A Road Map for Pitching Travel Media

Real people and offbeat experiences, not perfect places, are the most coveted types of travel stories, according to a panel of travel media editors at a Publicity Club of New York event on Tuesday. In a notable departure from many other media beats, there was hardly any mention of celebrity-driven content.

Sara Clemence, travel editor of Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty weekend lifestyle section, said, “The same place is not always the same story, and our articles have a twist. Our features are candid and experiential, such as ‘The Starvation Vacation.’ It was a funny, dark narrative about the Ranch at Live Oak, a luxury Malibu retreat where the writer’s snack was limited to a few nuts, but she still made the experience seem enticing to readers.”

Laura Begley Bloom, deputy editor of Travel + Leisure, cited a story they’re currently working on, “about non-hoteliers from all walks of life who are getting into the hospitality business, including the musician Lenny Kravitz.” (Suggestions of others fitting that description are welcome.)

David Kaufman, a freelance writer with bylines in several travel publications, looks for “experiential aspects of stories and the people behind the places, such as architects or chefs. The people you meet are the anchors of these experiences,” he added. “They form the narrative and provide the best story ideas.” He’s now working on a story profiling interesting people who work abroad.

Peter Greenberg, travel editor at CBS News, host of a syndicated radio program, and principal of Peter Greenberg Worldwide observed, “Travel editor doesn’t mean holiday editor, it’s about the news.” His approach is “more about process than products.” Every resort now has a spa, so his angle might be that the spa’s mud comes from Madagascar. He also gravitates toward contrarian stories, such as “what to do if you don’t ski or like cruise ships?” (Full disclosure, I have written for PeterGreenberg.com.)

The editors each provided brief overviews of their audiences and their multiplatform content:

WSJ’s Off Duty weekend lifestyle section: Clemence stated that for their “affluent audience still seeking value” their travel coverage includes city guides, interviews with inside experts, trend stories, news items about new hotels, travel products and gift guides. Their iPad app features multimedia content such as interactive maps and slide shows.

Travel+ Leisure: Begley Bloom outlined their multimedia platforms that extend beyond the “monthly magazine most associate with the brand.” Those include a website, books, iPad app, members-only Vacationist flash sale site, and airport stores operated with Hudson News. The magazine has many international editions, with sections ranging from technology to beauty, and the issues revolve around travel themes such as romance and design.

Peter Greenberg: in addition to his other roles, Greenberg also produces shows for PBS, History Channel, Travel Channel, contributes to AARP magazine and has a large Twitter following. For these multiple outlets, his audience wants information that is new and unique. Since they tend to skew older he said, “instead of size zero models, they prefer to see real people doing real things.”