SPOTLIGHT ON: TRAVELLER MAGAZINE - Can this upmarket travel title maintain advertiser interest? The launch issue of Conde Nast’s Traveller is bursting with ads. By Alasdair Reid

By ALASDAIR REID, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 26 September 1997 12:00AM

On the evidence of the launch issue, Traveller’s contributors don’t tend to visit the world’s great coniferous regions. Which is just as well, really. They wouldn’t be welcome - this magazine is a serious threat to trees. The first issue weighed in at 244 perfect-bound pages, plus covers. It’s chock-full of ads, and I don’t mean for suntan oil or diarrhoea tablets.

On the evidence of the launch issue, Traveller’s contributors don’t

tend to visit the world’s great coniferous regions. Which is just as

well, really. They wouldn’t be welcome - this magazine is a serious

threat to trees. The first issue weighed in at 244 perfect-bound pages,

plus covers. It’s chock-full of ads, and I don’t mean for suntan oil or

diarrhoea tablets.



This is travel, but not as ordinary mortals know it. We are talking

serious luxury goods: Mulberry, Ralph Lauren and Yves Saint Laurent are

all here. The airlines are present, as are the makers of the sort of

luggage you would need a top-up mortgage to acquire.



But Traveller is published by Conde Nast, a publishing company that

doesn’t ’do’ embarrassing launch issues. Has Conde Nast’s managing

director, Nicholas Coleridge, made Vogue and GQ advertisers an offer

they can’t refuse? Or is this magazine a good proposition for

advertisers?



More to the point, can Conde Nast produce a readable product over the

long term? Anyone who launches a travel title risks the dreaded curse of

the inflight magazine - a genre responsible for some of the most

flatulent writing in journalism. A swift glance at the review sections

of the Saturday and Sunday newspapers will show how pernicious the curse

can be.



That’s not to say that there’s no decent travel writing around. In fact,

there has been a renaissance in recent years - just look at a few back

issues of Granta for starters - but it tends to be at the earthier,

backpacking-and-politics end of the spectrum.



Conde Nast argues that the new title is for ’independent travellers’ but

there’s a world of difference between those who aspire to a weekend at

the Cipriani Hotel in Venice, and those who imagine themselves in a film

version of Alex Garland’s the Beach.



Traveller has a print run of 130,000 and a target settle-down

circulation of around 80,000 but is that optimistic? Is the product

right for its potential readership?



Tim Kirkman, the press director of TMD Carat, says the magazine is ’one

of the best launches’ he’s seen in a long time. And he thinks it’s here

to stay: ’Conde Nast discovered with Tatler that it’s hard to make a

profit on a magazine with such high production values - but the company

is in the business of producing premium brands and Traveller is a

premium brand, no doubt about it.



’I’m not saying that all its readers will be the sort of people who are

likely to stay at the Cipriani - it’s aspirational travel in just the

same way that Vogue is aspirational fashion. I’m certain that luxury

goods advertisers will continue to support it.’



But not all media buyers are wildly enthusiastic about the magazine’s

content. One says: ’This sort of product is going to be directly

relevant to only a handful of people. It’s pure Conde Nast

self-indulgence.’ But even Traveller’s critics are impressed by how much

each copy weighs.



Is there big potential in this sector? As with GQ, will we see a steady

stream of me-toos? On the basis that where Conde Nast goes, the National

Magazine Company is never far behind, we’re bound to see at least one

rival emerging in the near future.



Terry Mansfield, the managing director of NatMags, plays his cards close

to his chest: ’My view is that it’s a tough market in which to achieve

critical mass,’ he says. ’It won’t be easy to build the levels of

circulation and readership to attract long-term advertiser interest. But

they have done a great job on the first issue and I wish Nick

(Coleridge) well.



’Sometimes the first over the hill gets an arrow in his head. On the

other hand, if Traveller stimulates sufficient editorial interest, it

could very well create a new market sector.’



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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