I spotted the launch issue of the new Lonely Planet Travel magazine on the shelves today.
Frankly I'm pretty underwhelmed by this. BBC Worldwide bought a 75 per cent stake in Lonely
Planet for £89.9m last year – a move which has angered some of the
BBC’s commercial rivals, who claim Worldwide is entering into
territories that are not linked to the BBC’s core public service remit. And I'm in total agreement.
Why is BBC Worldwide launching a travel magazine? How can that be within its remit and how can that be fair competition? Interestingly there's a box at the bottom of the contents page that states that BBC Worldwide is the commerical arm of the BBC and that profits are ploughed back into the programme budget. So clearly there's already some sensitivity there.
Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of the BBC, but this seems completely wrong. I write regularly for excellent independent travel magazine Wanderlust. A small business that has been built carefully and with great passion over more than a decade, it recently celebrated its 100th issue. This is no mean feat in what has been an increasingly difficult climate for print magazines generally. Wanderlust has concentrated on building a loyal readership by creating a product that really works for them - and advertisers know this and support the magazine. It seems completely unfair that the BBC can compete with them like this.
Lyn Hughes the Founder and Editor in Chief of Wanderlust has already made her views clear on the issue describing BBC Worldwide as an 'out of control juggernaut'.
I know that many of Wanderlust's readers are subscribers. Having browsed the launch issue of Lonely Planet Travel Magazine I saw little that would tempt a reader away for now. The editor is former deputy editor of the BBC's Top Gear magazine Peter Grunert so hardly a heavyweight travel editor and a surprising choice in this respect. The cover is also pretty uninspiring too. But the LP brand is massively influential and with the deep pockets of BBC Worldwide behind it there's surely money to invest in the product.
According to Media Guardian the magazine will compete with Conde Nast Traveller and The Sunday Times Travel magazine. But I disagree. The Lonely Planet brand is far, far closer to the independent travellers who read Wanderlust than the more upmarket ones who read these two titles particularly Conde Nast.
I wonder if Lonely Planet advertises much in Wanderlust? And I wonder if Wanderlust will take ads from the company now? Difficult call for Wanderlust going forward. Do they ignore this new competitor and focus on doing an even better job or do they kick up some noise about it?