Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God-sent budget guide: The Lonely Planet MAGAZINE ;)

What? Another travel magazine? Yeah, that's just what we need - photos and stories done up by professionals who get paid twice the amount for covering an article that spans a few pages, enticing commoners like us to quit our jobs and vie for theirs instead. Uh, somehow.

I love love love flipping through these pages of faraway lands, common and uncommon, bearing exciting prospects to what my next trip could possibly be. Mind the auxiliary verb, could. Because I'm not them, I don't get paid twice the amount to do what they do. Sigh.

And then I found, hidden in the most unjustifiable manner on the display table... Lonely Planet Magazine Asia in MPH. Lonely Planet must be the household word for 'budget travel' and undeniably most well-suited for the Malaysian market, fitting our ingrained cultural concept of C&G which basically means anything and everything that is 'Cheap & Good' must be good.

Unfortunately, the guidebooks were getting more and more expensive each time, although I do understand the amount of research that's been put into it is as tremendous as a feat up Mount Everest. Not to mention, the books are getting thicker and thicker, and definitely no friends with frail shoulders like mine which are already withstanding the torturous minimum 20kg as best they could. So you must understand why this magazine seems like a divine gift to travellers like me.

My favourite bits:

1) User-generated content, offline style. Reminds me that collaboration is a trend, digital only makes it easier but no one carved anything on stone and commanded that it has to remain on a digital platform. Better-than-Flickr photo gems of everyday travellers are printed as 'postcards' accompanied by their side of the story which only reinforces the belief that beauty is anywhere and everywhere, captured only by those who are keen in her.

2) Great short trip guides that you can cut out, fold and pocket in less than 2 minutes! Every 2 months, they will feature different guides, again based on readers' recommendation ;)

3) A new perspective of inspiring stories produced by great pairs of writer and photographer about hidden and over-toured places alike. Additional to these stories, very practical 'actions' can be taken by readers who at the spur of the moment decide to do the unimaginable (until that particular moment that is) to hop on the next flight out and start living the fiction (triple stars!)

4) Upcoming events at least two months in advance, so that you can plan ahead. Remember all those 'same-month events' recommended by yesterday's magazines? I bet they were meant to target at the jet-setting rich who have a disgusting amount of excessive dough. Forgetting only one thing. That the rich is probably rich for a reason - busy business schedule and stringent time management. Which means those calendars serve nothing more than the editorial team's arrogant display of know-where.

5) 'Lucky draw' of the month to win an awesome dream trip to somewhere. Anywhere!

6) And the best part is? All these at only RM15 :) To be more precise, RM7.50 a month. RM3.75 if shared with a friend.

So now they've got their website, their guidebooks, language books, travelogues, application (OVI for Nokia) and now magazines. Content duplication? Cannibalization? I think not. The Lonely Planet brand is one of my most admired brands when it comes to matching content to the specific target. It's really about providing the right content in the right format in the right amount for the right person at the right price. I believe this has everything got to do with the people behind the business because they aren't only avid travellers themselves, but lovers of sights, sounds and cultures. All in a shoestring budget with a treat or two thrown in sometimes as motivation to conquer the next monsterous peak or another obscure great plane. They are doing this for themselves and in turn, benefit others who are inspired to follow their foot path.

My only question is... what took them so long :) Well, better late than never.

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