Word in the publishing community is that Budget Living magazine has folded. Editorially, this went from being a pretty interesting and offbeat magazine appealing to both sexes to a very girly, downscale version of a zillion other women’s magazines. Instead of dishing out advice about fashion, makeup, and entertaining, it gave cheap advice about fashion, make-up, and entertaining.
I don’t think this transformation is what led to its demise, however. Reality is that it is just really hard to put out anything budget-related and still do well with advertisers. Everyone wants to appeal to the free-spending and the aspirational among us, not to the frugal and penny-pinching.
There’s an important lesson here for the world of travel as well. As I note in my upcoming book, Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune (out July 28 on Travelers’ Tales), very few magazines for budget travelers survive over time. There are plenty of frugal independent travelers who are voracious readers, but the advertisers don’t care about reaching them. They would rather reach the aspirational traveler who spends freely and will contribute a lot to the bottom line in a hurry.
Arthur Frommer�s Budget Travel has done a good job of showing the mainstream reader how to get a better deal, but its circulation is dwarfed by that of Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Travel, magazines that are really aimed at the most affluent citizens of the world’s most affluent country. Big city newspapers such as the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune contain some great travel writing, but only a fraction of the typical Sunday travel section pays more than passing attention to finding the best values. When they do give a nod to value, their “bargain” tips usually focus on how to get a $400 hotel for $250, or how to get a package deal to Fiji for less than two grand. You see lots of luxury, luxury, luxury, as if every couple boarding a plane is on their way to a five-star hotel and a spa treatment. Over time, this warps readers’ perceptions and makes them think every vacation has to cost a fortune.
If you’re loaded and have the money to do whatever you want, then these magazines and articles are right up your alley. But if you’re not buying diamond watches at Tiffany’s and shopping at Sak’s for your work outfits, then don’t look to Travel & Leisure or Town & Country Travel for advice on where to go and what to do. Do you own digging–just not in Budget Living anymore…