An online family travel club launched by the Wall Street Journal

Skift take

Two journalists smoothly launched a family travel brand called The Expedition. It really seems to be born right now, given that it is an independent subscription social network.

Sean O’Neill, Skift

The midst of a pandemic may seem like an odd time to start a travel-themed business. But don’t tell that to the co-founders of a new online club focused on family travel.

Sara Clemence and Ryan Sager believe the crisis has heightened the desire to travel for many parents. Stay-at-home restrictions have fueled interest in vacation planning at a time when societies have tamed the pandemic. So Clémence and Sager launched The expedition, a family travel content site and sort of social network.

“Family travel is an area where parents do a lot of trial and error and often look for answers,” said Clemence. “But it’s a space that’s been pretty empty.”

The Brooklyn-based company aims to capitalize on a few 2020 trends. One is that consumers are increasingly comfortable paying for subscription services – a megatrend that Skift has identified more. early this year.

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The Expedition also relies on the growing popularity of “independent social networks. “It is said that more and more people are looking for online communities formed around narrowly defined topics.

“There has been this movement from a central social fire station to much more specialized forms of social engagement,” Sager said. “Membership and community are among the two most promising places to be in the media right now. “

Those “long tail social networks”Offer shelter from the politics and click traps of big social platforms like Facebook. Some networks are as informal as group text chats. Others are more formal, with themes like women entrepreneurs (Small black office company), pastry shop (Cooking space), or watch a movie (Mailbox).

“When it comes to targeted communities, we now have platforms to create them much easier than before,” Clemence said. “You don’t have to tailor something expensive that is potentially bulky and then worry about the user experience. “

A case in point is Powerful networks, a service that provides the technology to manage closed communities by subscription. This is what Clémence and Sager use to fuel the expedition.

Clémence and Sager argued that subscription trends and private socialization can be mutually reinforcing. Members self-select as positive contributors if they are willing to pay to join, the co-founders argued. Self-selection helps ensure that users will keep discussions interesting, rather than becoming spam or trolls.

“One of our members has been an off-piste guide for many years and he’s literally skiing off-piste with his two-year-old in a backpack,” said Clémence. “Another is a designer and she knows how to mix adult-style travel experiences with those to entertain a young child.”

Apply a media model to family travel

The co-founders said their media background would help them launch this project. Clémence, former editor of the Wall Street Journal and Travel and Leisure, and Sager, former editor of the Wall Street Journal and Time, said they would use their journalistic instinct to shine the spotlight on community members with real ideas.

The formats evolve. But the general idea is that there will be conversation threads, like “first flight since coronavirus” or “LGBT + parents”. Hosts with relevant expertise will help steer each thread, for example offering journalistic-style summaries of practical advice or providing inspirational first-person testimonials. Conversations will build on this and hosts will find ways to surface and highlight content that is worthwhile and relevant to users.

Clémence has young children and Sager has a young child, and their perspectives as parents of separated families give them insight into the needs of members of their community, they said. They plan to enhance the value of The Expedition membership by adding access to discounts for services and equipment elsewhere. Exhibit A: Ciao Bambino, a family travel planning company, intends to offer users a discount on its professional services.

Journalists as founders

Clémence and Sager follow the path traced by other journalists who have embarked on the journey. One example is Ralph Bartel, a print and television journalist who started an offer site Travel zoo in 2000. Another is Robert Niles, who left mainstream journalism to lead Introduced to the theme park, which has had a run of almost two decades. George Hobica left travel writing to create Plane tickets, a rate observation service that Tripadvisor then bought and sold. Darren Burn went from ITV reporter to creative Out of office and other LGBT + travel brands.

The concept of niche-driven travel communities is of course not entirely new. Perhaps most relevant, Gogobot (later called Trip.com) – which aimed to be a way for travelers to divide into tribes like ‘family travelers’ and share relevant advice – afterwards fainted. its purchase by Skyscanner from the Trip.com group.

Other people have also tried to create communities, like Where are you now? (WAYN), which sold for around $ 1.6 million in 2016 and then lost its sense of direction, despite raising $ 11 million in funding. Other adjacent attempts to focus on specific travel niches include TravelBlack, which Zim Ugochukwu created a few years ago with an original focus on black travel, and Travel fish, which for years has been collecting guides mainly to destinations in Southeast Asia.

But the founders of The Expedition believe they can take advantage of new opportunities that were not available in the past thanks to changing consumer expectations and technology.

“In the online world, the community is premium and the connection is premium, which means it’s something people will pay for,” Sager said. “People want to join something that reflects their identity. The opportunities are incredible.


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