Well, the news is out. The travel content site launched by Simon Nixon (who made a lot of cash with moneysupermarket.com) is being wound down because it's not making enough money. So what went wrong?

I've blogged a lot about this site over the couple of years its been around. Part of me feels a little smug because I always felt they got some basic principles wrong, but I'm also sad because it was offering another avenue for travel writers to earn money for their writing. I'm actually quite surprised it has gone down as I felt they were more or less on the right track.

From launching with the intent of just harvesting what was little more than user generated content (Simon Nixon described a 'new cottage industry of travel writers' which really annoyed me and other pro writers) the site changed direction radically around a year or so ago with the hire of well known travel writer Nick Trend to oversee the roll out of a new strategy to pay pro writers to create 'proper' content. And they paid fairly decent rates too. Clearly the hoped for increase in traffic and bookings via affiliate links on the site didn't materialise quickly enough to offset the extra cost of paying for content. You can see this in the way the site now prominently features a booking engine. So what went wrong?

Simonseeks a dumb URL
The heart of the problem? It was a site for people looking for travel inspiration and travel guides. And its main revenue stream was ad revenue. So people HAD to be able to find its content easily. Lots of different elements go into making pages rank well on google, but a URL that reflects the kind of content on a website is a bit of an obvious requirement. The URL and the name of the site should have been all about travel ideas/guides. Choosing a name like Simonseeks - an unknown brand with no association with travel was plain silly. And, dare I say it, a bit arrogant?

Free content is worthless
If this site proved anything conclusively, it was that the idea that you can just go ask people to post their content on your site and low readers will come and ad revenues will flow just won't work. A few early arrivals like Trip Advisor have made that leap but I'd say personally this model is dead now. There are too many thousands of sites all trying to be the same now and achieving the kind of critical mass of traffic needed is virtually impossible. Unless you go down the content farm route and publish thousands of pages of poor quality content you won't make money this way. And Google is trying(?) hard to stamp out these practices. I think the Murdoch paid-for model will gain the ascendency... eventually, but it will take time and only the big players with the big pockets will have the cash to ride it out.

Brand really matters now
There's so much mediocre travel content out there now that people are lost in it and don't know what they can trust. No one had heard of Simonseeks and so it was never going to become a destination for people looking for travel content without serious advertising investment. The likes of the established guidebook publishers and travel magazines have a real opportunity to make ground here. This is increasingly the case as the Google algorithm seems more and more weighted towards trusted brands. Slowly the on-line world is beginning to look a bit more like the real offline world too.

The right promotion?
Simonseeks was really pushing its pro-writers to develop Facebook and twitter profiles to publicise their content on the site. But from what I've seen and what I know it always felt like it was a bit of a lip-service thing. There was no real incentive to get writers to do this and no social media strategy from Simonseeks editorial team that I am aware of. They could and should have really invested in social media - by that I mean having someone on the editorial team responsible for a twitter feed and Facebook profile engaging with users, publicising content, driving traffic. Instead the blew £2million on TV ads. This for me really made clear that  they didn't 'get' online. Sure it might have worked for Simon's Moneysupermarket.com business, but that kind of site is about people arrivin ready to buy. Simonseeks was far more about people arriving ready to browse, consider, engage... and then maybe buy by clicking through somewhere else. A far lower revenue per visitor kind of model. I'd have spent a quarter of that sum on building a following on twitter and facebook and really leveraging the content that was there.

Wrong platform?
So... where does that leave this kind of concept? Dead and buried I think. The web has moved on - as swiftly as it always does - and I think the way people will pay for travel content in the very near future will be on their smartphones. Maybe a chunk of the 2 million they spent on ads they should have spent on an iPhone app and an android app.

Where next?
Lots of great writers have slogged long and hard to get great content on Simonseeks.com. The pros have been paid a decent rate and so in some ways that's that. But for example my friend Shawn who is the SS expert for Seville now has nowhere for that content. Will she be allowed to take it back and stick it on her own blog? Will SS retain it and delete it? Or will it sit there ageing quietly, the links being farmed and redirected by a third party.

What do you think will happen next and where did Simonseeks go wrong?



60 thoughts on “Why did Simonseeks fail?

  1. I agree with most of what you say. Taking completely the wrong direction in the first place was part of the problem - it killed the chance of becoming a respected brand from the start. From there on, it was a desperate catch-up, and they over-reached in terms of where they covered.

    I think the paid-for model can work, and I also think there's room for ad/ affiliate funded free content. But it has to be exceptional in detail, and you probably need to get the reputation by doing a few places well first, then expanding, rather than blitzing out and trying to do everywhere in the world at once.

    1. Yep. Absolutely. As Alex Bainbridge just tweeted... slowly slowly catchy monkey... start small and build...

  2. Great analysis, Jeremy.

    On your last point, writers retain copyright of their material unless there was some kind of specific agreement to waive that right. (Even then, I would not imagine lawyers getting involved, particularly if the company is wound up).

    If I was your friend, I would copy and paste all her work onto text files for possible future recycling.

  3. Great stuff as always, Jeremy.

    As a writer, two things turned me off. First was the initial approach. A reputable start-up business doesn't transfer the burden of risk onto its suppliers - unless it wants to alienate them very quickly, that is.

    Second was Cliff Richard. As they say over on Twitter, #epicfail.

    1. Well put Matthew. I had the same misgivings about Simonseeks and when I did bend a little in hopes of recycling some good material that had never been online, I found their attitude appalling. A paragraph of my story used as a writing sample on my own static online CV was considered online publication and I was asked to substantially rewrite the piece for them. For nothing. I always felt what they were trying to do was exploitative and I'm not sorry to see that the model has failed.

  4. Great post. Agreed - I know some extremely good writers who've contributed content to the site, and can't help feeling it's a shame another travel site is being forced to close (declaration of interest - I write for 'competitor' http://www.thetraveleditor.com).

    But I don't think it ever got the profile it wanted or seemed to confidently anticipate in the wider online world, and while the changes of direction may have made commercial sense, without being able to decide on its own USP can't have helped draw in readers.

    1. Hi Cathy
      Thanks for the reminder about the travel editor. I know quite a few travel writers who put their content on there and like its more laid back, friendly approach.

      1. I've definitely found it so and the guys behind it very easy to deal with - it's interesting to hear Simon Heptinstall's two very different experiences on SS and TTE. And compared to some of the sums people have quoted that SimonSeeks was paying, TheTravelEditor is beating it hands down...

  5. Interesting and thoughtful analysis.

    I'm also kinda repeating what I already wrote on Twitter, but... I think there's also a more systemic problem for these kinds of destination-focused sites, in that there's *very little* financial space for them to operate. There's lots and lots of choice for "free" available on the Web, of varying quality admittedly... just as you say. OTOH, if they want to top up their ad/referral revenue with some paid-for extras, established and professionally gathered/produced guidebooks can be had for not much more than a fiver. That's almost low enough to label a "micropayment". I'm not quite sure where an ambitious site like this would look to find the cash it needs to keep operating.

  6. Great post and it's no surprise that it's being wound down either. The concept was always flawed and everyone I ever spoke to about it seemed to think the same.

    It's been interesting to track the progress of Simon Seeks and it's demise. My site too offers a platform for travel bloggers and writers but I've always known that financial rewards for the authors would never make a good business model. You'd need a crazy amount of traffic to make a profit worth sharing.

    I still believe free content and incentives to write for a site are the way forward. I'm glad that Simon Seeks has failed as it goes some way to proving I chose the right approach!

  7. great blog J, although i don't agree with everything.

    the name of the site is pretty irrelevant as amazon, expedia and ebay have shown. it's the concept and content that are vital.
    SS was dull, difficult to navigate and made what i think is the big failing of most travel sites - trying to be a guide book to the world. that's impossible and creates a huge expensive boring mess.
    surely it's better to first decide if you want to produce an online guide book for specific travel research or a general interest browse-and-inspire sort of collection of nicely written travel bits. then i think it's better to limit yourself and specialise in one area or type of travel.

    i don;t think SS was well managed or directed, ever. it never seemed to have any fun or flair, like a lovely glossy magazine. it was like some dreary scientific database.

    at their invitation, i bunged some pieces on SS when it started and i made not a penny from them so i never returned. around the same time as you know i put pieces on thetraveleditor and have made some regular money. with travelintelligence i made some money in fits and starts. we're currently going through a 'fits' phase i think. i've got friends who make very good money from suite101 and even google adsense brings in a few quid on blogs and websites.

    i'm pleased it has gone. i feel it's like the big bully has left the playground and we can all potter around happily without him now.

    1. "even google adsense brings in a few quid on blogs and websites."

      It depends what you mean by 'a few quid'. My own Pacific Coast Highway Travel website brought in just under £500 in AdSense income alone in April.

  8. Great post Jeremy and insightful comments from Simon H. I didn't pay much attention to SS although I know of people who write/wrote for them. Just another 399 articles to write and I'll be earning good money from Travel Editor too.

  9. I am one of the Simonseeks experts. I also write regularly for US-based About.com which takes a very different approach. I've always felt that if the two could get together it would have the makings the perfect travel site. Simonseeks had some things very right. The basic guide structure was good, but once there, it was too static. We were asked to drive people to the site, but we had no news element, no blog space. Instead of community content, it should have been turned over to us in the way About.com does to continue to create changing content which we could have used for updates and social media to hit the Google rankings - and give us greater ongoing financial incentives. About.com doesn't pay hugely but I do have wonderful freedom. But they lack the structured guidebook information alongside the articles. One day, someone will get it right and have the patience and the pockets to build it properly.

    1. Interesting, your comment, Melissa, about About.com lacking the structured guidebook alongside the pieces. I think that it actually varies a great deal at About.com and different sites take different approaches that work for them. I usually have the basic "info box" material attached to my pieces. Beyond that it can be a maintenance nightmare because most About.com content is relatively evergreen, There's also a big difference in the amount of content to maintain and the related income incentive of an About.com Guide and a contributing writer. Maintaining up-to-date guide book information on four thousand pieces of content is pretty much impossible and ultimately, in the linked up world of the internet, not really necessary.

  10. I was recently asked to be the Corfu 'expert' for SimonSeeks, and did think about it as it would have brought in a decent amount of money, but I declined. One reason was that I would be expected to rate the quality of service in something like 40 hotels, not all of which I would have stayed in. Even if you stayed in a hotel for one night, it doesn't mean you know what the service is like. Apart from the creative challenge of finding 40 different ways to say 'the staff is friendly', I wasn't prepared to make a statement about the quality of service for a place I hadn't stayed in.

    I also thought that if I had enough time to write 20,000 words on Corfu, or however much it was, I would do it for my own website. You forgo the instant payment, but long-term you're better off.

  11. Not sure I'd agree that free content is worthless, nor that this type of concept is dead. Would agree thought that brand is important and if you don't have one, going gangbusters on expansion is always going to make sustainability a challenge. Two mill on TV ads? Madness.

    The site seemed to me to be trying to be anything but a TripAdvisor clone, but look at it. It's ad and affiliate link heavy with a navigation style designed to maximise pageviews. Nobody actually wants a site like this, they put up with this kind of rubbish from TA solely because it is so big, but you don't start off looking like a madman's maze of adblocks and popups.

    The site never appeared to get much traction traffic wise (I'm going off Alexa here) - despite considerable media coverage - and I can't recall ever seeing a SimonSeeks page in a Google search.

    People will pay for original content and this sort of model can work. The implementation in this case is what is most problematic.

    1. It is probably difficult to compete against the big boys for popular or profitable terms (e.g. london hotels) however I was looking for a weekend break in Madrid and searched google.co.uk for madrid nightlife and simonseeks was up there, so some of their strategies are working.

  12. Former SS Seville Expert here! I agree with Simon H and Melissa that the site lacked fun & flair and felt a bit static. I also agree with Jeremy that a lot more attention should have been focused on a solid social media strategy.

    But for me it was quite a positive experience. I'm pretty sure that SS owns all the content I put up, but all my research notes and rough draughts are in dropbox files and ready to be put to new use. I was also paid well - and promptly - and so have no regrets. Especially as I got to meet some great people. So, thanks for turning them down Jeremy!

  13. Hi Shawn

    They actually chose you over me. I offered to do it, but Nick Trend said they had already found a really good person who was local and could do the job (ie you)! :-)

    Cheers and hope to see you sometime... I'm planning on coming over in the next couple of months.


  14. Im on holiday but heard the news on Twitter, which is sad. I agree about the branding Jeremy, it sounded too much of a personal brand, rather than global travel business. It has been an interesting couple of weeks with the news that the Guardian are closing their hyperlocal news blogs down - supposedly because of a lack of money to be made from it.

    Interesting times for online publishers.

  15. interesting thread and the single stand out fact for me is mike gerrard telling us he can make £500 a month from adsense on his one very specific travel website.

    that is the real good news for travelwriters, forget some big corporation trying to set it up for us - we can now do it ourselves. in the old days we could never have set up a newspaper or magazine but now it's entirely possible to set up a website for your travelwriting and make a some sort of living from it.

    note that i only make £10 a month from the ads on my simonheptinstall.com but even that is amazing as there's very little on it and i never bother to update. mike has inspired me to revamp the site now and i am having all sorts of fantasies about new highly targeted travel sites that might work and be fun to do.

    i think the lessons of SS are that big flash moneybags sites may be an old model that isn't financially viable today but that's good news for us miniscule individual writers who can make money where the big guys cant.

  16. Mike's right. Highly targeted, individually-run sites will work for travel writers in the long run. A small profit is good enough for a one man operation - it's not as easy for a big company to get an adequate amount of money out of it.

    For the record, my blog makes £1,500 a year in advertising, with a combination of that and my two specialist topic sites making around £600 a month in combined Adsense and affiliate revenue. It'd be more if I could ever find the time to revamp and improve them.

  17. £500 a month from Adsense alone for a destination specific site seems alot. Even if you can achieve £5 CPM, that's a lot of visit for a niche site.

    1. have a look at his site and you'll see it's ruthless, there are ads everywhere! so with his useful content and updating i can believe the £500pcm. and of course i know mike and he wouldn't make that up.
      my own site has a few pages of old articles and some wibble about me, a scattering of ads and i'm up to £10 a month now. and as for traffic, the hits on my pages on thetraveleditor.com now total over a million.
      while all this would be small fry for a company employing a few staff and renting an office, for a one-man-band it's decent regular money amid the shrinking opportunities of a declining print world.

      1. I'm certainly not suggesting anyone is making any figures up, just pointing out how difficult it is.

        I did take a look at Mike's site, and given the keywords the site is targeting for search - the site is either a) generating in the region of 100k traffic per month, b) achieving well above average CPM rates, c) spending most or all of that £500 on marketing, or d) all of the above.

        The site probably is doing one or more of those things - but I think they are high targets for a one man band and it's not easy to achieve.

        But well done and good luck to anyone who can make it work for them.

        1. I agree completely - but I also think there's a first mover advantage at play. A guy called John I know runs a very excellent site about Granada (granadainfo.com). Nothing pretty about it, but the info is expansive, well written and up to date. AND it's been there a long time and google really respects that... would be difficult even for a big brand to occupy that space now that he has built so much content and so many links and has such a long-standing reputation. Starting from scratch on a similar project now when most places have at least something website-wise focussed on them would be I think a tougher proposition.

          Mike - would love it if you fancied writing a guest post about how you do it some time!

          1. Sorry for the delayed reply. I'm in Arizona, 8 hours behind the UK. I'm not making anything up, I assure you. The AdSense income has steadily climbed from about £300 in December, and increased each month and in April reached £493.

            I assure you that my marketing budget is nil. People come, and about 4-5% of them click on something.

            Traffic is currently about 70,000 Page Views a month.

            Yes, ads are everywhere because I do this for money as well as for love - and independence. The revenue has increased as I've followed Google's advice and been more aggressive with ads, and used larger ones.

            I fully recommend the service I use, Site Build It:

            They teach you not only how to build a website, but how to build a commercially successful one. It costs 4299 a year, but that covers everything including unlimited hosting, templates if you want them (I do, it gives me more time to add content), fantastic forums for support, built-in blogs, traffic stats, all kinds of things.

            Disclaimer: I also get a 25% commission if anyone signs up for the service through the links on my website, i.e. about $75. In the first year I was using it to see how it worked, my experimental investment of $299 was covered because four people signed up through seeing my site starting up.

            I now also make several of those commissions a year, and another few hundred pounds a month through Amazon affiliate income, and selling our hotel guide. I'm just starting to add hotel affiliate links now. I've never had much luck with them before but visitor numbers are now building to the extent that I ought to start seeing something.

            Sorry, I get evangelical about this because I know how hard travel writing has become, financially. It has happened to me, I no longer write for the nationals I used to write for, there are fewer guidebooks, fees are down. Yet there is money to be made on the web by anyone prepared to work at it, and get it right.

          2. Happy to do that, if I can manage it in the next few days. We set off on Tuesday to drive PCH again, then go to Pow Wow in San Francisco, then 3 days back in Arizona and fly back to the UK for the summer. Email me with anything specific you'd want.

  18. As much as it is a tragedy and a waste, I must confess here that I have made the same mistake myself.

    The mistake is not easy. To fritter away such masses amount of investment capital takes some doing, and is bordering on reckless.

    How does it happen? How can it be avoided?

    I have attempted to explore this in more depth in a recent Business blog article entitled "When success goes to your head...." on the Business Service Finder site.


    It strongly suggests that the original success had lots to do with luck and relied on being in the right place at the right time (which also has something to do with luck) and is every entrepreneurs' dream ticket.

  19. Presumably the site must have value? If I were a large travel organisation such as Thompsons or First Choice this is a fantastic opportunity to pick up a site with tons of good quality content and stick the 'travel finder form' on it. I would have thought that would drive additional revenue day 1, and acts as a terrific platform form which to build (i.e. continue the momentum with Simonseekers going forwards).

    It would be worth employing an expert to sell it on whoever's behalf (is it currently in the hands of administrators?).

    1. Trying to think of a site that could utilise this content easily... travelsupermarket.com!

      1. Good point Travel Blender.
        Has travelsupermarket.com taken over the site?
        If so, there is some recompense for the wasted monies....as a site like Simonseekers which is content rich, presumably has significant potential in the long term?

    1. Rick, then you still have time to save the business....but you must act fast.
      Selling the business is the only way forward, unless you find another investor which is mission impossible.

      There must be some large UK and global travel organisations who would gain significant value from using this content and continuing to grow the site going forward. The current business model is defunct. Time to get in independent business consultants to help cut costs, trim the business, prepare it for sale and then line up would be purchasers, which is never as easy as it sounds.
      Insolvency practitioners and specialist accountancy firms are specialised in this. If you're interested to discuss your options with a selected few, make a request on the Accountant Now website. A step in the right direction.

    2. Hi Rick
      Thanks for dropping by. Feel free to correct any inaccuracies in my post and the comments above. I think there are some interesting propositions about where to go next here!
      I completely agree. I could maybe even point you towards travel cos that might be interested to discuss.
      Best wishes

  20. I would say that the online social networking landscape at the moment is quite different to how it was 2 years+ ago. It should be pointed out that the £2million tv spend was over the course of a year and that amount was not spent to date. The day of users wading through reams of online information, no matter how beautifully written, is passing - people want info more snappily and in condensed and more curated ways. All the industry data suggests that the user's search in the travelspace is elongating with more sites visited but for shorter periods of time.

    The travel marketplace becomes more congested and the number of new start-ups continues apace. It's always sad to see a business fold, simonseeks had a good team and a good community of writers, and best wishes to all whatever next happens.

    1. Hi Stuart
      2 payscales. Experts were paid to write detailed, quite well structured guides to specific locations like the Corfu one Mike refs above. Rates about £2000 to £3000 for 20,000 words which is not great but Ok.
      Others (ie non-experts) were simply paid a cut of the ad revenue and it's these tiny sums being discussed on this thread.

        1. Interesting. 3 grand for 20k words. Using Mike's figures above, over 400 thousand people would have to read that Corfu content to break even!

          1. Indeed, but the same £3k comes back through say 100 commissions off hotel bookings. It's difficult to do any math without some estimated traffic figures, but even at just a 2% conversion rate they'd only need to be sending 5,000 leads across to recoup it. And that's before any other sort of earn off the pages.

          2. "3 grand for 20k words. Using Mike's figures above, over 400 thousand people would have to read that Corfu content to break even!"

            Stuart's right, and I would do the maths differently. 20k words is about 50 web pages. My PCH site only has about 150 pages and is bringing in about £750 a month (AdSense is not the only income source). It's quite feasible that 50 pages on Corfu could bring in £250 a month. In one year you would earn more than SS was paying. And you'd earn it all over again the next year, and the next...

    2. I think previous comments are refering to commisioned work from experts, the link you have given is a discussion of community article earnings.

  21. Hopefully the site will now begin to work better with less overheads and marketing costs. I hear that they were paying large salaries to supposed search professionals that clearly didn't bare results in increasing traffic. The content is rich and works well so hopefully the site will stick around and morph into something else and then "move forward"

  22. another quick footnote to this - i was wrong when i said i hadn't earned a cent from SS. i just looked at my private part of the site and found that my six articles have amassed £7.20 since the site launched 18 months ago. two pints.

    1. Interested to know did you promote your articles socially
      and from your own sites/blogs or did you just leave it to the site to generate the traffic?

      I'm guessing at least part of their strategy was that the community would become mini marketeers for their own articles/destinations and everyone who contributed to the site would benefit indirectly from the traffic generated.

  23. i did nothing and forgot they were there till it closed. i didn't like the site or even the dealings with what seemed to be a massive para-military organisation - so i concentrated on the friendlier, more chaotic thetraveleditor.com, where i do promote my content with tweets, diggs and emails.
    that's only one of the reasons i've made much more from TTE per article than SS. TTE gets more hits anyway, allows you to write how you want and what you want, and seems to have, for two blokes running the whole thing part-time, amazing SEO, communications and efficiency. not all travel websites are simonseeks.

  24. I have had a guide on simonseeks for about 8 months and didn't make more than £2 for a while and then it picked up over winter (it's a Ski guide so makes sense i guess). Probably made nearly £30 in total. And I've heard of people making £100 in the last year from a handful of guides.

    Can anyone tell me what I might get on thetraveleditor for my ski guide for comparison?

    To be honest I didn't do it for the money, even if I made £500 a month from my own blog like the site above I still couldn't give up work.

  25. Thanks for the interesting Blog piece Jeremy and for inspiring all the interesting comments from all angles.

    I founded a destination website in 1996 called andalucia.com and have slowly built up traffic over the last 15 years to four million page impressions a month. This is slightly more than SimonSeeks according to our Alexa ranking of 47,000. All of our content is provided by commissioned professional journalists and most of the income is from private advertising sales which are far more valuable that the Google Adsense which we incorporated into the site a few years ago.

    The forum andalucia.com/forum is where travellers and expats exchange information and news has been highly trafficked since its inception in 2001. I think of it as pre-dating Web 2.0, however the forum advertising income is negligible even thought the traffic is high (almost 1 million page impressions a month)

    We launched my.andalucia.com a few years ago for amateur writers and professionals to ‘showcase their work’. Unlike SimonSeeks we did not try an income share as we calculated the payments would not cover the infrastructure and admin costs. My.andalucia.com grows very slowly organically and is not currently viable but then nor does it cost anything to run.

    SimonSeeks also found out that waiting for user generated content is a long wait. I remember hearing about SS bringing in expert writers (with rates about the same as we pay) and thinking it was a good idea for them to accelerate the content addition. I also remember considering that we would never commission so many writers with 20,000 word advance chunks at one time, simultaneously.

    I think there is a future for destination experts in niche areas such as Mike Gerrard’s Pacific coast Highway. Individual writers should be inspired by this but should not expect to simply repeat Mike’s model as 5% click through is high and the 15p average click payment (I calculated) is also at the very top end of the 1c to 15c we achieve with Google. USA advertisers are more efficient and prepared to bid higher than in Europe. The lucrative private sale advertising rates that the Castillo brothers earn from PalmSprings.com would make any webmaster or bloggers eyes water.

    Destination experts do need to be experts. You can feel this on the Pacific Highway, you sort of know that Mike, like Chris Scott on the Sahara is not just any expat writer which makes reader to explore the site and trust the links. Simons’ experts were varied in their expertise. I don’t think I would expect the same journalist to be an expert in tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. I notice Mike does not attempt nightlife on the highway.

    SimonSeeks did not deliver the earnings expectations of Simon Nixon, however with an Alexa ranking of 64,000 it is still viable in a lower cost base form as long as the team can be patient watching the traffic continue to increase in longer timescales.

    1. "I notice Mike does not attempt nightlife on the highway."

      That was always the worst part of doing any guidebook, for me. Even worse than the shopping section. Freedom at last!

      Thanks for a very informative post, Chris. With our niche I can't build up a community as people tend to drive the highway once. Our return visitor rate is extremely low - or put it another way, the first-time visitor rate is very high. Fortunately there are still several hundred people a day, and more, wanting information on the highway, and/or the stops along it.

  26. Jeremy, I will miss your interesting debates on this issue much more than the site itself.

    You use the word 'arrogant' tentatively above. I found the idea of expecting writers to jump through hops and prove themselves in order to win the chance to write 20,000 words for zero reward was arrogance encapsulated.

    They seemed to be unaware that writers have no shortage of places to write for online, for free or for a few pennies. SimonSeeks was not the stand-out opportunity they thought it was.

    However, I do admire the site for then trying to turn this around and getting a good editor on board. Sadly for them, it was too late.

    As for promoting the early days of an internet community on TV, that was surely the first sign that they had misread the market and were getting ahead of themselves.

    This line of yours has also made me think: "Slowly the on-line world is beginning to look a bit more like the real offline world too."

    We need real reason to trust travel content these days. I am sure some of the individual writers on SimonSeeks were great, but I was never given any reason to trust them as a brand. Even with the flare ups of coverage it got as travel journos debated its controversial payment policies, I still forgot it was there.

  27. Quick update from ourselves... http://www.simonseeks.com/blog/were-still-here

    [Jeremy - I've added the post detail here below too. Thanks for the update Rick. I'm sure everyone who has participated in this really interesting debate hopes you're successful!]

    Hi folks,

    Most of what you've been reading on the blogs and articles about simonseeks is more or less true, Simon is withdrawing his funding from the website as he feels the current business model is unsustainable as a long term investment.

    However, some of the comments I have read are nothing more than hearsay and the ultimate future of simonseeks is still yet to be confirmed. The current simonseeks team is mostly those who were involved back in 2009 when we first launched and we are all keen to see the site carry on in some form or other. We are currently discussing ways in which we may be able to continue without Simon's investment and we hope to be able to give an update within the next few weeks.

    As a result of the investment being withdrawn, we have had to stop the commissioning of paid content. However, it is business as usual as far as anything else is concerned - including the community travel guides.

    As you can imagine, there is lots for us to discuss and consider and I hope you can bear with us over the next few weeks whilst we come to an agreement on the future of simonseeks.

    As always, and perhaps now more than ever, your thoughts and ideas are welcome.


  28. If I want to get a quick insight into what a place is like, I find that online newspaper travel archives and Tripadvisor work best. Apart from that, I google with carefully chosen keywords. Wikitravel and Virtualtourist seem to come up most often, as well as the many area-specific sites that specialise in whatever particular location I'm trying to research. Some of the latter can be very good indeed.

  29. I've never understood the 'bully boy' or 'arrogant' tag levelled at SS. To me the site seemed to offer opportunities to and support aspiring writers. In essence you could argue it created a level playing field in travel writing terms where the readers decided what interested them and what didn't. That aspect might not have appealed to everyone.

    An interesting factor to come out of SS is the wide variation regarding reports of revenue from guides on SS. That variation speaks volumes about earning money from travel writing online.

    I've read comments that TTE was the much friendlier of the two. Maybe it is...but I've no idea as they've never answered any email I've sent to them :)

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