Almost 10 years ago, Michael Keriakos was planning a vacation to Morocco. He bought a magazine's guide, planned his trip based on that guide and had a great vacation.

But it occurred to him that the only compensation the magazine would get was from his purchase of the $10 guide, despite the fact that he planned his $10,000 trip entirely around its editors' recommendations.

In 2014, he exited his startup, Everyday Health, when it went public. He revisited that thought he'd had years before and went on to found Curacity in 2015.

Curacity connects its partner hotels and media outlets, giving the media outlets a commission if they influence a reader's hotel booking decision, if within a 12-month window, the reader makes a direct booking with the hotel. Curacity calls it an "online-to-offline data attribution platform." Most recently, Afar Media partnered with Curacity.

Currently, Keriakos said, Curacity monitors consumer clicks from newsletters sent by media outlets. For example, if a reader subscribes to an Afar newsletter and clicks a headline about a hotel, that click is logged.

Periodically, hotels provide data on guests, which is compared to Curacity's list of consumers interested in the property (a secure third party compares the data). If there is a match, the booking is attributed to the publisher, who receives a commission from the hotel.

"How can Expedia earn $1,500 when Departures Magazine inspires a $10,000 trip and they make nothing? It doesn't make sense," Keriakos said. "When the wrong people are receiving the incentive it discourages the right people from doing more of that thing, and it encourages the wrong people to take more credit for the things that they're doing."

Consumers "have to take a deliberate act" for Curacity to assume a media outlet has influenced their hotel choice, Keriakos said. For example, simply opening a newsletter from Afar would not be enough. Readers need to click on a headline about a hotel.

"If they clicked to read more about the hotel, then we view that as a real signal that they ingested that content," he said, adding, "We're looking for true signals that they engage with the content."

Curacity does not attempt to influence media outlets with regard to their content or coverage, Keriakos said.

"Publishers are comfortable with the idea that as long as you're not trying to influence what we write, of course we're going to more heavily circulate the things that we're monetizing," he said.

Industry analyst Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research, said he was "skeptical" of the concept.

"Most hotels want to grow their digital direct reservations," he said. "It's unclear to me why a hotel would want to purchase a product that steers customers to a higher-cost booking channel, and pay the publishers a commission when the hotel is already spending money to advertise."

He cautioned hotels that are interested in the service "to have very thorough, very detailed and very specific conversations with Curacity's sales staff before committing to use it."

Keriakos said he believes Curacity is on track to "drive $100 million in revenue to about 150 hotels" next year, and the business is further scalable.

Currently, Curacity works with "dozens" of partner hotels and a handful of media outlets, including Afar.

"In a sense, I expect that over time one of the long-term benefits to the category is by bringing an economic model to publishers to help them monetize the production of hotel content," Keriakos said. "They'll be able to go deeper than they already are."

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI