“We believe print is a really unique way to experience content and a really unique way to engage with our readers. The tactile quality of the paper that we’re producing the magazine on, the photography; all of it, really comes to life on paper in a way you can’t necessarily get on a digital screen.” Christopher Lukezic
Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, has added another component to their online presence: an ink on paper component, Pineapple magazine. Long known as the symbol for hospitality and welcome, the pineapple was a fruit that survived much during the 1400s and still managed to thrive, according to Pineapple publisher, Christopher Lukezic. It was brought to Europe from the West Indies and quickly became a sweet symbol of cordiality.
And the heritage of the “Pineapple” was a Godsend to Christopher as it represented everything he and his team wanted to present with their very unique travel magazine, which is slated to become the content force and driver of Airbnb’s community of readers and travelers, a hale and hearty symbol of travel that welcomes and greets warmly.
The magazine marks a major step for Airbnb to become not just a platform where stories are created, but where stories are told. Pineapple will reflect the unique perspective of Airbnb’s global community, with deeply local and personal content that hopefully will inspire travelers everywhere.
I reached out to Christopher recently and we talked about the excitement this ink on paper product has produced within the company and about the reasons for it. From the beauty displayed between the printed pages to the tactile feel of the paper itself; Christopher shared why he and Airbnb believe in the power of print as a digital entity themselves and why the distinct point-of-view of the magazine will go a long way in distinguishing it from the multitudes of competition on the newsstands already.
The magazine will cover a wide variety of topics – such as culture, art, food, and style – from a local’s perspective with neighborhood guides, insider tips, and unique, personal stories. Each issue will showcase three different cities through the lens of local community members and global travelers.
So grab your traveling gear and follow Mr. Magazine™ and Christopher Lukezic, Publisher of Pineapple, as they take you on a trip around the world of travel…
But first, the sound-bites:
On why Airbnb chose a print component in a digital age: I think that Airbnb wanted to be a bigger part of a producer of really high quality travel content. The magazine is a part of a larger effort by the company to move into the world of publishing and producing travel content.
On why he thinks more digital entities are adding a print component to their equation these days: I believe that there is a certain tactile quality to print that engages with people and that’s something that doesn’t necessarily happen on a digital screen.
On the unique selling proposition he is offering the marketplace with so much competition out there already: One of the things that we try to do is not to have a prescriptive travel magazine. We’re not a team of editors trying tell people what they should and should not do in a city.
On the major stumbling block he has had to face during the magazine’s conception and launch: You said it earlier: a digital company moving into print. It’s a very new world for us and we’ve been learning a lot as we go.
On that “aha” moment when he knew he’d hit on something special: We went through a couple of iterations and a couple of ideas early on and we shifted course a few times, but I think for us it really all kind of came to fruition when we landed on the name. And I think that was the moment that we knew we were going to do something really special.
On his distribution strategy for the magazine: We’re still trying to figure out what the future of the distribution strategy of the magazine will be. You will be able to purchase it and we’ll also distribute it to our community, so both of those ways will continue.
On the relationship between Airbnb the company and Pineapple the magazine: It’s very much a two-way street relationship. The future of this and how it ties into the business and how it relates to our core business, we’re still working on a lot of that, but it will very much be an integral part of the Airbnb experience.
On what he hopes to have accomplished with Pineapple a year from now: Our real goal with Pineapple is for people to start to think about it as a place where they can come to plan their trip experience, as well as to book accommodations.
On what keeps him up at night: Not much actually. I’m pretty happy with where things are and I’m really excited about the potential for this magazine and the future of it. The only thing that would maybe keep me up at night is not being able to do everything that we want to do.
And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Christopher Lukezic, Publisher, Pineapple magazine…
Samir Husni: Airbnb has been a digital entity for almost seven years now, having begun in 2008; why did they decide to go with a print magazine now?
Christopher Lukezic: I think that Airbnb wanted to be a bigger part of a producer of really high quality travel content. We wanted to be a source for people to come to, not only to find great places to stay while they’re on a trip, but also when planning the trip itself; a source where they can find content that inspires them to visit places and also informs them about places they’re already going.
The magazine is a part of a larger effort by the company to move into the world of publishing and producing travel content.
Samir Husni: These days we are seeing more than one digital entity bring print into their equation and in this age where everyone not long ago was predicting the demise of print, we’re actually seeing a reversal of that bleak forecast. Why do you think this reversal is taking place?
Christopher Lukezic: I believe that there is a certain tactile quality to print that engages with people and that’s something that doesn’t necessarily happen on a digital screen. People are surrounded by screens all day long; they’re reading on their phones and their laptops and other digital devices. The engagement of content with print is that you can really get at someone in a different way with it. It’s a little bit of a slower experience and people will come back to it over and over again in the course of a few months, not consuming the magazine all at once, but in sort of bits here and there.
I think that from a travel standpoint print is still a really big part of the travel experience. Every year Google does a lot of research around different industries and they try to figure out what the different experiences are for the different industries. And for travel they put together an insight study every year. And actually they’ve shown year after year that print remains the most important source for travel, once they’re at a destination. When a traveler arrives in a city, print is still the predominant source of information that people use for planning their trip once they’re at the destination.
Those things combined make it an attractive opportunity for us as we move into content, to have a print aspect that is very much at the forefront of our content efforts as a whole.
Samir Husni: As a publisher of a new travel magazine and as you go on your sales calls; what is the unique selling proposition that you are offering the marketplace knowing that there are so many competitors out there?
Christopher Lukezic: One of the things that we try to do is not to have a prescriptive travel magazine. We’re not a team of editors trying tell people what they should and should not do in a city.
All of the content of the magazine is actually from people who live in these places, so we’ve actually gone and found people from every community in the cities that we feature. And we try to discover the city through their eyes. Not only places to see and eat, but to showcase what the life there is really all about.
We try to get at what the actual experience of living in the featured cities is and how these communities have formed over time and how people interact with each other in these cities. And on top of that, there are some tidbits and guides that are more digestible and easier to consume content which is important to travelers as they plan their trips.
But what we really wanted to get at was to honor the cities and unpack them from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. I think a lot of travel magazines approach that in the opposite direction; there’s a team of editors going to places and telling the reader about their experiences in the city and not necessarily going and finding people who live there and allowing them to tell the story.
Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block for you as a publisher and how did you overcome it?
Christopher Lukezic: You said it earlier: a digital company moving into print. It’s a very new world for us and we’ve been learning a lot as we go.
The big thing was trying to figure out what direction that we wanted to take with the magazine and how we could engage with our community in the right way. And we really wanted that balance of having this be something that was a collaborative effort that we made in conjunction with our community, but still contain a lot of interesting editorial content which engaged people in the right way. And we found a happy medium.
I think the challenge now is the future and continuing to expand the magazine and our content efforts as a whole, doing that both in print and online. So, we have a lot of work ahead of us and this is just the beginning of the process.
Samir Husni: And what has been your most pleasant moment or that instance when you just sat back and went “aha?”
Our editor-in-chief is Alex Tieghi-Walker and Brendan Callahan, who is our creative director and our photo editor, Carrie Levy. The three of them are all from magazine backgrounds and Alex has actually published a couple of his own magazines before and worked for Wallpaper, and so we have some great experience here. But trying to do something new and create something in a crowded market that we really felt proud of was important.
We went through a couple of iterations and a couple of ideas early on and we shifted course a few times, but I think for us it really all kind of came to fruition when we landed on the name. And I think that was the moment that we knew we were going to do something really special. We were struggling to find the right name for this magazine and when it did it was one of those moments when everything just seemed to fall into place. The name really tied together what the magazine is all about.
The name Pineapple is a descendant of hospitality; it’s a symbol that has been recognized for a very long time. The fruit was discovered back in the 1400s and was taken back to Europe by travelers and it’s one of the only fruits that survived the voyage from the West Indies back to Europe. And it became the symbol of hospitality. It was something you would leave for a guest when they came to visit you. It was a gracious sign that a host would leave.
And that’s what the magazine presents. We wanted the magazine to be a gift that a host would give to a guest when they arrived at their destination. So, naming the magazine Pineapple really reached the core of what we were trying to do with the content and the print magazine overall. We wanted this to be something that would greet the traveler when they arrived in their city somewhere around the world.
Samir Husni: I noticed that your distribution is divided; once people arrive at the place they are staying, part of Airbnb’s community of customers will get the magazine, or people can buy it on the newsstands at select bookstores. Will that be the norm for distribution, or are you thinking of building more of a presence on the nation’s newsstands and also of having a subscription base?
Christopher Lukezic: We’re still trying to figure out what the future of the distribution strategy of the magazine will be. You will be able to purchase it and we’ll also distribute it to our community, so both of those ways will continue.
We wanted this initial pilot issue to be a limited edition copy and there are 20,000 copies of this first issue, so we knew that it would be something quite special. We actually gave away a number of copies to our community free as a gift. But we also made them available for sale through very boutique shops and newsstands around the world. We’ll most likely be expanding our circulation into something much larger than it is now. But how we’ll actually distribute the magazine, we haven’t decided on.
Samir Husni: Can you describe for me the relationship between the magazine and Airbnb? Are the two entities separate or is it a two-way street relationship?
Christopher Lukezic: It’s very much a two-way street relationship. This is something that we created and all of the people that we feature in the magazine are from our community. These are all people who are active travelers, who are active hosts in the communities, so we have an incredibly diverse audience who read us and also an incredibly diverse community base who want to contribute to the magazine.
This is really a snapshot of the creative process of the world and I think that we’ve captured the most interesting people from our community and in these cities and brought their stories forward. The real pride of the community and the real pride for me is that the whole magazine is produced with the cooperation and in conjunction with our community. The photographers, the illustrators and all of the people we feature are Airbnb community members.
And the future of this and how it ties into the business and how it relates to our core business, we’re still working on a lot of that, but it will very much be an integral part of the Airbnb experience. Pineapple is our content arm, if you will.
Samir Husni: If a year from now, you and I are sitting down and talking about what Pineapple has accomplished in that year; what would you tell me?
Christopher Lukezic: Our real goal with Pineapple is for people to start to think about it as a place where they can come to plan their trip experience, as well as to book accommodations. So we’re clearly seeing it as a place where people come. Maybe they know where they want to go and they might actually rely on some of our hosts when they get to a destination to figure out what they want to do while they’re there.
We think that there is a real opportunity for content to play an important part in that experience. To help people plan trips and also to help people figure out what they want to do once they get to their destination. For us, that is the real goal of the magazine. We really want to be seen as a source for trusted, travel content.
Christopher Lukezic: We’ve started issue two and it looks like we’ll launch sometime in the summer. From there, our goal is to continue to produce quarterly.
Samir Husni: Would you like to add anything else?
Christopher Lukezic: This is something that is very exciting for us as a company. It’s a new venture. In terms of a company going into print; I think print is very strong and I think it has changed.
We believe print is a really unique way to experience content and a really unique way to engage with our readers. The tactile quality of the paper that we’re producing the magazine on, the photography; all of it, really comes to life on paper in a way you can’t necessarily get on a digital screen. And for us that is really important. It means that the engagement with the magazine’s content and the relationship that people have with it is going to be much deeper than if we only did it onscreen.
Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?
Christopher Lukezic: Not much actually. I’m pretty happy with where things are and I’m really excited about the potential for this magazine and the future of it. The only thing that would maybe keep me up at night is not being able to do everything that we want to do. We have to limit the things that we put into the magazine and for me that’s sometimes tough. There are things that we want to feature, write about and cover and produce, but we have a limited team and a limited number of resources we have to work with.
But for me, I’m really excited about where things are and I’m looking forward to the future of the magazine.
Samir Husni: Thank you.