SideStep purchases social networking site, TripUp

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SideStep, best known as a travel search company, expanded into the social networking arena with the purchase this month of TripUp, home to a community of travelers generally in the 20-to-35 age range.

The Los Angeles-based TripUp is designed to help trip planners find travel companions, get advice from experts on their destinations and make new acquaintances who live at those destinations.

The expert advisers are most often people who live at the destinations, and they sometimes are individuals who know the destinations very well based on frequent visits, said Rob Solomon, SideStep president and CEO.

SideStep bought TripUp from founder and CEO, Sam Rogoway, who will stay on as a consultant, Solomon said, adding that others on TripUp's small staff will join the staff of Santa Clara, Calif.-based SideStep.

Solomon said the purchase provides more income opportunities for his company in two ways. SideStep earns its income from advertising and from referral fees when its visitors click through to booking sites.

However, Solomon said, SideStep needs more inventory, meaning more pages against which to sell targeted advertising. In addition, the expectation is that referral fee income will rise, as well, as the tie TripUp members brings to SideStep and beyond to booking sites.

Solomon described the acquisition in a big-picture sense, as well, essentially saying SideStep is in step with Web trends toward more community interaction.

On the Web, he said, "the first thing was online agencies, then came the search engines... and the next thing is the notion of the social Web."

It's been a "subtle revolution," he said. Previously, he continued, travelers had to rely on published sources for their information, a method that has limitations, but "now they can tap into the knowledge of millions."

For SideStep, he noted, this has meant moving from being only a travel search company, addressing the consumer's budget considerations, to becoming a resource for the same consumer as he plans trip details.

To that end, SideStep last year purchased TravelPost.com, described as the Web's largest independently owned hotel review community. Buying TripUp is the next step in a progression that, he said, lets SideStep "provide unique information and help people have better trips."

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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