Santa’s journey to and from the North Pole, wasn’t as popular as year-end photo roundups and trips to “Middle Earth.”

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 by traditional categories that could see them listed separately.

The top 10 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.

Travel Media December 2014Skift ScoreFacebook LikesTwitter FollowsInstagram FollowersYoutube Video Views
Condé Nast Traveler823390,041580,407201,7483,275,019
Matador Network810294,05660,48233,990591,997
Lonely Planet7741,296,1302,041,641218,56510,015,864
Travel Channel7571,298,0281,039,119138,36062,803,624
National Geographic Travel6643,717,8181,295,6461,803,415n.a.
Travel + Leisure610754,0201,091,814360,81736,826
Yahoo! Travel600366,60568,9837,88118,158

Source: SkiftIQ

As a whole, the top 10 travel media brands were just as active this month as November. Looking back even further, Condé Nast Traveler, Matador Network, Lonely Planet, and Travel Channel has remained in first, second, third, and fourth place since October. Google’s Zagat moved up two places and beat TripAdvisor and National Geographic Travel. Although Travel + Leisure’s Skift Score fell 30 points, it moved up one place and made room for Yahoo! Travel — a newcomer — while Fathom fell two notches to 10th place.

On December 17, it was major news that the  U.S. would ease relations with Cuba, thereby amending the travel ban. A few travel media companies, including Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, and Fathom, jumped on the chance to opine and publish stories about trips to Cuba.

Yahoo! Travel didn’t post about Cuba, and shared news about the crash of the AirAsia Flight 8501 over Indonesia’s waters, a mid-air brawl on an Air China flight about a baby crying, and a Korean Air flight attendant who was fired for serving macadamia nuts in an unopened container in first class, to name a few.


In December, brands posted Facebook updates in the range of 4 to 100+ posts, averaging 46 posts for the month.  Zagat published the least and Fathom, the most. Posts with curated lists about best travel destinations were featured along with gift-giving ideas. Besides featuring various locations and contest prizes from partners, Condé Nast Traveler worked with CapitalOne and Citibank on two separate posts directly published on its Facebook Page.

Half of the brands uploaded videos directly to Facebook about once a week. Matador led in creativity with two drone videos of L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France and limestone cliff islands in Palawan, Philippines. Travel Channel pushed a more traditional format, a commercial for a new show, “Trip Flip: A Hobbit Adventure in Middle Earth” while tempting viewers with a free trip for two. Yahoo! Travel produced videos that were more in-tune with web culture — cute animals and absurd humor.

Instead of sharing links to YouTube videos or natively posting videos on its Facebook page — with an exception of photography tips from first female staff photographer, Annie Griffiths —  National Geographic Travel published four posts that shared links to articles featuring videos about Bali, Yosemite, Tennessee and a volcano tour.


Twitter chats are effective in attracting new fans, engaging existing ones, and working with new collaborators. Lonely Planet hosts monthly Twitter chats but it didn’t boost its presence in December, unlike National Geographic Traveler which positioned itself within the larger conversation about #bestwintertrips on #traveltuesday.

The conversation was hosted by its features editor, Amy Alipio, and fans, U.S.-based tourism boards and tour providers chimed in. The responses with photos included winter and beach escapes, which got the most visibility from retweets. Travel + Leisure’s Twitter account was active on the three Tuesdays it posed Q&As about apps and tech gadgets for the traveler, nightlife and tips on traveling better.


Condé Nast Traveler, Matador, Lonely Planet, Zagat, Travel + Leisure, Yahoo! Travel and Fathom experienced a dip — though not considerable — from the deletion of fake Instagram followers.

TripAdvisor’s user-generated travel quotes content that does well on its Facebook page has been repurposed and redistributed on Instagram since July 2014. The inspirational snaps with “I travel because…” in December gained a noticeable amount of momentum, about 300 more likes on the same type of snaps compared with November.

Uniquely designed spaces in remote destinations were the most-liked photos from Travel Channel. It’s not a surprise that reminder posts about its two shows, Trip Flip and Booze Traveler — curious, fun, and educational — didn’t capture as many likes. Unfortunately, a strategy for leveraging social TV has yet to be integrated.


Although these companies churn out beautiful, engaging, and informative content online, not one brand ran a regularly programmed video series in December. Although Travel Channel has a presence on cable television, and is the most prolific on YouTube, its video hardly got more than 100 views. Most of its content was centered on experiencing “Middle Earth” and independently, Lonely Planet produced five videos with members of the cast in collaboration with Warner Bros. and Tourism New Zealand.

Zagat’s culinary escapades are making the most headway. Whether or not this success has to do with being part of the Google and YouTube family is not the point. Out of all the brands, it has the most consistency in content and views.

Condé Nast Traveler, Matador and Lonely Planet geared up to capture more video views with celebrities, drones, and explorer exclusives, respectively. Travel + Leisure’s “Trip Doctor” had the most semblance of an ongoing series but the last video was published on December 2, 2014.

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Photo Credit: A time-lapse night shot of Meteora, Greece from a drone by MatadorU student and filmmaker, Max Seigal. Matador Network / YouTube