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Is a B2B Travel Website a Great Destination?

After turn­ing your pas­sion into a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar start­up and then sell­ing that start­up to a major news­pa­per com­pa­ny for over $30 mil­lion, what comes next? Trav­el­ing the world might be one option, as it was for Paid­Con­tent found­ed Rafat Ali, who spent two years doing just that. The jaunt gave Ali what he hopes will be his next great idea: Skift, a B2B trav­el aggre­ga­tor that defines itself as “a news and infor­ma­tion site for the trav­el industry.”

Skift’s Role

Skift launched in July 2012, with the goal of curat­ing orig­i­nal jour­nal­ism, trav­el-relat­ed data, and con­tent gath­ered from across the web into a niche site geared toward both busi­ness­es and busi­ness trav­el­ers. Trade infor­ma­tion would appeal to a B2B audi­ence, con­sumer news would tar­get busi­ness trav­el­ers, and trav­el-relat­ed data would, Ali hopes, appeal to all. Skift hopes to aggre­gate pub­licly avail­able data, such as flight arrival and depar­ture times, trav­el delays, and hotel list­ings. While this data would be avail­able for free, the site would use the free data to dri­ve trav­el-relat­ed ser­vices that busi­ness­es would have to pay extra to access.

While Skift’s launch has received pos­i­tive media press, the ulti­mate role for this plat­form is unclear. Why would trav­el busi­ness­es switch from keep­ing up to data through exist­ing chan­nels and begin using Skift to access indus­try news? The site seems like an RSS feed of trav­el infor­ma­tion, with val­ue added–presumably–if busi­ness­es want to pay for pre­mi­um ser­vices. With the ser­vices unde­fined as of launch, it’s dif­fi­cult to fore­cast their appeal.

While the site has no ads at present, Ali hopes to place ads on Skift with­in six months and believes that the busi­ness trav­el audi­ence is a prime mar­ket. Addi­tion­al rev­enue­may come from con­tent that busi­ness trav­el­ers and trav­el insid­ers will have to pay for, Ali hopes.

Will Skift Appeal?

While Ali terms the trav­el mar­ket as untapped, dig­i­tal­ly, that’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly true. Trav­el guides, air­lines, and third-par­ty sites have data, reviews, and user forums. Con­sumers and busi­ness­es already nav­i­gate a bevy of web­sites to plan travel.

To add inter­est, the site may try for crossover con­tent that appeals to con­sumers and trav­el­ers. In a PBS inter­view, Ali not­ed the com­pa­ny will build many fea­tures, some of which will work and some of which will not. By test­ing out con­tent and try­ing to appeal to both busi­ness and con­sumer audi­ences, will Skift seem too scatterbrained?Skift could suc­ceed by play­ing their cards right, but will it be with the B2B, B2C, or both audiences?

Whether busi­ness­es will come to embrace Skift remains to be seem, but the 17 angel investors that put $500,000 into the com­pa­ny see poten­tial in this idea.

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