When 18-year-old Shawn "Napster" Fanning invented the software that turned the music industry on its head, he also engendered a vast community of young file-swappers. There are 250 million registered users of "peer-to-peer computing" networks worldwide.
According to Big Champagne, a market research company that measures consumption of digital media, more music is now acquired online than on CD. The phenomenon is spreading to other forms of entertainment as well.
Atlanta-based Intent MediaWorks is a distributor of legal content music, film, video and written works among users of P2P software applications. Many of its clients are independent artists seeking to promote their works directly to the Internet, but Intent also works with businesses that want to distribute corporate information at the lowest possible cost.
Its own networks reach 20 million people, mostly of college age and equally split between the genders. Intent's executives view them as "a captive audience to whom no one is delivering travel products or services," said Richard Keefhaver, vice president of e-commerce for Intent's travel division.
That Intent turned its sights on travel is no surprise: Its founders are Les Ottolenghi and Glenn Martin, both graduates of AgentWare and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.
Next month, Intent will roll out mytravelnetwork.com, where users can find travel information in "a social networking environment in which people are encouraged to share," Keefhaver said.
As envisioned, the site would provide a comprehensive index of information on destinations around the world that is available from other users as well as from destination management companies and other suppliers. "Users will have all these resources, and they can decide who to work with," Keefhaver said. Martin, who is Intent's chief operating officer, said mytravelnetwork.com will make use of "swarming" technology. "The computer is smart enough to know that the same file is on six different computers," he said, so it will assemble a copy using pieces from each, "swarming" around the most powerful sources.
A key component of the site is the matching of users with "experts" on the destination, including airlines, tour operators and on- and offline travel agents.
In part, the site will function as an advertising vehicle for suppliers, who can choose from three levels of listings ranging from a complimentary Silver listing to paid Gold and Platinum listings with photos and other rich media.
Those costs could be eliminated, however, based upon the number of new users that a supplier or service provider brings to the network. "Bringing new users onto the network will also result in lifetime residual income to whoever gets the new user registered first," Keefhaver said. The site also will incorporate the FareFinder meta search air and hotel engine, and Intent is currently negotiating with suppliers for booking revenue.
In addition, "we expect to have numerous service provider categories on our home page with links to these suppliers, and we plan to build business relationships that would generate income for us as well," Keefhaver said. "For the most part, we would look at back-end revenue on bookings, but there could also be an option for cost-per-click from the home page links."
Suppliers would also have the option to pay for e-mail messaging and/or advertising directly to a targeted demographic of the user base. For the rollout, Intent expects to have airlines, online travel agencies and hotels in FareFinder and destination and travel agent profiles with links from the home page. Additional home page listings and links for other categories will follow.