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
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
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
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
’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