Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Is a Waste of Money

Aug 26, 2014 | Et Cetera | 0 comments

Each month when Conde Nast Traveler appears in my mailbox, I spend an average of 10 minutes thumbing through the magazine. I rarely find something of value or interest; rather the magazine is more of a source of amusement. Once I’m finished flipping past the unending barrage of irrelevant ads and unusable articles, the magazine goes straight into the trash.

When my subscription runs out, I won’t be renewing since Conde Nast Traveler is a waste of money. Allow me to explain why.

Rarely Informative

Glancing over travel magazine covers at the news stand, one might think that Conde Nast Traveler might be a great source of information for the frequent traveler. Cover photos pop off the page, while boldface headlines announce destinations like Venice, Antigua, Amsterdam, Seville, and Cuba. Once you open the magazine, however, you quickly realize nothing could be further from the truth.

Last month’s cover headline featuring Cuba caught my eye. I recently spent some time researching a trip to Cuba, so I was hoping the article might offer some insight on traveling there, things to do and see, places to eat, notes on culture, and more. What I found was a boring feature on the Cuban art scene, past and present. Only one small call-out in the 8-page spread had any information about actually traveling to Cuba, and it contained very little when it came to specifics.

I’m not trying to bash the hard-working writers, photographers, and designers that pour their hearts into creating the content; they do a fine job producing what they are told to produce. It’s just that what they produce isn’t really helpful. You read it without a clear picture of what is going on. You don’t get a sense that you’re getting advice from an expert so much as someone writing about things they are kind of interested in.

Even the photography throughout the magazine is a mixed bag. Some of the photographers are quite excellent, producing beautiful shots that fill me with wanderlust. Others are so-so, producing pictures that look like they fell out of my grandmother’s point-and-shoot camera.

Conde Nast Traveler

The best two pages in the September 2014 edition. Photography by Julien Capmeil.

While Conde Nast Traveler boasts the motto “Truth in Travel,” they’d be better off changing the motto to “Always Aspirational…Sometimes Informative.”

Out of Touch

It only takes a few seconds of perusing through Traveler to understand the picture that the magazine is painting: only the affluent can afford to travel. This concept couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most travelers don’t spend their days jet-setting around the world dressed like James Bond or Coco Chanel, decked out in Omega watches and Prada bags, sipping mimosas and staying in luxury accommodations that cost $600 per night.

Conde Nast Traveler

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ridden my horse bareback in my finely tailored suit while wearing a $2,700 watch. Oh wait, I can: zero!

Conde Nast admits that the median household income of its demographic ranges between $110,000 to $169,000. They also boast a circulation of over 800,000 readers. I have a hard time believing that their entire reader base exists solely of six-figure households. Methinks the average reader of Conde Nast Traveler buys the magazine to live vicariously through its content. It would seem that Traveler does more to distance the average person from realistic travel rather than empowering readers to fulfill their travel dreams.

Conde Nast Traveler

A hotel in Dubrovnik for $490 per night. On the facing page,  an ad for a $5,000 watch that is bound to get you mugged. Travelers must be made of money.

A recent feature in the September 2014 issue highlighted “travel essentials” for the year. And what exactly is a travel essential? According to Traveler, it’s any practical item that you will need on your next trip that allows you to be prepared without sacrificing an ounce of style. For instance, it’s “the accessory – the shiny gold cuff, the bold-red lipstick – that can transform your entire look…and take you from a business lunch in Milan to a weekend getaway in the Berkshires.”

Ah, in that case, sign me up because that happens to me all the time!

Much Fashion, Less Travel

Conde Nast Traveler places an emphasis on dressing fashionably while traveling. When 80% of the world lives on less than $10 per day, it’s important to put those peasants in their place by walking around in $5,000 designer outfits.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, check out the following inane fashion ads and features, and determine for yourself whether this content is applicable to the average travel lifestyle.

Conde Nast Traveler

Is the model on the left wearing a garbage bag?

Conde Nast Traveler

When keeping it real on the tennis court, don’t forget to pack your Louis Vuitton tennis racket cover (so ridiculously unnecessary that the price is available only upon request).

The aforementioned Travel Essentials 2014 features luxury fashion items that ranged from an Armand Diradourian eye mask ($215), to leopard skin shoes by Jimmy Choo and Roger Vivier ($750 and $1,145 respectively), to an emasculate men’s travel bag by Ghurka ($1,695).

Conde Nast Traveler

This “new summer travel uniform” can be yours for the low-low price of $2,865.

The following cringe-worthy advertisement made me nearly want to poke my own eyes out. Two anorexic modes dressed in ridiculous frocks are causally roaming through the African grasslands. There’s not even enough meat between the two of them to feed a starving lion. It’s ok that they are completely out of place since they are equipped with expensive Louis Vuitton bags. A curious giraffe in the background is probably thinking, “What the…?”, followed by some expletives. The tagline assures readers that this is “the spirit of travel.”

Conde Nast Traveler

I remember the last time I encountered anorexic models dressed in ridiculous frocks, frolicking through the African grasslands touting Louis Vuitton bags. Those were good times.

Selling Out

I’m not paying much for a subscription – only $1 per issue – but even that seems a bit much for the value that I receive from the magazine. Obviously at that low price, the magazine’s bills aren’t being paid by subscriptions alone. Conde Nast must sell nearly $30 million in ads each quarter to stay afloat. In order to sell that much in ads, the stories must be attractive to high-end advertisers. And once a magazine caters to high-end advertisers rather than readers, they’ve lost their way.

The Bottom Line

Conde Nast Traveler knows it’s disconnected from its readers. They are desperate to remain viable, but subscription sales alone have forced them to pander to high-end advertisers. High-end advertisers cater to a specific lifestyle, so the editors and writers must focus on pricey destinations and ludicrous fashion, which alienates its readers even more. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The bottom line is, when it comes to Conde Nast Traveler (or Travel + Leisure or Afar or any similar mag), save your money. You’ll get more valuable information reading travel blogs anyway.

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