Oyster.com to become hotel-transaction websiteNewsBy Dennis Schaal | March 16, 2010Share This article was originally published on Oyster Hotel Reviews will stick with its professionally written hotel reviews, but plans to morph into a hotel-transaction website starting in early April.That's the word from co-founder and CEO Elie Seidman, who says the transaction model will arrive with more detailed information about a property's room types to help consumers make educated buying decisions.A marketing campaign, one that's "big on a relative basis for us," will be rolled out soon.Until now, Seidman says, the bulk of Oyster's revenue came from referrals to a bunch of transaction websites, including Expedia and Orbitz.With the launch of its own hotel-transaction capabilities through a third-party inventory provider, Oyster hopes to expand its revenue model while also operating comparison-shopping features, using online travel agency and supplier advertisers, Seidman says.Asked whether featuring price comparisons from competitors would dilute Oyster's new hotel-transaction capabilities, Seidman says consumers will comparison shop anyway so Oyster might as well provide them with a range of choices.The room-booking capabilities will only come into play for the limited number of destinations that Oyster has covered with professional reviews, he adds.Relatively new destinations which Oyster has covered include Hawaii, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and more properties in New York City, Seidman says.The push to become a transaction site will give Oyster some differentiation: It will be a transaction website with journalist-written reviews, plus traveler reviews from people who have booked with Oyster and stayed at the property.Oyster will still allow any consumers to write reviews through Facebook Connect as they cannot do so anonymously, Seidman says.But, Oyster will not make a big push for consumer reviews, Seidman says, noting that "TripAdvisor has already done that very well."Oyster, which launched in June 2009, at its peak had 16 active freelancers penning hotel reviews.Today, Seidman says, Oyster has three full-time freelancers writing reviews and four editors, and it supplements the editorial staff with additional freelancers who might sign on to write at least 20-30 reviews.Oyster's biggest challenge, Seidman says, is to get itself in front of consumers. He says the website averages 200,000 unique visitors per month."Wow, sometimes it feels like things are going really slowly," Seidman says. "You need a lot of persistence and a lot of patience."To date, Oyster has raised $10.4 million from Bain Capital.Asked about an exit strategy, Seidman says Oyster is focused on building out its product and that exit strategies will take care of themselves.Says Seidman: "None of these things are built in a year or two."