With over 500 titles in eight languages, Lonely Planet is the most popular travel publisher on the… planet.
The company began in Australia in the 1970s when founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler detailed their adventures travelling from Europe to Asia in a homespun guidebook.
As the story goes, the newlyweds wrote and printed the first 1500 copies in their kitchen, using a typewriter and plenty of staples.
Much has changed since those early days, and while the company has managed to adapt to new technologies (it launched its website in 1995 and has an online community of over 700,000 members) it wasn’t until BBC Worldwide bought the majority of the business’ stock in 2007 and then hired Goldberg in 2009 as CEO that the brand fully embraced multiplatform content.
The Guardian reports that since 2007 Lonely Planet e-book sales have grown at a rate of 200 percent per year, unique website visitors have grown 35.8 percent and iPhone app downloads have reached 10 million.
Formerly SVP of digital strategy and operations at Dow Jones, Goldberg is leveraging his experience overseeing digital growth at the Wall Street Journal, Marketwatch and All Things D to expand and improve Lonely Planet’s online platforms. The company’s digital earnings account for 23 percent of its revenue.
And digital growth has never been so important. BBC Worldwide now values the publisher at £85 million – down from the original purchase price of £130.2 million.
While that decline has much to do with the Australian dollar’s unusually strong performance against the British pound, BBC Worldwide plans to offset that drop by continuing to grow and experiment with Lonely Planet’s online offerings.
Earlier this year Lonely Planet expanded its fleet of country guide apps (around 10 dollars each) to include Italy, Australia and Costa Rica, among others.
The brand is also taking the free app route by partnering with Layar, an augmented reality app that enhances guidebook content by providing real-time information about a destination – from weather updates to recommendations.
During SXSW Interactive in March, Matt Goldberg shared a panel with BBC Worldwide’s digital director Dan Heaf to discuss the convergence of social, mobile and local in the content experience.
After the talk we asked Goldberg to explain how Lonely Planet has delivered on its “brand promise” across different platforms, from mobile to e-books.