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I had an opportunity this past weekend to serve for the 12th time as faculty on the Society of American Travel Writers’ annual Institute For Travel Writing and Photography. It is always an exhilarating experience, imparting the best practices in our profession to a new group of people.

This year we brought in Keith Bellows, editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler, to kick off the weekend. Bellows in an interesting man with many observation to make. Some of his thoughts:

-Stories will always be the big thing. That is what we react to in the major magazines. Service information can be better presented on the web.

-It costs a major magazine $50 to get a new subscriber.

-User generated content is now about half of all content.

-General interest publications are in danger. There is now no such thing as the general consumer.

-Consumers will get tired of doing all the information gathering themselves. There is information anxiety. Consumers are looking for firm direction and guidance. There are 140,000 products in the average supermarket.

-Time is the new currency.

-250 million Chinese are studying English, but only 24 thousand Americans are studying Chinese.

-There is no such thing as the average consumer. 51 percent of Americans take no vacation. Among those who do, most stay within 300 miles of their homes. Logically, National Geographic Traveler should focus totally, therefore, on US coverage. However, when we run a domestic cover, it is death on the news stands. No one buys it.

-The future of travel publishing is in niche travel. That may be: Gay Travel, Pet Travel, Nascar Travel, Reunion Travel, Guy Travel, and Wellness Travel, to name just a few categories.

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