Monday, August 09, 2010
Imagine you have a very strong publishing brand and your market is well defined in terms of content, style and even demographic of your readers. You can even bring out new revised editions every year and consumers will buy them because they need current information. Sounds too good to be true, but then along comes the Internet, mobiles and digital.
Travel guide publishing has been enjoyed by many and has some strong brands, each with their own distinctive house style and readership demographic. As tourism exploded and flights became cheaper, peoples’ travel tastes became both more exotic and new city breaks were created. As a result the number of guides increased. The Rough Guide reader was different to the Cadogan reader and the Dorling Kindersley different to Blue Guides or Lonely Planet. You only have to look on any bookshelf and you will see many of the same or similar brands. But what happens in the digital world and do we still require that guide that passport to hidden away treasures and to take us of the beaten track to some exquisite restaurant or boutique hotel.
The Internet introduced online flight, hotel and car booking services from such as Trip Advisor, Expedia , Netflights and many more. They offered local information and virtual tours of the hotels. Google created the online map, enabling anyone to see where they were and find any location on a map, zoom into a location from a satellite view and even manoeuvre around at streets level. Tie in directions and locations of interest and also advertisers and suddenly maps went mobile. The phone allows the user to now be at the 'centre of the map' and makes tangible all the various places to visit around them.
The internet also expanded and information became easier to search and discover. Then can the app, which made everything possible on a phone!
These publishing brands are established, but are substitution. If you can’t find the one you want, there will be another which will do. The acquisition of Lonely Planet by BBC Worldwide, was itself a wake up call, but rather than understand the motive and logic the travel publishers focused on fighting it. Lonely Planet may not have lived up to the brand purchase the BBC worldwide believe possible, but it showed that media needed content and brands as much as publishers, need big brothers. Google, Microsoft and many big global players want the travel dollar in either bookings, advertising or just social networking, the content is the easy part.
The trick for guide book publishers is to grapple with the fact that their product as they knew and loved it yesterday is sadly a dying form. Many will believe that they tread the digital path by themselves and survive but many will loose their way.
The saviour for many today is the fact that international mobile roaming charges are prohibitively expensive and so they still need the book. Tomorrow that position will change as roaming charges drop and travel mobile usage will be the norm. The other aspect that is sorely ignored by many is that travellers themselves want to contribute, correct reviews and create content from their own experience. The democratisation of content and creation of YouTravel is often a bitter pill for an editorial centric process to absorb. Travellers will want to post it today and send it friends in realtime.
Ask yourself what you will be using to prepare your trip next year. Will it be from a single source or many. Will you pay for the information or will it be free. Will you write and tell friends about the experience and share snaps and the treasures you discovered and will that be on a postcard or on Facebook.