WAYN founders admit loss of focus

Travel community WAYN is preparing for “a new beginning” after admitting that it has lost focus over the past 18 months.

Earlier this week, senior execs, Jerome Touze, Peter Ward and Mike Lines, posted a blog on the WAYN site which talked about “a renewed sense of focus”.

Co-founder Touze told Travolution: “We were too distracted, and what the current climate has done is force us to refocus on ‘what are the things that are really important?’.”

The main issue, Touze admitted, was that the site and its business model had become too complex.

“We were doing lots of things averagely rather than a few things brilliantly,” he said. “The most successful web sites excel in one area, whereas we were becoming a jack of all trades.”

Without going into details, Touze hinted that the new direction would take the site into the lifestyle arena. “Wayn is a social network within the travel dimension, but we realised there is a seasonality involved. We have 15 million members and they don’t all travel at the same time, so we have a community that has a general interest in travel. We think that broadening out into lifestyle would improve our interaction with users.”

Part of improving its interaction also includes sending them fewer emails. It has dropped its daily and weekly alerts and replaced them with a weekly account summary.

One admission in the blog post was that the business “sometimes added further business development integrations…because of the initial commercial value” even if it was moving wayn away from its core proposition.

“Often you can end up with lots of offers on the site which ends up with the user losing any idea about what the site is about,” Touze said.

Monetization remains an issue for social network sites, wayn included. Touze said that revenues would continue to be advertising based, and pointed to recent successful campaigns it has worked on with tourist boards. “Tourist boards have realised that social media based campaigns need to be measured differently from work they might do with Expedia or Thomson,” he said.

It has worked with Sweden, Germany and Johannesburg tourist board. A campaign with Montenegro will launch soon. He noted that in the current climate it was advantageous to be involved with organisations that are government-backed.

However, he suggested that the current set-up, where wayn.com has a team to market its offer to advertisers, might be replaced by “something more scalable, where clients serve themselves.”

He also said that the site was looking to attract an older demographic, possibly redesigning the youthful look and feel of the current layout and design.

But despite the concerns, wayn.com is still attracting new members. “We’re not worried about growth, as such,” he said, revealing that the site is still attracting 10K new users a day. “There is an ongoing momentum in our numbers, but we need to make sure current and new members become regular visitors,” he said.

The finer details of both the strategic change and the new-look web site are still being worked out. Touze suggested a mid-April as a possible relaunch date.

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