By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

REALISING the online potential of Lonely Planet is the first priority of new owners BBC Worldwide, which bought a 75% controlling share in the iconic brand for anywhere between A$100m and A$200, depending on which newspaper you read.

Maureen Wheeler, who started the company with her husband Tony, told the Australian: “"We were looking for someone who would help us not just with funds but with skills, someone who’d shown they could make their way in the online digital world because we felt that’s what we were lacking."
Ian Watson, International Director of BBC Worldwide, was eager to oblige. "What we hope to be able to do very quickly is enrich, particularly in the online space, and increase the amount of video and audio content available to inspire travellers," he said.

Watson also promised readers of that there was “absolutely no intention” of introducing advertising in to Lonely Planet, which he described as "the most important brand to travellers around the world".

So how will BBC Worldwide monetize the content-based Lonely Planet site at a time when the world’s foremost media player, Rupert Murdoch, says he can no longer justify charging subscriptions for the Wall Street Journal online because the site would make more money from advertising if it was free and attracted more visitors?

Clearly, now is not the moment time to ask such questions, though in the fullness of time perhaps the new partners will follow the lead of actor Sean Connery, who swore off the James Bond franchise after a few wildly successful films. He made a comeback, however. It was called: “Never Say Never Again”.

Travel Trends: October 3, 2007

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