Not yet four years old and Lonely Planet’s magazine is running before it’s even walked. And from today (19 July 2012) it has a brand new name to go with an overall refresh – Lonely Planet Traveller.
Voted Consumer Travel Publication of the Year for three years running (a record in itself) in the UK Travel Press Awards, and picking up a string of other industry awards along the way, the magazine has quickly become Britain’s best-selling travel magazine including over 31000 subscribers. And it’s not just a British success story. There are now ten international editions with the eleventh launching later this month for mainland China and a German edition coming on line before the year’s out. Not bad considering John Smith’s, CEO of BBC Worldwide, ambition to have fifteen editions in five years.
So why the changes now? Basically, it’s standard magazine practice to refresh a new title after a few years by interpreting and incorporating feedback from readers. But the full answer lies in how the idea was born six years ago. I was on my way back from Melbourne, where I’d been part of Worldwide’s Lonely Planet acquisition team, and thought I’d drop in on Peter Grunert in Mumbai where he was on attachment getting his first taste of magazine editing on Top Gear India. “I like editing,” he said, “have you got any other opportunities?” I said I was going back to make a Lonely Planet magazine and he was welcome to join me at BBC Worldwide’s London HQ (known internally as Woodlands’ development bunker).
The big idea was to distil everything we’d ever learnt about making magazines into this new launch – principally, to keep it simple and unambiguous and, equally, to put the readers first and at the heart of everything. So, for instance, the covers would need to do nothing more than prompt readers to say “I want to go there!” It was that simple. And what better way of showing our respect for our readers than soliciting their photographs and putting them slap-bang at the front of the magazine in a section called Postcards – Where you’ve been and what you’ve seen?
This latest refresh is a further distillation of these core principles, the sum of three years’ learning from our readers. The addition of the word Traveller to the title is explicit recognition that this magazine is made for its readers who are travellers. Hindsight is a great thing. [It also recognises that there are some people, probably from another planet, who are unaware that Lonely Planet is the world’s most famous travel brand!]
And we’ve polished and refined the six editorial “pillars” – the architecture that underpins every magazine – to make them even more effective and explicit. Postcards remains unchanged; Our Planet is a newly branded hors d’oeuvre of travel news and surprises; 10 Easy Trips does what it says on the tin; Features are tuned to point up the why as well as the what of travel and include a new style for maps; Armchair Traveller brings together all the reviews’ content into a tidier, homogeneous back section; and the pull-out Mini-Guides are now themed to make them even more useful and collectable (eg Cornwall’s best beaches; a tapas trawl through Barcelona, etc). And the whole package has been refreshed by Art Director, Hayley Ward, with new fonts and a more sophisticated colour palette.
We think Lonely Planet Traveller just got better. But let us know what you think.