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? 

8 thoughts on “Why is BBC worldwide launching a Lonely Planet Travel Magazine?

  1. Hi Donald
    Your post is excellent... better put than my attempt above. The website angle is one I'd not begun to consider, but wow the advantage there is huge. Wanderlust has a website, but way behind LP at the moment in terms of engagement I'd imagine. And sharing ad-revenue with bloggers... I met Matthew Cashmore LP's online innovation ecosystem manager at a recent blogcamp in London. He basically stood up and offered any bloggers in the room a free LP guide for their opinions and insights. As far as I could tell he got no offers whatsoever... and I'm not surprised... a tad cheap in my opinion. Give us your crown jewels in return for a £12 guidebook.
    Best wishes

  2. If the LP magazine allows for BBC to be featured on its site then it could work well for both parties. I'm interested to see how this works going forward.

  3. Hi Jeremy - just discovered your blog - love it :-)

    Sorry you thought I was being cheap! Engaging with people outside of LP towers is kind of new thing here, and certainly getting people outside LP Authors witting for LP is very new. At Blogcamp in London Darren kindly let me offer some free books in exchange for what people thought about LPs ideas around blogging - a fairly cheap way for me to engage a large room of people, and at the same time spread some of the love.

    I had a great evening, and collected loads of cards and names and gave away over 40 books, many of those people are now signed up for BlogSherpa and the insight many people have given us has been invaluable - I hope we're able to return more to those people than just free books... BlogSherpa will of course be displaying your ads (via google adsense) on each page your blog post appears - so with any luck you'll actually get some financial benefit for working with us - it's not going to feed and house you - but who knows, maybe it'll be enough to put towards your next trip.

  4. Hi Matthew

    Nice to hear from you and thanks for your comments.

    The format that evening was I guess quite relaxed, but I think the thing that got me a bit was that you just seemed to be saying 'tell me anything useful' rather than saying 'I have a specific problem which is XXXX and can you help me solve it.' I guess on reflection that was an honest admission from you that you had lots to learn... and nothing wrong with that. So apologies if I sounded a bit harsh in my comment above.

    @Blogsherpa... hmmm. I dunno. I can't see it ever paying enough for a trip - getting a percentage of ad revenue off your personal blog pages on there... but who knows. 'Working with us'? I don't know if I buy that phrase. I think it's 'giving us a stack of free content and allowing us to chuck a few carrots back at you'. (Yeah I am a cynic, but the internet is awash with this kind of thing.)

    I guess I am just generally worried about LP and its reach now with the BBC behind it.

    (I had added a load more about this at the bottom of this comment... but have decided to post it separately... Do feel free to put me right...)

    Best wishes and enjoy the sunshine!

  5. Good points Jeremy - and I guess that's what I'm working hardest on solving - it's important that by taking part in BlogSherpa and, as you say, make our content better, we ensure you're getting proper payment for it.

    That could be via the ads - we have not insignificant traffic - but also via increased traffic to your site, and to your blog... each post has your blog linked to and we actively drive readers back to your blog to comment and the like - I hope that between the increased traffic and the ad revenue - and I'll be frank here - we have no idea how much that will be - for the most prolific writers in the biggest areas - London, New York etc - I'd be surprised if you don't earn a good chuck of cash - for the more infrequent writers in more obscure places I'm sure it's just not going to be as well paid money wise - but again I come back to that passing of traffic.

    The whole idea is meant to be two way - you get to use chunks of LP content on your site and in your posts, you get *some* money, you get traffic and hopefully other more esoteric benefits. We get, and I'm not beating around the bush here, richer, broader content on lonelyplanet.com to supplement our author based content and the user generate reviews etc - and that hopefully means more eyes on lp.com and therefore more eyes on your content.

    It all boils down to understanding that the net is not a collection of bastions of content, but rather an ecosystem of content that if we share - both ways - we'll all see benefits.

    As far as blogcamp - sorry if I came across like that - it's a new segment for me - I've never worked in Travel before so I wanted to learn, I thought the best way to do that was ask and talk to people - I'm not shy and if I can give stuff away in exchange for some help - I'm all for it!

  6. Hi Matthew

    OK... I' just did a bit of a search and can find no decent travel blogs written by people from Brighton about Brighton. So how about you let me be the Brighton blogger for Blogsherpa? I wouldn't use Travelblather, I'd set up a new blog specifically about budget tourism in Brighton and Hove (with a few 'Splurges' too). Seeing as I live in Brighton and was born and bred here I reckon I know the place inside out and I don't see anyone else trying this.

    Let me know what you think... genuinely interested to try it.

    BUT I will also blog here on Travelblather about the experience too - the good and bad bits...

    AND one of the things I'd be trying NOT to do is use too much existing LP content... I can see it makes sense to begin with, but I'd look to replace it with my own as soon as possible. It's an interesting proposition to allow members to use LP content... I can see it would be attractive, but if I was the original author I'd be a bit gutted (I know that legally speaking the copyright is LP's, but it's a principle thing).

    Also...let's face it you want great writers for Blogsherpa to work... not people who can hide behind the writing of full-time LP guidebook writers. Sure, they don't need to be guidebook writers, but they need to be able to describe stuff succinctly and to be committed to posting frequently.

    What do you think?

    Best wishes

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