FishbowlNY has learned that Oyster.com has let some of its hotel reviewing reporters go and has plans to slow the rate that it’s expanding its coverage of new areas.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed that “a subset of reporters” had been laid off from the Web site, which launched in June. The site, which has raised $10.4 million in funding from investors like Bain Capital Ventures, had previously boasted a staff of 20 full-time reporters, who go undercover to investigate hotels and take photos that are posted, unedited, next to 2,000-word reviews. A tipster told FBNY that 15 reporters had been cut from the site’s staff, a number the company would not confirm.
Instead, Oyster issued a statement from its CEO and co-founder, Elie Seidman.
Seidman’s plans for the future of Oyster, after the jump.
“After a burst of massive growth over the past 18 months, we’ve covered a very large percentage of the U.S. leisure market with a product that has been incredibly well received. In order to focus on winning in the markets we’ve already covered, we’ve decided to slightly slow our rate of new market coverage.
We will focus on continuing to improve the depth and quality of our product for the markets we’ve already covered: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, US Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Aruba, Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and San Francisco. We will also focus engineering time on usability and improve the site’s ease of use by adding new features and functionality. In addition, we will launch coverage of Boston; Washington, DC; and Orlando hotels between now and March followed by other key markets during the remainder of 2010.”
This position differs from some of the plans the company has made public in the past. For example, in September Seidman told paidContent.org that Oyster expected to have 45 reports on staff by the end of the year, making it “the largest travel media outlet in the U.S.”
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Update: Another anonymous tipster tells us, “They summarily fired us all at Oyster, without notice or severance. We were told not to show up at work on Monday in an email that came Sunday afternoon.”
Read more: Hotel reviews, with a little investigative journalism —The Star-Ledger