The future of the guidebook – a series of guest posts by Mark Henshall

This is the third in a series of five guest posts – today answering the question:

How can a traditional guidebook publisher innovate its way out of the declining guidebook market?

Regardless of the format, the starting point still has to be excellent quality content and expertise. Even before we get into delivery/platform discussion, I think long-term (and especially since the Google Panda updates) this is paramount. I also think it is worth not losing sight of the fact that high-quality travel experiences can be life-changing; creating rich, meaningful stories. You want to match that passion within the travel community by creating the most inspiring and imaginative tools for travellers - from print to online to apps.

To be relevant it’s important to experiment, be flexible, evolve products for a rapidly changing market and know your audience. Publishers need to drive innovation and technological advances to create exciting and indispensible products, strive to improve content, and form solid and productive relationships with authors and partners.

The digital arena offers a huge opening for Publishers looking to be creative and offer travellers stimulating new content. Perhaps because the wider community (e.g. Science, Technology, Education) at Wiley (Frommer's' umbrella publisher) demanded digital early on we’ve been able to move travel towards other platforms quickly. Peter Balis, director of digital content sales for Wiley’s P&T division, has recently outlined how this digital shift and new infrastructure happened.

Some of what we’ve been trying at Frommer’s lately has included a significant new push on Frommers.com to create rich, engaging content (news, features, expert advice & travel ideas, tips & tools, newsletters, forums, deals, slideshows…), resulting in both a rapid growth in page views but also in reader engagement (which, interestingly, is much higher with users browsing on an iPad). Frommer's is also developing new apps, ShortCut e-books; Remix custom guides; and engaging more widely through social media. It’s also a time for trying new partnerships such as Frommer’s collaboration on the new Wenzani app with Lonely Planet and Time Out, breaking new ground.

On the B2B side, Publishers can also obviously gain from the flexibility of high quality content with detailed metadata to provide inspiring local detail and travel experiences, insider knowledge and a fresh perceptive. Here’s a look at what we’ve been working on for clients from WTM in November.

It’s a really exciting time to be in travel publishing. When you have an idea you’re thinking ‘could this make an online feature, app, enhanced e-book, short e-book, video, slide show, audio guide, series, standalone book?’ Or all of the above.

The digital world creates a really exciting arena to reach readers in a creative way.

What other challenges and opportunities do you see for guidebook publishers?

Image by WanderingTheWorld

2 thoughts on “New ideas in travel publishing

  1. Hi Mark
    Lots of interetsing stuff here - in particular they way that a publisher can spin content in different ways to work on different platforms.
    I've been tinkering with Remix. The thing that's really striking about it is that the finished product is... a physical guidebook - not an app for your iPad or whatever. (Why?) It's a really interesting concept though. (I'd encourage people to click the link and have a look at it!) Does it work? Do people like it?
    - Wenzani is interesting for other reasons. The fact that Frommer's is happy to work in the same space as Lonely Planet and Time Out - that is a very significant thing. Also... it's free, but it features content from Frommer's, Lp etc that you'd normally find in an app which costs. So where's the revenue stream?

  2. Hi Jeremy - it's early days for Remix but it's a great opportunity to collaborate with partners such as TripIt and HP as an experiment and try something new. It's always great to try something different; put a new spin on travel. As some travellers like a more personalised experience Remix offers this more interactive, specific and curated content, alongside a book which could become a souvenir/journal of your trip. Much the kind of thing I spoke about in my 2nd post around some of the value I still see in physical books. That said, it could work online - maybe more so - and that's not something we've not dismissed.

    Wenzani offers a great opportunity to try a new mobile service with multiple authoratative brands/voices. I guess you could see it as a kind of cross between Yelp & Twitter, but built on pro content, in addition to UGC. You follow a brand, a personality or friend for recommendations. Again it's experimenting.

    Frommer's and partners such as Lonely Planet, NYT and HuffPo, feed in destination and event content to create a new kind of experience for travellers. It's good to collaborate and we can't be afraid to fail, or be silly and hide our content from new opportunities. It's a chance to learn from a new social-mobile travel platform, work with different partners and perhaps explore revenue in the future. What it offers right now is unlike a lot of the other travel apps on the marketplace, in terms of content, user interface and social connectivity, and that makes it very exciting.

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