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Passport Increases Frequency, Expands Online Content

Travel title targeted towards LGBT community saw a 32 percent increase in ad revenue last year.

Passport, which bills itself as the “hetero-friendly gay travel magazine,” announced this week that it will expand its frequency this year from eight to nine issues in response to growing advertising revenue. The eight-year-old title, which currently has a total circ of 72,000, will also ramp up its video coverage on its companion site PassportMagazine.com.

Passport’s ad revenue increased by 32 percent last year compared to 2008, according to Q Communications Inc., which publishes the title. Convention & Visitor Bureaus and Tourism Boards accounted for the largest growth in Passport’s ad revenue, while Airlines, Destinations and Hotels posted modest gains and non-travel-related consumer advertising remained even.

“[The gay and lesbian community] is not recession proof, but we are recession resistant,” publisher Dan Tuthill told AD. “Our readers come from two-income households, have no kids and make more money than other groups. They make an average of $137,000 in annual household income. Studies have shown that the hetero market has cut back on traveling, but the gay market continues to travel at the same rate. They may make shorter trips, but they’re taking as many trips as they were before.”

Despite its focus on the LGBT community, Passport does have small following among hetero readers, hence its nickname. According to Tuthill, 2.5 percent of Passport’s readers are heterosexual. “Passport wasn’t initially aimed at that market, it was aimed a certain niche,” he said. “But the hetero market has come to appreciate the depth and honesty of our coverage.”

Passport's Multi-Platform Marketing Strategy

Passport’s recent success cannot just be attributed to ad sales, Tuthill stressed. The staff has been focusing more on promoting the magazine via bookstore promotions, email, social networks and events.

Passport, which sells on the newsstand for $4.95 per copy, did two front display promotions each at Borders and Barnes & Noble stores last year and timed them based on the average lifespan of each issue, which Tuthill said can last as long as two to three issues later. As a result, the title saw a 17 percent increase in single-copy sales at bookstores. “We tend to do better in bookstores and retail stores than on general newsstands,” he said. “The more high-end, the better.”

The next promotion will be for its annual “Weddings and Honeymoons” issue, which is published in May.

Passport has also been collecting names at various travel and gay pride events in addition to its own annual show in New York City. Tuthill says that the company has seen a 4 percent increase in response when it sent out sample copies to the names collected followed by a special email offer.

The largest amount of Passport’s subscription sales—which grew by a modest 2 percent last year—has been coming from the Web site (55 percent), and surprisingly, the phone (45 percent). “We stopped putting insert cards in the magazine about a year ago,” Tuthill said. “We’ve just been running a regular ad that prompts readers to go online or to call. It’s been extremely efficient that way.”

Online Growth Via Video Content

In addition to a strong presence on newsstands, Passport also has a loyal following online. PassportMagazine.com receives on average of 66,000 unique visitors per month. Those visitors come to the site at an average of 2.4 times per month and look at 3.5 pages at an average of 17 minutes per visit, according to Tuthill. The site is bolstered by the title’s weekly e-newsletter, “Passport Travels,” which has over 56,000 subscribers and offers links to the latest articles and videos on the site.

In April 2008, Tuthill and Passport co-founder/editorial director Robert Adams launched Passport TV online, which became the second most visited channel on the site, growing from zero to an average of 57,000 unique visitors in just six months.

Now the site will increase the output to two videos per month, some of which will include video tours given by celebrities. “Our advertisers have a tremendous interest in video,” Tuthill said. “Video is an effective means for tourism and visitors bureaus to get their messages across.”

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