MEDIA: A luxury tour with ZD’s upcoming Internet travel magazine

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 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, 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

editorially independent.’

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

parent company?’

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

travel gadgets.

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

services items.

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, 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.


Expedia Travels

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.

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