. “We want to create a beautiful place for it.”
Travora will have a leaner team to accomplish its goals.