Lastminute.com is leading a ‘publisher alliance’ after landmark deal with Rough Guides

Lastminute.com is leading a ‘publisher alliance'

The Lastminute.com group has inked a partnership with Rough Guides, a travel publisher, which it says will be the first of many to form a ‘publisher alliance’ to compete against the ever-present threat of the duopoly.

The consortium is being called The Travel Alliance and will pool small and medium-sized travel publishers which “don’t have the [advertising] muscle of Lastminute.com but who still want the revenue”.

It follows a trend which has seen several major European publishers join forces to combat declining digital ad revenues. For example, the Pangea Alliance between the Guardian, Financial Times, CNN International and Reuters launched two years ago to offer data-driven advertising at larger scale than each publisher could individually achieve.

Inspired by the attempts to claw back revenue from Google and Facebook, Lastminute.com - which has been ramping up its own content offering - is attempting the same.

“We’re a large corporation, dealing with the difficulties that advertising and e-commerce brings. We’ll specialise in helping [media] organisations through that journey and explain how programmatic works, why it’s different to direct sales, how native advertising works. That’s what we specialise in,” the brand’s chief commercial officer, Alessandra Di Lorenzo, told The Drum.

“We can take that problem away and cut them a check,”

The first publisher to come into the fold is Rough Guides, which publishes guidebooks on over 120 destinations both in print and online. Though it sees around 3 million visitors to its website each month, monetising the content has been a continued challenge and its owner, Dorling Kindersley, agreed to sell the title to APA Publications last year as it faced a fall in revenues to the tune of 6%.

Now the deal with Lastminute.com has opened the door to a potentially lucrative new revenue stream.

Rough Guides will hand over its ad inventory and data to the travel company and the combined inventory will allow advertisers to target a travel audience across both Rough Guides’ site (where di Lorenzo has already helped it to create several new ad formats) and the group’s network of European sites – including lastminute.com, Rumbo and Bravofly – which will be available programmatically as well as to clients directly.

The second tier of the offering will see Lastminute.com use its search and booking data to direct customers in its website to the the relevant content on Rough Guides’ site. For example if someone is booking a trip to Paris they will be directed to Rough Guides content on the city.

“What they get out of it is essentially a new revenue stream which comes to them in a very advanced way,” added Di Lorenzo.

“If they were to do it from scratch it would take a lot longer to get to the level of sophistication with audience profiling and programmatic capabilities we bring to them.”

This will be the “first of many” partnerships of this ilk that Di Lorenzo plans to ink. Though she declined to reveal which publishers it has been in talks with, she said there is a lot of interest from travel and non-travel media brands alike as they try to cash in on an audience that Google, Facebook and Amazon has thus far failed to attract.

“We’re seeing a lot of big and medium sized publishers come together to offer an alternative to Google and Facebook. The big guys [Google, Facebook, Amazon] are not travel players. People don’t go to Facebook or Amazon to buy a holiday. That’s the advantage we have. It’s data that’s unique to the travel sector. The idea is that this alliance will be a good alternative for brands to reach people across Europe,” she continued.

“Brands like it – it’s a safe environment – and projects us into a position where we have more audience to offer to our brands in a beautifully laid out platform. We’re going to see a lot more of this as The Travel People build out.”

René Frey, chief executive at Rough Guides, said its allowing the publisher “to engage with consumers later in the booking funnel, when they’ll have a higher propensity to purchase our product”.

“With 35 years of inspiring travellers under our belt, our priority is to keep our original audience coming back while evolving the Rough Guides brand to draw in a younger crowd. With its sizeable reach and young, spontaneous audience, lastminute.com group is the obvious OTA for us to partner with,” he said.

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