The " "PhoCusWright surprise" occurs when I meet an online travel start up(s) at PhoCusWright that I have never heard of but is (are) number one in their category by some reasonable measure. Yesterday's surprise was Localyte.
Surprise number 2 - Geckogo
Geckogo - is a travel planning and inspiration site that want to solve the "too much information" problem by allowing travellers to aggregate content from social networks, friends recommendations and use that information to build trip plans. They claim to sit in between the travel aggregation sites like UpTake / NileGuide / TravelMuse and travel social network sites like WhereIveBeen and TravBuddy. Though I am not sure I yet see the gap. That said, I see the value of content company with social media interaction. The challenge for a business targeting that space is how to collect information and establish an index.
Geckogo founders Pokin Yeung and Eric Mackinnon are coming at the challenge through building a Facebook application called travel brain. It allows consumers to load cities and destinations visited (like TripAdvisor's Cities I've visited). The difference with TA's app is that Geckogo gives users a chance to increase their "score" by adding information about a destination. This rewards consumers for generating more content and engaging further with Geckogo. The result was that the Facebook app is the main content acquisition tool and consumer point of interaction for Geckgo. In addition partnership with Bradt Travel guides has helped populated editorial content on the site.
With Facebook as a driver, Geckogo claims to have attracted a network of 700,000 users - with 8% of those contributing content regularly. Results in 250,000 articles mainly collected from Facebook users - parsed and classified through their information architecture. Eric described part of the architecture as a "synonym database" that prompts contributors to help flesh-out areas that need more information. For example a casino in a destination means gambling but gambling as an activity in a destination will prompt a question on whether or not their is a casino.
This is where the surprise factor came in. I have talked before about what content companies need to do to succeed. My definition of success has always been SEO raking and traffic. Yet in Geckogo we have a online travel content company where early success has come from the using Facebook as a distribution and content acquisition mechanism. They made me feel a little old and outdated in continuing to believe that search is the number one battleground for traffic.
Being Facebook dependent is beneficial for Geckogo as their competitive set is lower. But in my interview with Pokin and Eric at PhoCusWright they admitted that Facebook dependence comes with risks. Just like a change in the Google search algorithm can send SEO dependent companies from the top of the world to the bottom of page 5, so too a Facebook change has dramatic impacts on Geckogo. When Facebook moved from a profile based page structure to the more twitter like newsfeed structure, Pokin admitted that usage dropped dramatically. Geckogo had to rebuild the way the app interacted to support the new approach.
Still in the angel funding stage Geckogo knows they have more money to raise and work to do. Eric admitted they are looking or about four times as much content before they will be able to answer the level of questions they are targeting. In addition to more content they should also work on the query architecture to help drive more responses and customer interaction. But the surprise factor success is there - Geckogo claim to be the number one content contributor on Facebook (but not the biggest app). Update - see below
For a bit more information on Geckogo check out their presentation from the Facebook app targeted fbFund. Also a story on the same presentation from UpTake industry blog written by Elliot Ng.
Update. Geckogo founder Pokin comments below. Here is an extract
"I should also clarify our claim of being the number one travel content source on Facebook. As a blanket statement that was absolutely true when we posted it, but I can’t validate that now since our friends at Where I’ve Been have also started collecting content as well. I believe we continue to be the number #1 source on Facebook for travellers to gain meaningful travel insight and help one another in their travel plans."
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Tim!
I think our example shows the potential for creating a great travel planning / research experience for travellers beyond repackaging existing content and differentiating by SEO strategy. The content game (developing/generating unique content) is definitely the hardest to play, and many tools can only be shown off with the right content in sufficient quantities. But imagine that day!
GeckoGo still has a ways to go to achieve that goal as you’ve also noted in the post, and I don’t believe it’ll come down to one player. I hope this encourages us all to find creative new means of getting and using content. It’s discouraging to read about the increase in content farms, and I really hope the dynamics shift so we’re not all focused on creating more average content but rather on pulling more meaningful information out of what we’ve got. Perhaps it’s from mining status updates, information users are already willing to share publicly, Twitter – something!
To clarify the point of “too much information” – we definitely agree with your previous post that 2009 is the start of the 4th phase of online travel - that consumers are getting overwhelmed with information. There’s already too much noise out there so the solution is not to be a content aggregation site. It’s not about getting 5000 reviews of the Eiffel Tower instead of 300. It’s about the right pieces of information to form the overall story -- getting enough of a sense of Paris to know IF I should go, if so, WHEN, to know if it’s within my budget, and to identify the top experiences in whatever form I need to make this the most kick-ass trip of my life.
I should also clarify our claim of being the number one travel content source on Facebook. As a blanket statement that was absolutely true when we posted it, but I can’t validate that now since our friends at Where I’ve Been have also started collecting content as well. I believe we continue to be the number #1 source on Facebook for travellers to gain meaningful travel insight and help one another in their travel plans. The information our members share have been detailed, have been helpful and have been moving. For us, travel is really about the experiences you gain and you can see that by our participation in the Stanford peace dot initiative at peace.geckogo.com.
If anyone is interested in collaborating and brainstorming in general with us, we’d love to chat! :)
@pokin - great to meet yo in Orlando and thanks for the update and clarification
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