This week’s Throw Back Thursday is about the decline of the once single most important site for miles and points collectors. It was not only a place to get information, but a community.
FlyerTalk was the center of the miles and points universe.
However, it was bought by a company that purposely neglects its websites as part of its investment strategy, which makes this a dramatic story of a public company, lawsuits, and our once beloved site’s mismanagement. A tale that goes way back…
The Data Of IB’s Decline
Did Internet Brands Ruin FlyerTalk?
FlyerTalk was one of the world’s largest forums when I got into points and miles as a hobby was trending then, and its continued to soar. The data shows that hindsight proves miles related sites overall grew a ton over the last decade. A ton.
If you’re not familiar, FlyerTalk was started by Randy Petersen.
Randy rightfully has a great reputation in the miles and points world. First and foremost, he started FlyerTalk which is the reason many of us got into miles.
If that wasn’t enough, after he sold FlyerTalk he started BoardingArea, which is now a giant miles/points themed (mostly) blogging platform. He was able to do it twice.
(Also, I love that apparently Internet Brands waived Randy’s non-compete for BoardingArea because “they said they did not believe in the future of blogs”. Boy does Internet Brands sure know the internet. Quote from MMS interview).
Google Trends Data (since 2004):
Unlike any of Internet Brands’ other businesses, FlyerTalk continued to grow during the great miles boom.
While I believe I can show that it should’ve grown even more (just look at BoardingArea’s dramatic growth since Randy started it), there seems to be a turning point, which I’ll come back to.
But my first thought was to check Frugal Travel Guy
What is crazy is that the largest spike above (in 2012) is around the time Rick sold FrugalTravelGuy.
Since Internet Brands took over, the site took an incredibly steep decline… Which seems to be a theme.
Based on my best estimate, FTG’s traffic was 100x greater under Rick.
I want to mention that I recognize Google Trends is not the most comprehensive way to guess-timate traffic. In my own analytics I noticed a declining percentage of people who arrive at the website by searching some variation of “travelisfree” on Google – after all, Chrome autocompletes the websites I’ve been to.
In contrast, here are the stats to two other leading websites at the time – One Mile At A Time, which is still independently owned, and The Points Guy, which has similarly been bought by corporations (first bought by BankRates which was later acquired by RedVentures).
OMAAT and TPG have grown dramatically since the decline of FTG started, which is around the time of its acquisition.
In all fairness, I don’t really care how much OMAAT has grown, or for that matter any site. I just think it’s interesting that a brand of websites can’t manage websites.
For further evidence of this, I want to show a few other travel websites that Internet Brands has acquired.
Do I really need to keep going? I think I’ve shown enough decline, right? That’s 5 sites that have less traffic now than when InterBrands bought them, and in some cases it’s a 100x difference!
And I can go through a number of other sites that have the exact same fate, or worse (RIP Horsetopia.com!).
The point is, if you’re a blogger and Internet Brands approaches you for a buyout, take all cash up front! That’s not a stock you want.
Speaking of stock, I’ll do one last thing to set the stage…
Introducing Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR)
In early June, 2014 Internet Brands was acquired by K.K.R. for $1.1 billion.
In this world and life there are a lot of mysteries. How were the pyramids build? How did those people get to Easter Island? What is the meaning of life?
How do people as incompetent as the executives of Internet Brands get to be billionaires?
Better yet, who are the geniuses running a publicly traded company that bought InternetBrands – the largest collection of declining websites one could buy with $1.1 billion.
How’s that going?
The Business-Model Problem
Let me be clear, I’m not saying Internet Brands is the reason their stock is performing under the market.
However, I do question the logic of buying a company like Internet Brands. As I’ll discuss, they are controversy-ridden and they have an intentionally neglectful business model. I believe I’ll prove both of these things.
To explain their business model, let me real quick explain how they’re approaching buying a site.
First, this isn’t an acquihire and they don’t focus on “buying talent” and keeping founders around and keeping them happy- (far from it).
Instead, when they buy a well-monetized site like this, they just pay a multiple of the cashflow and then neglect it.
Cashflow in this world is defined by how much the owner makes and profit in a year. However, if they fire/decrease the staff working on the site, they’ve effectively increased their cashflow. Now they can make their money back in a shorter amount of time.
The problem with this is, in my opinion, that it would be minimal additional effort to hire people who care about the site and actually fix the bugs. But as I’ll show, they just don’t. They just neglect the site.
This is what Warren Buffett calls the cigarette butt approach to investing. Instead of building something that lasts, they neglect it.
In my view, it’s marginally more effort to fix the issues of FlyerTalk. In other words, with barely more effort they could build lasting, growing brands that pay dividends forever. Instead, they have a collection of dying sites.
KKR either knew this and thought it was a good company to buy, or they didn’t do the due diligence. Either way, it doesn’t speak positively to their investing model.
So What Happened To FlyerTalk?
Interestingly enough, FlyerTalk has declined more under the new ownership, however I believe this is mostly due to years of neglect and incompetence adding up.
First of all, Internet Brands and WikiTravel are the only two sites that experienced temporary growth after the acquisition and before the steep decline.
Why? In my opinion, it’s largely due to the fact that forums are user-generated content.
With a blog, you need a personality like Rick to come up with interesting ideas.
With a forum, the usefulness is being comprehensive and interactive due to its crowd-sourcing nature.
With FlyerTalk, once Randy is no longer running the show, they can just sit back and not touch anything and in theory they should be able to enjoy the growth of the forum.
Also, “Network Effects” are extremely powerful and defensible. In other words, once you achieve critical mass with a network-effect based business or site, it’s really hard to be dethroned. Why go comment on the new forum with barely any users, when there are 1,000 times more people on FlyerTalk?
In my opinion, this is the reason MilePoint/InsideFlyer has not reached the same heights as FlyerTalk despite FlyerTalk being completely dysfunctional. I commend Randy for starting a new forum, but the fact that people still prefer to use FlyerTalk instead of a forum that does the exact same thing but works, is a testimony of the power of network effects.
Internet Brands didn’t do nothing.
As I said, Internet Brands acquired a website with user generated content in an extremely growing trend, now they can sit back and experience the growth. Of course, doing nothing isn’t as great as innovating, so maybe they would miss out on growth, but surely if you do nothing the site would continue to grow due to the fact that the community was already there.
I’m not saying lack of innovation doesn’t matter, however, wikipedia hasn’t changed its format much and it’s still growing. I personally have not looked into why WikiTravel has declined to 1/3 of the site traffic that it once was, but they too have also clearly failed to innovate, and worse, they have obvious usability issues.
Introducing Lawsuit #1
However, with FlyerTalk, Internet Brands began to do something much worse than nothing, they made updates that broke the site.
According to The Gate, Randy Petersen and InternetBrands had a pending lawsuit (that was settled), stating “Internet Brands has failed to properly support FlyerTalk, leading to a significant increase in technical complaints and user complaints and specifically cites the failure to properly fix the Search feature”.
It seems Randy saw the decline coming.
I’ve also heard rumors that InternetBrands completely failed to pay Randy a portion of their agreement, a sort of Trumpianism way of business.
I can’t verify that, but I want to say that I greatly side with Randy Petersen for a number of reasons. First, my personal experience with FlyerTalk and second, the reports and lawsuits that surround Internet Brands.
The Other Lawsuits
Here is a list of Internet Brand related lawsuits. This list doesn’t even mention Randy’s which was settled, so who knows how many more people have had this experience.
The scary thing is the content of some of these lawsuits, which I don’t want to get into for various reasons!
Either way it’s safe to say that a jury found Internet Brands guilty of a breach of contract elsewhere, so it would hardly be surprising that their conduct with Randy and others was inappropriate.
The Problems With FlyerTalk
According to The Gate, there were many tech issues, including not fixing the broken searches.
Why this would matter for Randy after he sold? First, he could’ve taken a piece of equity as part of the sale, or a percentage or revenue, as that’s common.
Second, it’s his baby so he cares. It was a useful service to him and a lot of his friends, and it slowly became unusable.
Third, he had a non-compete that prevented him from launching MilePoint, unless there was a breach of contract. I believe he ended up waiting until the non-compete ended.
My personal experience on FlyerTalk has been increasingly frustrating.
The issue I tweeted about was an infinite scroll, which on its own is not the proper use of that feature. But I was on page “200” (which doesn’t make any sense because there’s no pagination) of some thread and as I went up to the top to see the wiki, page 199 loaded pushing my screen down… So I scrolled to the top again, just to load another page.
At that rate it would’ve taken me an hour to get to the wiki at the top. Instead I gave up.
8 years later, search is still broken, and there are tons of other issues:
- Search for “African Safaris” and the top results aren’t remotely related. What the heck? Why did Randy settle? 😀
- Ads seem to be taking over mobile?
- No search result difference between threads and posts.
- Buttons don’t seem to do what they say.
- Infinite scroll is terrible (as I stated), but it seems to cause other issues as well.
- Like, I can’t just do an in-page search.
- There’s no return to top button.
- Links to go back are inconsistently displayed on different pages.
- The sub-forums are not easily navigated. How did I know which folder a thread will be in?
- There’s really no way to link to the latest page? Like I can link to the currently latest thread, say page 256. But as soon as there is a page 257, my link is too old content.
That is after about ~2 minutes of browsing, which is about my limit. But you get the point.
Personally, I believe Randy has a point, that these folks were neglectful. Not only that, the changes they did make are annoying.
Could Someone Save FlyerTalk?
I believe there is something left to salvage.
1) I don’t see any other medium replacing it.
A few times, I’ve had friends say Reddit is the new FlyerTalk. I’m a Reddit user, but my personal opinion is that it’s not naturally as good of a resource.
I think the upvoting system is great for news. Get the most important story now.
However, I don’t think it’s as good at resources. The one thing I love that FlyerTalk has added is the Wiki pages. I think for Reddit to do this on every subject ever, you would need to create a zillion subreddits that are interconnected. As many as you have on FlyerTalk. One for Hyatt, that Hyatt people lurk; one for AA; one for hotel deals; etc…
2) Network Effects
The problem with creating a large interconnected series of subreddits (with wikis), is that you need a ton of people. People tried creating a mistake fare thread and other threads, and they did not work.
I believe it could work with enough scale, but that’s precisely the hard part that FlyerTalk already has solved.
I could be wrong, as there may be a way of doing it that I haven’t thought of. For example, getting the content for the main Award Travel reddit from the other related subreddit. That way you’re forcing people to post in the subreddit.
I don’t know. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it requires a ton of scale, or another really clever solution.
I think the best way to know if Reddit could take over as a new miles/points community is to ask the executives of Internet Brands and if they say Reddit has no place in the future, then you can know for certain Reddit is the future. 😉
3) The problems are largely tech related.
I’m not saying tech related issues are easy. They probably have competent programmers. The problem is that they have no execution.
So you need someone who could manage the programmers, who has a vision of how it should work in 2019, and someone who actually uses it.
Whenever I say that FlyerTalk is un-useable, the number one response is that the community is also toxic.
To me, this is the most solvable issue with a company that cares even a little bit.
Internet Brands seems to have a format, a road map if you will, for failure.
First, buy a company. Second, make sure there’s no leadership.
RedVentures had made sure that Brian is CEO of The Points Guy and they seem to give him a ton of control.
This is how Berkshire Hathaway works. Buffett says he hardly speaks to his CEOs, unless they really need his advice. He makes sure he finds the right CEO and then steps back.
Google realized that they’d created an extremely bloated organization. Head of HR wrote a book where he said he called a meeting with a team on a small, new project expecting maybe 2 or 3 people to show up, and 100 people showed up. He couldn’t figure out how 100 people were doing so little.
This is why they’ve modeled themselves after Berkshire and are trying to move to a new system as “Alphabet”.
In stark contrast to giving one passionate person control, Internet Brands seems to try to do as little as possible. They seem to drop in one lowly manager with little support financially or personnel wise.
Any site needs someone to set direction, and they don’t even give the site a chance to fix bugs.
What happened? Our beloved community site was bought by a brand that, I believe, has made it a business model to neglect their investments.
If Internet Brands asks to buy your company, don’t take any equity or revenue, because they have ruined every single company that I could find. Literally every company I checked has declined since their ownership, without exception.
FlyerTalk has to be the most extreme case of neglect because they still have a large, active community and still have bugs that have been around for many years. I can’t even imagine why it’s not worth their time or money to fix them.
FlyerTalk was an amazing community that fell into disarray without any solutions. Seemingly without any care for their issues as well.
Jokes on us and K.K.R.
Anyone else miss the old FlyerTalk? Anyone disagree that something like Reddit could take over?
Great analysis Drew. Enjoyed the article and also gave up on Flyertalk long ago
Agree that Flyertalk is completely unusable, but I do appreciate user-generated content. 90% articles on TPG are paid pieces to drive CC sign ups or promote a Marriott property
@Rick – Thanks bud!
@Bob – totally get that there is still content there. So, many of my friends say they stopped using it because of the vitriol community. I stopped using it because I can’t stand the bugs/usability.
However, the fact that millions of people like you stick with it regardless, says that the site could be turned around.
HOLY F*CK I hate infinite scroll!!! Trying to find something on a laptop is one thing, but the infinite scroll when trying to look on your phone is maddening. I’ve never seen it used anywhere else on the internet, have you? Whoever thought of it must of known it would ruin the site cause what person who actually uses literally the internet at all would put this on their website.
1) Most importantly to anyone, you can turn it off!
credit: WandrMe gave me the link here – https://twitter.com/WandrMe/status/1122231590887858184
2) Infinite scroll can make sense in some cases.
The PROBLEM is:
– They have 200+ page threads. You should never have to scroll 200+ pages. That’s insane.
– worse, they have both pagination and infinite scroll.
So they store info on page 167 and land you there… now you’re 167 pages away from the top. Which is insane.
However, it could work with discovery.
The only way I could see it working with a forum is if comments are not time relevant and then you upvote comments, like on reddit. That way all the most important comments would be at the top.
However, with FlyerTalk it’s important to find the latest info in the thread, not the most popular historically. And again, it’s impossible to do this with tons of pages.
So, it’s completely moronic. In the flick of some code it could be solved and I can’t believe people are incompetent enough to try it in this setting.
However, while it’s rarely a good idea, it does work for social “discovery” items like pinterest – where the goal is to surprise and definitely not when you know what you’re looking for.
That was fantastic. I never started at flyertalk until after internet brands bought it. However it slowly went downhill since I started in 2011. And I loved frugal travel guy until Rick sold out. It went for bead perhaps the best blog to the worst very quickly.
That’s funny you say it was overnight. I might it pretty much was.
And that’s because Rick stepped back from the daily.
Shows my point of blogs vs forums. A blog, if you take out the head guy, you have x number of days of cashflow before it’s dead. Successful blog buyouts keep the founder around.
MMS would be the one exception, but they surely made back their investment. But imo, that’s an entirely different story.
What subreddits do you subscribe to, Drew?
If I type in “r” Chrome autofills to https://reddit.com/r/nba
I go straight to /r/nba 99% of the time.
I scroll through /r/travel looking for places I’ve never heard of, just cuz I like to save destinations on my map.
The other reason for the decline of Flyertalk (member since September 2000) is Facebook and other online platforms. People interact there, so there’s less give and take on Flyertalk. Back in the day, if you were looking for information on a program, all you had to do was read, read, and read. Over time, you’d learn about your airline or hotel program of choice. You can’t do that reading the blogs. Oh sure some were helpful. MMS has his Southwest tutorial, and TPG was helpful with BA when my wife and I each got the cc for 100,000 Avios per person.
In 2019, the travel bloggers spoon feeds info to readers. Then, the next day, or 2 days later, the information is long past gone. On Flyertalk all I had to do was a search to quickly find my info. The travel bloggers also don’t have the integrity in 2019 that they did in 2009. The Frugal Travel Guy (FTG) was pushing information, not doing a hard sell. I (you?) were able to trust what he said. After Rick sold, it went downhill. These days I log onto FT once or twice a week. Sad.
I 100% remember seeing dhammer on FT back in the good ol days when I first started. I remember because my best friend always used that username… but he wasn’t on FT.
I still trust anything that comes out Rick’s mouth. I texted him for comment on IB and I got a “no comment”. But he’s a great guy and everyone around then remembers him for honestly wanting to help people.
I think you make a great case for why FT would still be relevant. Like, when reading your comment about finding your info on a FT thread, I totally agree. Like, it’s everything. I remember looking up when Hyatt status restarts, when the dates are for requalification and being confused.
For whatever reason, as a blogger it’s hard to recreate the thoroughness of crowdsourcing. Maybe I should spend more time thinking about that…
I do think Facebook is a good place. But I see 50k people max in a FB group. IMO, it’s not conducive to the thoroughness you describe, so I think there is a bell curve on how many people work in one group. That ‘s just my opinion.
Either way, we’re talking about 50k vs 10+ millionish(?), so I think there’s room for both and I don’t think that’s the reason there is less people on FT.
I think I make a good case for Internet Brands being the reason. 🙂
Thank you for pointing out the infinite scroll turn-off option. And thanks for all the details. While there are clearly so many problems here, that infinite scroll change has to be the single worst change I’ve ever seen to a site. (Hmm, the Amex interface ranks up there – better or worse than infinite scroll?).
I can’t imagine anything being worse than FT’s infinite scroll. You literally can’t get to the top of the page sometimes.
You raise some important points (eg. infinite scroll, ugh!) but I have another perspective. The single biggest reason I used FT was to find and share datapoints for trick it routes, fuel dump ideas, MS strategies, etc. When this information regularly found its way to blog posts it became a strong disincentive to participate in those forums as a contributor. I think when Canadian Kilometers leaked LM trick routes that was the final nail in the coffin for me. I’ve since shifted to platforms like Slack or even group chats for those types of discussions.
Yeah, I totally agree that many people have moved to private groups.
However, the number of people who actually knew things like 3xs for dumps… was relatively small, especially compared to the number of people who are no longer using, which is seemingly millions.
Holy crap! Thanks for the link to this easy Seth’s hack. That scrolling nightmare was giving me a freaking migraine! As to the moronic search function, let’s be fair, it’s never worked, IB or not. I also find it difficult to replace FT with anything, least of all Reddit.
Thanks Seth! 😀
I think many discussion forums have declined now that there are Facebook communities on so many topics.
Yeah, someone else commented this and my position is that 1) of course they need to replace FT, because FT doesn’t actually work and Facebook does. and 2) It’s still a very small number of people.
Interesting discussion of what has happened to Flyertalk.. The FT community has definitely suffered virtual urban blight.
That’s exactly what’s happening. And people still are living there! 😀
That evil “Trumpianism” strikes again!! lol. It’s a wonder you can make it through any post without blaming Trump for….something. (Usually you can’t.) 5 1/2 years to so you might want to pace the hate. #TDS is real.
I think you’re quite confused.
1) I did a quick site search and it seems I’ve literally never talked about Trump on this site. I’ve used the word “trump” to mean override, and I’ve had commenters use the word trump.
2) I made no judgement statements about trump, like “evil”, nor any political comments. It’s a small comparison of business “strategies” of cutting costs by not paying workers, which is fact as much as anything.
3) I don’t discuss politics, because it seems to attract overzealous commenters who, for some reason, usually aren’t coherent in speech, make no sense, and literally have no idea what you’re talking about… Made evident by my having to reply saying that you’re thinking of someone else and… And because I have no idea what the heck you’re talking about.
Seth (wandr), GUWonder, Brian at the Gate and many others were infinite resources for beginners on FT
The problem is also that Flyertalk is a not mean for enriching posters
if it were it would be exponentially growing
Flyertalk is meant for any user to post.
AA and other airlines shut down Coupon Connection in 2011
Boarding area is a place to get news on travel sales
Boarding area is a blog medium for driving mainly cc revenue
The number of people wanting a few points on CC is likely to be more than the number wanting to read Seat2A thread on the joys of Amtrak or ferries. so I am not sure just the number of clicks is a true measure of value
If I can find a company that can sell itself to KKR for the next 1 Bn, I would be happy to buy a piece of it
I agree those people were great resources.
I don’t understand what the problem is… It was a good place for those people for years and years, and then it wasn’t. Why?
You’ve misunderstood how KKR works. That’s the management company that’s public – they manage tens of billions of dollars of other investor money. This deal is probably just a couple percent of their total assets.
Um. What did I misunderstand? The post is majority about internet brands. The only thing I said about KKR is that 1) They bought IB, and 2) the stock has since declined.
I don’t really know how KKR works, nor do I find it relevant other than to mention that they own IB… which I think is a fact.
When you said KKR spent 10% of it’s market cap to buy something…that’s what Pete is referencing. KKR’s public market cap isn’t really relevant for sizing its investment. The public company manages and invests other investors’ money in an amount that dwarfs its market cap. Last number I saw was ~$200 billion under management. Also, KKR leverages its investments so it’s borrowing a portion of the $1.1Bn to buy Internet Brands. At the end of the day, KKR would have invested much less than 1% of its total assets under management to buy Internet Brands. Hard to know how that investment has performed for KKR and what impact, if any, it’s had on public stock price.
Two issues: first, counteracting the network effect on online forums (and games, for that matter) is the pull towards maintaining the social hierarchy. If you just let a community run itself, then the ‘leaders’ have a social interest in discouraging threats. I mean, that’s cool and all–I still hang out on a forum that lost its purpose and new members 20 years ago. But if you want to keep the focus on something external, like being a frequent flyer, you need to disrupt the hierarchy, so that information is privileged over the 20-year vet.
Second: AMP. Google is pushing a lot of BA properties to my smartphone news feed, and to chrome. Blogs make a helluva comeback when they get that kind of placement.
Vertical Scope is similar to Internet Brands. They bought some car forums and caused a decline due to poor management.
Don’t forget the ads, like that Amazon credit thing that would not go away. It became unusable for a time until installing a couple of ad blockers. Very short sighted of them. Today, I mainly just use it for United/MileagePlus information.
While you are right, it’s also worth mentioning that the miles world has changed as airlines have tremendously devalued their programs, introducing spend requirements, and now dynamic pricing. I’ve been a FT member for nearly two decades — I used to enjoy traveling and the benefits that were easily accessible to me with a bit of work. Anymore, I don’t have the financial ability to get to 1K or Executive Platinum with minimum spend thresholds, and the benefits of doing so are far less appealing. In my final years as a 1K, I saw my domestic upgrade rate plummet. International upgrades became near impossible. And the number of miles I earned any more had been cut so dramatically — going from 200-300k per year to 40-50k per year — that now I just fly whoever is cheapest. I know many FTers that feel similarly. It’s just not as fun as it used to be, so why bother.
Coupon connection was the single most useful feature of Flyertalk. And of course the occasional Mileage Run Deals, victim of its own success.
Now that the corporates own and run the site, the useful stuff has been suppressed. No more Coupon Connection and precious few mistake fares. Even the day-to-day reporting of bad features of airlines is now suppressed, I gave up on Flyertalk after I got an “official warning” for too many mentions of BA’s spiteful treatment of latecomers. (British Airways dont let you thru security from 35 mins ahead of scheduled departure, you’re thrown off the flight even if you can see the gate and there’s no plane there yet.)
Great post – thank you! Agree – Infinite scroll was the reason I stopped using FT. I typically don’t login, and if you don’t login, you cannot disable that freaking thing. You try to scroll back, sometimes just ONE post and end up back 25 pages. Eff them.
KKR stock declining from $24.05 to $23.84 does not equate to $210 in losses if you initially invested $1000. Instead, it’s almost $9. Just for clarify, my purchase of KKR stock in Jan 2016 is up nearly 65% since then. Also, since KKRs stock inception, it has had the same return as the Dow Jones Index.
I agree FT is a shitshow. Just saying that your analysis of KKR isn’t complete.
Sometimes an engineered decline is the right thing for the risk tolerance of the investors.
No guarantee the moves spoke of here would have changed the user metrics. And we don’t have visibility into revenue or profit and return for IB.
Your numbers are off as you have not factored in the high dividend that KKR pays. The rest of your article is certainly correct.
It’s easy to link to the last page. The page number is in the link, so just add a higher page number than currently exists. Using the link will then take you to whatever the latest page number is. For example, if you’re on page 256, link it as 286. Once the last page becomes 257 or 267 or whatever, clicking the link to page 286 won’t generate an error, it will take you to the highest page number.
I started using Flyertalk in 2013, and I used to use it a lot for tips about new card bonuses, maximizing MS opportunities, etc. Now I spend little time on it, but that’s because the game has changed so dramatically. I’ve churned through the cards of every issuer, and all have shut their doors, so there aren’t a lot of very rewarding tips and tricks to be gleaned anymore. After compiling millions upon millions of miles and points for free travel, I’m just not eligible for signup bonuses anymore (with one important exception), so there isn’t much I can learn about accumulating miles and points. It’s still useful for getting tips on specific travel questions though, and I will continue to go there for that purpose.
There is so much truth to this… and this couldn’t be more timely. I’ll have to update you, Drew, on some of the recent events of freelancing with said company.
Randy tried to do Milepoint but for some reason, it just didn’t catch on. I still use FlyerTalk if I have a specific question but I just google it and am usually able to find it.
KKR didn’t spend 10% of its market cap on FT’s owner. The purchase was made on behalf of one of the multi billion funds it manages for investors. It may or may. It may or may not work out as a deal but it was a different deal than characterized here.
Let’s be honest; just like Inside Flyer, FlyerTalk is pretty much DOA. Frequent flyer forums, as good as they once were, are mostly irrelevant today. Their end-of-life is pretty much to be expected. Why? There’s no absence of frequent flyer “experts” passing along every imaginable travel tip in the blogosphere. Want to know about the latest travel booking shortcuts? Mistake fares? Best use of miles? It’s all out there for anyone and everyone to find. Any that includes the airlines and travel industry, closing down most every mistake fare and travel shortcut as soon as someone blabs about it on the internet. The days of easy airline status and luxury travel on a few $ have pretty much ended. A decade ago, airline brand loyalty and accumulating dedicated miles made plenty of sense. At this point, with the airlines and banks monetizing every single thing possible, not so much.
There are still websites and blogs that keep up with all of the domestic deals for miles and points. Modesty prevents my mentioning my favorite…
I think it’s a general decline in the value of miles and the value of airline status. The airlines don’t care about passenger loyalty anymore so why should we? As we care less and less, we visit places like Flyertalk less and less (except to learn about which seat to sit in or non-FF topics).
The Points Guy is a HARD sell site for Chase. It’s so annoying and disingenuous. Should just be called The Chase Points Guy…..
Thank you. Agree on all points. Surely miss Randy’s FT. Why should we have to circumvent this crazy scroll feature? Fix it!!!
Thank you for this informative and insightful analysis. I appreciate the thought and care you put into this and all your efforts to help us understand the changes going on in this little part of the world. Keep up the good work.
I’d like to dispute that Randy is deserving of much praise here. In fact, I think he’s partially to blame for the steep decline in BoardingArea and FT.
I’d call him a sellout. With BA, he exercises seemingly ZERO quality control and is more than happy to let anyone in, with apparently no minimum requirements whatsoever.
Ironically, the best place to read about this effect is on FT, in the External Miles and Points thread, there’s a post titled “Boarding Area’s Fall”.
There’s a distinct decline in the online travel forums, MilePoint has very few comments in the past year. Why go search a forum site when I can RSS a travel blog like OMAAT and have it spoon feed me? Or better yet, RSS all of Boarding Area and skim through the post titles to see what catches my eye!
The miles/points game is slowly dying too which will lead to declines of all related sites. It’s not nearly as lucrative for almost all involved unless one fits a very specific profile now.
I wish u would leave politics out of ur travel site u compare incompetent dishonest scum to our Great American President u shld b ashamed
“Trumpian” says the Travel is Free website….
Pot calling the kettle black?
Best blog article of the year. Hands down. Thank you for taking the time to research this. Randy is the man. He’s amazing, I know him personally, and he has always been about the community as a whole.
FlyerTalk has been on a steady decline since his departure, but I think a lot of it has to do with the sheer size of the membership population just as much as the poor (always was) technology. Moderation and combining threads to become mega-threads is annoying and counterintuitive. I was a moderator back in the day, and it was always about making FT a better resource, not crazy strict rules and merging threads to no end. It’s really sad.
It’s really sad that IB/whoever they are are now has let things run away like they have. Most blogs are useless, FT is full of junk, loyalty programs don’t have as many fun games to play anymore, and the gaggle of obnoxious self-proclaimed experts on blogs and FT has made most resources completely useless.
Sorry for rambling, but can’t tell you how much this post is appreciated.
I came to this article via Doctor of Credit, which is where I get my points and miles news and still learn a lot from reading the comments.(Moderated so no “poison”) Thanks for a very relevant article, I have learned a lot from your blog in the four years I’ve been in the game.
Randy was great. Met him once or twice. I stopped daily visits to Flyertalk about 2 months ago when a mod deleted a post about a potential issue with an aircraft. Then 30 days later, sure enough, the issue ends up in a service type bulletin.
I stopped going to FT often for a single, big reason–the absolutely awful system of moderation and favoritism. Assholes like Spiff and Cholula completely abuse their power and there is absolutely no way to push back on them due to the “no posts on moderation” rule. I had an account from 1999 banned by them, completely outside of FT rules, when the behavior they were engaging in prior to the ban was awful. This is not Internet Brands–this is Randy and his system of choosing and empowering antisocial asshats.
I don’t know about Spiff and Cholula abusing their power, but TWA884 certainly does.
Cholula is one of the biggest assholes on the internet. I’m amazed any site would let that person act as a moderator. I wouldn’t want that person to pick up my trash.
One more thing on this–if you don’t believe me go and look at how many huge post posters on megathreads now show up as “Suspended.” Hell, I think they even Suspended JonNYC for awhile! It is a HUGE problem there.
You are aware that Internet Brands owns vBulletin?
It is THE best forum software out there if you ask me. Yes, there are a few issues. One you mention is that the search function isn’t particularly powerful. But there are workarounds. Many forums using vBulletin integrate a site-specific Google search bar.
I’d say vBulletin is the most popular software for threaded community forums.
HaHaHa! Only discovered FT about two months ago. Already got banned! When I logged on today it said my ban was forever because I had created a duplicate account to circumvent a timeout, or whatever they called it. First, I was never informed that I’d hurt anybody’s feelings* and, Second, I certainly never created a duplicate account. Maybe I was hacked? Best of all I can’t even contact them because the “Redress” button doesn’t work! Insanity!
*Only thing I can think of is that I said I would never fly on Asiana or Korean. What makes that hilarious is I posted it on a thread full of people slamming BA! You can’t make that stuff up!
bingo ! it’s run a bunch of middle aged losers who have failed to have a meaningful career in life and have to resort to be a mod there. Cuz those mods do so much editing on people’s posts i can’t imagine the number of hours required. There’s no way one can even do it as a completely voluntary gig and have any time left for an actual career.
yea “moderation” is a major issue …. but it’s the flip side of that story that’s causing problems :
holier than thou moderator actions that are completely opaque (and can instantly block you for even dare to question their power trip tactics) that apply one set of rules for their constantly-trolling cronies that has the stench of nepotism all over it, and a different set of rules for anyone who aren’t in their inner circle.
It’s almost as if to see who can troll the hardest wins gold star for the week. Some abandoned the site. i simply install all the ad-blockers i can locate to ensure they can’t earn half a penny from me.
the site is dying because of the militant mods who don’t know how to be a fair referee. If the mods aren’t such major losers in life perhaps their site wouldn’t have collapsed the same way [another major avgeek site] did.
You mention moderation as one of the factors in the decline of FlyerTalk. The Travel Safety & Security forums are all but dead due to the actions of the individual who moderates these forums. If Internet Brands wants the site to flourish again, they need to rid themselves of authoritarian moderators.
I believe that’s the clown who suspended me for 30 days for cracking a joke about her hometown (Portland).
Great article. The biggest problem with FlyerTalk is the moderators. There are no clear standards for everyone. If you’re part of a moderator’s little clique, you can get away with murder, but if you’re not, they hand out 7-day and 30-day suspensions like candy on Halloween. It’s an absurd way to run a web site presumably frequented mostly by adult professionals.
A moderator from Portland once suspended me for 30 days for cracking a joke about Portland. FlyerTalk’s mods need to get over themselves. They contribute almost zero to the site.
totally agreeing with “Joe” and “Red Richard” above. Those worthless losers stinking human waste of carbon they call “moderators” are a disgrace to humanity. Hitler had more integrity than these midlife crisis losers who had failed careers in anything and everything and degenerate into being forum mods.
Folks, ad-blockers are your friend. Those asshole wanna act like King, go straight after the one spot that hurts them them the most – money. Make them lose so much money they have no choice but to fire all of them. Airliners.net is another prime example of letting worthless ramp agents go on a power trip – and the resulting collapse of that site’s viewership is much to be celebrated indeed.
@FT mods : hey white trash, come catch me if you can.
“Red” Richard 4 months ago
“I don’t know about Spiff and Cholula abusing their power, but TWA884 certainly does.”
Funny that you mentioned the moderator – TWA884. There is a thread on Flyertalk that involves 350,000 Global Entry renewal application delays.
According to the LA Times, there are 350,000 Global Entry renewals backlogged.
People who use Global Entry for foreign travel are concerned about why their renewal does not process. The delays are now in excess of six months.
The Flyertalk Global Entry renewal thread was very active because posters were concerned about why their renewals did not clear and why they could not find a reason for the delay.
I made some very informative posts to that Global Entry renewal delay tread. Following my helpful posts, the moderator, TWA884, posted “warnings about deleting posts and suspending posters” – I ignored his frequent warnings because I had no idea he was talking about me.
My posts were polite, accurate and helpful. That moderator, TWA884, posted his warnings many times then deleted some of his foolish threats but left his most current threat on the forum for all to see.
When he posted one of his strange “warnings” immediately after my last post that contained more information about the delay in Global Entry renewals, it was obvious, at that point, his threat was aimed at me because I was the only post. As I said, his prior threats have nearly brought the Global Entry renewal delay thread to a halt.
Therefore, I sent him a message asking if he included me in his warnings about posts to the Global Entry thread. To my shock, he said yes and went on some pompous explanation about my posts. In short, he did not like my writing style and stated as much in his answer to me. I saved his inappropriate answer.
In effect, that moderator brought the former informative and important busy thread about Global Entry renewal delays to an almost useless halt.
Now, people are reluctant to post any information regarding their renewal delay for fear of having the egotistical moderator either delete their informative post or threaten them because he does like their writing style.
I know that he caused me to lose any desire to post any more updates that I might learn about the renewal delays.
That moderator is not a moderator – he is a writing style policeman.
No good faith Flyertalk poster needs to be subject to the type of behavior that prevents information from being shared with other flyers. Shame on Flyertalk for not moderating that out of control moderator.
I got banned from there, because I flagged personal attacks in the manufactured spending area. Screw them
I’m late to this thread, but it rings true. I first joined FT about 10 years ago. I didn’t post much; I only have about 100 posts to date. I stopped visiting years ago due to the toxic nature of many of the long-time “professional” posters and obviously unprofessional, ineffective moderators that do the opposite of quality control. I always imagined them to be older, lonely losers because why else would they behave that way, and how else would they have the time to spend the hours they do on FT?
I came upon this thread now because out of sheer boredom, I’ve visited FT several times this week and noticed the content isn’t being updated as often as it used to be. Not knowing anything about the decline in their traffic, it looks to me like FT is a site in decline.
There are few places on the web to post “in the clear” about moderation on FT, but this appears to be one of them.
I’m perceiving that FT/IBB is pressuring mods to allow trolls to flourish because they do one thing and do it well: They increase clicks and posts.
Moderators no longer allow posters to even mention the Ignore User feature or the Ignore List – embedded features within the software itself.
Even oblique references to the Ignore List, or to the idea that certain posters are on their second or third handle, are intercepted by the mods.
It’s becoming a very heavy hand there. One of the consequences is, ironically, fewer posts from long-time FTers.