This article summarizes the state of the print media industry generally, from the travel writer’s perspective.
I occasionally come across travel blogging propaganda stating that the Internet will entirely replace travel print media (travel magazines, travel memoirs, & guide books).
While I admire their enthusiasm for the Internet, anyone who tells you that print media is dying is grossly uninformed or has not done their homework.
And I can prove it.
The National Directory of Magazines (NDM) publishes details of more than 20,000 U.S. and Canadian consumer and business publications in 260 different categories.
The NDM listing includes 7,293 consumer magazines and periodicals currently on the U.S. and Canadian markets. These consumer magazines comprise 36% of the NDM listings. Consumer magazines are the titles you’ll find in your local supermarket or bookstore.
Additionally, there are 2,639 consumer magazines and periodicals currently on the U.K. market and 732 consumer magazine titles published in Australia.
This gives us a total of 10,664 consumer magazines in the English speaking world — all screaming out for copy.
If you’re a travel writer, you might think, “But, these are not all travel magazines.”
Think again, because here’s what I’ve learned in 14 years of travel writing.
Few other writing genres lend themselves to crossing over into other genres as well as travel. Travel stories can easily cross over multiple genres. It’s not limited to the travel print media industry. Many non-travel magazines publish travel stories to add spice to their content.
In fact, my published travel articles are equally divided between 53 non-travel publications and 53 travel publications including regional, national, and international magazines, on-boards, and in-flights.
Here are some examples of where my travel stories have been published in non-travel genres: lifestyle, history, culture, home improvement, health, air & space, aviation, communications, classic cars, military history, military vehicle scale modeling, gardening, sailing & yachting, food, wine, beer & spirits, treasure hunting and gold mining, historical re-enactments, and women's and men's magazines.
The remaining 12,707 publications listed in NDM are trade and custom, academic, and technical magazines, such as Business Traveller, Travel Weekly, Business Travel Magazine, Elite Traveler, Global Traveler, Travel Agent Magazine, Hotel Journal, Luxury Living, Meetings & Conventions, Smarter Travel, Travel Agent Magazine, etc.
Writing for travel trade magazines can be a way to break into travel publications and get paid well – without waiting years to do it. You can read more about breaking into the travel “trades” at this link.
There are countless opportunities to break into consumer and trade publications.
Even more encouraging for writers, more than two-thirds of these titles have circulations lower than 500,000.
This means there are literally thousands of editors clamoring for interesting articles. If you offer these editors creative story ideas, you’ll land more writing assignments than you can handle and you'll start bringing in the paychecks that go with it.
The print media industry is enormous. The magazine industry generated $22 billion in advertising revenue and subscriptions and newsstand sales in 2019. A total of 373 million magazine units were sold in 2016. With figures like these, no one can convince me that print media is dead and buried!
This is all great news for freelancers!
Most of these periodicals, magazine, and journals are fed by freelance writers. Since the majority of magazines are running lean these days, they have few (or none) full-time staff writers. Freelancers provide them with copy.
However, traditional travel print media will continue to be challenged by the Internet. tripadvisor.com, airb&b.com, travel websites, travel blogs, youtube.com, online forums, and many other digital outlets are obviously here to stay.
TripAdviser.com, for example, makes it easy to do an online hotel search if you’re interested in reading their reviews. A travel blog may give you some pointers on the best places to eat in Rome.
But you’ll get more reliable, in-depth, focused information about a place you’re planning to visit from a guidebook. And you’ll get a better feel for a destination from a well-written travel magazine article.
All these outlets, print and digital, serve a purpose.
Certainly, digital travel media offers many convenient advantages that print cannot. And that’s why many print magazines also offer a digital version.
The reality is, most travelers use a combination of print and digital media to get their travel information.
The road for print will not be smooth. Print magazines will continue to start up and some will vanish. But this has always been the normal ebb and flow of that industry.
The pandemic has hastened print media casualties that were barely hanging on by their fingertips, but that's true of many businesses. The pandemic has hurt everyone.
Print media industry publishers need to adapt their business models to survive. Some travel glossies have pruned back their large salaried staff and rely more on freelancers for exciting copy. We’ll see more print magazines go completely online as their advertising and subscriptions decline. But we’ve also seen the opposite happen as I mentioned in another article about travel print media (you can read it here.)
Magazine media does still matter a great deal to readers. The print media industry has proven remarkably resilient against the digital onslaught. Travel print media will be around for a looong time!
This situation bears a remarkable parallel to when eBooks were first introduced. Everyone was predicting that print book publishers would be driven out of business and that eBooks would dominate the market.
However, eBook sales have settled to around 23% of the book market, and are even declining slightly each year. Print books comprise the huge majority of all book sales today.
The demand for good travel print media content is nearly as insatiable as the demand for online travel stories. Collectively, print media editors still require tens of thousands of stories each month. And print media editors pay freelancers for their work! If you want to earn money from your writing, this is still a good place to be.
Print isn’t dead. It’s evolving and still has plenty of life left in it. And will bounce back from the current world-wide coronavirus travel standstill.
Are you getting your fair share of travel print media assignments?
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past ten years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.