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    Conde Nast Traveler: Page 1

    Conde Nast Traveler Magazine

    Armed with the slogan, "Truth in Travel,"the Conde Nast Traveler turned the placid, fantasy-world of travel writing on its head when it launched in 1987. From the very beginning, Conde Nast Traveler quickly established a reputation as the one place readers could turn for the real scoop on travel. The magazine carried little of the fluff puff pieces on destinations that were then the staple of existing travel magazines. It was immediately seen as a serious challenger to the travel magazine market leader Travel & Leisure.

    Back to reality

    It was late 1986 when Conde Nast Publications decided to launch a travel magazine. The company's chairman, S.I. Newhouse, offered the job to Harold Evans, a Briton who ran Sunday Times of London and The Times, and more recently consulted at U.S. News & World Report. The unmet need in the travel field, Evans believed, was reality. Too many publications served up only the glamour and fantasy of travel. Newhouse backed the idea 100 percent and a new travel magazine was born, the likes of which the publishing world had never seen.

    The September 1988 issue of Conde Nast Traveler, for example, warned of encephalitis in Japan and a rip-off cab ride in Rome. In its article on Seoul, South Korea, the site of the upcoming Summer Olympics, Traveler warned readers of what areas of the city were prone to tear-gas attacks, In contrast, Travel and Leisure, taking its usual mainstream approach, offered only a single sentence hinting at political turbulence in Seoul. Before Conde Nast Traveler, writing about the unpleasant side of trips was simply not done in travel publications. But by doing so, Traveler, a product of the Conde Nast publishing empire, alienated some early advertisers who were initially afraid of the frank editorial tone. Far from the picturesque slideshows that had characterized most travel writing previously, the Traveler's news and features were just as likely to provide a warning as a welcome. But a quickly climbing circulation soon brought advertisers around.

    "We report the truth,"said then editor-in-chief Evans. "Nothing more, but certainly nothing less."Traveler began winning readers over with this philosophy, with departments such as "Ombudsman,"which offered mediation for travel problems, and a column titled "Innocents Abroad,"in which big-name writers wandered the back alleys of far-off destinations and reported their impressions, both pro and con. "There is a fundamental difference between travelers and tourists,"explained publisher Ron Galotti at the time. "You don't talk to each in the same way. We talk to travelers. We've been accused of being negative. But a traveler who knows exactly what to expect is better prepared. We will not show our readers wide empty beaches and give them Coney Island on the Fourth of July."In 1989, Adweek saluted the magazine, ranking it sixth overall among the 10 hottest magazines in 1989. More important, Traveler rated best among Adweek's top ad revenue performers of the year.

    Over the years, however, the gap between Conde Nast Traveler and its rival, Travel and Leisure, narrowed in terms of both numbers of readers and also editorial tone. Traveler gradually became less prone to focus on negative aspects as it, like its rival, courted a decidedly upscale audience with plenty of disposable income. In the interval, the Internet also became an important place for people to turn to for travel information. In response, Conde Nast set up Traveler's Web site at concierge.com to extend the magazine's reach. Web readers can book airline tickets and hotel reservations. It also created a weekly show on the cable Travel Channel called "Amazing Destinations,"and established radio programs where its editors could provide travel tips.

    In May 2000, the magazine set a new record for the largest travel magazine ever, with 259 ad pages. In 2002, a year when the travel industry and magazine publishing were particularly hard hit after 9/11, Conde Nast Traveler rebounded quickly, publishing the largest November issue ever-the 15th Anniversary of the magazine. By 2005, Conde Nast Traveler had raised its subscription base to 750,000.

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    Written March 12, 2006 exclusively for MagsDirect.com. All right reserved.

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