Skift Take

National Geographic Traveler can no longer rely on its parent brand's recognition because social media is leveling the playing field for younger online based publications.

As social media becomes heavily reliant on visual imagery for community building, brands that provide a rich experience curated from both staff and fans are becoming as reputable as established media companies.

The list below contains publications that are part of mass media companies, online based media, and platforms that rely on expert and user reviews. They’re grouped together based on how travel readers and enthusiasts experience and interact with them on social media rather than traditional categories that could see them listed separately.

The top ten are calculated using our Skift Score, which takes into account social media performance on an absolute basis, as well as relative to within a company’s specific industry. It compares metrics across platforms and provides an intelligent measure of competitive edge.

Name Skift Score Twitter Follows Facebook Likes YouTube Video Views Instagram Followers
Condé Nast Traveler 860 547,761 365,366 2,973,643 163,937
Matador Network 821 57,179 204,843 503,701 25,396
Lonely Planet 792 1,865,937 1,260,596 9,675,212 194,623
Travel Channel 757 991,009 1,282,436 62,803,624 138,360
TripAdvisor 701 1,682,617 1,443,772 687,468 33,092
Zagat 697 954,944 73,811 7,085,265 18,036
National Geographic Traveler 662 1,112,643 3,479,354 1,223,312
Travel + Leisure 660 945,816 673,528 281,475
Rick Steves 619 44,886 228,605 24,035,390 107
AFAR 618 26,458 44,545 18,534 10,993

Source: SkiftIQ

For this month, these ten travel media brands have an average Skift Score of 719. 70% of the brands in the top ten have more than 500,000 Twitter followers, and 80% have more than 200,000 on Facebook. This breakdown is not going to change by the end of 2014, unless Matador grows by tenfold on Twitter and Zagat doubles its fans on Facebook.

Condé Nast Traveler leads the travel media brands on social media. Its “best of” lists that feature unique characteristics of places with links to slideshows on its website, have allowed it to generate conversations and shares on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, its food-related posts on Instagram resonate well with the platforms’ overall interests.

As social media matures, the game is less about acquisitions and more about engagement. For example, Matador hovers around seventh place on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram acquisitions but it has a Skift Score of 821, roughly 30 points ahead of Lonely Planet, and although it is 40 points behind National Geographic Travel, it holds second place.


National Geographic Traveler dominates by total followers and average Followers/Day on this platform. Its fans are three times larger and grows three times faster than the second most popular travel media brands. Nearly 15% of it’s 1.2 million visit/month is driven by social media, and of that the referral traffic 75% was from Facebook, according to SimilarWeb. TripAdvisor, Travel Channel, and Lonely Planet will be neck and neck for second place for some time unless they triple their follower base.


Over half of the travel brands on Twitter have an average of 1,250,000 followers. While Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor,  and National Geographic Traveler are the three most popular on Twitter, they are also growing their audience at about the same pace, at an average of 2,700 Followers/Day. Travel Channel, Zagat, and Travel + Leisure will have to do a lot more to get into the top three. Although, Lonely Planet outperforms its competition with Twitter chats, TripAdvisor replies to its audience 46% of the time as opposed to Lonely Planet’s 26% rate. National Geographic Traveler has not optimized its tweets with images and doesn’t engage with its community at all, and this is one of the reasons why it places seventh overall.


National Geographic Traveler dominates Instagram: Its account is four times larger than the second-most followed travel media brand on the platform. What’s impressive is Matador’s engagement. Although Matador is 480 times smaller than National Geographic’s community, its total likes on Instagram posts is approaching one million. For a quick and dirty comparison — because not all likes come from followers — Matador outperforms the largest account with an average of 40 Likes/Follower vs. National Geographic Traveler’s 25 Likes/Follower.


Producing television programming lends itself well to already having video content to edit and publish on YouTube. Out of the ten travel brands, Travel Channel and Rick Steves are the only two brands that have this advantage. In terms of video content production per month, historically Travel Channel leads with 100 videos per month and has video views that are 2.5 times larger than Rick Steves, the second most viewed travel media on YouTube.

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Tags: afar, conde nast traveler, lonely planet, matador network, rick steves, skiftiq, social media, travel and leisure, travel media, tripadvisor, zagat

Photo credit: Tikal ruins in Guatemala is part of Condé Nast Traveler's Top 10 World's Greatest Ruins. Condé Nast Traveler / Facebook

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