Cre­at­ing com­mu­nity on cruises through con­tent

“The jour­ney, not the ar­rival mat­ters.”

The Insider - - CONTENTS - T.S. Eliot

It wasn’t that long ago that many peo­ple thought that cruises were mostly for the “new­ly­wed or nearly dead.” But not any­more. Close to 28 mil­lion peo­ple of all ages, in­comes, and life­styles were ex­pected to board a cruise in 2018, two mil­lion more than a year ago.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2017 Cruise In­dus­try Con­sumer Out­look re­port, about 85% of mil­len­ni­als said their in­ter­est in cruis­ing in­creased over the last year, with 71% of men say­ing an ocean cruise was the type of va­ca­tion they were most in­ter­ested in tak­ing over the next three years. And in terms of re­peaters, 80% of past cruis­ers said they were in­ter­ested in sailing again in the fu­ture.

Cruise lines have got­ten a lot smarter about trav­el­ers in re­cent years and are us­ing that in­tel­li­gence to de­sign and mar­ket them­selves to spe­cific au­di­ences. They un­der­stand that longevity on salt or fresh water de­pends on the two things that con­sumers now de­mand — a qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence and per­son­al­iza­tion.

As a re­sult, to­day’s ocean and river cruise va­ca­tions come in all sizes, for­mats, and themes to serve the di­verse needs of the “all about me” con­sumer. They are no longer just float­ing ho­tels with stan­dard-fare buf­fets, casi­nos, cabaret-like en­ter­tain­ment, and onepage news di­gests de­liv­ered to state­rooms.

What­ever your pas­sion, there are lit­er­ally hun­dreds of cruises out there wait­ing to serve you up a smor­gas­bord of theme-focused ex­pe­ri­ences and en­ter­tain­ment (on board and off) that feed your ap­petites. If you’re into movies, mu­sic, TV shows, golf, celebri­ties, ad­ven­ture, food, beer, wine, foot­ball, gam­ing, in­vest­ing, fit­ness, art, as­tron­omy, dance, fash­ion, mys­tery, or even Elvis, there’s a ship decked out and wait­ing for you, and hun­dreds like you, to jump on board.

Cruises + qual­ity con­tent can help cre­ate com­mu­ni­ties

It wasn’t that long ago that the most im­por­tant part of choos­ing a cruise was the ports of call the ship sailed to. And al­though peo­ple do se­lect cruises based on des­ti­na­tion bucket lists, they also want a dock-to-dock ex­pe­ri­ence (from board­ing through to fi­nal dis­em­barka­tion) that’s tai­lored to their in­ter­ests, pas­sions, and pref­er­ences. The ameni­ties, ser­vices, en­ter­tain­ment, food and drink of­fer­ings, and so­cial in­ter­ac­tions should feel like they were de­signed for an au­di­ence of one — Me.

With on­board space a pre­mium, rub­bing el­bows with oth­ers is the part of the jour­ney that can make or break a trav­eler’s val­u­a­tion of their trip. So fa­cil­i­tat­ing con­nec­tions and cre­at­ing a sense of com­mu­nity be­tween like­minded pas­sen­gers is im­por­tant to fos­ter a sense of be­long­ing. Cruises that do it right have pas­sen­gers com­ing back again and again — some­thing a friend of mine can at­test to.

She and her hus­band have been book­ing the same R&B mu­sic cruise for years. When I asked her why they keep go­ing back for more of the same old song, she told me that they didn’t care where the ship sailed — it was about the mu­sic (the con­tent), the con­nec­tions (the other pas­sen­gers and the bands) and the ex­pe­ri­ence (non-stop so­cial­iz­ing, danc­ing, and singing with peo­ple from all over the world who love mu­sic that is “too good for ra­dio”).

She said that be­cause ev­ery­one on board shared the same pas­sion, a bond was forged early be­tween them that quickly turned strangers into friends. 90% of the pas­sen­gers and the 20+ bands who en­ter­tain and hang out with them are re­peat cruis­ers — mak­ing ev­ery an­nual sailing, since the in­au­gu­ral launch 25 years ago, one big happy mu­sic fam­ily re­union that would be sorely missed if it was gone.

This res­onated with some­thing I read from the chief con­tent strate­gist at CruiseCritic.com, Carolyn Spencer Brown — a for­mer writer with The Wash­ing­ton Post who was named one of the 25 Most In­flu­en­tial Women in Travel by ForbesLife magazine.

This got me think­ing about themed cruises and the po­ten­tial for other busi­nesses to cap­i­tal­ize on cap­tive au­di­ences who share sim­i­lar in­ter­ests. Given my years in the dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing space, the news­pa­per and magazine pub­lish­ing com­mu­nity came to mind — in par­tic­u­lar, The Globe and Mail.

The iconic Cana­dian news­pa­per has been of­fer­ing lux­ury river cruises for the past few years to a se­lect group of its val­ued (and valu­able) sub­scribers. The pub­lisher not only de­liv­ers a 5-star sailing ex­pe­ri­ence cus­tom­ized to meet the needs and in­ter­ests of its read­ers, the CEO and mem­bers of the Globe’s ed­i­to­rial team get up close and per­sonal with pas­sen­gers, giv­ing them in­sights into the news­room they would oth­er­wise never dis­cover. Colum­nists and jour­nal­ists give talks, so­cial­ize, and at­tend ex­cur­sions with pas­sen­gers, cre­at­ing con­nec­tions and com­mu­nity among all the con­stituents.

The cruises have been so suc­cess­ful that the pub­lisher is of­fer­ing two cruises in 2019 rather than just one.

"I think that what re­ally sticks with me about cruises is that on ships you can, if you want, build com­mu­ni­ties, make friends, and meet new folks who stretch your own bound­aries.”

Carolyn Spencer Brown Cruise Critic

The small, in­ti­mate sailing ex­pe­ri­ence with tai­lored tours and vir­tu­ally un­fet­tered ac­cess to the Globe team is a win-win for the sub­scribers and the pub­lisher.

For­get the mil­lions the Globe makes from the cruises and just think about the real gold they un­earth — the in­tel­li­gence data they col­lect from their en­gaged pas­sen­gers and the loy­alty they cul­ti­vate.

There are other pub­lish­ers jump­ing on board cruises as well, but they are still a mi­nor­ity.

The Times and The Sun­day Times col­lab­o­rate with Cu­nard on their Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val on the Queen Mary 2 where book lovers can con­nect with fa­vorite au­thors and jour­nal­ists.

Na­tional Geo­graphic of­fers a num­ber of cruises around the world each year on one of their own ships to let pas­sen­gers ex­pe­ri­ence close en­coun­ters with unique species and visit Na­tional Geo­graphic– spon­sored re­search sites where they can con­verse with sci­en­tists in the field.

And of course, we’ve all heard about O Magazine-in­spired cruises on Hol­land Amer­ica — some of which come with Oprah her­self.

But what about all the other pub­lish­ers?

Last time I counted there were over 400 theme cruises listed on Theme Cruise Fin­der and those aren’t all of them, by any means. Many of the cruise lines host­ing these voy­ages al­ready of­fer com­ple­men­tary ac­cess to thou­sands of dig­i­tal news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines on board, but the colum­nists, pho­tog­ra­phers, con­trib­u­tors, ex­perts, and ed­i­tors haven’t yet been in­te­grated into the itin­er­ar­ies. Missed op­por­tu­nity? If The Globe and Mail’s re­sults are any in­di­ca­tion, the an­swer would be a re­sound­ing, “Yes!”

There are so many ways for pub­lish­ers to en­gage with read­ers and grow au­di­ence by part­ner­ing with ocean cruises, river cruises, and fer­ries that of­fer theme-based sail­ings and cross-pro­mo­tional perks to pas­sen­gers. Here are just a few.

Imagine if...

• Cu­nard’s Fash­ion Week Cruise wel­comed ed­i­to­rial and pho­tog­ra­phy teams from Vogue, Elle, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, or Van­ity Fair on board to mix and min­gle with fans and host work­shops on what hap­pens be­hind the scenes in news­rooms, at fash­ion events, and dur­ing pho­to­shoots? I know more than a few peo­ple in our of­fice who would jump on board for this kind of up close and per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with their fa­vorite pub­li­ca­tions.

• Uni­world’s Con­nois­seur Col­lec­tion cruise part­nered with food and wine mag­a­zines like Marie Claire’s Cui­sine et

Vins de France and in­vited celebrity chefs show­cased in the magazine to host cook­ing classes us­ing recipes from their lat­est edi­tion?

• An­nual sub­scrip­tions to DNA, Gay Times, At­ti­tude, and Diva dig­i­tal mag­a­zines were gifted to all pas­sen­gers on board Car­ni­val Cruise Line’s an­nual LGBTQ cruises along with ac­cess to the per­son­al­i­ties show­cased in­side the pages of the pub­li­ca­tions?

With all the themed sail­ings and spe­cial-in­ter­est pub­li­ca­tions avail­able in mul­ti­ple lan­guages, the num­ber of op­tions for bring­ing cruises and pub­lish­ers to­gether for the ben­e­fit of their shared au­di­ences and fans are only lim­ited by one’s imag­i­na­tion.

And by pro­vid­ing open ac­cess to rel­e­vant dig­i­tal news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines to pas­sen­gers be­fore and, just as im­por­tant, if not more, af­ter they sail (via email, text mes­sages, or part of their fre­quent-trav­eler pro­gram) cruise lines can con­tinue to con­nect with pas­sen­gers, nur­ture brand ad­vo­cates, and grow loy­alty long af­ter the voy­age is over.

It’s a win-win-win for pas­sen­gers, ships, and pub­lish­ers.

• Cruise lines, river cruises, and fer­ries can of­fer unique value to their pas­sen­gers in an eco-friendly way, sav­ing money while grow­ing brand eq­uity and loy­alty across all de­mo­graph­ics.

• Trav­el­ers and crew get fric­tion­less ac­cess to qual­ity, trusted con­tent and an en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at no charge to them.

• Pub­lish­ers are in­stantly served a mas­sive cap­tive au­di­ence they couldn’t ac­cess on their own, grow­ing reach, au­dited cir­cu­la­tion, and rev­enues.

Bring­ing con­sumers, pub­lish­ers and travel brands to­gether makes dol­lars and sense for ev­ery­one. How cool and rewarding is that?

Mil­lions of trav­el­ers on 195+ ships and thou­sands of ho­tels, air­planes, lounges, and li­braries al­ready know the value of spon­sored qual­ity con­tent. But few have ex­pe­ri­enced the height­ened en­gage­ment that comes when those be­hind the con­tent con­nect with trav­el­ers at a more per­sonal level.

We at PressReader want to change that and are work­ing with pub­lish­ers, cruise and ferry lines, and ad­ver­tis­ers to en­hance the travel ex­pe­ri­ence by build­ing com­mu­nity through con­tent. If you’d like to learn more, let’s talk!

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