Over the past three years, much of the physical travel media (magazines, newspaper supplements, etc.) has experienced a slow but sure decline, making way for cheaper, digital alternatives.
Unsurprisingly, much of this change can be laid at the door of the COVID-19 pandemic. Departments were reshuffled, various outlets closed their doors, and travel media companies pursued different revenue streams to keep the lights on during the height of lockdown restrictions.
But as a whole, travel media’s shift from print towards digital reflects a decades-long development that has slowly enveloped most other industries. Interestingly, while many travel publications across the UK & Ireland discontinued their print properties in the lead up to and wake of COVID (The Sunday Times Travel Magazine ended its 17-year run just eight months into the pandemic), there are a number of outlets still going strong.
Here, we take a deeper dive into those print travel publications that are still thriving, and why travel magazines and newspaper supplements still represent a vital piece of the marketing mix.
Cutting through the noise: Making the case for physical travel media
Where once a company’s website or online blog was its competitive differentiator, in the modern digital world, there now exists an overwhelming and almost immeasurable amount of content.
Cutting through the noise with online content has become increasingly challenging, placing pressure on brands to develop more striking and unique content than ever in order to make themselves heard in such a crowded market.
This goes double for the travel media sector: the divisive influencer landscape, a shrinking economy, and the rise of alternative travel (such as ‘bleisure’ trips or ‘workcations’), have all left the travel media sector a busy, fragmented, and unfocused market.
However, physical travel magazines and newspaper pullouts don’t suffer from the same saturation. And, while they may not contain the same level of detail or flexibility as their digital counterparts, they can inspire a sense of wanderlust unmatched by images or words on a screen.
There’s something special about flicking through the glossy pages of a magazine, drinking in vivid images of far-off places or captivating stories of exotic destinations and unique cultures. Because magazines cost more to produce, more love goes into their craft, and the result is something tangible that creates a longer-lasting impression with those who consume it.
Knowing your audience: Travel magazines and newspaper supplements leading the line
Although travel magazines and newspaper pullouts have experienced a decline in recent years, many have thrived because they intelligently carved out a niche, or diversified their product offering.
Some travel publications, such as Condé Nast Traveller, target those with significant disposable income looking for luxury, high-end travel experiences. Meanwhile, other outlets target niche subsets of holidaymaker, such as monthly outdoor leisure magazines Caravan and What Motorhome.
Some outlets elect their audience on age or other external motivations. For example, UK publication Wanderlust is predominately geared towards young people, but also promotes greener and more sustainable ways to travel.
Other publications recognise the importance of diversification. Publications such as National Geographic and Outside aren’t predominately marketed as a travel publications – although, Nat Geo does boast its own quarterly travel edition. Instead, they feature the best in photojournalism, exploring culture, diversity, and natural history. These type of publications inspire travel through the medium of human storytelling and gorgeous visuals, rather than logistical information around travel bargains and flight deals.
Away from magazines, newspaper pullouts and supplements predominately gear their travel content towards the readership demographic that already consume their daily spreads. Publications such as The Telegraph and The Guardian typically feature travel content aimed at middle to upper-class people with more disposable income; importantly, The Guardian also encourages sustainability-related content, prioritising destinations that you can get to by train, bike and car. Outlets such as The Mirror or The Sun feature more budget-friendly deals and bargains.
For newspapers, much of the readership acquisition work is already done – they possess a captive audience that’s already bought into their product. What’s more, because travel supplements often make up a publication’s Saturday or Sunday edition, people are treated to 52 sections each year, crammed with more information and in-depth articles than monthly or quarterly magazines can offer.
Personalised, authentic: Creating travel content that matters
Carving out a niche by tailoring language, content and brand mission to suit specific people will always promote higher levels of engagement than those publications that seek to satisfy everyone – and this is what’s enabled many travel magazines and newspaper supplements to thrive, even in a post-COVID world.
Ultimately, what unites all the travel publications above is a strong understanding of their target audience, whether that’s the casual traveller looking for last-minute deals, luxury tourists that pursue extravagance at every turn, or so-called digital nomads who are constantly on the move.
Authenticity and relevance are key in helping these publications buck the online norm, showing that print travel media still has a place in the digital-first era.