Magpie addresses content crunch as operators and resellers race to get products online

San Francisco, March 5, 2019: Magpie Travel, a San Francisco-based company founded by veteran tour operator Christian Watts, announced the launch of Magpie, its content management system for the experiences sector. The company also announced that Viator founder Rod Cuthbert, and the founders of Tokyo-based Venture Republic, had participated in an initial round of funding.

Magpie Travel launched by Christian Watts and backed by former Viator CEO Rod Cuthbert.

Discussing the company’s mission, Watts said that content management was a major issue for tour and activity operators, who devote significant resources to loading and maintaining product descriptions and images with their distribution partners.

“It’s not uncommon for an operator to have 20 or more – sometimes many more – channel partners; all of them need up-to-date information, so managing product descriptions and images for everyone becomes a major task. While having a diverse and broad distribution channel is a good thing, it also means allocating an enormous amount of staff time to ensuring each partner has the content they need, and that they keep it up to date.”

Christian Watts

Watts said Magpie brings the key elements of Product Information Management (PIM) – manage content, enrich it, distribute it efficiently – to the experiences sector.  “Our industry’s distribution channel is facing a content crunch: resellers are racing to load tens of thousands of new products, while operators are struggling to meet the specific needs of each new distribution partner. Most content sharing today is via email with Word, Excel or PDF attachments, or links to DropBox, Google Drive or other cloud storage solutions. Frankly, it’s a mess.”

Watts says Magpie can help. “We’re providing a data entry and maintenance system for operators to load their product details once, then easily deliver it in whatever format their partners require. Operators using Magpie will know that they can get quality content to new distribution partners quickly, with all the data fields required and in the format that partner demands,” he said.

Rod Cuthbert, one of the company’s seed investors and a pioneer in the OTA space, said content-related issues are just as severe for distributors.

“The channel will certainly benefit from a content repository that can map to each reseller’s format. And frankly, even the biggest resellers have limited resources; most have significant backlogs before they can get new products up and bookable online. A system that saves time and resources on the initial product load is going to be instantly popular; if it can also help with updates and maintenance, it will quickly become a must-have on both sides of the industry.”

Rod Cuthbert

Watts said that the first release of Magpie also features an extensive Style Guide, and an interface to a translation service, both developed specifically for the experience sector.

“For the Style Guide, we commissioned former Lonely Planet digital editor John Ryan to develop guidelines that cover not just the basics like tone and grammar, but also very specific issues like the difference between a short and long product description, digital reading habits, and how to write in the ‘active voice’ to inspire readers to become buyers.

The result is a guide that builds on the excellent examples we’ve already seen from the major resellers, and helps an operator to craft content that will have wide appeal across the distribution channel.”

Discussing the translation service, Watts said “For most operators, getting into international markets typically means relying on resellers who are prepared to do translations on their behalf. It’s common for operators to have dozens of resellers featuring their products in their own language, but only a few featuring translated versions in foreign-language markets. To address that, we’ve worked with a translation agency to develop a workflow that allows an operator to select the products they want translated, the languages they require, and simply press a button; within a week quality assured translations are loaded back into Magpie for use on the operator’s own site, and by any resellers they choose.”

Magpie pricing starts with a free service for a basic range of functionality, and $99 per month for access to enhanced features. Enterprise pricing for global operators is also available. Translations and other ancillary services are priced separately. Resellers do not pay to access Magpie.

About Magpie Travel

Magpie was founded in 2018 by Christian Watts, who is the founder (1997) and CEO of City Sightseeing San Francisco. He holds a BA (Hons) degree in Economics from the University of Leeds, UK. Magpie’s founding investors include Rod Cuthbert, the founder and former CEO of Viator (now part of the TripAdvisor Group) and former CEO & Chairman of Rome2rio; and Kei Shibata and Kenichi Shibata, the founders of Venture Republic, a Tokyo-based investment company with an extensive travel industry portfolio, including LineTravel, Trip101 and AllStay.