Skift Delivers Travel Industry Intelligence to Frequent Flyers

Travelers at the Madrid Barajas International Airport Photo:LordFerguson/Flickr

Fed up with dated travel publications and fresh from two years of traveling the world, paidContent founder Rafat Ali is launching his next endeavor, a travel industry intelligence service called Skift.

Why would this former digital media news guru turn his sights on airline, hotel, and tourism intelligence? “Well, I don’t like sports,” says Ali, who left paidContent in 2010. “I’m a traveler, so there was a personal bias to cover this information.”

Skift’s business is divided into three parts: trade information publishing, consumer news, and data analysis. The company’s overall goal is to bring together all the travel trade information that’s been spread across several publications.

First, it’s taking on older travel trade publications that are struggling to transition to a mostly-digital world. “Travel Weekly, which was the major publication when travel agents were big, and Aviation Week, which covers anything that flies, are siloed and outdated,” says Ali.

Similar to paidContent’s format when Ali was running the show, Skift will offer its own analytic content, courtesy of a growing editorial team, and a mix of licensed and aggregated content from Reuters, the Associated Press, and industry publications. The site is marketed as a one-stop shop for travel intelligence and news.

The next piece of Skift’s business caters to hard-core business travelers who travel weekly, frequent forums on how to rack up airline miles, and pay close attention to airline business news. For these travelers, Skift is planning a mix of news, analysis, and how-to content for better travel experiences. “For instance, with the American Airlines bankruptcy, business travelers want to know how it affects their travel miles — that’s the type of reporting we’ll offer,” says Ali.

The last pillar for Skift, the one that will earn the company revenue beyond advertising, is data analysis. Skift is building what Ali calls the world’s largest repository of publicly availably travel information. “In the United States, every state has to report monthly and quarterly tourism numbers, and airports report departure and arrival times,” Ali says. “We will take this information — most of which lives in Excel spreadsheets right now — filter and clean the data so it’s easy to parse.”

The team is still working out the kinks, but once Skift has compiled enough data, it plans to build APIs for other apps to access the data. Skift plans to build services on top of the data to provide paid reports and specific travel analytics.

Until now, Ali has self-funded Skift. Monday, it announced an approximate $500,000 round of funding from angel investors, including former CEO of Thompson Reuters Tom Glocer and former Yahoo VP Luke Beatty.

Ali’s hope is that if offering analysis and news on digital content worked for paidContent, it will work in the travel industry for Skift. At the very least, frequent-flying business travelers will be happy learning how to earn 20,000 more miles and which airports to avoid.

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