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Lonely Planet has spent nearly a year in transition from the beat-up BBC to the upstarts from Tennessee. While this feature doesn’t provide many clues to its current performance, it does demonstrate that the boss is having more fun than most.
The April issue of Outside magazine devotes over a dozen pages to a profile of Lonely Planet boss Daniel Houghton.
It has been nearly a year since Brad Kelley, a billionaire and one of the U.S.’s largest landowners, bought the travel publisher from BBC Worldwide in a deal that was considered a steal for Kelley and a failure for the broadcaster’s for-profit investment arm.
Since the purchase, the day-to-day running of Lonely Planet has been in the hands of Daniel Houghton, a 25-year-old multimedia journalist. Houghton oversaw some radical staffing cuts, a shift of technical roles to Franklin, TN, the purchase of Budget Travel magazine and other digital properties, and market share gains for its print guides in every market in which it competes.
Throughout these changes, Houghton has been relatively open with the media. Declining to use a PR filter, he answers requests himself. So it’s no surprise he would let a reporter from Outside join him on an adventure trip in Wellington, New Zealand or to the growing LP outpost in Tennessee.
Since the article isn’t online yet to read, we’ve pulled out nine of his most interesting quotes, below:
On laying off nearly one-fifth of the workforce: “It’s hard to turn a cruise ship around so we had to get in a life boat. A small one.”
On working in digital media: “Doing this work is like trying to drink from a fire hose. Business is moving all day, every day, in different time zones.”
On investing in a troubled print guidebook industry: “You could argue that this is a bad time to get into the business. But I think otherwise. The best time to get into an industry is when it’s in flux.”
On his budgeting power as LonelyPlanet CEO: “There are million dollar decisions I can make without asking him [billioinaire owner Brad Kelley]. And $10,000 decisions I need to make with him.”
On the shift to digital: “I woke up the other night thinking about digital publishing. I know we want to do a digital magazine. When I see opportunities my instinct is to jump on them. Ripping a book’s pages out and putting it in an ebook: We can do that, and it’s great. But that’s not a paradigm shift.”
On an upcoming LonelyPlanet app built out of user-submitted inspirational photos: “We can get this knocked out in a week. Travel porn in time for Christmas.”
On what critics are saying: “But what really frustrates me is when they say things that aren’t true. People continue to claim that we are getting out of the content business. I’m like, what? That’s not right at all.”
On LonelyPlanet’s authors: “There aren’t many of them but they are really important.”
On how travel writing needs to change: “It’s not perfect. But the system of sending one author to write about a vast place is antiquated. And there is a lot more information we need to supply more quickly to remain relevant. We want the latest content, in real time.”