Digital

Interview: Building Conde Nast Traveler’s New Digital Presence

@jasonclampet

Aug 19, 2014 9:24 am

Skift Take

Bigger pictures and clearer navigation are nice, but we’re still leery of the network of outside contributors.

— Jason Clampet

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Conde Nast Traveler has just rolled out its latest round of changes under the relatively new leadership of Editor-in-Chief Pilar Guzman.

Yesterday the brand re-launched CNTraveler.com, the online companion to the print magazine, which received its own makeover in February this year.

The new website brings bigger pictures, cleaner pages, and a navigation that’s more inline with the interests in the magazine’s pages (as well as very clever looking search box). There’s a custom content management system behind the scenes that powers the responsive versions for desktop, tablet, and smartphone.

In addition to content from the magazine, the website is using a pool of outside contributors — bloggers, designers, and tastemakers. The pool of contributors is small at this point, but EVP and Publishing Director Bill Wackerman told Digiday in May that this would eventually grow significantly.

This is in line with the personality-driven approach that we see in the magazine. Equal attention is given to CNT’s editors and writers, too, as well as photographers. Launch sponsors include Ritz-Carlton and Kate Spade, among other travel and luxury brands.

Conde Nast Traveler’s digital road has been fraught with years of missteps, largely due to parent company Conde Nast. From its initial use of Concierge.com as its digital home (now largely abandoned) to the acquisition of SFO Media’s Jaunted, HotelChatter, and VegasChatter, the brand has failed to forge a clear direction or capture a fraction of the users it does in print.

This is the first time, though, that CNT’s digital rethink has been led by people with digital chops. Both Guzman and creative director Yolanda Edwards have launched sites outside of the company, and Wackerman helped build Glamour.com into a digital powerhouse.

The rollout was slightly complicated by the departure of Wendy Perrin for TripAdvisor. Perrin had been one of the brand’s most popular online evangelists and the relaunch was to feature more of her practical trip planning advice which had been largely squeezed out of the print edition.

Skift spoke with Guzman by email yesterday about the new contributor model.

Skift: Do these changes go hand-in-hand with any changes at Conde Nast’s non-CNT travel sites (Jaunted, Concierge, HotelChatter, VegasChatter)?

Pilar Guzman: No: Cntraveler.com is the digital home of Condé Nast Traveler. Our relaunch is intended to better reflect the new look and philosophy of our brand on all the platforms where our readers are.

Skift: How will CNT select contributors for the new platform initiative? People like this.

Guzman: We are looking for contributors with a distinctive voice; we are looking for expertise both in their thematic area (food, fashion, arts) and in their travel experience and knowledge; and we are looking for contributors who have developed their own audience and following, which can also be found on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or on their blog. From a brand perspective, we care very much about their voice and their point of view.

Skift: Will contributions on the new platform go through an editing process similar to print content?

Guzman: We go through a lengthy selection process for our contributors, followed by a content development process, and we work with them editorially to shape their content and coverage. Right now, we are editing these pieces and we do give feedback.

However, our content philosophy is that our role is curatorial—we are assembling an incredible network of contributors, but we are not interested in micro-managing their thoughts or perspectives.

We have a comfort level in the quality of content of each person that is contributing to our site, in every capacity. That extends from our web editors and producer to our contributor network to our digital team.

Skift: Advertisers can depend on CNT for quality. How do you reassure them of similar quality from an outside pool of contributors that will approach 1,000 writers?

Guzman: Our intention is to grow, but to grow thoughtfully and in keeping with the brand’s personality. Our readers consume our content across multiple platforms, and never has it been more important for them to be armed with the inspiration and intel to feel ‘at home in the world.’ Our contributor network allows us to scale our brand through contributors who share our sensibility.

Skift: Will you differentiate between contributions from CNT staff and these outside writers?

Guzman: No we will not be labeling them differently, since we do not view this as an “outside pool” of contributors. We are broadening our reach and these contributors are part of Traveler’s universe now. Each contributor will be bylined online just as our editors are, and readers can visit their “contributor” homepage which has their bio, social media info, and an index page of all their stories.

Note: Skift is a content partner with Conde Nast Traveler. The two sites share stories from time to time. 

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