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Travel startup TripReactor charts new route, toward 'native advertising'

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 8, 2013 08:52 AM

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An entrepreneur who initially sought to simplify the trip planning experience with a site called WaySavvy has a new strategy: serving up ads that could help travel-oriented websites generate more revenue.

WaySavvy, founded in 2010 by Brandeis alum Michael Raybman, didn't take flight. The new startup, TripReactor, wants to serve up a blend of editorial and advertising content: pop-out guides that offer information about things to do, places to eat, and hotels you might book in a given destination. (A sample is below.) "The goal," explains Raybman, "is to seamlessly blend editorial and commercial lifestyle content in a way valuable to the user. As a crude analogy, we're making every travel publisher into a TripAdvisor." If TripReactor's guide persuades you to book one of those hotels, that would increase the commission revenue generated, both for TripReactor and the travel site where the ads appear. (In the old world of publishing, this line-blurring approach would've been called an advertorial. The updated term is "native advertising".)

Among TripReactor's early publishing partners is Boston.com, where TripReactor-powered ads started appearing last week. Raybman says he'll be working with the travel blog Vagabondish and several other sites starting later this month.

Raybman participated in the MassChallenge competition last year. Angel investors David Chang of PayPal, Scott Heller, Mario Ricciardelli, and former Harmonix exec Mike Dornbrook put money into TripReactor last September; Raybman didn't want to be specific about the amount, but said it was sub-$100,000. "Eventually," Raybman says, "we'll extend this native advertising approach beyond travel."

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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