MTV Vet Launches Travel Video Site

Anyone seeking a bigger audience than just family and friends for videos of their summer trip has a new place to go on the Web. Formally launched today, Travelistic aims to be the YouTube of online travel, where people can post videos and share travel experiences and tips using social networking features like tagging and user profile pages.

Under the tagline "Watch Where You're Going," Travelistic will also encompass professionally produced programs including "The Thirsty Traveler," which visits wine and spirit-producing regions; "Get Out! Girls," following three friends touring exotic locales; and "Focus On," which explores lesser-known destinations.

Travelistic has also amassed videos from 120 boards of tourism, and is adding more than 100 videos a week for a total of about 1,000 so far. "We feel like there's a lot of opportunity for travel video," said Nicholas Butterworth, founder and CEO of Travelistic's parent company Diversion Media, which plans to roll out a series of niche video sites over time. Butterworth, the former head of MTVi and CEO of pioneering music site SonicNet, said he envisions Travelistic as a hybrid of user-generated and licensed material to offer "multiple points of view."

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Travelistic is also planning to develop original content in the form of a weekly video podcast about travel, for which it is now soliciting video auditions on the site.

But travel isn't exactly unexplored territory on the Web. In addition to taking on major travel sites such as Travelocity and Expedia, the online versions of travel publications and large newspapers such as USA Today are beefing up their travel sections with video and interactive features.

Butterworth, however, views Travelistic as complementing rather than competing with established travel sites by potentially syndicating video to them. "I think we plug right in," he said. "We want to be part of the ecosystem of travel." The site already allows bloggers to incorporate Travelistic videos into their sites.

More direct competitors include travel video sites such as TurnHere and 43 Places.

Travelistic is relying on an ad-supported business model that includes video pre-roll ads from marketers including Accura, Procter & Gamble, and Days Inn, and contextual ads on the site through Google's AdSense program.

To help generate traffic, the site has begun a viral campaign featuring "Thirsty Traveler" host Kevin Brauch promoting his show on Travelistic on sites such as MySpace and Facebook and on video sites such as YouTube and Google Video.

But he isn't counting on funny viral videos like SNL's "Lazy Sunday," or the "Mentos and Diet Coke" clip to give the site a jump-start. "We expect we'll have to spend some money on marketing, but so far the reaction has been extremely good," said Butterworth.

Videos are reviewed by Travelistic to meet basic standards for quality and content before being ranked according to the number of views and user ratings. The site's welcome page also features a list of popular video tags ranging from "architecture" to "islands."

With Travelistic as its pilot project, Diversion Media plans to introduce more video sites focusing on leisure and recreation activities. "There are hundreds of viable niches in video," said Butterworth. He just has to hope Google and YouTube don't come to the same conclusion.

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