Tracking Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) lately has been about as much fun as trying to get through an airport security checkpoint while wearing a suit consisting solely of interlocking staples.

Revenue and earnings clocked in essentially flat for the third quarter. Revenue was up just 5% to $613.9 million. Reported income fell by 26% to $0.17 a share, even though adjusted profitability only came in a penny lower per share than last year's $0.35 showing.

I could take this time to list the seven -- yes, seven -- different items that Expedia backs out in arriving at its adjusted earnings, but that's the basis on which analysts have chosen to judge Expedia, as well. So having the top line inch 5% higher and the bottom line dip 3% lower is dull, but it was actually better than the market was expecting. Wall Street had the company down to earn $0.30 a share on $612.3 million in revenue.

You call this a growth stock? The company was actually saved by its global expansion as stateside revenue fell by 3% for the period. It could have been worse, I guess. Independent traffic measuring specialist comScore Networks estimates that traffic at Expedia for the month of September fell by 18% over the past year.

The company points to the unattractive dynamics in air ticketing. That stings Hotwire and its namesake site. However, Expedia also runs more compelling sites, like and Trip Advisor.

I'm a huge fan of Trip Advisor as a way to get honest community-driven reviews on area hotels and attractions. Expedia has recently enhanced the monetization of that particular site with a mapping feature that plots the nearest hotels to particular trip-planning destinations.

Expedia is also upbeat about its inclusion in the Citigroup (NYSE:C) ThankYou Network, which exposes Expedia's platform to Citigroup's 10 million rewards-program participants.

Ever since the company was spun off by IAC/InterActive (NASDAQ:IACI) in the summer of 2005, it's been apparent which twin investors have favored. IAC's shares have risen by 20%, while Expedia's stock is down by more than 30%.

It's not easy being a portal. The same savvy consumers that once flocked to portals like Expedia to book trips are now turning directly to the travel providers to see if they can land better deals. This may explain why deal-driven portals like (NASDAQ:PCLN) and Travelzoo (NASDAQ:TZOO) have held up better than more conventional portals like Expedia and Sabre's (NYSE:TSG) Travelocity.

I still don't see a reason to get excited about itself. The company has been breathing new life into the namesake portal by beefing it up with fresh vision, but the results aren't showing up just yet. However, I can't help turning back to Expedia's whenever I set my sights on traveling to somewhere new.

Maybe Expedia, the company, can take advantage of Trip Advisor's mapping feature to plot a better course. Once it knows where it wants to wind up, it's a lot easier to know where it will be sleeping along the way.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still relies on the portals to get basic travel information, but then he runs off to see if better deals can be had directly with the provider. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Fool has a disclosure policy.