WAYN's pivot pays off as traffic triples – can European networks thrive against Facebook?

Is the recession over? Are people really really hitting the globe-trotting trails again? Looks like it if news out of WAYN, the travel and lifestyle portal-turned-social-network which has pivoted several times since its launch in 2003 (making it one of the worlds oldest networks).

Back in 2009 they hit 15 million members and introduced a new feature allowing member sot share their future plans – “intention broadcasting” as it’s known in the trade. It’s likely this was the best pivot of all to date.

In those two years they’ve now grown towards a total of 17 million members. But more significantly they’ve been iterating the site to the point where now, they say, the site is generating a new traffic high of over 12.5 million monthly visits, putting it above TripIt and Tripwolf, and neck and neck with Lonely Planet (according to Alexa figures). That’s a tripling of growth since their 3.7 million figure in December 2010.

It’s a long way from May 2003 when cofounders Peter Ward, Mike Lines and Jerome Touze started the site with £25,000. The site even reached profitability last year.

An it’s a significant achievement, given most people would have thought European-based social networks were going to have trouble against the Facebook juggernaut. Interestingly, WAYN has 20,000 photo uploads per day – this, despite the appearance of mobile photo apps.

What’s helping WAYN of course is its focus on its travel and lifestyle vertical – and – to be frank – an extension of its audience from the typical Gap year kids (who are probaby using Facebook as well) to an older demographic which is travelling more.

WAYN’s says it now has the following key metrics:

• 17 million registered users from 193 countries – Up to 10,000 new members per day. In 2009 it had 15 million.

• 12.5 million monthly site visits compared with 3.7 million in December 2010 – a tripling of growth.

• They say their Google Analytics results show that in the last 3 months, they received 16.5m unique visitors – generating circa 35 million total visits so just about two visits per month. Time spent up to 15 minutes.

• 65,000 destinations and activities are added daily (“intentions broadcasting”)

• 875,000 daily messages sent (includes comments, messages , IMs etc)

• 20,000 photo uploads per day; 18 million photos in library

• User payments have increased by over 1000% in 9 months.

Here’s an interview I did with co-founder Pete Ward at Founders Forum recently:

Interview with Peter Ward, Wayn.com by mikebutcher