The company hopes to build its user base and therefore its attractiveness to travel advertisers.
Travel search player SideStep, which has so far delivered flight results only via its proprietary software, has launched a Web site that delivers flight, hotel and car results.
The company hopes to reach a wider audience with the site and intends to offer advertisers more space to promote their travel products. Previously, SideStep's Web interface only offered hotel search. More than 7.5 million people have downloaded SideStep's software, according to the company.
"The strategy here is we want to make SideStep accessible to an even broader audience," said Phil Carpenter, vice president of marketing for SideStep. "What we have is a great place for people to start with SideStep. They can get a real feeling for the power of travel search and what it can do for you. We see it as the shallow end of the swimming pool."
SideStep, founded in 1999, is the most established player in the travel search space, having been joined in recent months by competitors Kayak.com, Mobissimo, and Yahoo's FareChase. The company says between 3 and 3.5 million unique users search using its technology every month -- a number it expects to rise with the launch of the Web site.
Besides giving SideStep more impressions to offer advertisers, the site launch also gives the company additional space. The new site launches with pay-per-click advertising from Overture, plus pay-per-click ads and CPM-based graphic ads that SideStep sells itself.
"We have more real estate and we can use it to help marketing partners in ways they haven't been able to do to date," said Carpenter. "Now marketing partners have a full portfolio of choices from SideStep."
Text ads appear under the listings "Flight Finds," "Hotel Finds," "Cruise Finds," and "Ground Transport Finds." Graphic ads include a 180 x 150 ad unit that appears on the upper right side of Web pages. The company also offers advertisers text and graphic ad placements in its monthly and weekly email newsletters. Carpenter said the company would experiment with offering different ad formats and placements on the site as time goes on.
"We're encouraging people to test all of the ad types and see which delivers the best value for them," said Carpenter. "We will be offering packages that gives them a taste of all of the different flavors."
The Web site launch also gives SideStep an opportunity to encourage visitors to download its application and subscribe to its email newsletters.
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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