A trap that many publishers and information providers often fall into is that they provide information because they can, not necessarily because anyone needs it. All too frequently, a magazine or web site offers information that is easy to aggregate and redistribute or that is designed to impress advertisers. Rarely do they check with you, the audience, to see if that is what you really need.
At Travel Agent Media Group, we've embarked on a major program to ensure that the information we are providing is exactly what you need. We held a series of focus groups in past weeks, assembling groups of about a dozen agents (both home based and "brick and mortar") and hired an independent research company to host and moderate these live two-hour sessions. Our editorial team sat behind one-way mirror windows and got the rare opportunity to be flies on the wall, anonymously observing as agents discussed various print and online tools.
Our goal was not just to validate the programs, publications and web sites that we offer; rather, we are trying to get to the heart of a few simple questions: What information do you need, and in what form would you like it? What do you read? What do you toss? What e-mails do you open and which get automatically deleted? What do you save for future reference?
With Home-Based Travel Agent and our other publications, we have taken the position that we're going to be all about you, the agent. Many in travel trade publishing spend their time trying to curry favor with advertisers and suppliers. Videotaped interviews with senior travel industry executives are great for egos, but do these TV shows help you sell anything?
What You're Looking For
At the risk of tipping our hand, here's some advice your peers offered loud and clear:
- 1. Keep it clean, navigable and uncluttered. For web sites, less is more; for magazines, you don't have time to read long blocks of text.
- 2. Keep it relevant. The information you are reading should help you make money.
- 3. Keep it current. News is important.
- 4. Make special sections and features easy to find later. Agents tend to live in clutter.
- 5. Make distinctions between advertising and editorial crystal clear. You're not fooled by editorial puff pieces disguised as journalism.
In the travel trade magazine business, we have to be constantly mindful of the fact that we serve two distinct groups: advertisers (suppliers) and readers (you, the agents). What's challenging is that our products are free to agents because suppliers foot the bill. Too often, publishers forget that unless they have a clear focus on agents, you won't read what's published—and advertisers are wasting their money.
Our mandate here is to make sure that our editorial staff is 100 percent focused on you. You'll be more receptive to what we offer, and advertisers will be more likely to successfully expose their messages to you.
Kerry J. Cannon, Jr. Group Publisher [email protected] 212-895-8247