July 24, 2013

Lonely Planet lays off editorial staff


Get ready for a crowd-sourced, social media holiday

It’s the anti-summer holiday story. Editorial staff at Lonely Planet, the guide book known as the first and most important book for any traveller, are facing job cuts and redeployment as part of a ‘global overhaul’ of the company’s operations. Earlier this year the company was sold by BBC Worldwide to NC2 Media, and these changes are part of the new management’s ideas about the future direction of the company.

Their vision for the future is not inspiring. The company’s Chief Operating Officer has stated that the company will ‘take advantage of other content sources, such as community and social media, to build a content model that supports our entire business’. It’s a blatant cost-cutting measure, replacing the expense of staff expertise, with the unreliable and free online content produced on internet forums.

So you know those days you’ve wasted on TripAdvisor, where you find the perfect hotel only to read a customer review that mentions that they might have seen a cockroach, or maybe it was a rat, or just a spider, but to be safe you should never stay in that hotel, or city again, which sends you into a spiral of indecision, which in turn forces you to read more and more reviews, each never giving you the perfect review you need to read – and anyway who can you really trust — until finally you decide that it’s probably safer not to go on holiday at all, and by this point it’s too late to find anything half-decent anyway… Well get used to that. Because that’s the future of travel guides.

According to the Guardian, an email to staff outlined that:

Publishing and commissioning editor’s roles “are proposed to be made redundant” and will be replaced by “destination editors” based in London who will commission all written work.

The company will replace professional writers and editors, who have tested holiday locations and destinations and have exceptional local knowledge with tourists on online forums. These travellers very often do not wander from the beaten track, and their unedited descriptions of everything from the soap in the en-suite to the view of the Mona Lisa are so plagued by bias and personal, unnecessary anecdotes that they cannot compare to the clarity and trustworthiness that readers have come to rely on from Lonely Planet guides.

Staff are said to be devastated by the news, and the way it was conveyed to them. Some noted that they had found about the job cuts in the media before management had bothered to tell them. At the height of summer, when Lonely Planet usually comes into its own, the offices are ‘gloomy’, with many of the employees reacting to the news with tears.



Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.