Questex Announces Digital Shift for Travel Agent
Magazine goes from weekly to bi-weekly, while boosting Web presence.
Questex Media Group this week announced that it is scaling back the frequency of weekly Travel Agent magazine to bi-weekly, while putting more emphasis on an integrated print and online strategy.
“Even with a weekly we found the turnaround time wasn’t nearly fast enough for the time-sensitive information a travel agent needs,” says group publisher Kerry Cannon. “We’ve moved from a weekly news-oriented magazine to a much more analytical destination and information-driven product. We have a visually and electronically pre-disposed audience. Travel agents are tethered to some kind of computer and it made total sense for us to allow them to get the best of both worlds.”
Travel Agent has courted its audience with online products before. In 2004, while still owned by Advanstar, Travel Agent launched a weekly e-zine called Travel Agent Electronic to complement its weekly print product. “Plenty of companies occupy our space with a magazine and a standalone Web site, and the two operate independently,” says Cannon. “The strategy for us was to knit together the online and the offline. At the end of every article there will be the mouse pad, a signpost to take them to a specific Web address with a micro site on the topic.”
New features will include a video platform and a ‘deal engine’ where travel suppliers can upload most recent bonus commission programs and specials incentive deals that are communicated to audience. Existing edit staff will take on the online load as part of their duties. “It’s no longer, ‘go interview someone and come back with a text article,’” Cannon says. “We found ourselves between a rock and a hard place with a weekly magazine. When you’re beholden to the economics of ink and paper, you can’t get as in-depth. You’re reporting, getting the salient points, and moving on to the next news item. Here, the editors are staying around to dissect a topic more carefully.”
Not at the Tipping Point—Yet
Many publishers in a variety of sectors have scaled back their weekly print frequency in favor of a more aggressive digital strategy. Editor & Publisher has been among the most successful, switching its magazine to monthly in 2004 while bolstering the Web site. On the technology side, weeklies such as InfoWorld have folded in favor of an online-only approach as their companies begin experiencing the tipping point where online revenue starts to exceed print.
However, print remains the largest overall revenue stream for Travel Agent (estimated to generate more than $10 million in annual revenue), even though Cannon says he expects the new initiative will spur at least 20 percent growth on the e-side for the group in 2008. However, custom publishing is a growing revenue source for Travel Agent and Cannon says that the mix there will shift from 50/50 for print and online to about 70/30 in favor of electronic by the end of the year.
Travel Agent averages between 60 and 80 pages on a weekly basis and Cannon says no issue of the bi-weekly will be fewer than 100 to 120 pages.
“We haven’t reached that tipping point where more of our revenue is digital than print,” says Cannon. “I honestly don’t foresee us phasing out the magazine side, not in the near future. If you look at the travel agency community, the industry is generating a healthy influx of younger people but it’s not overwhelming. There are quite a few travel agents and they’re not all the 20-something turbo-geek living and breathing on sites like kayak. These people are embracing the technology no doubt but are still very loyal to print media. When we announced this concept to our readers and our clients, I actually got an e-mail from a woman who says, ‘This looks great but please tell me you’re not going all-digital.’”