While Wikitravel continues to thrive and grow in terms of its community and content, it has failed to generate the revenue we anticipated when Evan Prodromou and Michele Jenkins sold the Wikitravel domain to Internet Brands. We remain committed to managing the business side of Wikitravel in a way which provides a very good experience to the site's contributors and readers. However, the AdSense in the right-hand column has significantly under-performed in terms of providing revenue. We need to develop a more effective plan for generating revenue from the site, and we want to discuss possible options here with the community.
We recognize the business side of operating Wikitravel is an emotionally charged topic. However, our investment in the site (both our payment to Evan and Michele, and the site's ongoing operation) necessitates that Wikitravel be run simultaneously as a community and a business. Internet Brands manages many community-driven web sites in which we balance community priorities and business needs, and we continue to seek that same balance on Wikitravel.
Internet Brands is supportive of the community's stated values of editorial integrity and having advertising that is relevant, unobtrusive and clearly not content. We continue to embrace offering the option for any user to permanently turn off all advertising on the site.
We want to initiate a discussion on various alternatives for generating revenue from the site, and naturally we want this planning process to be informed and guided by the community. Some possibilities are listed below and we invite other suggestions from the community:
• integrating a travel booking capability into Wikitravel
• adding a limited number of ad positions in the center column of the site (which users will clearly recognize as advertising rather than site content)
• expanding beyond AdSense to other relevant advertisers interested in being on the site
• providing a short list of travel deals to site visitors (perhaps flight deals in Get In and lodging deals in Sleep)
• featuring one or more sponsors in a modified area of the page layout, perhaps in the header at the top of the page
Depending on the preferences of the community, other options could be considered which would entail a more radical departure for Wikitravel. An example of this would be parsing out the lodging content onto separate pages, which would likely deliver higher revenue because of their more targeted focus. We're not advocating such a change, but are open to as broad of a discussion on alternative approaches as may be desired by the community.
I apologize in advance for my brevity here, and would like to respond in greater detail later when I have a bit more time. But I did want to say that I think the community will not accept any compromising of our articles' content (suggestion #4). Could you expand on what a travel booking capability on Wikitravel would entail? --PeterTalk 21:25, 5 April 2010 (EDT)
I will be brief also as I am between meetings. To me at least it is critical to understand why an additional monetization effort is required. Is it because:
1. You paid too much for the site and your return on capital is disappointing?
2. The running costs of the site exceed Adsense revenue?
If 1., then I am afraid there will be no sympathy from me, nor should there be from anyone else in the community. Poor business decisions are exactly that.
If 2., then let's discuss for sure. Whether Wikitiravel was owned by IB or a non-profit organisation, running costs would still need to be met. Sadly, the option of appealing to users for donations is out of the question as you are a for-profit corporation. Personally, I leave the ad display turned on as I realise that running site costs have to be paid somehow.
Critical to any detailed response from me are the answers to the two questions placed above. --Burmesedays 01:59, 6 April 2010 (EDT)
Please don't turn Wikitravel into World66! The advertising over there - while clearly labelled as such, is so intrusive that it severely dents the credibility of the site (personally I find it unusable), which, I suspect, is exactly the reason it has been waning for years.
But I see two options that would be useful and credible, if implemented correctly:
Teaming up with a reputable online plane ticket provider (i.e. expedia, travelocity), and implement a feature at the button of the Get In > By plane section, where users can click an icon or unobtrusive text link which expands a collapsible "div" inline with a "from" field, a "to" field already filled out, an out- & inbound date field and a "search" button - nothing more, except maybe a small logo saying something like "search provided by X company". It would be cool too, to have that partner implement Wikitravel content on their destination overview pages, but that's just extra jazz.
With the same "partner", or a dedicated (and reputable) online hotel booking agency,do some nifty database work, that made hotels in their database bookable here - i.e. if there is a database match, a small text link that says "book" appears in our listing, which either takes users directly to that hotels booking page, or again opens an inline collapsible div where users can fill in the dates and click search.
Paid premier listings and other ideas along that line, would ruin our integrity, since such listings hardly would accept anything bad written about them. I also think you should go and take a hard look at the Google analytics page for Wikitravel, and check the amount of inbound traffic coming from Wikipedia (isn't it like 25-30%) - there has already been debate about removing us from the external links section over the advertisement on WT, push it much more, and we'd probably be out. Surely loosing 30% of our traffic can't really be in your interest either.
Finally, you bought a creative commons licensed, community driven project, with close idealogical links to the non-profit Wikimedia foundation - which, to me at least, obviously also means you bought a user base less susceptible to advertising and other monetizing techniques - simply because we, and they, are who we are. So unless running the servers and cost of traffic is actually generating a loss, you might want to think about writing off some the investment, since you are probably never going to make the money you might for some reason have expected, and you might just sink wikitravel in your quest to do so. - Sertmann 05:49, 6 April 2010 (EDT)
I would add to Stefan's points about Wikipedia, that the links from there to Wikitravel pages are the key driving force behind the high Google PageRank scores that this site enjoys. No link from Wikipedia = lower search ranking return = less traffic. So it would it be a double whammy - loss of direct traffic and loss of search engine driven visits. Everything possible should be done to avoid jeopardising links from Wikipedia.--Burmesedays 10:42, 6 April 2010 (EDT)
Somehow, I have been expecting this kind of request... to believe that a Wikideological site would ever generate a massive revenue is a superb example of having made a rather poor market analysis. But, you have bought it and now you have to live with it. Or, to be honest, you have to live with us, the contributors, and Internet Brands' performance and/or interest in the site so far have made us a rather cynical bunch. To be frank: you haven't shown much of an interest in Wikitravel at all: first, you failed to understand the community spirit and its dynamics. Secondly, you have failed miserably, and continue to do so, to respect and carry out the community's requests for features and to sort bugs. Now to your suggestions as listed above:
Travel booking capability: How do you plan to match such a functionality with one of the corner stones of Wikitravel, i.e. the print version matters? (see Welcome Wikipedians). Have you forgot what's stated in our Goals and non-goals? In an 50 kB/sec internet café in a back street in Calcutta, a travel booking functionality is the least I need. I want to know where I can eat and sleep, not how I get out of there!
We already have advertisers here. So, if they are kept in the right hand column instead of AdSense and as long as we can turn the ads off, I do not see a problem. But, and this is a big but, you have to be very clear about what kind of solution you want.
No. Don't tout.
Perhaps. If they are kept in the right hand column together with AdSense or any other advertiser.
This site depends on us, the community. We are the ones who makes it possible for IB to make money. Without us, IB loose. Before you even try to suggest solutions as the ones you have come up with so far, remember that the Wikitravel policies direct our work. If you want to improve monetization, you have to start by suggesting changes to the policies. In short: you have to be active and work with us here on Wikitravel, not just pop by when you get an inbox full of angry e-mail from an angry user about some technical issue.
Finally: if you want our support, you have to show - constantly and seriously - that you care, for example by being present, by partaking in discussions, by upgrading the software, by fixing the bugs and by sorting the technical requests. I finish here by quoting a famous traveller: We are not amused. Riggwelter 17:01, 6 April 2010 (EDT)
Have you considered the fact that the current adsense layout is rubbish? I wouldn't click on one of those tacky looking big font ads if my life depended on it. Lower key, smaller font, more targeted ads in the current space would be the way to proceed.
But ultimately, I don't feel any loyalty to IB at all. I'd be in favor of taking our contributions and content elsewhere if the content gets destroyed by inline advertising and booking services and becomes a world66 or tripadvisor style site. I'd be confident that even though adsense revenue isn't enough to keep IB happy, that it would easily cover the server and bandwidth expenses of running WT at the current performance levels. --Inas 01:56, 7 April 2010 (EDT)
I agree that any change to the ad policy which would compromise WikiTravel’s article content must be avoided. Typically, and certainly the case here, sponsors have no control over the content they sponsor or even have an ability to influence it. Generally, they engage in that form of marketing because the content is already something they want to be associated with rather than from a desire to control it. I understand that does not address a 'perception is reality' problem. Even if there is absolutely no influence upon content by the sponsor the community and/or our readers may ‘believe’ there is and we face the same problem. Clearly, this is a valid reason against the use of sponsors. However, if there were a way to address that concern, it may be worth continuing to vet the method for other issues. A plus to sponsorships is they can be the least invasive form of advertising.
There are multiple ways to implement booking capabilities into WikiTravel. The goal would be to offer a tool to visitors of the site to find lower pricing for travel. One way would be to allow readers to enter specifics of their travel plans like dates and locations. We would then partner with well known booking sites (Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity ect) to display pricing from the competing service providers such as airlines and hotels.
It is important that the tool provides the users a fast experience and leads them to the lowest cost pricing available on the Internet. This type of effort is not used as branding for advertisers and therefore design must focus on usability. We can provide a simple clean display that fits the content without disrupting it.
It’s been my experience that the tool should be easy to find for people would need it but not loud enough to disturb those that don’t. As such, the position of the tool on the page is important. It should be where users who need it are likely to be. For instance, a flights version near Get in / By plan, rental cars near By car, Attraction by See ect. I believe simple is the best way to go on this type of opportunity and it make sense to post a couple of visuals of what I’m describing. Brentconver 15:17, 8 April 2010 (EDT)
My feelings are similar to that of Sertmann.... I'm a bit busy to get further into it, but I am open to seeing visuals on a test site so we can have a real idea of what we're discussing. I would also like to thank you guys for coming to us discuss to this as a community decision, it marks a first for IB and I'm glad you're catching on to how things need to work here – cacahuatetalk 15:21, 10 April 2010 (EDT)
As I said before: let us first talk about what kind of changes we need to make to policies/guidelines. In any case, a tool like the one you suggest should of course not be a part of the article contents whatsoever, simply because Wikitravel is made for printing. And I am really keen to hear more about how you plan to implement "lowest cost pricing available". Riggwelter 12:55, 11 April 2010 (EDT)
As there has been no response to the questions I asked above, it is difficult for me to comment. One more question. Are the Adsense ads at WT per click or per impression? --Burmesedays 22:20, 11 April 2010 (EDT)
I am working on a fuller response to above but I can answer the Adsense question in the mean time. It is possible for advertisers to pay in either model (cpc or cpm) via Google's bidding system. However the majority of advertisers pay per click rather than via impression. We have limited visibility into the split, however sampling is showing less than 5% is impression based.Brentconver 21:29, 14 April 2010 (EDT)
First, I want to thank everyone for participating in this discussion. I know my responses have been slow but my intention is to get more updates out as quickly as I can. One area of I would like to cover is how a booking tool would fit within Goals and non-goals. The concern being that the booking tool conflicts with the goals of the site.
The mission statement of Wikitravel is “Wikitravel is a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide”. Travel guides, online or offline, offer the reader insight into what a traveler should expect to spend. From a purely logistical stand point it isn’t feasible to manually update online pricing for airline tickets, given the rates can change on every hour. Since travel guides traditionally attempt to offer pricing information, our ability to improve up-to-date and reliability in regards to pricing furthers WikiTravels mission.
A review the list of specific goals show the site has multiple goals. Wikitravel has online and offline goals. I think it is within the charter to make changes to the site that push forward online goal even if they don’t address the offline ones. I do think when an ‘online change’ is adopted it should not impede all of the goals of the site. In this case offering an online booking tool really should not impact any off line efforts.
One of the explicitly stated goals of Wikitravel is as follows: ”For on-line use by travelers still planning to review destinations, plan itineraries, make reservations, and get excited about their trip;” It seems providing real time pricing about travel expenses actually furthers that goal. Determining the cost of a trip is often times the most important aspect of planning. A booking tool on Wikitravel would be designed to aggregate all available online pricing rather than to direct booking any one particular provider.Brentconver 21:29, 14 April 2010 (EDT)
I'd also be keen to see any example of how a booking tool might work - provided it's done well (not distracting, not promotional) then it could be a valuable tool for the guides in addition to a monetization device for IB. It would also have the benefit that we would have stronger arguments for excluding some of the car rental and booking site spam that we've seen in the past. The caveat is of course that it would need to be implemented in a way that doesn't scream "commercial", so seeing a mockup or something similar would be a huge benefit. -- Ryan 16:14, 15 April 2010 (EDT)
Could I float a completely different idea for increasing income? Provide a facility to buy print copies of any page. I know that there is already a Wikitravel Press, but it could be attractive to be able to order a printed set of the travellers own selection of pages, either looseleaf or bound into a book. Most of us have printers at home, but these tend to only print single sided on A4 or letter paper. Before a longer trip, I would be interested in ordering a custom guide book containing just the cites that I will be visiting, providing that this can be done at a reasonable price, which would be cheaper, less hassle and lighter than printing 100 pages on an inkjet. It is possible that tourist businesses might be interested in ordering a quantity of a single city article to give/sell to their customers. Obviously the existing facility for printing locally must be kept. AlasdairW 19:01, 19 April 2010 (EDT)
That's a very interesting idea, and I know that a custom book facility by WTP has been mooted previously. As it is 'old media', it is probably not an obvious avenue for IB to explore.--Burmesedays 21:56, 19 April 2010 (EDT)
Wikitravel Press suggested precisely this idea to Internet Brands circa September 2008, and followed up several times. (The technology is in place and PediaPress is already doing this on Wikipedia.) I'm sure you'll be shocked -- shocked -- to hear that Internet Brands never bothered to get back to us. Jpatokal 20:10, 6 May 2010 (EDT)
After I had posted the idea, I came across some discussion of adding the software features to support this. I have also heard about PediaPress . The Wikimedia Foundation receives 10% of the gross total for each book. I am disappointed at the lack of interest, but maybe it is hard to see the money making potential. I think that a customised guide book would sell well on a cruise ship - they often visit several countries and so normal guide books aren't good for say a cruise around the Mediterranean. AlasdairW 19:19, 10 May 2010 (EDT)
I strongly disagree with Ryan that a benefit would be a stronger argument for excluding rental car aggreagotrs and booking sites. To the contrary, it gives us a constant conflict. Without this, we can stand with integrity and say that these links aren't best for the site, putting the traveller in direct contact is what we want to do. After IB places these ads, we have lost this. The exclusion will always be tarnished with the fact that admitting them will be a conflict with company that owns the site. --Inas 03:00, 6 May 2010 (EDT)
Currently to prevent spam we exclude all aggregators and booking sites to prevent spam, despite general agreement that having one or two such links would be valuable for travelers - the rationale is that if we allow one or two there is no way to exclude others. I think if we have some sort of paid mechanism (which would need to be clearly labeled as such) it provides the convenience to travelers who want to look up general car rental / hotel prices & availability for a destination while continuing our policy of "no aggregators / booking sites" in articles. I think a paid ad clearly connotes "not endorsed" while still providing a useful service for those who are looking for it. Hopefully that makes my position clearer. -- Ryan 11:08, 6 May 2010 (EDT)
I agree with Ryan: clearly segregated book flights/hotels links would be OK. Any other advertising would devalue the site.
And oh -- let's have a tiny round of applause for IB for actually bothering to consult the community, instead of just ramming any changes down our collective throat! Jpatokal 20:10, 6 May 2010 (EDT)
Please excuse me if don't join in your applause for IB right now. I think after everything else that this would be the final straw for me on Wikitravel. After the hours spent removing rhino car hire from a zillion articles, to have then sling a couple of hundred bucks to IB have their links prominently placed in the Get Around section of the article? --Inas 21:33, 6 May 2010 (EDT)
Thanks again to everyone for their feedback, we appreciate the effort everyone has given to ensure the success of Wikitravel. We have been working on a design that would offer the lowest intrusion but maintain its availability for those who wish to use the tool.
We have taken the feedback above and designed an interface which would enable Wikitravellers to look up pricing and availability of flights, hotels and rental cars. We agree that only reputable, well-known travel booking providers (ex. Expedia, Travelocity) should be used for this, as we'd depend on them to ensure accuracy in terms of availability and best prices. Vendors will be evaluated based upon their ability to cover all of our destinations and have the least amount of impact to page load.
We envision using colors which blend nicely with the rest of the Wikitravel pages:
Our thought would be to display three versions of this interface: The first, handling all three types of bookings, would appear at the top of each guide. The second, specific to flights, would be displayed at the top of the Get in section. The third would be tailored for lodging bookings and appear at the top of the Sleep section.
Depending on the booking partner(s) we work with, the exact capabilities might vary. For example, we might be able to pre-populate the "To" field to correspond with the destination being viewed on Wikitravel (of course with the option for the user to change this). The "From" field might also be able to be pre-populated based on the user's IP address (again changeable if desired). Booking partners may be able to both identify the lowest prices for flights between specific cities as well as provide broader look-up of all options based on dates entered by the user. (This would be similar to what Bing is doing in their search results on queries such as "london travel.")
Sertmann suggested above having a small text link reading "book" for hotels listed in the Sleep section. It may or may not be possible to link directly to a page for booking a particular hotel, depending on the capabilities of our booking partner. In any case, we fully agree that we don't want to have any "paid premier listings," and such booking links should only ever be used for hotels selected by the Wikitravel community to be included in any given guide.
If this seems like a sensible way to proceed with providing booking functionality on Wikitravel, as a next step we can provide a full-page mock-up showing how this would look.
Brentconver 15:48, 6 October 2010 (EDT)
My first impressions:
The colours look okay.
The cross that should be linked to hide the box should be more visible and be available to all users, whether logged in or not.
I don't really like the placement of the box, especially since it leads to a break in the continuity of the article between the breadcrumbs (that North America : United States : ... part) and the lede. If anything, I'd prefer this/these to be placed at the very top of the page, even above the article title.
And as an aside note, several of our long-time and heavy contributors on en: are not present nowadays, due to travelling or high levels of occupancy with real life work I presume and hope, so please wait for them to have their say before implementing anything. Vidimian 06:03, 7 October 2010 (EDT)
Making the Hide X available to everyone seems fine. We'll wait for other discussion here. Redondo 18:29, 7 October 2010 (EDT)
The box is very intrusive. I dont think the top of the article is a suitable place for it. I would prefer to see something like this (if I have to see it at all) in one of the side columns. A possible alternative might be to have it invisible until the user clicks on a link in the Get in section.
The box is totally inappropriate in some articles. It should never be present in articles where there is no relevance, such as Phrasebooks, Dive sites etc, as that really looks spammy.
It looks like there is selective response to questions by IB. Some they answer, some they ignore. This does not indicate good faith.
This kind of crap does NOT fill me with enthusiasm to spend a few hours improving some article, it makes me think about alternative sites. Pbsouthwood 05:56, 12 October 2010 (EDT)
Here is an alternative suggestion: Leave Wikitravel as it is and set up a mirror site under another name with all the advertising you like. See which one gets the most visits, which gets the most support from contributors, and see which one is still there next year. Pbsouthwood 06:08, 12 October 2010 (EDT)
Out of curiosity, is there any possibility of implementing this tool similar to the "Add listing" links, such that it would be a link next to the "Get in", "Get around" and "Sleep" sections that would open the tool? Something like "Check airfare rates", "Check rental car rates" and "Check hotel rates"? Such a setup would keep it out of the way for those who don't want to use it, but would put it in a prominent location for those looking for this information. This would also address Pbsouthwood's concerns about it appearing on pages for which it is not relevant, and this setup would avoid the appearance of being a banner ad since banner ads today typically are seen as being indicative of a poor-quality, profits-first web site. -- Ryan 01:31, 15 October 2010 (EDT)
We will look at what can be done technically to exclude the booking tool from particular pages on which it doesn't seem relevant. It seems fine to keep it off these pages and we're open to suggestions regarding what pages should be included on this list.
Naturally there's a challenge of not being too aggressive with the prominence of this booking tool and having it still be effective in terms of engaging usage. However, if there seems value in doing so we can provide users with the option of never seeing the booking tool (in addition to closing it selectively as desired). This way, anyone who doesn't like having it displayed on the site can select to remove the tool and that choice will persist (unless a user decides later to turn it back on).
Regarding the concern that this tool might be mistaken as a banner ad, one possibility would be to mark it as being proprietary to Wikitravel. Perhaps something such as "Check rates and availability with Wikitravel's booking tool." Redondo 13:16, 21 October 2010 (EDT)
The only possible way that I could see this working is for the banner to be at the top of the form only, and for closing it to persist across sessions. Having ads interspersed in the text fundamentally changes the nature of the site. Even assuming standardised section headings in the code takes away from the community in determining what these should be. Putting flights on articles where there are no airport, putting car hire where there are no cars to hire. Sucks, really. --Inas 21:15, 2 December 2010 (EST)
I would prefer any booking tool to appear in the box on the right with any other adverts. This has the advantage for IB of allowing them to easily add a second booking tool more specific to a particular region, for ground transport. For example, maybe one of the UK rail operators would like to appear on all the UK pages. A local booking tool for trains buses or ferries is more likely to be used by a traveller - most people can book a flight but would value help booking a ferry or train. It also make it clear that the booking tool is not part of Wikitravel - if it appears to be part of Wikitravel, then the traveller will expect that the flights offered follow the advice on the pages. Do not call it "Wikitravel's booking tool", unless you are running it inhouse, and tailoring the booking tool to align with the articles. AlasdairW 19:14, 4 December 2010 (EST)
Is it just me or are the ads getting less targeted and more animated as the days go on? I just refreshed a few times and found ads for New Balance shoes, Adobe CS5, American Express Open, Neiman Marcus, 141 Gay Bars, Vitamix blenders.... – cacahuatetalk 03:50, 7 August 2010 (EDT)
I keep getting an animated Time Warner Cable ad that slows my browser way down. It's annoying. LtPowers 19:01, 7 August 2010 (EDT)
Look folks, the advertising policy detailed on this page specifically prohibits animated ads like the TWC ad I've been seeing. Is anyone even paying attention anymore? LtPowers 18:46, 11 August 2010 (EDT)
Bonobo summer chinos on sale now! – cacahuatetalk 16:10, 2 September 2010 (EDT)
Google may have adjusted targeting in a negative way. I will see that the ads are blocked. I just need the domain of the animated ads.Brentconver 19:03, 6 October 2010 (EDT)
There are many.... go to :en and keep refreshing.... still seeing a lot of American Express Open, New Balance.... Art Institute of Pittsburgh.... Ford.... Continental Airlines Mastercard.... Virgin America, Doubletree Hilton, Sheraton (actually ones that are relevant to travel! Though still animated and against our agreed policy). Particularly obnoxious: http://www.sandiego.org/choosehappy/?cid=3490855 – cacahuatetalk 16:45, 7 October 2010 (EDT)
I'm seeing an animated Southwest Airlines ad currently, but I have no idea how to determine the domain of the ad. It's Flash; the right-click menu offers no help and I can't quite decipher the page source. LtPowers 08:23, 18 October 2010 (EDT)
Got one for Adventures by Disney today. True, it was on en:Walt Disney World, but it's animated, and that's supposed to be a no-no. I don't think blocking specific ads is going to be a good long-term solution. LtPowers 09:20, 3 December 2010 (EST)
Today's barftastic visual feast
What's the word IB? Are you actually going to do anything about this, or is the increased revenue from non-targeted and animated ads on the site significant enough to override the community that built it? – cacahuatetalk 22:34, 3 December 2010 (EST)
So the issue is the term 'display' at Google no longer means 'image' but html code. Advertisers are now able to upload html ads that are dynamic in the display category. We are working with Google to see if we can force the feed only static ads. Hopefully we will know more in the next few weeks and I can get this resolved. If I can't get it stopped that way I will list the available options and we can discuss. Regardless I will get the advertising in policy shortly.Bconver 21:53, 16 February 2011 (EST)
As for the barftastic photos, those are terrible and will make sure the don't show up moving forward.Bconver 21:53, 16 February 2011 (EST)