Private Frazer’s Doomed Magazines

August 8, 2008

Are you sure that’s wise sir?

Filed under: Are you sure that's wise,consumer magazines — privatefraser @ 1:09 pm

BBC to launch Lonely Planet magazine

Let’s hope that it does a wee bit better than the pevious BBC Holiday magazines, but the omens aren’t good:

  • This ain’t a big market. The main competition comes from Conde Nast Traveller and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Of Traveller’s 68,000 UK circulation (let’s not bother with the overseas stuff shall we, we all know the value of that), 27,000 is bulk sale or free and 20,000 of their subs are on reduced rate. The ST magaziine has 45,000 UK circulation, 17,000 of which is bulk/free, 8,000 subs are discounted.
  • The BBC doesn’t do small. If Worldwide had decided to put this with their niche titles in Bristol they might have a hope of controlling costs. Basing it in West London (with Good Food, Radio Times, Top Gear, Gardeners’ World) means that they’re sticking big resource behind it, which implies they want a circulation of 100,000+. See above on the chances for this.
  • Travel is expensive. The BBC couldn’t do PR-funded jollies as that causes problems with its independence; they can’t use Lonely Planet’s writers without paying BBC day- or word-rates.
  • Who’s going to advertise? With airlines and travel companies suffering and with the economy forcing most of us to economise there’s not going to be big media budgets looking for a home.

Most likely outcomes:

  1. They don’t bother launching it. Once the numbers have been crunched they’ll realise that they’re doomed, so they’ll use the OFT complaints as a fig leaf.
  2. They launch and realise it’s losing a shed load of money and either downsize the operation and move to Bristol, or can the title completely. Timescale from launch – 6 months.
  3. They launch and it’s an outstanding success. Ha!

1 Comment »

  1. Frankly I always thought the purchase of Lonely Planet guides by the BBC was at best, bizarre.

    LP grew fat from the popularity of low cost air travel that proliferated through the late 90’s up until the recent hikes in fuel costs. The BBC decided to pick up LP just as it was becoming really obvious to everyone that this pattern of behaviour was going to be completely unsustainable and four day ‘breaks’ to Singapore became a thing of the past.

    People in general are now becoming slightly more cautious about ‘casual’ flying due to the growing paranoia about carbon footprints and no where is this more prevalent than among the middle classes who coincidentally are precisely the target audience of LP products.

    An LP magazine would be attempting to reverse two trends that are gathering pace quite rapidly – 1. The drop in mag sales full stop and 2. Fewer frequent global travellers.

    You are absolutely right in saying that print ad revenue in the travel market is scarce. That’s probably a massive understatement. Although I don’t have figures to back it up (i’m sure they exist somewhere), travel is probably THE market sector that has migrated to the web quickest. I don’t know anyone at all who has turned to a magazine in favour of the net for any kind of travel information in the last 3 or 4 years.

    Even if the BBC is barking enough to go ahead and get the mag off the ground it will more than likely come crashing down before its left the confines of the airfield. I could make this metaphor run longer than their proposed title launch.

    One of the main problems is that there is still no shortage of young enthusiastic people who will jump at the chance to work on a magazine that has some kind of perceived cache. Get a bunch of 20 somethings in a room who do or want to work in media and ask them if they would like to be associated with the LP brand and they will happily saw their own legs off for the opportunity. Primarily because it sounds good when you are in the pub with your friends who work in insurance.

    If you asked the same people how they chose the location and booked their last holiday, and then asked them if they would have gone to WHSmith and bought a magazine instead their answer would completely contradict their enthusiasm for the brand.

    My guess is that the LP guides are probably now losing the BBC a ton of cash and this is a last ditch attempt to revive flagging sales and avoid the purchase look like the hideous mistake it really was.

    Comment by Not long left — August 8, 2008 @ 3:21 pm | Reply

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