Amy Duffin spoke to Christopher Lukezic, publisher of Pineapple, about the decision to branch out into print and what the future holds for the apartment rental company.
Airbnb has gone through a major rebranding exercise this year. What was the decision behind the magazine launch?
The idea came from a desire to capture the unique nature of traveling through Airbnb. We wanted to bring that sense of creativity, culture and connection to life. I began having discussions with the founders and our head of creative, Andrew Schapiro, about bringing the brand to life through a printed magazine this past summer, when our new branding was about to be unveiled to the public. Around the same time I met Alex Tieghi-Walker (Pineapple’s editor-in-chief) through a mutual friend. I invited Alex to spend a few weeks with me in San Francisco concepting various ideas for the first issue and eventually asked him if he wanted the editor-in-chief role. Midway through the development of the magazine, Airbnb hired Brendan Callahan who joined us as creative director. Alex, Brendan and I, along with our head of photography, Carrie Levy, acted as partners in the creation of the publication, each with our own strengths and complementary skills. I really couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with on the creation of Pineapple.
Who is Pineapple aimed at, and what has its reception been like so far?
This is a travel magazine for the curious minded. The primary audience for the magazine is our community around the world who want to experience cities in new ways. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive so far. This is a fresh take on travel publishing, that eschews the more prescriptive nature of most travel magazines that exist. It gets under the skin of cities in a way that people really desire these days.
The inaugural edition is ad free. Are there plans to change that and start taking advertising?
At the moment we are exploring all possibilities for the future of Pineapple.
Have you employed a team to produce the magazine?
Pineapple was produced in-house. The process has brought together people from different departments within Airbnb, from the photo, video and design teams to those working on social policy. We then enlisted excellent writers, photographers and illustrators, all very local to each city, including the brilliant Nathaniel Russell who created dream-like drawings to introduce the cities. I don’t see the people we spoke to for each article as interviewees, I see them as contributors; their stories are told in first person and they lead the voice of the magazine. Working with such a large and passionate group of people – both within and outside of Airbnb – has been incredibly inspiring.
The magazine will be sent to those already using Airbnb. How will you use it to attract new customers? Do you plan to launch a loyalty scheme?
We hope that people look to Pineapple as an inspiring source of travel content and find it useful when planning their trips.
Airbnb follows a number of online players launching offline (print) magazines. Why in your view is this happening?
This is Airbnb’s first real step in to the realm of storytelling. Our community is 20 million strong; there are so many stories to be told by members of this community. This isn’t a magazine about homes, it’s about the connections that our community makes in the environments where they live or travel. For us, print was the perfect medium to tell these stories.
What lessons do you think online brands like Airbnb can learn from media owners? And vice versa? What will constitute success?
Building a loyal following of readers requires a commitment to producing high quality content that has strong editorial integrity. This is something a lot of brands haven’t yet mastered when they enter the realm of content, but I think that is changing rapidly.
A large part of FIPP’s role in the world is to assist with internationalisation of brands. Which markets are you covering, and how do you plan to expand globally, if at all?
Airbnb is in over 30,000 cities across 192 countries, so it is tantamount that we keep an international focus with every issue. We will continue to work with our community to explore the unique characteristics of different cities around the globe.
What do you have to say to those who assert print is dead?
I think it’s a complete misnomer to say that print is dead. Print is changing, that’s for sure. The desire for physical magazines and books will always remain. Without being too precious, print is still the best medium for telling stories in words and photographs. Just as the screen is great for interactivity and video.
We recently launched the new FIPP.com (in beta, while doing live testing and refinements). The relaunch is not only about look and feel, but even more so about us providing a platform to further enable the sharing of ideas, insights and opinions within our global network. If you have a story to tell, or are interested in contributing to FIPP.com on a regular basis, get in touch with our communications manager, Amy Duffin.