Ziff Davis is attempting to do with Expedia Travels what it has done with Yahoo! Internet Life: use a Web brand to sell a paper-and-ink magazine. But, as Claire Atkinson discovers, the title will still be Web-centric.
Ziff Davis is attempting to do with Expedia Travels what it has
done with Yahoo! Internet Life: use a Web brand to sell a paper-and-ink
magazine. But, as Claire Atkinson discovers, the title will still be
Attention all PR folk! Expedia Travels editor-in-chief Gary Walther
wants to set the record straight. His venture, debuting later this year,
is not a dot-com, nor is it the print version of the Microsoft online
booking service, Expedia.com. It is, rather, a magazine to show people
how to use the Web to make their travel plans.
’Misinformation is rampant,’ says Walther. ’This is a real magazine that
will be on the newsstands. It is travel and lifestyle with a tech
That’s something (PR) people in the travel trade aren’t used to.’ He
adds: ’We are happy to be associated with the name, but we’ll be
Publisher Ziff Davis licensed the name from the Nasdaq-listed Web site,
in much the same way it lassoed the Yahoo! brand as a marketing device
for its consumer Web title, Yahoo! Internet Life. The business model has
so far proved successful: the Web brand gains newsstand exposure, the
fledgling print title bags a well-known name.
Despite the fact that the Expedia site has little to do with the
publication, at least one travel PR pro has reservations (pun intended):
’My biggest question is, will it be objective if it is tied to a travel
provider? Would they give our client space if it competed with the
A matter of trust
Walther insists that his number-one goal is to be trusted, and as a
former editor-in-chief of Departures, a magazine distributed to American
Express credit card holders, he has dealt with this issue before.
When asked if he would rank Yahoo! Travel over Microsoft’s Expedia if it
genuinely provided better service, Walther says yes, but adds that his
magazine won’t be about rankings or discount travel. Expedia Travels
will be much more about upmarket destinations: the best places to eat
and sleep in Paris, for example.
Though the affluent readers the magazine is aiming for have something of
a ’been there, done that’ attitude, Walther says, ’The destinations may
have been done, but not everything is discovered.’ In addition to
looking to foreign countries, Expedia Travels will have plenty of
information on US destinations such as New York and San Francisco.
The title, represented by the Susan Magrino Agency on the PR front, is
launching as a bimonthly at the end of October and is moving to a
monthly cycle starting in fall 2001. Guaranteed circulation, or rate
base, will be set at 200,000 for the debut November/December issue.
Walther is currently poring over proofs and photographs at his office in
the Ziff Davis building, just north of New York City’s Gramercy
He says he won’t know exactly what’s going in the first issue until all
the articles are filed and he sees the quality of the artwork.
In order to ensure the visual beauty of the title, Walther is eager for
PR pros to spend their own budgets on better photography so he can use
it for spot illustrations. ’That is the biggest weakness of many PR
departments. The pictures of their beautiful hotels are appalling,’ he
Walther encourages PR pros to spend some time getting to know the new
title and is happy to discuss it with them. But he says to send pitches
via snail mail rather than e-mail, adding: ’Be succinct, explain why it
is of interest.’
’We are looking for destinations of interest to the affluent and
adventurous traveler,’ he explains. ’We are looking for wonderful small
hotels or simplicity that is luxurious. We want to hear about new travel
sites and anything related to business travel.’
The magazine will carry a pull-out page of useful URLs, but Walther says
the title will be relevant even to those who’ve never plugged in a
Expedia Travel will publish around five main feature packages detailing
such things as art and culture, restaurants and hotels. It is unlikely
to include any book or music reviews, but there may be a section on
Though the subject matter is very new-media focused, Expedia Travels
won’t look or read like a tech magazine. Walther says that although it
is helpful to have some element of the Web tied to your pitch, it is not
Walther has already signed some travel industry names, including Spa
specialist Aimee Lee Ball and former Gourmet restaurant critic David
The magazine will carry first-person pieces as well as consumer-oriented
While much of the focus will be on leisure, there will be a
three-to-four-page section entitled All Business, which will accommodate
information about traveling for work; Walther says he wants to hear
about surveys and trends from industry associations.
The Web site
While Expedia Travels is a print entity, a title about using the Web for
planning a journey would not be complete without a complementary site of
its own. Already up and running is etravelsmag.com, which will expand
its content as soon as the paper-and-ink version launches. The Web site,
though overseen by Walther, will be managed by the magazine’s executive
editor, Rosemary Ellis.
Expedia Travels will compete with travel glossies such as Traveler,
Travel & Leisure and National Geographic Traveler. Ziff Davis will
confront competition in that many such mags already have writers
covering the Web’s travel offerings, according to Barbara Archer, vice
president of Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations, New York. (It may have
more competition coming: rumor has it that another online service,
Travelocity, is planning to debut a magazine.) Archer says Walther’s
track record is proven and that his title is a welcome addition to the
pack, but she can’t say that her clients necessarily want to put the
focus on their online activities above their traditional ones.
Walther started in the mailroom at American Heritage Publishing and
moved to the now-defunct Camera Arts magazine before joining Travel &
A fluent German speaker, Walther also lived abroad in Vienna and
subsequently London, where he edited Departures in the early 1990s.
Expedia Travels’ writers won’t accept press trips, but Walther says his
experiences of free travel have, ironically, been some of his worst. He
says he once visited an upmarket hotel but was put in a room he
describes as a dark cell. ’Free travel is enlightening and not
completely corrupting,’ he jokes.
Ziff Davis Publishing
28 East 28 Street
New York, NY 10016
Phone: (212) 503 4630
Fax: (212) 503 4646
Editor-in-chief: Gary Walther
Executive editor: Rosemary Ellis
Art director: Lou DiLorenzo
Wine columnist: Richard Nalley
Food columnist: David Rosengarten
Golf columnist: James Dodson.