Leading snow sports and holiday website Ski.com.au has been completely revamped in a move that co-owner Richard Tribe said is "almost bet the farm stuff – we are putting a lot on the line this year in making these changes. It's our biggest 'strategic pivot' since 2008 when we handed the snow cams back to the resorts".
"We looked at what the biggest trends going forward will be and are attempting to at least be part of the trends if not a little ahead.
"As a result we have abandoned 'News' altogether, along with the 2nd hand equipment classifieds and a few other non-performing sections of the site content."
Mr Tribe said three key trends influenced the new direction.
- General purpose/portal sites fail (Yahoo)
- Single task / Single focus sites win (Seek, Carsales, Kayak)
- The future is mobile (2015 tipping point for mobile v's desktop) so move to an adaptive, mobile friendly, gesture based GUI.
So what is the new direction?
"Most of our revenue is from travel related advertisers therefore Ski will become a travel site first, a Ski community site 2nd and a snow report site 3rd," he said.
"However, we will be mindful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Some in the industry are not happy the site has dropped news but Mr Tribe said "display advertising alone can not support hi-quality content creation – newspapers online are struggling world over".
That said, content will still have a very large role to play through the large and powerful Ski.com.au community.
"One of our major goals is to improve the ability of the community to create content that is structured and useful to other ski travellers," Mr Tribe said.
He added: "We want to own our social and not hand it over on a platter to the major social platforms.
"In a nutshell – we are morphing Ski.com.au to be a TripAdvisor meets Kayak kinda of site with a very narrow niche.
"That niche is one that exclusively services the Australian snow sport participant by supporting their ski holiday planning no matter the destination."
The revenue model is one in transition with Ski.com.au aiming to derive a greater percentage of income from affiliate and search.
"We will rely less and less on a media/ad sales model – though I don't expect media sales to become obsolete – it's just that we believe there is no future in relying exclusively on media ad sales.
"In the interim we are experiencing strong growth in 'classified' style ski holiday/ski package ads – to this end our partners are Flight Centre, Ski Travel Company, Hotham and a multitude of casual advertisers whom self-serve.
"This is classified advertising that is no different to say Carsales or Seek etc. This has been our strongest area the last two years and we have placed renewed focus on this style of advertising.
"Augmenting the classifieds and to bulk it out for international destinations will be the affiliates or Pay Per Action.
"This is not out of development yet but will be ready prior to the season.
"Affiliate partners will be booking.com, MountainRes, Interhomes, Packlate and a couple of others.
"The 'Shop' is 100% PPA and has 18 suppliers including Surfstitich, Quiksilver, Roxy, BackCountry.com – it's your regular price comparison engine like getprice.com.au."