Here’s some heartwarming news to start your digital day. One of the technology industry’s most innovative and digitally disruptive powerhouses has an old-fashioned marketing sensibility. Airbnb is funding a new print magazine.
The idea isn’t as whacky as it sounds. First, digital insights drive the project. Airbnbmag—not a particularly visually pleasing name, for what it’s worth—which the San Francisco company is producing in conjunction with print magazine stalwart Hearst, relies on user searches on Airbnb to decide which stories to pursue. The popularity of searches for “Cuba,” for example, eased the decision to write about the Caribbean country.
Moreover, Airbnb’s youthful CEO, Brian Chesky, understands the value of print. “There’s the possibility that it can be saved,” he told The Wall Street Journal “It isn’t ephemeral, as opposed to content on a feed that expires.”
Hell, yeah, Brian! Print just feels good, and if you can get readers to look at it advertisers just might appreciate the feeling too.
The Airbnb-Hearst JV isn’t a new concept. The companies aren’t saying who’s funding what, but rest assured their goals are different. Airbnb is marketing itself; Hearst is trying to make money. They’re selling copies at airports for $4 an issue, and they’re pitching ads too. But airbnbmag will mostly be a freebie that the company’s “hosts”—its delicately chosen word for the non-hotelier property owners who “share” their “homes” in exchange for money—can display for their “guests.”
There’s nothing wrong with giving away a magazine, by the way, if marketing one’s company is the goal. I hope Hearst and Airbnb run the table here and show the value of stories well told, non-digital publishing and, yes, the durable qualities of print.
Incidentally, if you want to dive deeply into the story about Airbnb, buy a copy of Leigh Gallagher book, The Airbnb Story. It’s available in print, e-book, and the spoken word.