Skift Take

New York Times is a good barometer of mainstream zeitgeist beyond the bubble of tech startup world, and Airbnb has crossed the threshold of being a consumer brand known around the world in a relatively short time. This NYT "timeline" shows how, in its own arcane way.

Last week the March issue of Harper’s magazine had a very interesting short column that is getting a lot of attention among the media set on Twitter: how the New York Times has described Buzzfeed over the years, as a proxy to tracking the meteoric rise of the company, and its mainstreaming among today’s modern media consumers.

These descriptions in Times stories went from the strange in the early days (“a trend-tracking site”) to the very familiar now that Buzzfeed is a huge machine (“Buzzfeed, the website”).

That inspired us to test something similar in travel: how Airbnb has been described in New York Times stories over the years, a full 546 of them since the first mention in May 2009, almost two years after it was launched as “AirBed & Breakfast.” That startup changed its name to Airbnb in March 2009, and has since changed how people think about short-term rentals.

It started with Airbnb’s image in these early Times stories as a frugal place to crash in a city/region (which was and still is true as its brand image) to a huge startup success story with big implications on how cities are trying to deal with the “sharing economy”, and its increasing inroads into the more professional hospitality sector.

  • May 17, 2009: AirBed & Breakfast, a Web-based company that hooks up locals with visitors looking for a place to crash.
  • Oct 28, 2009:, a Web site started in 2007 that connects budget travelers with locals who are offering anything from an air mattress in their living room to a private bedroom in a luxury loft — for a fee. It’s a cross between and the vacation rentals section of Craigslist.
  • March 10, 2010:, a Web site that lets people rent out their futons, spare rooms and entire apartments to travelers like myself; it’s a cross between Craigslist, CouchSurfing and
  • July 15, 2010: A new kind of short-term rental service called
  • Aug 28, 2010: The peer-to-peer travel site Airbnb
  • Nov 10, 2010: Airbnb, the service that matches budget-minded travelers with locals who are willing to rent out an extra bedroom.
  • May 25, 2011: Airbnb, a start-up company in San Francisco that matches budget-conscious travelers with local people who are willing to rent out their spare bedrooms.
  • July 25, 2011: Airbnb, a Web site that streamlines the process of renting out her extra bedrooms to travelers.
  • Aug 1, 2011: Airbnb, a service that lets people rent out their spare bedrooms to adventurous travelers.
  • Aug 3, 2011: Airbnb, a popular apartment-sharing Web site.
  • Nov 11, 2011: Airbnb allows people to rent out their entire home or apartment — or just a room or a bed — to others who find Marriott boring or want to see life in a new area as a local would.
  • Jan 18, 2012: Online lodging service Airbnb.
  • Mar 31, 2012: Online booking agency Airbnb.
  • Apr 20, 2012: Airbnb, which allows you to rent out your whole home (or just a room or couch) for however many nights you want.
  • July 5, 2012: Airbnb, a popular Web rental service for apartments or single rooms.
  • May 10, 2013: Airbnb, a travel phenomenon made possible by the Web.
  • July 10, 2013: Airbnb, the home-sharing giant.
  • Nov 4, 2013: Airbnb is a service that is adored by some, despised by others, and most commonly known as a place to rent out your apartment while you’re out of town for a few days.
  • Dec 15, 2013: Airbnb, which lets travelers rent accommodations in private residences worldwide.
  • Dec 21, 2013: Airbnb, the site on which anyone can rent a spare bedroom to anyone else around the world and pick up a little cash.
  • All through 2014: Airbnb.
  • Apr 22, 2014: Airbnb, which enables people to turn their homes into minihotels.
  • Apr 23, 2014: Airbnb, the largest apartment-sharing company.
  • Apr 29, 2014: Airbnb, the incredibly successful home rental service.
  • June 3, 2014: Airbnb, a San Francisco startup that has grown into a $10 billion business by letting strangers share their homes for a fee.
  • July 3, 2014: Airbnb, the online lodging site and popular Silicon Valley emblem of the sharing-loving-trusting-hugging-anyone-can-be-Conrad-Hilton economy.
  • July 18, 2014: Airbnb, the online lodging site that has recently provoked the ire of local governments in Barcelona, San Francisco and New York City.
  • Oct 16, 2014: Airbnb, the pioneering home rental service.
  • Dec 26, 2014: The online company Airbnb.
  • Dec 30, 2014: Airbnb, the company that is disrupting the hotel industry.
  • Jan 2, 2015: Have you heard of Airbnb? Of course you have.
  • Feb 18, 2015: Airbnb, a world-conquering start-up.

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Tags: airbnb

Photo credit: The early 2008 design of Airbnb, then called AirBed&Breakfast.

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