Earlier today BBC Worldwide confirmed it would sell the Lonely Planet travel brand to Nashville, TN-based upstart NC2 Media for AUS$75 million. The British public broadcaster’s commercial arm had completed its acquisition of LP in 2011 for more than twice that amount, signaling to many that the future of the travel brand was half what it used to be.
The new buyers obviously don’t share the same pessimistic outlook.
Skift spoke by email with incoming Chief Operating Officer Daniel Houghton earlier today for his first interview since the sale was announced. In the email exchange Houghton shares insight into why NC2 chose LP, how the deal happened, and why much of its future is in digital.
Q: Why? What about Lonely Planet was appealing to you?
A: Lonely Planet is the world’s most successful travel guidebook publisher. We have a deep respect for the company and its editorial integrity. Lonely Planet is appealing to us for the same reasons that the employees of the business choose to work there; they are committed to quality content, and they get to go to work on something that they love. We believe it’s a fantastic global multimedia platform for the future.
Q: How did the deal come about? Where did it start?
A: We made an inquiry about the business that was apparently simultaneous with their consideration of a disposition of the business. NC2 Media was formed to engage in the creation, acquisition, and distribution of quality digital content. It was on that journey that we discovered an opportunity with Lonely Planet. It’s a company that we have deep respect for, and see an incredible opportunity for the future.
Q: The assumption is that you see untapped potential in LP’s digital assets. What are your plans for maximizing digital?
A: We are incredibly excited about the potential for Lonely Planet’s digital assets. Technology allows for so many incredible ways to reach travellers and we hope to create products and content that facilitates people’s passion for Travel. Lonely Planet has always been about helping people get out and see the world, and I think that digital can allow that to happen in ways not possible if you are only operating with printed guidebooks. Digital is such a dynamic space, and it will only become increasingly so as time goes on.
Q: Is LP’s HQ moving to the U.S.?
A: We anticipate maintaining and expanding Lonely Planet’s global footprint. LP has always been a global company. It was certainly one of the things that attracted us to the business in the first place. Australia is the birthplace and the heart and soul of Lonely Planet. There is no reason to believe at this time that we will exit Australia.
Q: Google is in the process of phasing out Frommer’s print guides. Does NC2 plan on continuing its print commitment?
A: Lonely Planet will continue to be committed to its roots in publishing and providing quality information to travellers around the world. We are committed to all mediums, and print will continue to be a part of the mix.
Q: Are there any plans to combine LP with Outwild TV?
A: OutwildTV is a separate business from Lonely Planet and from NC2 Media. We are proud of what we have accomplished with Outwild, and plan to continue our current operations with explorers around the world.
Q: What other projects is NC2 involved it? What was the spark that started the company?
A: I can’t discuss other projects, but we founded NC2 because we are committed to quality content. We believe that consumers are desperate for real stories about real people. That’s why we get up and come to work every morning. The media industry has the potential over the next several years to appeal to such a wide range of people in ways and on platforms that they are desperate to support. We are honored to be a part of the process, and hope to contribute in any way we can. The changing paradigms in delivery empower not only the consumer, but those independent content creators who have something different to offer.