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Travel Is Hot & So Is Print – The Reinvention of Travel+Leisure – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jay Meyer, Publisher & Nathan Lump, Editor-In-Chief, Travel+Leisure Magazine

May 1, 2015

“If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.” Jay Meyer

“What we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.” Nathan Lump

TL_May_2015_COVER Travel and magazines are two luxuries that go hand-in-hand, or so the powers-that-be over at Travel+Leisure believe whole-heartedly, and I would have to agree with them. While no one necessarily needs to read a magazine or travel to Europe just to see the Eiffel Tower; more often than not, it’s called for, if for no other reason than simply to disconnect from the real world and all of its devices that seem compelled to proclaim yet another notification of information. Something else travel and magazines have in common is their ability to transport you to idyllic locations totally different from the norm, another much-deserved, take-a-breath experience in our world of fast-paced existence.

Jay Meyer is vice president and publisher of Travel+Leisure magazine and Nathan Lump is editor-in-chief. The two are the highly-proud parents of the reinvented, more immersive and transporting travel magazine. With a redesign aimed at the current ravenous appetite affluent consumers have for travel, the magazine reaches out and touches that audience with an experience that shares their own memories through the art of travel. And for some, travel is art. And the new Travel+Leisure magazine showcases that trait beautifully.

I spoke with Jay and Nathan recently about the positive changes the magazine has made and about some of the numbers that support the idea that travel is a hot commodity right now in the world of magazine media. According to Jay, T+L is enjoying its largest audience ever in print, with 6.7 MM and in digital, 3.3 MM. The magazine is twice as large as its nearest competitor and has more millionaires in its audience than any measured publication.

Also, according to Time Inc.’s 10th Annual Time Inc./YouGov Survey of Affluence and Wealth which was recently released; leisure travel is expected to grow the most among all categories studied, with an increase of 15.9% from 2014 to $115.2 billion. When asked about passions, travel was the top response (67%), followed by “spending quality time with my family” (65%).

The findings certainly bode well for the future of Travel+Leisure and the two men whose passion for travel is exceeded only by their ardor for their brand.

So, I hope you enjoy this “trek” into the minds of two avid travelers as they talk about the magazine that always goes with them on their travels – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

But first the sound-bites:


On why Jay believes travel is so hot right now on the publishing scene:
If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

On Nathan’s opinion of the lean-back experience:
I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

On whether Nathan can ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component:
Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

On Jay’s opinion of why Travel+Leisure’s audience numbers have increased within its print media, rather than its digital: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

On whether as a publisher, digital makes Jay’s life harder or easier when it comes to selling the brand to advertisers:
I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

On how Jay sees the magazine’s attempt to attract luxury advertisers, but stay grounded and keep the magazine at mass appeal at the same time:
The answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the humanization of the magazine and who would appear if Nathan struck the magazine with a magic wand:
Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels.

On why the magazine’s logo wasn’t changed during the redesign according to Nathan:
Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us.

On the biggest stumbling block Jay had to face as publisher of the magazine:
In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

On how he overcame it: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

On anything either would like to add – Jay first:
One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

On what Nathan would like to add:
The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

On Nathan’s opinion of why it took five to six years for the media industry to realize when it comes to print and digital, it’s not either/or, it’s both: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

On what keeps Jay up at night: As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

On what keeps Nathan up at night: What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

Samir Husni: First, congratulations on the magazine; I love the new design; actually, I love the whole reinvention of the magazine.

Jay Meyer: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Jay, what’s the status of the travel magazine market today? You’ve reinvented Travel+Leisure; Condè Nast Traveler is upscaling their magazine and changing the size; National Geographic Traveler has a new editor; Smithsonian came out with a new travel magazine and so did Airbnb; suddenly, it looks as though travel is hot. Why do you think this is happening now?

Style: "Rich_Color" Jay Meyer: Travel is hot. If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

We believe, and these products were built for, the reader and viewer of Travel+Leisure who wants to be inspired and we call those people: experience-collectors. They travel 23 times per year; they all have passports, and they have a really healthy income. And that 23 times per year breaks down to 13 business trips and 10 leisure.

Samir Husni: Nathan, you wrote in your letter from the editor that reading a magazine is a luxury. Can you expand on that a little bit more and on what Jay just said, in terms of the lean-back experience?

Nathan Lump: Sure. I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what behaviors look like across the platforms. One of the things, and it sounds very intuitive and I think it’s important to keep it in mind, because we live in a digital age, if I’m looking for information about something in particular, I’m going to engage in digital behaviors around finding that information. If I’m a traveler and I’ve decided to go to Spain; I’m not sitting around waiting for my Travel+Leisure to come and hoping there’s going to be an article about Spain in it for me. I’m going to go online and find out more information about the place that I’m going to go to.

From the magazine reading experience, I think what that means is we have this audience whether they purchased the magazine on the newsstand or they’re a subscriber, they’re interested in travel; they’ve decided to give us some of their leisure time, and they’re basically coming to us in an open mindset. They’re saying, I am open to the idea of discovering new places, new experiences and new things, so they’re issuing an invitation to us to get them excited.

For me, editorially, the bar that we set for ourselves, particularly in print, is to try and create an experience that is immersive and rich enough that we are, in fact, actually getting people excited about things that they didn’t know they should get excited about. And that’s a lot of what I mean when I talk about the luxury of magazine reading.

I would also add, just building on what Jay has said too about the travel category in general, and you probably know some of this, so forgive me if I’m telling you something that you already know; travel is over a $7 trillion industry globally. One in every 11 jobs is generated by the travel industry, so this is a huge category. It’s bigger than a lot of other categories or industries that we think about when we think about media and verticals.

When you look at spending; over the years travel has become much more essential to people. Twenty years ago when you used to ask people if times got tough, what would you cut out of your lives in terms of spending, travel would be right up there at the top. This has actually changed in the years since and it’s become much more of a thing that people say they wouldn’t cut out. They’ll say they won’t buy that new sofa, but they’re still going to take that trip. And that’s been a really important shift.

Recently, Time Inc. released the results of an annual survey that we do, a survey of affluence and wealth, and among the findings, one that I found compelling was of all the discretionary spending categories that these folks said they were going to spend money on this coming year; their desire for travel was the second biggest category in that survey for spending after automobiles. So, it’s obviously a real priority for people, which I think contributes to the durability of the category.

Samir Husni: As an editor-in-chief, Nathan, can you ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component after what you told me about the strength and power of print?

Nathan Lump Headshot 4.15 Nathan Lump: Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

Jay Meyer: Yes, it’s at 6.7 million.

Nathan Lump: I would say that for the moment we see print still as a healthy piece. Obviously, digital is a really important growth opportunity, but we still see that there is a desire for this kind of luxurious, more lean-back experience, at least, in our category.

Samir Husni: Jay, it has been your print audience that has almost doubled in number, rather than your digital audience. Yet, when I look at statistics and numbers from other magazines and hear about their 3 million in print circulation and their 25 million in digital audience, why do you think Travel+Leisure’s audience is still attached to the print media?

Jay Meyer: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

Now, having said that, I think the key was to re-platform and redesign, so that we were able to move this forward.

Samir Husni: Did digital make your life easier or harder, Jay, in terms of selling the brand Travel+Leisure? Is digital making your job as a publisher harder or can you just walk into any ad agency and not hear the word crazy when talking about the reinvention of a print magazine in this digital age?

Jay Meyer: I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

Nathan Lump: I would add that what we’re seeing, and Jay correct me if I’m wrong, what we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.

And then digital gives us an additional tool in our toolkit to do that, but also to help those partners who are interested in really driving bookings or consideration via their own website. It satisfies those kinds of needs, so in fact, I think it gives us, from a strategic perspective; it gives us more to sell as opposed to selling against. It allows us, depending on what the partner is looking for, to provide them with the product that makes sense for them, or in many cases, both products because many of our advertisers advertise across platforms with us.

Jay Meyer: And that’s really the point. I think what we’re seeing and what we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that most core partners of Travel+Leisure are using both. They’re not choosing one over the other; they’re actually using both for different reasons.

Samir Husni: Jay, as I look at the May issue and the variety of ads; we go from Cartier to GEICO; can you briefly tell me how you’re trying to capture that luxury market and at the same time stay grounded and be as mass as the magazine can be since you are the largest travel magazine?

Jay Meyer: That’s a good question and a tough question. And the answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the luxury side, if you break down the 6.7 million, we actually have 1.1 million who are millionaires. So, there is a super healthy top end of that audience and certainly the luxury marketers understand that and want to reach those people.

Samir Husni: Nathan, let me shift gears a little bit and talk about the content. If you could humanize the magazine, strike it with a magic wand and have a person appear; would I see Nathan materialize, and if so, what type of conversation would he and I have about Travel+Leisure?

Nathan Lump: That’s a good question and I may end up answering it in a slightly roundabout way. Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels. So, from my perspective what that means is, editorially, we need to be where they are. We need to be as sophisticated as they are or more so, because they’re looking at us to surprise them and to give them novelty.

We’re really trying to push the boundaries in terms of what we give them, making sure that we are not only super current and in the know, but that we’re also really insightful. These folks are also, I think, really engaged with the world and understand what’s going on around them, they comprehend that travel is a tool for understanding the world.

You’re going to see in upcoming issues, such as in our June edition, our cover story is about Cuba; we have another big story in that issue looking at New Orleans 10 years after Katrina. These are two of the big stories of our time and we’re looking at them particularly through the lens of travel because we know that our audience use travel as a means of understanding. It’s pleasurable, of course; we want to capture the pleasure and the joy and fun of travel, but we also understand that we need to engage with some of the big issues, so, you can tell me if I’m answering your question, but I’m trying to conjure that reader.

And if we’re personifying ourselves; I want to be them. I want the product to feel, in that way, very intelligent and sophisticated, very worldly and with a very strong global perspective; that we’re paying attention to the entire world, we’re engaged with that; we’re as interested in what’s happening on the other side of the planet as we are with what’s in our backyard.

Samir Husni: So, when the June issue arrives at my home and I peer through the peephole in my door; do I see Nathan standing there?

Nathan Lump: Well, sure; I am definitely this person myself, I would say. I’m a serious traveler and have been my whole life. I probably travel a bit more than 23 times per year; that may or may not be recommended. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Nathan Lump: But I love it. For me, travel is the great passion in my life; it is the thing that has changed me. It’s opened my eyes to so many things. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and I’ve had this travel bug ever since I was a child. Who knows why – I do try to bring to the product my own passion for this subject.

In the very first issue that I touched, which was the December issue of last year, and was largely completed when I arrived, but I did make a couple of small changes to it; we changed the cover, but I also wrote my first editor’s note for Travel+Leisure. And one of the things that I said in there was that I believe the fundamental hallmark of a traveler is curiosity. A true traveler is genuinely curious. And they don’t lose that. The more that they see and travel; the more curious they become. And that is absolutely true of myself in my own life and I definitely bring that to the page.

So, yes, I hope that the magazine is a reflection of me in that way.

Samir Husni: You’re also sounding like a journalist because I tell my students that a true journalist is a curious journalist. I tell them they don’t need a degree in journalism; they need a degree in curiosity.

Nathan Lump: I completely agree with that and that’s the thing about our subject matter. A lot of people say that this is fluffy stuff, but I really charge my team with bringing a journalist’s point of view to the work that we do. And that doesn’t mean that it’s all serious, a lot of travel is about joy, and the traveler’s experience is having fun, but I think there is a lot about learning and exploring and seeing the world and that is journalism.

Samir Husni: So, my next curious question is why did you leave the design of the logo the same? You changed everything except the nameplate.

Nathan Lump: That’s true. Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us. Sometimes an editor will come in and feel that they have to change absolutely everything, including that, but because our brand has such great awareness and such great affection from our readers, I didn’t want to confuse them in that way. I just thought it was better to keep that piece stable.

Samir Husni: Jay, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face with Travel+Leisure and how did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

Samir Husni: As in the company, the magazine, or real time? (Laughs)

Jay Meyer: No, real time. In terms of setting the course of what we wanted to do with the product and who we were talking to and actually making that happen in a very short amount of time, which was certainly tough on both sides of the house.

Samir Husni: How did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jay Meyer: I think Nathan and I would have the same answer, which is just relentless determination to make sure it happened.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

Jay Meyer: One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

Travel as a category is not a core category for Time Inc. and not one that they have played in before Travel+Leisure arrived here. So, we applaud them for seeing the opportunity and giving us the resources to make it happen.

Nathan Lump: The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

As Jay said, and as you know, we re-launched the print magazine and the website at the same time, and like Jay said that almost never happens. I can’t think of the last time someone did it. And we did it because I was really committed and the company was committed and supportive of the idea to reimagine the platforms holistically, understanding the ways in which they’re related to each other and the existing dialogue they have with each other and they allow us to do slightly different things to serve our audience.

From my perspective, what we’re going to be doing digitally; you’re going to see a lot more from us and the dispersion of the website is really just the beginning. There is a lot more to come in terms of features and functionality, but also in terms of how we use that to engage and serve the audience.

So, the digital piece of it is, I think; we don’t really look at it as a threat; we look at it as an opportunity. I’ve actually been more focused on digital, although I have a long background in print, I’ve been more focused on digital in recent years. And that’s also a little bit unusual for a magazine brand editor. The last five or six years, I’ve been almost exclusively focused on digital products, and so I really see the ways in which we can leverage that.

Samir Husni: Nathan or Jay, why do you think it took us almost five or six years to except the fact that it’s not either/or, it’s both?

Nathan Lump: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

I also think too that some categories have been more challenged by digital than we have in the travel verticals; for instance, news media have had a harder time adjusting to the balance between print and digital. And those are obviously some of the biggest and best-known brands out there. So, I think that’s also driven the narrative a little bit. Publicly, because the news organizations have such large audiences, such a big pulpit, they’ve also been the ones that have in some ways seen digital be more of a challenge to print than we have in the travel verticals.

Samir Husni: My typical last question, and I’ll start with Jay; what keeps you up at night?

Jay Meyer: I’m not a strong sleeper, so a lot of things keep me up at night. (Laughs) I would say, and I won’t speak for Nathan, but I’m ambitious and curious. As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

Samir Husni: And Nathan?

Nathan Lump: You kind of stole it from me, Jay. (Laughs) What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like. Like Jay said, the world is evolving so quickly and so is the industry, that there’s always that concern if you’re moving along with it quickly enough. I think that’s why we’ve been so aggressive in the last six or seven months and why we’re going to keep that pace up. That is really the biggest thing, honestly, for me.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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