Back to monetizing eyeballs


I just caught up with Tom Gruber, who I met when he was Chief Technology Officer at Intraspect, an innovative company providing collaboration spaces based on email, which was acquired last year by document management vendor Vignette. Tom’s new initiative is, a site that allows individuals to create personal word and photo journals of their travels, and to share them with their friends or the world. The intent is to build this into a community where travellers can get great recommendations and insights from other experienced travellers. Excellent features include creating maps showing travellers’ itineraries around the world. The business model is built on advertising and referrals. Back in the dot-com heyday, start-ups focused on getting “eyeballs” – that is people’s attention – and then “monetizing” the eyeballs. The problem was, there wasn’t much money in people’s online attention. Today, however, online advertising amounts to $10 billion, and referral payments for sending people to sites selling books, gadgets, travel and more add up to a similar amount. Travel is in fact one of the real commercial successes of the Internet, with a substantial proportion of travel bookings now made online. As such, if you can create a compelling place for travellers to visit and spend time, as Tom and his colleagues have done, there can be a very viable business.