If there's a trending recipe for magazine brand revival right now, it's this: bring in a new, open-minded editor-in-chief, beef up online content, simplify the design and focus on catering to a niche, luxury-oriented audience.
Travel + Leisure is following that formula. In September, Nathan Lump came to the Time Inc. magazine from Condé Nast, where he was director of branded content. The travel title debuted a revamped website and May issue on Wednesday that reflects a cleaner, more digitally-oriented chapter for the brand and its readers, who travel an average of 23 times a year.
"It's a whole new day for Travel + Leisure," says Lump, about the changes in print and online. "It's pretty rare to do both of them at exactly the same time. We wanted to think carefully about what each of them do well, and how each of them serve our audience."
The biggest change might be the fact that there are now no staffers dedicated solely to the print product, and TravelandLeisure.com will greatly increase the amount of content produced each day — upwards of 20 pieces of original content. "All of our traditional print editors are working across print and the web," says Lump. "That is important to me — not only to help us meet our targets for volume, but also to really leverage the terrific expertise we have on the staff. I think our audience expects both [print and online] to be equally sophisticated in their points of view." Lump has hired a digital team of 10 people to run the site, lead by Sarah Firshein, who came from The Wall Street Journal and Curbed, and Amy Schellenbaum, also from Curbed. He says there are more hires coming on digital, too.
The website, which has had an average of 3.9 million visitors per month for the last six months, is technically now in what Lump calls a "preview mode" until the advertising launch sponsorship begins on April 15 — but the aesthetic changes are already evident. Images are bigger and more prominently placed, and there is more white space to make navigating easier. Additionally, fonts and color palettes have changed, it's optimized for mobile devices and the layout is designed for clearer advertising display. There will be native advertising, but that content won't be created by the editorial team. It will be clearly marked as such, Lump says, and produced by Time Inc.'s content studios marketing team, the magazine's own advertising team, or even the advertiser, itself.
The print magazine has also undergone extensive design and structural changes. "We haven't changed the logo, but that's pretty much the only thing we haven't done," Lump explains. Now that the website will be better equipped to house the magazine's most specific travel information, such as updated city guides, the print magazine can be more conceptual.
"In my mind it's all about making the magazine as inspiring as it can possibly be," says Lump. "Readers come to us with their interest in travel, not necessarily looking for us to provide them some specific piece of information. The role of the print magazine is, on the one hand, to be entertaining, but also to get people excited about things that they didn't know, whether that's a new destination, or a new kind of experience or a product."
The May cover story is an example of that inspirational print content. For the first time, Travel + Leisure commissioned a fashion editorial photographed by Alistair Taylor-Young and styled by Ethel Park. The shoot in Paris stars French blogger/model Jeanne Damas and her DJ friend Marieke Gruyaert wearing Dior and Nina Ricci, and visiting the city's trendiest restaurants and locations. "We did that because we really wanted to capture a certain sort of authenticity — to get the spirit of two people having fun on the town in one of the world's greatest cities," Lump explains.
This multi-page fashion editorial with a Travel + Leisure spin, as Lump calls it, has never been done by the magazine before. "We are the only brand in our category doing that right now, with photographers and models and stylists," he says. "I think fashion does a lot for helping you see a place in a new and different way." It will be a regular feature in the magazine in the future, but not necessarily in every issue.
Other new print sections focus on "immersive storytelling" like a column called 'Takeaway,' where the story of someone's trip is told through the things that they brought back. The first subject is Edun's Creative Director Danielle Sherman, after her vacation in Morocco.
Advertisers are clearly intrigued: At 200 pages, the May 2015 issue is the largest since 2008. (The magazine was only bought by Time Inc. in September 2013 from American Express, and ad pages have steadily increased since then.) May advertisers aren't just luxury hotels and cruise lines, either: Hermès, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier, Tiffany & Company and Armani Fragrance all bought pages.
Lump says there are more changes to come, specifically on digital. While print will be a place to be ambitious with writing and photography, online will be a space for "immersive new treatments" and multimedia content. "The magazine has always embraced the various lifestyle interests that our readers have that intersect with travel, whether it's food, fashion, design, culture," says Lump. "We will continue to feel consistent as a brand, but feel like a new expression of the brand for that audience."