Skift Take

Time will tell if video truly resonates with travelers during the inspiration phase of the travel booking funnel. For the time being, it's smart for travel media to experiment with a variety of formats and platforms, especially when it comes to branded content.

Traditional travel media brands, particularly those based around print magazines and travel guides, have historically struggled to reinvent themselves for the digital age.

Today, producing content for a diverse array of platforms is crucial, according to Lonely Planet CEO Daniel Houghton. Print, television, online video, and apps have helped the company appeal to the modern traveler by reaching them on their platform of choice.

Trust in the brand, and the information it provides to travelers, remains vital as companies experiment with a variety of platforms and types of media.

“We have more opportunities than ever to interact with people,” said Houghton. “One of the things that doesn’t get talked about enough is that travel is the one thing you don’t really want to mess up. Trust is something that has always existed with the Lonely Planet brand so with anything we’ve ever done, we haven’t changed that at all. As long as that’s there, the love for the brand and the trust in it have been constant.”

Houghton announced a new video platform on stage at the inaugural Skift Forum Europe this morning, further detailing the next step in Lonely Planet’s multi-platform strategy in travel media. Lonely Planet Video, sponsored by GoPro, will consist of 60 two-minute videos curated by Lonely Planet’s editorial team that will be rolled out over the next few weeks across several categories.

Lonely Planet has added video content to its destination pages, and has tracked a 400 percent increase in time spent on those pages with one million minutes of video viewed so far. The media company has already redesigned the user experience of its website to be more user-friendly and revamped its Guides app for smartphones.

SUITCASE Magazine founder Serena Guen also participated in the panel, discussing the challenges and opportunities facing an upstart travel media brand.

“We’ve seen in the past couple of years about 50 new print travel titles launch and that signifies the sense of people being inundated with information from the internet,” said Guen. “A print magazine allows our audience to not only escape [that deluge of content], but we can also tell our stories in a much more beautiful and creative way. We’re saying: this is the only thing you need, you don’t need to go and search for hours because we’ve done the work for you. The fact that general travel magazines [have become] so faceless made it hard to trust them.”

The conversation later turned to the newfound importance of branded content for travel brands, and the move to replace traditional print advertising in the process. For SUITCASE, its presence at the intersection of travel, fashion, and lifestyle content is a strong value proposition for the brands it works with on the branded content side.

“I think [the traditional print advertising model] is breaking slowly and even if it never totally breaks, it’s something I want to move away from as a brand,” said Guen. “I want to create more seamless experiences with readers and stronger relationships with brands.”

From the perspective of Lonely Planet, creating campaigns for brands to deploy on its platform or others is an extension of the company’s experience giving travelers the type of content they enjoy and come back to. The move toward branded content will also put pressure on legacy travel media brands that have been slow to adapt in the marketplace.

“We bring in users who have an interest in our brands, and we bring our users what is not going to be intrusive or annoying, something you’d want to come back to and spend time with,” said Houghton. “We spend a lot of time convincing brands why we should do a campaign in a specific way. We want it to be really effective; people don’t mind advertising if it’s relevant. The entire industry is slow to adapt and you’re starting to see that unravel at a much more rapid pace. We’re trying to be almost too far ahead, but we do have some more traditional programs and [ad] units because you have to begin the conversation somewhere.

“Large glossy travel magazine, they’re normally part of larger groups with a massive ad group behind it. That prolongs changes [in the industry]. You’re going to see brands in travel struggle or change hands, because some of the changes that are happening have been really prolonged.”


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Tags: lonely planet, Skift Forum Europe - 2017, travel media

Photo credit: CEO of Lonely Planet Daniel Houghton and Founder & CEO of Suitcase Serena Guen (R) at Skift Forum Europe in London on April 4, 2017. Russell Harper / Skift

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