Skift, a new travel news site from paidContent founder Rafat Ali and Frommers alum Jason Clampet, launches today. I sat down with Jason this past weekend to get an update on the launch and to see how the product is shaping up.
Breakfast at La Bonbonniere, 8th Avenue, New York City
Grant Martin: Kind of loud out here, no?
Jason Clampet: It’s nice outside. I wanted to take advantage of the weather.
GM: Alright, well I guess I can transcribe this on the fly. How are things coming together at Skift? Can you give us a profile of the site in a nutshell?
JC: Sure. Things are going really well. We want Skift to be the daily homepage of the travel industry. Additionally, it’s also a great resource for people who don’t necessarily work at an airline or a tour company but are really engaged in travel – either on the consumer or the business side.
We cover travel in a few different ways: through content aggregation, where we pull in stories and link to the original source; curation, where we cultivate stories from around the web and provide a small excerpt – the Skift take; syndication, where we have deals with AP, Reuters and a host of other sites; and then complete, original reporting. Our first hire was a news editor, Dennis Schaal.
GM: Didn’t he used to work for Tnooz?
JC: Yeah. He’s on staff with us now. He’s going to focus on original reporting, and the rest of the news spectrum will be filled in with aggregation, syndication and curation.
GM: And that will be selectively filtered in through the Skift staff?
JC: Right. Curation and aggregation we do through something called PublishThis – through WordPress – it allows us to discover stories faster than through Google.
GM: Travel news through, that market is fairly competitive, isn’t it? What are you doing that’s different from Tnooz and sites like travelllll?
JC: Both those sites are great, but they’re niche – Tnooz is more for the tech brains in travel, Travelllll is really blogger focused.
So that’s why I actually don’t think it is that competitive right now. Travel media isn’t in the same place that business or entertainment news is right now. Fifteen years ago, Entertainment Weekly launched and everyone said, “who cares about box office reports?” Now it’s one of Time Inc.’s biggest brands. With Skift we’re telling stories that view travel as a much larger segment then just OTAs or inventory management so that we can connect with stories that really matter to them. We think that’s where most travel media fails these days. More coffee?
GM: Sure. And that makes sense – from this altitude at least. So how is it going to make money? Content is difficult to sell.
JC: For the first six months we’re really focusing on building it as a media brand – we’re not getting into the page view business – but we’ll be looking for sponsors whose needs closely align with who our users are. We’ll also have data services that will be subscription based, and that will be a large part of our revenue.
GM: Your co-founder, Rafat, started paidContent and is part of the brains behind this operation. What’s it like working with him?
JC:He makes a good cup of coffee! You know, the thing that Rafat did at paidContent was that he saw where the content media business was moving before most other people did, and he’s bringing that same perspective to travel with Skift. His insights into the travel industry have really illustrated some of the connections that aren’t being made and the opportunities lost. And we plan on taking advantage of that.
GM: So is this operation funded by his previous ventures or by external sources?
JC: Primarily external. We raised money largely from seasoned media vets who see the opportunity in the field.
GM: As far as editorial then, with whom are you working to build content?
JC: Outside of the aggregated content, we’ll probably also work with some freelancers. I’d really love to find a hotel expert in the Gulf States and also Asia. Most people of the people that we’re going to look to as contributors, though, are going to have a business background.
GM: So where should people send pitches?
JC: You can send them to jc[at]skift.com
GM: Great. Good luck with the launch.
JC: Thanks Grant.