The story of Travora is the story of what happens to mismanaged overfunded startups in a complex space as the market turns on them.
Travora Media, the online travel content and ad network, is in the process of shutting down, and is selling off pieces of its brand to whoever will pay anything. Almost. Our sources indicate it is in the final stages of selling off its ads network — formerly called Travel Ad Network – though we don’t yet know to whom.
On its media/content side, the ambitious-but-ill-fated Travora.com launched, then almost immediately did some layoffs and ceased posting new content to its site in early December, and the company has been trying to sell the content assets in a fire sale ever since.
Today, USA Today’s Travel Media Group announced that it has acquired 10Best.com, the travel list site that was part of Travora and plans to retain it as a standalone site. It will also feature its content on the newspaper’s existing mobile and Web platforms.
No price was disclosed, but it was likely minimal to nothing. Digital guide publisher NileGuide, which merged with Travora in April of 2012, bought the 10Best.com name and its consumer content from the EnViritas Group in January of 2011. EnViritas kept 10Best’s profitable custom content division that was responsible for white-label sites for travel companies such as InterContinental Hotels and Thomas Cook. Shortly after Nile purchased 10Best, Google’s Panda update wiped out over 80% of the site’s search traffic because of the sub-standard quality of the content. Hopefully USAT will help raise quality and rank now.
What it means for USA Today
The travel group, part of a larger USA Today brand that’s struggling to reinvent itself, intends to build up its content assets to reach “travelers every step of the way in their travel planning experience — from research to booking to travel reviews.” Which means moving beyond its newsroom.
To that end, USA Today and its Gannett parent entered into a joint venture to launch hotel-review site HotelMe in September 2012. That followed USA Today’s development of The Point last year, which is deployed at more than 3,000 hotels, and integrated into hotels’ Wi-Fi systems, providing news and information.
Travora’s gloom story
For Travora, starting from its previous incarnation as a travel-focused ad network, everything that could possibly have gone wrong in a heavily funded startup, did. From the market turning sour on traditional online ad networks to utter management disarray, to pivoting too late to multiple other sub-plots too detailed to go into here, it had it all.
It raised a solid $33 million plus in funding from Rho Capital Ventures, Village Ventures, StarVest Partners, Austin Ventures, and Tenaya Capital over the years, and did multiple small acquisitions along the way, and finally pivoted. Likely every VC who invested will lose almost all of it with this asset sale.
The story of this failure is also a larger indicator of venture sector’s lack of understanding of the fragmented nature of consumer side of travel, and symptomatic of how it has funded startup after startup in online travel and has failed with almost all of them.
With Travora’s sale of 10Best to USA Today and its ad network to the undisclosed buyer, it’s likely still trying to sell off NileGuide and Travora.com. This will be a challenge. The Travora “purchase” of Nile earlier this year was anything but, and it will be a challenge convincing a third party to pay for something Travora wouldn’t pay for itself. Travora, which curiously wasn’t even mentioned in USA Today’s announcement, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, though we have been asking them for this story since December, when we first got the word that they were shutting down.
Disclosure: Dennis Schaal is a travel tech columnist contributor for USA Today.