Print media doesn’t translate well to online, still – a travel magazine case study

After all these years, print media still struggles versus the Internet. This long piece on how the travel magazine industry has been suffering covers many great topics. I suspect much of the analysis is the same for all of print media.

One of the problems is the new set of demands on writers in that field:

There is the pain point of figuring out an internal work flow that functions across platforms. Journalists, writers, and content creators often have specialized skillsets, so asking one to write a story, create a listicle, take photos, and film compelling videos about a trip is a major challenge.

“We just started working more efficiently that way and it really, it’s painful to integrate digital and print,” said Guzmán. “The plays are different, the workloads are different, the story ideation is different. In doing this, there’s this huge cultural shift that is exciting and difficult.”

And, then, even after suffering through all that “cultural shift,” the results are often disappointing:

“The iPad was just going to be this Jesus of magazines and I never really quite believed that because I knew how challenging it was was to rejigger the content to fit that format,” said Frank, who oversaw Travel + Leisure’s digital strategy in the early 2010s. “Having just gone through the process of signing up and downloading a magazine, it took forever and was buggy and it just wasn’t necessarily a great solution. I was never really bought the gospel that the tablet was going to be our savior. But we did it. I mean, we created a great app and it was beautiful. It won awards, but that was knowing what the usership was is a little disheartening.”

And, as ever, there’s the tense line between blaming “most reader are dumb” and “rivals are evil” when it comes to what’s to blame:

“I could have written the greatest travel story ever known, and it would not have gotten on the cover of the traffic oriented site because a Swedish bikini teen saved a kitten from a tree; which is going to be more popular?”

Let them watch cats.

Still, as the article opens up with, it’s the old Curse of Web 2.0 – former readers, now just travelers – writing the useful content in the form of reviews on TripAdvisor and such:

“In general, people don’t read a review and make a decision,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer of TripAdvisor. “Consumers will read six to eight reviews. They might dig in a certain characteristic that they are interested in, maybe they really are interested in what the quality of the beach is, or maybe they are really interested in whether it’s kid friendly or not kid friendly. In general, people will hone in on the characteristics of something that’s most important to them, find that answer on TripAdvisor, get that most recent insights, check out the photos, check the forums, and really be able to make an informed decision of whether something is right for them. I think that the notion that people could rely on the wisdom of the crowd and the wisdom of individuals to their detriment, I just think that’s false, and I don’t think the reality is that is going to happen.”

There’s also some M&A history of trading various assets like Lonely Planet, Zagat, and Frommer’s back and forth as different management figures out what to do with them.

As ever, I’m no expert on the media industry. It seems like the core issue is that “the Internet” is so much more efficient at the Job to be Done for travel (as outlined by the TripAdvisor exec above) that the cost structure and business process from print magazines is not only inefficient, but unneeded. Those magazines are now over-serving (and thus, over-spending) with a worse product. 

While the quality of TripAdvisor (and Yelp, for example) reviews is infinitely worse than glossy magazines, since there’s an infinite amount of more crappy reviews, with the occasional helpful ones…it sort of more than evens out in favor of Sweedish bikini cat rescuers. Plus, digital advertising has so much more spend (and overall, industry profit, if only by sheer volume if not margin) – it must be because it’s better at making the advertisers money and because it creates a larger market:

Link

Ode to Airports

An airport is a time pause. It’s an excuse to not stress or try. You’re trapped in the system and will eventually get there. You can’t leave or you’ll have to re-humiliate yourself through security. Airports are even powerful enough to make you cancel meetings if your flight is late, canceled…or you pretend it is. Your wedding could be delayed because of the airport and no one would really fault you.

Everyone is transiting, coming and going, and while the entry fee might exclude the very poor (and the super rich fly their own), you see everyone.

At a major hub, you’ll see people from all over: the guy with the “Ragin’ Cajun” hat, domestic and international grandmas, the harried big city lawyer, the dad-jeans set, and the local staff. People dress in all manners of business-business or super casual for comfort.

The mix of experienced and novice travels creates a crackly dynamic, paired with either overly friendly or direct gate agents. While some can escape to airline lounges, even those environments are little different than the actual terminal: you just get much friendly staff and free drinks and peanuts.

Airports can be calming if you look at them as escapes and the sort of delightful, enforced boredom that I understand meditation to be.

They can be toxic if you stress out about delays, lines, other people, overhead bin space, and how flight delays effect your plans outside the airport. And they can be distracting like an opium den if you let their peaceful hum shut-out your real life.

Don’t ruin your time at the airport. If you let it, it’ll make sure you get back out right where you wanted to go.

Frequent flyer programs drive billions(?!) in revenue

Delta Air Lines Inc., the world’s second-largest carrier, said it expects that its American Express partnership will yield $4 billion in revenue per year by 2021, rising by more than $300 million annually until then. Those sums translate to a very high margin of profit, Delta executives have acknowledged, but they’ve decline to specify further. At an investor presentation on March 29, Alaska Air Group Inc. said its Mileage Plan relationship with Bank of America will account for $900 million in annual cash flow, once the airline has fully combined with Virgin America Inc.

Billions per year seems crazy, but I assume they’re not lying.

Link

Keeping sane at the airport

After 10 years of business travel, this is how I cope at the airport:

  • You’ll get there, even if you’re late.
  • Don’t worry about lines, just wait in them.
  • Few people know what they’re doing here, don’t let their stress stress you out.
  • There are no special snowflakes, unless you have a doctor’s note.
  • The word of airline staff is law, you can’t argue against the agent of the FAA.
  • Relax and walk slow.
  • If you want a better experience, pay more or pay your dues.

When in doubt, and even if it contradicts the above, you can always:

  • Move fast and get out of the way.

AirBnB lowers hotel prices 8-10%, effects low end hotel more


There’s all sorts of fun findings and theories in this study of AirBnB’s effect in the hotel market in Austin and Dallas. The easiest one is that it lowers pricing by 8-10% for the non-business traveler segment:

As Airbnb has its roots in casual stays, including those involving shared accommodations, we expect it to be a more attractive option for travelers on a budget. Conversely, business travelers and vacationers who frequent high-end hotels are two examples of consumers we argue are less likely to substitute a hotel stay with an Airbnb stay.

There’s also some interesting commentary on the very fixed assets of traditional hotel companies verses the agility of AirBnB:
– It’s impossible to rapidly increase the supply of hotel rooms to meet demand: it takes an average of 4 years to build new hotels, so you can’t really meet rising demand even on an annual basis.
– In contrast, the AirBnB supply can expand and contract on a daily basis as people decided to list and delist their rooms and houses.
– Of course, AirBnB demand is cap’ed to the number of fixed houses and apartments in an areas…but companies to hotel rooms, that supply seems infinite. (There’s an interesting analogy to public cloud here.)

Flexibility, short TSA lines, and smooth travel – survey on business travel

Millennials want choice when making a booking, Generation Xers want control over their trip, and Boomers don’t really care about the booking process — they just want a smooth travel experience while staying connected with friends and family.

“Although the major themes are the same for Millennials and Gen Xers, the key variables that make up the themes are different,” the report states. “Millennial business travelers want a variety of suppliers from which you can choose to book and prefer booking travel on a third party website. Meanwhile for Gen Xers, it’s all about the ease of making changes to their travel plans. Gen Xers place a value on the ease of making changes and booking directly on a supplier’s website. Gen Xers value this over having more booking choices. Conversely booking was not an important theme for Boomers.”

Source: What Makes Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer Business Travelers Most Satisfied?

New AAdvantage Flyer Mileage Rewards Rate

AAdvantage Executive Platinum members now will receive 11 miles for every dollar spent. Platinum members will earn eight miles per dollar and gold members will earn seven miles.

The new rewards rate goes into effect on Aug. 1.

They gots to get that paper!

Source: American Airlines Shrinks Its AAdvantage Flyer Mileage Rewards Rate – Fortune

You’re on a trip

If you are traveling by car, there is a good chance it’s a trip. If you have packed one or more “throw-up bags,” clearly, it’s a trip. If you packed a training potty, not a vacation. A trip if ever there was one. If you break into a complete sweat loading the car and/or overhead storage compartment you spent a small fortune on because you thought it was kinda cool, well, that’s a trip. If packing the car leads to a fight with your spouse about who has a better “system”… you, my friend, are going on a trip.

If your final destination is a tent, you are not on a vacation. You are not even on a trip. You are on a camping trip. There will be tears. Mostly yours. Camping, for obvious reasons, gets its own classification. If you have to walk outside to a bathroom and/or shower, you are on a camping trip. If you need coins to get a hot shower, you are soooo not on a vacation… I don’t even know what to tell you.

It’s all good stuff.

Source: “Vacation or Trip? A Helpful Guide for Parents”