News that Duty-Free News International and Frontier are merging comes as no shock. Driven by market forces and economics, it’s the right move, eliminating cost and placing focus on a fused, focused and hopefully stronger entity.
Given the shake-up of travel retail B2B publishing over the past 20 years, the only surprise, perhaps, is that brand owner, Metropolis, didn’t do it sooner.
The changes include a redesign and “uplift” of DFNI’s print and online offer, and a refocus for Frontier to a five-issue per annum product and category supplement to DFNI. The well-established Frontier Awards will continue with the same brand, and be complemented by the annual DFNI Conference, DFNI Charity Ball and regional DFNI Awards
DFNI wrote, “This is a major undertaking by DFNI and Frontier to deliver better value and content to our customers and consolidate our position as the market-leading titles and events in travel retail.” While that’s not so much a rose-tinted view of both titles’ current market position as a full Chelsea Flower Show’s worth (see market share below), the move is logical in the context of a fast-changing travel retail sector.
Travel retail’s media offering, players and market share breakdown has been transformed in the 21st century. Several factors have driven that change, from key individuals changing camps to the profound impact of digital media. The Moodie Report, as it was known on launch in 2002, was the original disruptor to the legacy print model, and the sector has been in constant flux since.
The media channel is simply overcrowded. You would be hard-pressed to find a single industry executive who believes so many titles are necessary.
The intense consolidation of travel retail’s supplier and retailer communities of the past decade has been another factor in the changing media landscape. Big advertisers from the past, including Seagram, Allied Domecq, Cadbury, Patrón, Reynolds, Elizabeth Arden and many others have all been subsumed. Two into one means synergies. One of the most obvious is a consolidated (and sometimes reduced) media spend.
With four international titles (The Moodie Davitt Report, Travel Retail Business, DFNI and Frontier) and numerous regional ones in a consolidating marketplace, the media channel is simply overcrowded. You would be hard-pressed to find a single industry executive who believes so many titles are necessary. Competition is good. Clutter seldom is.
Certain public relations agencies control both advertising budgets and editorial releases and spread the former (their clients’ money, not theirs) around evenly rather than logically in order to justify their fees by the sheer volume of editorial mileage they glean. How many people see the ads or view the editorial does not appear to enter into their thinking.
Market forces alone are likely to dictate further changes. Consolidation and competition can be a brutal joint force. The winners will be those who remain relevant, who are fleet-footed and who have integrity. Some of the readership claims in the sector may have passed muster in the unquestioning golden days of the 1990s. They no longer do.
Some players need to get their house in order. So do certain public relations agencies who control both advertising budgets and editorial releases and spread the former (their clients’ money, not theirs) around evenly rather than logically in order to justify their fees by the sheer volume of editorial mileage they glean. How many people see the ads or view the editorial does not appear to enter into their thinking.
According to the various media packs and publishers’ statements there are three different market leaders in the business. Really? The correct numbers speak for themselves (in 2009 The Nuance Group, now part of Dufry, actually conducted a survey to see which title was best-read among the retailer’s key target group, airport retail and commercial directors. It was The Moodie Report, as then known.). One publishing house claims multiple-category advertising leadership but excludes digital titles and our highly successful Category Insight print publications, rendering such claims a nonsense at best and disingenuous at worst. Its banner claim, ‘The Genuine Market Leader’, is an affront to the Trade Descriptions Act.
We are calling for a travel retail publishers’ charter to rid the sector of shoddy and misleading claims. Then the battle will come down, as it should, to content and readership.
The recent GDPR exercise was an ideal opportunity to clean house – and lists. We saw it as an opportunity, not a threat. We are delighted with the results (to be published soon), and our just-completed new media pack has been restated to reflect them. Our digital analytics are provided by neutral parties and we are happy to share with any existing or potential advertiser.
We live in an age and industry of greater transparency. We are calling for a travel retail publishers’ charter to rid the sector of shoddy and misleading claims. Then the battle will come down, as it should, to content and readership. It’s shake-up time in travel retail media.
BACKGROUND TO THE TRAVEL RETAIL MEDIA EVOLUTION
Travel retail’s first B2B title was International Tax-Free Trader, spawned by the far-sighted Vivian Raven in 1972. It was Raven who saw an ‘industry’ taking shape via the various airport stores and airline duty free offers that were emerging around the world. He not only created the first title but the first trade show – the 1973 Duty Free Symposium in Amsterdam, attended by 330 delegates with 37 exhibition stands.
It was followed by annual events in Monte Carlo, Paris, Copenhagen, London, Cannes and Malaga with burgeoning results. International Tax-Free Trader became a huge success, benefiting not only from its show revenues but the related print advertising ones. It became one of the UK’s most profitable publishing and exhibition businesses. But in 1983 the company moved the show to Montreux to avoid a hoteliers’ rate rise in Cannes. Supplier anger about the move and the heavy exhibition costs (the publisher was increasingly perceived as profiteering) prompted an intra-industry reaction that spawned what is today’s TFWA and TFWA World Exhibition.
Suddenly International Tax-Free Trader was under threat. Frontier, then owned by UK publisher Reed, was launched in May 1984, followed by Duty-Free News International (DFNI) in 1987. The latter was owned by none other than Vivian Raven (a victim of having lost the industry show) together with his long-time editor Julian Fox. They were joined by Doug Newhouse, a talented, ferociously committed newshound who had entered the scene with a title called International Travel Caterer.
In early 1989 a certain Martin Moodie, two years after emigrating from New Zealand, became part of the team, which also included Sales Manager Amanda Felix (Publisher of DFNI to this day). DFNI focused on news and analysis and forged ahead into a position of overwhelming strength. Frontier, buoyed by its newly created awards (1985), moved into second place while International Tax-Free Trader fell away, and eventually closed. DFNI, underpinned by its hard news coverage and excellent industry contacts, had become relevant, International Tax-Free Trader the opposite. Publishing is unforgiving like that.
Anticipating the demise of intra-EU duty free, Raven and Fox sold their company to Euromoney in 1996. I took over as Managing Director, with Doug Newhouse remaining the main news man. A promising young Irish graduate trainee called Dermot Davitt joined the team in May, 1996. In 1998 he became Editor.
Newhouse’s decision to leave DFNI and launch The Duty-Free Business (now Travel Retail Business) in a giant A3 format 1997 together with Peter Marshall and Peter Lightfoot was the first chink in DFNI’s hitherto impenetrable armour. The second came in 2002 when I left the company to create The Moodie Report (now The Moodie Davitt Report). Now there were three news-focused titles, plus the features-based Frontier.
Until that point, travel retail publishing was all about print. But the world was changing. As mentioned, The Moodie Report was one of travel retail’s first disruptors. It began life in September 2002 as a simple pdf, e-mailed free of charge. Instant readership, no waiting for the mailman to deliver the product. Market penetration was the name of the game, allied to quality content. ‘Fast, Factual, Free’ ran the early tagline. In March 2003, the company launched The Moodie Report.com, later billed as ‘the website that never sleeps’.
History repeated itself. Within three years, The Moodie Report (now also with a print version launched in October 2003 ) had moved from newcomer to overall market leader in readership, reputation and advertising terms. The Duty-Free Business (renamed as Travel Retail Business), driven by the journalistic zeal and ability of Newhouse (who retired from the title at the end of 2017), took over second place in advertising terms, a position which it has held since. In 2006 Frontier was bought by Metropolis, which a year later also acquired DFNI and Travel Retailer International from Euromoney.
By now, digital was the main game in town. All over the world, legacy publishers in B2B, B2C and mainstream media were battling the downturn in print advertising and the surge in online readership. The trend has been remorseless since. All the international and regional titles now boast a digital offering on top of traditional print. But readership trends and publishing platforms continue to evolve. The future will be a classic Darwinian tale of the survival of the fittest.
 The Golden Book, Julian Fox 1997
WEBSITE READERSHIP MARKET SHARE* 2017
*The Moodie Davitt Report also enjoys a dominant share of all travel retail media digital advertising spend across e-Newsletters, e-Zines, Blogs etc.
2017 PRINT ADVERTISING MARKET SHARE*
The Moodie Davitt Report – 39.5%
Travel Retail Business – 32%
DFNI – 17%
Frontier – 11.5%
*By volume of pages; Excludes in-house advertising; figures and source analysis available to advertisers. The Moodie Davitt Report Print Edition is only published six times a year (plus a joint venture report with MEADFA); DFNI 12 times; Travel Retail Business 12; and Frontier (until last week’s announcement) 12 (three digital only). Supplements included in volume figures above.