Skift Take

Rand McNally's sale of Tripology signals the failure of the mapping company's quest to transform itself into an online travel company.

USA Today‘s Travel Media Group announced the purchase of the travel agent referral site [Editor’s Note: Tripology’s website is no longer functioning] from Rand McNally on April 17.

Tripology was founded in 2007 and temporarly ceased operations in January 2010. Rand McNally acquired Tripology two months later as the Skokie, Illinois-based mapping legend sought to expand its digital presence.

John Peters, the current president of USA Today Travel Media Group, had been the CEO of Tripology when it was a standalone company, and became Rand McNally’s senior vice president of digital strategy and travel when Tripology became a Rand McNally property.

So Peters gets to orchestrate Tripology’s fate once again.

“The acquisition of Tripology fits well into our overall growth strategy,” Peters said in the acquisition announcement. “The USA Today Travel Media Group has been expanding its digital portfolio of travel news, products and services over the past year. For decades, we’ve provided our audience with helpful and easy to use travel content and now we’re adding more tools to help consumers with their travel experience.”

Tripology enables consumers to submit information about trips they are interested in taking, and then up to three travel agents contact them offering their services and suggested itineraries. Travel agents pay Tripology a fee for the referral in the hopes of landing the consumer’s business.

USA Today plans to offer Tripology’s travel agent referral services across parent company Gannett’s more than 100 websites, which it says reach some 52 million monthly unique visitors.

USA Today has been very busy in the past couple of years picking up travel content assets, striking partnerships, and making investments.

In September, USA Today invested in and helped launch HotelMe, a hotel review site with verified guest reviews. That same month, USA Today and launch partner Hilton debuted The Point, a flat-screen “portal” in hotel lobbies that offers guests news, entertainment, and destination content.

Two weeks ago the media brand launched a destination guide to Las Vegas, that will serve as a model for other coverage in major destinations.

And, with Tripology, USA Today likely continues picking up digital travel assets on the cheap. In January, it purchased 10 Best from Travora Media as the one-time ad network wound down its content business.

The purchase prices for Tripology and 10 Best were not revealed.

Both 10 Best and Tripology were flops with consumers, although the former has  destination content and Tripology has relationships with travel agents that USA Today likely believes it can better leverage. With the power of the Gannett media network, USA Today can certainly give Tripology more of a chance, although it remains to be seen what kind of allure working with travel agents will have for consumers planning vacations.



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