Yesterday, Travel Ad Network announced the hiring of a new CEO - Nan-Kirsten Forte, formerly of health information site WebMD. According to the release, in Forte's 13 years of service at WebMD, "she was instrumental in growing WebMD’s consumer audience from less than 1 million to over 100 million monthly unique users and a market cap that soared to more than $2 billion." Read more. TAN's former CEO Brian Silver, will remain President and "spearhead a newly-created division of TAN called Travel Publisher and Advertiser Services."
Forte discussed her new role and the opportunity ahead in travel and for TAN, specifically.
AdExchanger.com: Why was taking on the CEO role at TAN the right, next step for you?
NKF: Personally, I wanted the agility that comes with a smaller, private company particularly one where there is so much upside for a lifestyle category like travel that everyone thinks about and plans for almost year around. I really like to create content products that I would want as a working human in a family of 5. I did that for myself in health at WebMD and now after 13 years I am ready to focus on St. John instead of St. John’s Wort!
As you consider the strategy ahead for TAN, what are some of the similarities you see between the health-related business you just left at WebMD and the travel related business of TAN?
Both are subjects that endlessly fascinate people and where they spend money no matter what the state of the economy. Travel intent actions tell marketers a good deal about people's relative affluence and interests so it is a fertile place for all sorts of brands to deliver their messages. Our mission is to assure both consumers and marketers get trusted travel sources and brands as we did at WebMD.
Can TAN become the WebMD for travel? - Or should it?
I don't think any great brand can be replicated per se. There is always the secret sauce of a company's brand promise and products. But I will apply all I have learned while keeping a keen eye towards the endemic needs of the travel marketplace. What WebMD brings to health is trust, transparency and action. I believe that the travel vertical will benefit from a similar set of core values.
It appears from your press release that acquisitions are possible. I realize it's early, but any hint on what might make sense?
There are lots of ways we can better serve brand marketers, our publishers and the travel audience. . We will either develop those capabilities in house or figure out the most prudent and productive way to get them. That could mean anything from strategic partnerships to acquisition to launching new lines of business.
Finally, what is the purpose of the new division Travel Publisher and Advertiser Services that Brian Silver will run?
It is key to our growth strategy in that it will focus aggressively on assuring that our portfolio companies get the innovations, tools and services they need to see healthy revenue and audience growth. And on the brand side, that our marketing partners get a better ROI than they will get with any other travel audience.
By John Ebbert
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