Who Uses Lonely Planet Guidebooks Anymore? (Me)
Raise your hand if you still use Lonely Planet paper editions? Actually scratch that, I can’t see you, and if you actually did this I urge you to get outside more and stop doing everything people ask you to do. And also note to editors: never, ever, use tired, cliched openings in your blog postings, and don’t hide the lede either, both of these reflect very poorly on your writing skills.
And did I mention, Lonely Planet recently made the news with its announcement that it would be laying off nearly a quarter of its staff (80 out of 400 positions), a move many say was writing on the wall following the publisher’s recent sale by BBC Worldwide for USD$75 million to NC2 Media, a holding company owned by reclusive Kentucky billionaire Brad Kelley (a former discount cigarette manufacturer turned land owner/conservationist)?
A cursory search for any information about NC2 Media results in primarily news about its acquisition of Lonely Planet, and a single-page web site that describes the company (“NC2 Media is a US based media company primarily engaged in the creation, acquisition, and distribution of quality digital content and the development of the technologies to make that possible. As of April 2013, NC2 Media owns and operates Lonely Planet and OutWildTV”) and an impressive list of ex-television producers and editors whose experiences range from founding New York City’s local news station NY1, to producing shows for BBC and editing stints at AMC.
Needless to say, ex-discount cigarette magnate and experienced staff of television producers does not in it of itself seem to bode well for a primarily print-focused travel guide publisher such as Lonely Planet (although to be fair, LP has made enormous strides in its attempt to adapt to the digital age with its sprawling web site, downloadable guides and popular travel forum).
Does this mean NC2 is simply looking to diversify its holdings into print, or is their motivation to take a strong editorial staff with a dedicated following and see what they can do with them in the world of online video and media production? The recent news of the mass firings seems to hint toward the former rather than the latter.
Which begs the question: who still uses the printed version of Lonely Planet today anyways? I do, as well as what seems like most of the people I see at any hostel I find myself in around the world. But that’s anecdotal evidence. The fact is that the BBC most recently valued LP at about USD$135 million, down USD$78 million since it bought it in 2007, and it’s estimated that about a quarter of its revenue comes from digital sales today.
The Guardian posted a poll on its site last week asking its readers whether they still use Lonely Planet, and how they do so. Among its participants, 86% say that they still use Lonely Planet, with 39% of the users stating they use the books primarily, while 7% say digital, and the remainder said both. So the answer is that most people (who took this poll anyways) still kind of use Lonely Planet’s printed books some of the times. But that may change soon, whether they like it or not.
By Matt Stabile
About the Author
Matt Stabile is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Expeditioner. The Expeditioner began in 2008 and is headquartered in New York City. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos or contact him at any time at TheExpeditioner.com. (@TheExpeditioner)