I promised I would divide the Lonely Planet guest lecture into two posts, but as I realise two is not enough (or it could have been had I been able to weave them together, something Lieu and Dijana are much better at), so I will go into three posts:
Post 1: Lonely Planet on editors and digital publishing
Post 2: Lonely Planet’s digital media strategies
Post 3: Lonely Planet’s social media strategies and competitors
- the LP website
- Thorn Tree forum
- Best of the Net blogs
- Facebook (in Post 3)
- Twitter (in Post 3)
All with the help of 500 well-travelled staff, 220 authors, and three offices in Melbourne, London, and Oakland, California. They also have TV shows (now why didn’t Vivek mention that?). Maybe that’s why they’ve sold 100 million guidebooks.
Note: Anything in quotes is by Vivek or Jane, the guest speakers from LP.
LPs digital media strategy can be summarised by this line by Vivek: “We’ll give you the best, even if it’s not ours”.
Lonely Planet’s website
You know a company is aiming for an online presence when it changes its name from Lonely Planet Publications to Lonely Planet to better represent their digital output.
In the lecture, Vivek outlined the important factors to make a website great: readability, colour, easy navigation, search engine optimisation and all the other things we learned in class. The LP website does just that. I looked up Turkey (ahem…Turkiye) on their site. I got content from their site, as well as Our Favorite Turkey blogs (more on that later), links to Turkey threads on the Thorn Tree forum, a form for flight deals by Kayak, and the latest headlines about Turkey by BBC who has a 75% share in LP. Plus, you get to rate, vote, and review, which makes LP not just a big name in travel publications, but information that is constantly updates by anyone and everyone.
Thorn Tree forum and related links
It helps that LP puts all their related links, including forum threads, together. For example, on a page about Paris, you’ll also get links on cycle-friendly roads, best travel books on Paris, LP-linked Paris blogs, LP products on Paris, and Paris threads on the Thorn Tree forum. LP’s Thorn Tree forum is the oldest travel forum. There’s a new post every 12 seconds.
Email has lost attention over the years, but it’s still important to many companies, including LP, that rely on emails to send our aggregated content to its subscribers. Moreover, it serves as a great tracking tool (so it’s not only Facebook we should be paranoid of). When you add an image into an email, the image has an HTML code that sends a message to the server to draw up the picture when you want to see it. That way, companies can see what’s picking up interest. Also, you can see where your subscribers are located too.
Blogs (the Best of the Net experiment)
LP believes in harnessing the community, so they initiated the Best of the Net program which aimed at “not getting commissioned content, but a worldview”. LP’s fine with mixing their authors’ topics with users’ topics (but they will let you know which review is by an author vs a member).
When LP staff began stumbling on more and more great travel blogs, they decided to make use of them. In their online subscription form, they included a box that you could tick if you had a travel blog that you think LP would be interested in). Sounds like a great idea, right? LP decided to go ahead with it.
They didn’t expect thousands of people ticking the box, so Vivek and the other digital content editors scratched their heads and wondered what to do. They began adding a lot of the blogs onto their site as links, but stopped at 200 until they could figure out what to do with the rest. “Maybe we’ll have a rating system [for the blogs]” he added.
LP benefits from these bloggers, but LP is not just a receiver. They give and receive as much as possible. The blogs that make it on the Our Favourite (Country) Blogs have their posts up on LP’s site, which includes an ad and a link to the blog, which means publicity and revenue for the blogger. They even put a note on the right side just to let you know. Nice!
During the lecture, one person wondered about LP directing users off its own website. Vivek replied, “It would be foolish to cage people on our site because they will go elsewhere for that information.” Hence, that summarises LP’s position: give people the best information or show them where it is. It still makes you the trusted guide you always were.
Tell me: I know I have mostly praise for LP, so share your criticism. What is LP missing? What can they do better?