New magazines are inevitably launched with hype and hope. But the
Traveller, Conde Nast’s glossy new monthly for the well-heeled - which
made its journey to the newsstands this week - is important for two
First, it has adopted the policy of its US big brother of taking no
freebies, flouting one of the traditions of travel journalism and the PR
industry which services it. Second, it is assuming that a new niche can
be created for travel titles. This is why the eyes of the publishing
industry are so firmly focussed on it.
Received wisdom, following the collapse of the BBC’s Holidays magazine
last year suggests that dedicated travel magazines don’t work. That for
most people travel sections in newspapers and magazines suffice. But
other publishers suspect the Traveller might be the real pioneer as
happened here with men’s style magazines over the past decade. At least
two rival companies plan newsstand glossies: as one said: ’we know the
advertising is there, the question is the buyers’.
You only have to look at the improved British Airways inflight magazine,
High Life, to see how it drips with financial services and jewellery
It too is planning an aspirational travel magazine, for general
And National Geographic Magazine also scents an opportunity, assisted by
this autumn’s launch of the National Geographic Channel. I think the
Traveller has a real chance. The UK version has been shrewdly
customised, aiming at affluent people in their late 30s and 40s.
Just as well. The markets are very different: half of our holidays are
still packages requiring little independent thought, whereas those
Americans who do holiday overseas tend to be older, have packages
designed for them by travel operators, and value advice.
The key editorial question is whether paying your way resolutely makes
for better copy and advice. Does the phrase ’so and so travelled to
Bermuda courtesy of ...’ mean the writer abandoned all objectivity?
Frank Barrett, now with the Mail on Sunday, was the architect of the
Independent’s principled stand 11 years ago not to take freebies. But
now he does and says it makes no difference. I’m broadly with him: the
key to successful travel writing is good, informative, readable lively
copy, which does not pull punches.
The Traveller assures itself of this with a quiver of top writers who,
as it happens, all had very enjoyable times: Helen Fielding on safari,
Zoe Heller in Amanpuri, Thailand.
Journalists can write gushing copy whether the trip is paid for by their
publication, or a travel company. But I’m in favour of publications
paying, if they can afford it. It certainly makes sense for the
Traveller, since it is aiming at the discriminating reader. But there’s
no need for the travel industry to despair; the magazine seems to have
plenty of space for advertorials.