There's a hole in the market for quality travel content that works for people who are in the research phase of holiday booking and tour operators have been way too slow to fill it. Simon Nixon reckons he can fill that gap and has deep pockets too. Some say he's worth £295 million.
Similar in approach to thetraveleditor.com, Simonseeks will offer writers who contribute to the site a share of advertising revenue. I was quite involved in thetraveleditor but decided to not participate in the end, feeling that the revenue share wasn't sufficient and that they really didn't know too much about SEO - which is pretty crucial.
I think this is where simonseeks could be different. I've contributed a few articles for the launch and they are using a formatted template that requires writers to add meta-data and makes them tag their features too. Unsurprisingly the team at simonseeks know a thing or two about how to make websites work. They've also signed up Nick Trend, who has a lot of travel writing and editing experience for the likes of Which?, The Telegraph and Conde Nast traveller, to be editor.
The press release talks about a 'new cottage industry' of travel writers working from home earning money by creating content and taking their share of the ad revenue - which as I understand it will be a fairly decent 50%. I've just discovered from Fiona Reece who is doing PR for the launch (and sent me the press release) that 300 writers have contributed 1000 articles already.
Part of me hopes they are successful and that maybe I get to share in that success... but there's concern too. I don't like the idea of being part of a 'cottage industry'. I have a writer profile on the site which has a mark on it saying 'Travel Professional' but the strap line for the site is Travel Guides for you, by you. That for me speaks volumes. Professional travel journalism as those of us in the profession know it is pretty much finished now. Here's some more detail from the 'about' page.
Anyone can do it, and make money out of it. You write your own
articles, or guides, post them up on the site, and we will do the rest.
Although we will always check that any guides submitted are up to our
high standards of accuracy before we publish them, the site is open to
all - whether you are a professional journalist, an expert in a
particular field of travel, a student, publisher, or simply someone who
loves travelling and wants to share your experiences with others.
Let's face it, I'm a bit of a snob. I don't know that I want my writing alongside that of wannabetravelwriterbackpacker or whoever. This is the market at its most aggressive and brutal and its scary. I know a thing or two about SEO so maybe I can manipulate features that I contribute to be more visible and hence attract more ad revenue? But there's a limit to the number of features they'll need on Seville for example - I wrote a guidebook to the city so I know it well - but there are 10 features on the site already about Seville that are written by other people.
I wonder too if there's a finite number of features that you can have about a place before there are just too many? Will there come a point where there are too many features about Seville and the mass of information becomes a bit overwhelming?
One thing that I'm not so sure about is the fact that along with all the other UGC sites like TripAdvisor etc there's no attempt at niche here. The intention is to cover the complete universe of travel opportunities. How doable is that? I'd love to know how many days a week Nick Trend is working on the project... it could be a 24 hour editing job. I'd also love to know more about his web experience... I don't know if he has that much of it... I can't find a personal website or a blog for him. But does that matter? (Maybe not.)
So.. do I throw my lot in with them and hope that my years of experience will mean I become one of their most read and valuable travel writers or do I create a small niche site of my own about stuff I'm a real expert on and try and build something myself... and keep all the ad revenue for myself too? I don't know that much yet about monetization, but if Simonseeks has thousands and thousands of pages the value of the ads on each page will be very small I'd imagine, so to make it work it will be a volume game.
What would you do?