The State of Travel Media 2015

by Pam Mandel + Skift Team - Aug 2015

Skift Research Take

When fewer consumers are willing to pay for content, consumer travel media companies must diversify their business to compete with big names dominating a travel media landscape that is changing in real time. This report is a snapshot of the media landscape and looks at how travel publishers are adjusting business strategies to meet these challenges -- and thrive.

Report Overview

Executive summary

Travel businesses need to be their own media companies now. With a few notable exceptions — like The New York Times — consumers simply won’t pay for travel content like they once did. So it’s not enough to create great content; that content needs distribution beyond subscriptions.

Digital travel media still needs to win at Google and must be optimized for mobile. Saying ”We’ve got an app” isn’t good enough. Publishers who invest in apps before making their media responsive are leaving readers — and customers — behind. Video continues to grow both in production and consumption. Some companies are hesitant to embrace the medium because of the expense, but there is a big payoff: engagement on video ads is five times higher than that of standard banner ads. 1

“Readers are more likely to survive a plane crash than to click on a banner ad” — Veronica Stoddart, Percepture

Declining subscriber numbers equals declining ad revenue. It’s not just print and display ads taking the hit, online ad revenues are falling, too. Veronica Stoddart, executive editor at Percepture, a strategic marketing firm, jokes that readers are more likely to survive a plane crash than to click on a banner ad. More and more publications are replacing traditional ad revenue with sponsored content — the publisher’s distribution network is sometimes part of the deal. They’re making syndication deals with travel brands. And publishers also offer custom content creation for materials will live on third-party properties.

Facebook still rules when it comes to social, but Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest work well in the travel space. Some forward-looking brands are exploring technologies like WhatsApp and Periscope. In the never-ending quest for content, media companies mine social channels for (not quite) user-generated content programs, be it hashtagging to integrate customer photos into brand feeds or partnerships with social content creators like bloggers or “social influencers.”

E-commerce travel sales in the United States alone amounted to $122 billion in 2014. 2 Consumer travel is still big business. But travel media? On the consumer publishing side, it’s struggling. Direct to consumer publishing — especially on the web — seems caught in a neverending cycle of over-supplying content. There are places to thrive, though — inflight magazine publisher Ink Global reaches 1.9 million readers every day and generated £50 million in ad revenue last year. Brand-owned media projects — and media strategy and creation services for brands — are finding a landscape rich with opportunities for growth.