Investors have put $100 million into this travel media start-up — here's why it's so hot
Branded content is another focus for next year and current clients include Corinthia Hotels and swimsuit brand Figleaves, with automotive brands and banks also interested. News won’t be a focus (but there is edgier content such as “How Targeted Dark Ads Are Manipulating Your Opinions”), partly to avoid advertising appearing next to negative news stories, but also because features are “far more monetizable” than news, according to Naudts.
As the travel booking engine develops, how can the audience be sure that articles and recommendations are unbiased, and not just there to promote a particular hotel that Culture Trip will earn commission on?
Shacham says there has been “a lot” of discussion about this. “Users nowadays are smart, they can feel… kind of allergic to that and it doesn’t work,” he told CNBC. Chief Product Officer Nick Jakobi, who spent eight years at Google, advocates the search giant’s mantra, “Put the user first and everything else will follow,” Shacham said.
“It has to feel genuine and (be a place) that the person on the ground actually would want to recommend and wants to stay there, or has to be very clearly a different thing and the user is fully aware that you are offering them (a deal) on the airport hotel just because it’s really convenient… You have to be really clear about that and, ultimately, it will not work unless the users have that trust,” he added.
Profit is not a target, for now. Naudts expects to carry out a further funding round before he even thinks about margins, although he has high ambitions. Airbnb could be a partner, he suggests, but also an original content producer for the likes of Amazon, Hulu and Netflix.
How would that partnership with a Netflix work? “We could make content for them, right. We have the creative network to do to do that. And they would pay for that content.”