8 years ago
 

Tips for what Lonely Planet should do next

I am always on the watch for news items on Lonely Planet.
Like many children of the 70s and 80s, I have powerful and joyful memories of trips that consisted of a backpack, a round the world ticket and a Lonely Planet book.
In a time before email, GPS and mobile phones, Lonely Planet was the way to navigate your way around your lost youth.
Most memorable for me were trips to Europe in 1990, Morocco in 1993 and Malaysia in 1994.
A piece two weeks ago in The Australian newspaper (Rupert Murdoch-owned paper in Australia) called “Lonely Planet goes into new orbit” had me once again thinking about the potential for this still powerful travel brand in online travel discovery, recommendation and search.
The article is an interview by Aussie journo Geoff Elliott with the newish Lonely Planet chief executive Matt Goldberg.
Goldberg joined Lonely Planet in early March 2009 after a career at Dow Jones-The Wall Street Journal (now owned by Murdoch).
If you have been following the Lonely Planet story, we have just passed the two-year anniversary of BBC Worldwide (commercial arm of the BBC) purchasing 75% of Lonely Planet from the founders (Wheeler family).
The sale was seen by many (including me) as a chance for Lonely Planet to have a mulligan/do over/start afresh online push.
Prior to Goldberg joining the company there was plenty of activity online.
In 2008 there were a string of announcements like the following:
Launching a channel on Youtube.
Launching a mobile site in Australia.
Joining up with Expedia and Hostelworld for joint accommodation sales.
Launching an API to provide direct connectivity to reviews and content.
With Goldberg in place, the relentless push continued for LP to make their guidebook content available in different places.
Here are some of the announcements from 2009:
A store has opened at Sydney Airport;
Apps and guidebooks are all over the iTunes App store (have heard claims of 300,000 downloads)
Chapters and books can be Pick’n Mixed and downloaded on Kindles
More generally, there is the Thorn Tree travel forum which continues to track hundreds of thousands of topics.
In his interview Goldberg made it clear that he has plans that are “broader than being the largest guidebook publisher in the world”.
He wants to be “the first and last source of information tools and services that inspire and enable people to experience the world by getting to the heart of the place”.
This is the right goal and points to the very strong progress the company has made under Goldberg from the online low points of 2006 and early 2007.
But to achieve this goal, they need to do even more to “rip the cover off the guidebook” and increase their distribution, brand and customer message.
By that I mean and recommend the following:
Content Expansion: Make more and more of the content currently only available in books available online with the aim of being the number one organic search results for every major destination search item.  It might hurt some book sales but winning in organic search will be more valuable long term;
Open Syndication: Increase syndication capabilities by allowing bloggers, writers, transaction sites, Facebook pages and more to access content material is an open way. Similar to point #1 above, it might cost a few book sales but being the social network content source of choice will be more valuable long term.
Facilitate and Make EveryYou Recommendations: Invest in recommendation technology to allow the community forums and information to be combined with the editorial content, booking behaviour and other data available to put Lonely Planet at the forefront of the development of specific and targeted recommendations of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time.  See My EveryYou concept. It will cost money and development time but the future of inspiration and content sites are targeted recommendations.
What do you think?  Is the vision from the new CEO right?  Do my recommendations add or detract?  What else would you do with LP to continue their online revolution?
PS – If you would like more background on Lonely Planet, then now we have it.
Thanks to their majority ownership by the BBC, we are able to get access to more information on them care of the BBC Worldwide annual review document (PDF here).
Here are some extracts from that document;
Results
2009 2008
Sales Lonely Planet £128.1mm £141.7mm
Profit/Loss Lonely Planet Trading £(3.3)mm £(0.1)mm
Couple of quotes along with the results
“…the economic downturn…severely affected the travel market with travel guidebook sales falling by 18.1% in the UK, A Australia and the US (Bookscan).”
“The significant investment in digital activities helped increase digital revenues to £4.9 million (£2.3 million 2007/08), but also increased losses to £3.6million (£3.2 million 2007/08).”
The majority of revenues still come from book publishing, and so the decline in worldwide travel book sales has had a considerable impact on Lonely Planet.
Publishing and licensing profits in 2008/09 were significantly lower at £0.3 million compared with £4.4 million for the six months under BBC Worldwide ownership in 2007/08.
It goes on:
“However, the brand’s inherent robustness, plus the introduction of a new series – US Trips – and new editions – Hawaii Guides, Country Guides – enabled the business to maintain market share and, in some key territories, including the US and UK, to increase it. The 2008/09 figures also include restructuring costs that will reduce operating costs in the future.”

lonely planetI am always on the watch for news items on Lonely Planet.

Like many children of the 70s and 80s, I have powerful and joyful memories of trips that consisted of a backpack, a round the world ticket and a Lonely Planet book.

In a time before email, GPS and mobile phones, Lonely Planet was the way to navigate your way around your lost youth.

Most memorable for me were trips to Europe in 1990, Morocco in 1993 and Malaysia in 1994.

A piece two weeks ago in The Australian newspaper (Rupert Murdoch-owned paper in Australia) called Lonely Planet goes into new orbit had me once again thinking about the potential for this still powerful travel brand in online travel discovery, recommendation and search.

The article is an interview by Aussie journo Geoff Elliott with the newish Lonely Planet chief executive Matt Goldberg.

Goldberg joined Lonely Planet in early March 2009 after a career at Dow Jones-The Wall Street Journal (now owned by Murdoch).

If you have been following the Lonely Planet story, we have just passed the two-year anniversary of BBC Worldwide (commercial arm of the BBC) purchasing 75% of Lonely Planet from the founders (Wheeler family).

The sale was seen by many (including me) as a chance for Lonely Planet to have a mulligan/do over/start afresh online push.

Prior to Goldberg joining the company there was plenty of activity online.

In 2008 there were a string of announcements like the following:

With Goldberg in place, the relentless push continued for LP to make their guidebook content available in different places.

Here are some of the announcements from 2009:

More generally, there is the Thorn Tree travel forum which continues to track hundreds of thousands of topics.

In his interview, Goldberg made it clear that he has plans that are “broader than being the largest guidebook publisher in the world”.

He wants to be “the first and last source of information tools and services that inspire and enable people to experience the world by getting to the heart of the place”.

This is the right goal and points to the very strong progress the company has made under Goldberg from the online low points of 2006 and early 2007.

But to achieve this goal, they need to do even more to “rip the cover off the guidebook” and increase their distribution, brand and customer message.

By that I mean and recommend the following:

  1. Content Expansion: Make more and more of the content currently only available in books available online with the aim of being the number one organic search results for every major destination search item.  It might hurt some book sales but winning in organic search will be more valuable long term;
  2. Open Syndication: Increase syndication capabilities by allowing bloggers, writers, transaction sites, Facebook pages and more to access content material is an open way. Similar to point #1 above, it might cost a few book sales but being the social network content source of choice will be more valuable long term.
  3. Facilitate and Make EveryYou Recommendations: Invest in recommendation technology to allow the community forums and information to be combined with the editorial content, booking behaviour and other data available to put Lonely Planet at the forefront of the development of specific and targeted recommendations of one based on the unique combination of desires, needs and interests of each individual at any moment in time.  See My EveryYou concept. It will cost money and development time but the future of inspiration and content sites are targeted recommendations.

What do you think?  Is the vision from the new CEO right?  Do my recommendations add or detract?  What else would you do with LP to continue their online revolution?

PS – If you would like more background on Lonely Planet, then now we have it.

Thanks to their majority ownership by the BBC, we are able to get access to more information on them care of the BBC Worldwide annual review document (PDF here).

Here are some extracts from that document;

Results

  • Sales Lonely Planet – 2009 (£128.1m) vs 2008 (£141.7m)
  • Profit/Loss on Trading- 2009 (loss of  £3.3m) vs 2008 (loss of £0.1m)

Couple of quotes along with the results

“…the economic downturn…severely affected the travel market with travel guidebook sales falling by 18.1% in the UK, A Australia and the US (Bookscan).”

“The significant investment in digital activities helped increase digital revenues to £4.9 million (£2.3 million 2007/08), but also increased losses to £3.6million (£3.2 million 2007/08).”

The majority of revenues still come from book publishing, and so the decline in worldwide travel book sales has had a considerable impact on Lonely Planet.

Publishing and licensing profits in 2008/09 were significantly lower at £0.3 million compared with £4.4 million for the six months under BBC Worldwide ownership in 2007/08.

It goes on:

“However, the brand’s inherent robustness, plus the introduction of a new series – US Trips – and new editions – Hawaii Guides, Country Guides – enabled the business to maintain market share and, in some key territories, including the US and UK, to increase it. The 2008/09 figures also include restructuring costs that will reduce operating costs in the future.”

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Tim Hughes

About the Writer :: Tim Hughes

Tim Hughes is an online travel industry executive who has been blogging since June 2006 at the Business of Online Travel (the BOOT).

The BOOT covers analysis of online travel industry trends, consumer and company behaviour and broader online/web activity of interest to online travel companies (with a bias towards Tim’s home markets of Asia and Australasia and with the odd post on consuming and loving travel thrown in).

In late-2010 the BOOT clocked its 1,000th post, 200,000th visitor and 300,000th page view.In his work life he is the CEO of Getaway Lounge - a premium travel deal site based in Australia.

Tim has worked for both Orbtitz and Expedia. Prior to the travel industry Tim was a commercial lawyer and venture capitalist. Tim’s views are his alone and not necessarily the views of Getaway Lounge or any of its investors.

 

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  1. Barbara Weibel

    You may not be aware of it, but earlier this year LP launched their Blogsherpa program, which imports the full feed content from a select group of hand-picked bloggers into the LP site. I believe this will further expand their connection with the travel bloggosphere and reinforce their position as a leading provider of onlline travel content. Perhaps most unique, the program is sharing revenue from AdSense, giving back a little something to us poor, struggling writers.

     
  2. Ron Hodson

    With the world being more and more connected, I think their strategy is the right one. Whether they, and their content competitors, can survive & thrive in the digital world is still the big question.

    I see the emerging micro-payment systems as paramount to allowing the traditional content producers (like Lonely Planet) to “rent” out their content. Today you buy a book for a trip, and then never use the book again. Instead, imagine subscribing to the same content for use on your computer or smartphone. Even with lower per-customer revenue, the potential is higher because of the lower distribution costs, and the ability to reach a larger audience.

    Exciting times for all of us.

     
  3. We love Lonely Planet and want to see it get better says the BBC | Tnooz

    […] article yesterday from Tim Hughes gave a number of recommendations to those at top of Lonely Planet for what they should next given that digital seems to be huge […]

     
  4. Tweets that mention Tips for what Lonely Planet should do next | Tnooz -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dennis Schaal, Kevin May. Kevin May said: Tips for what @LonelyPlanet should do next | Tnooz http://bit.ly/iVuX9 […]

     
 
 

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