Media brands, big and small, exist in an ever-changing marketplace. Despite size, fundamental business strategies for success remain universal. Here, Joseph Diaz, co-founder and chief product officer for Afar Media, the independent publisher of high-end travel and lifestyle magazine Afar, and featured panelist at FOLIO:’s MediaNext event, October 28 to 30 in New York, talks about the importance of print, managing digital growth and what’s next in media.
FOLIO magazine: You guys took an iterative approach to launching the Afar platform. You focused on the magazine first and then, over the years, rolled out new platforms. Why did that make sense for you then and would you still recommend that approach today?
Joseph Diaz: Yes, it struck people as unconventional that AFAR used the conventional platform of print to launch. It was 2009 and everywhere you turned people were saying, "print was dead." This was an overreaction and we knew that. AFAR leveraged print’s ability to tell a powerful and visually rich story, establish credibility in the travel space, and attract a powerful audience of discerning experience seekers. We could not have done this by just simply putting up a website, especially in today’s world.
The barriers to entry for digital are low. Anyone that knows how to program can put up a website and make it look pretty. If you look at the last 12 months there are literally hundreds of start-ups in the travel space that have done just that. The advantages print gives AFAR are extremely high-quality curated content, a powerful and relatively unduplicated audience, and credibility. That is a powerful combination and we’re experiencing the benefits of it. So would we do that again? Yes. It’s a capital-intensive strategy, but we’re seeing the rewards.
FOLIO: For a brand the size of Afar, what’s important in terms of managing growth across the platforms you’re on? How are you managing priorities in terms of investment and resource allocation?
Diaz: AFAR’s mission is to inspire and enable deeper, richer and more authentic experiences. That is where it all starts and as we continue to develop new platforms and grow existing ones our mission directs our thinking.
As we continue to invest, it is important that we continue speaking to our core audience of discerning travelers who yearn to get beneath the skin of a destination. Investing in growth just for the sake of scale is not important to us. Anyone can buy traffic. We are investing in print and digital specifically because we know there are tons travelers out there who want better travel experiences. Our strategy is to ensure that each platform can achieve its goals independently of the others, but also works interdependently with the other platforms to increase efficiency.
FOLIO: Going forward what’s next in media? What’s the ‘next big thing’ you’re planning for?
Diaz: We hear all the buzzwords, "digital," "mobile," "video," "integration," "branded content" and it’s easy to try and chase the shiny new toy. That’s not to say AFAR doesn’t utilize these platforms. We do. It’s more about the approach. We start with what we do well—creating really good content and then think about how to package that content in ways that makes it easy for our audience—and like-minded audiences—to access it.
The partnership with Westin that kicked off this summer is a good example. Westin Finds from AFAR was created because Westin had an insight and a challenge. They understood the power of content to drive decision-making and they also wanted to encourage their business travelers to stay the weekend to explore the fabulous cities they were traveling to. We worked together on this initiative to inspire and enable Westin’s audience to better immerse in the destinations they were traveling to. This platform accomplishes that. Going forward, we’ll continue to focus on content initiatives for ourselves and our partners that help inspire and enable travelers to have deeper, richer and more authentic experiences around the globe as well as in their own backyards.