Some Comments From The Author, A Reader, And An Ex-Employee Of Travelhost Magazine…

First, a note from the author:

Dear Readers Of The Publishers Advocate,

Thank you for your attention, and for reading my blog. I want to thank each and every one who checks and reads this blog, especially those who comment on what’s going on. I very much appreciate it! We now have hundreds of followers to the blog, and new contributors popping up from everywhere imaginable. I’m very thankful that many people have chosen to do the right thing, and report what they’ve seen and heard…and not just stand around and watch the crimes occur.

It’s not the easiest thing to stand up for what you believe in, I know, but it’s the right thing to do…we’ve helped so many people already! Keep the momentum going.

We’ve had some good comments at The Publishers Advocate Blog in the last couple of weeks, and I’d like to share them with everyone. They’re on the blog, but comments seem to get buried under the postings, and the conversation is important enough to have it’s own post.

The posts are from “An A.P. Teetering,” and an “Ex-Employee” of Travelhost. I have not interjected into the conversation, yet they seem to see things the way I do. In fact, there are quite a few people who see things this way…they just haven’t said so publically. Yet.

In due time, Travelhost will come to understand that there are many more people in support of change than they might think. Some people from within Travelhost, some AP’s, and just about EVERYONE with a Travelhost past…the support is astounding!

Note: Travelhost, this problem is not going away until you do something about it!

Now, on with the comments (un-edited.) To Join the conversation, just click below…we’d love to hear from you!

Dear Travelhost,

It’s time to take a hard look at your business model and ask yourself, Mr. Buerger, “Is it REALLY working?” Given that you’ve invested OUR hard-earned dollars in this internet project, have you given consideration to the fact that no one will care to use it if there isn’t enough “market” information to make it worth looking at in the first place. Consider this, Joe wants to plan a trip to Los Angeles. He’ll give that Travelhost site a try. Joe goes to the site and discovers there is no information for Los Angeles. Or New York City, or Chicago or Houston, the four largest cities in the country. Joe decides it’s mediocre (or crap) and never returns and certainly doesn’t recommend it to his friends or family. So much for that grand experiment. You missed your opportunity to make a great first impression. It’s not enough for the website to look pretty it has to deliver the goods to the end-user.

Consider this business scenario. Travelhost decides it better serves its investors, the APs, and outsources the printing function. In fact, Travelhost is able to negotiate even lower rates because of the volume of publications. There’s a reduction in corporate overhead and associated costs. Sorry to the production folks in Dallas but maybe the printer could hire you because of the increase in workload. Ahh, capitalism! Now the APs are finally on a level playing field with their local competitors. In fact, the AP’s association with the Travelhost brand is now admired and desired! I can be more profitable as part of the TravelHost network! I will seek out a market and prosper! APs will be happy to share a portion of their revenues with Travelhost because corporate has indeed enhanced the value of their local business, the national brand shines and market growth booms!

More APs in more markets – do the math! – this is the key to the internet project’s success. Based on what we know now, you need someone on the ground in that market to ensure (1) information about the market is loaded and accurately maintained and (2) the major cities and tourist destinations are represented to a potential trip planner online. Do you follow? Or maybe you don’t, which only fuels other speculations.

You don’t need a big staff in Dallas and, granted, I know you’ve let people go recently. And I must say your timing was priceless. You don’t need to run a print shop, you need a strong IT staff who can keep up with the times in cyberspace. You need to have robust content to keep users coming back for more. I’m afraid you’re still frightfully behind the competition and they’re moving forward faster than you. We are all being left behind. Did you hear the collective sigh?

Let the local markets determine how to best represent their markets. Some markets will be sophisticated cities, some markets with a slower pace of life. There are different levels of expectations and we suffer on the sophistication end of the spectrum by using a cookie-cutter layout. Publishing a magazine is a creative process coupled with a business process. Let us create the best magazine we can for our market!

And, then, of course, it brings us to the covers. Another collective sigh? Let’s be clear, Travelhost is the brand, not the cover artwork. Artwork changes, brands don’t. Covers are the first impression, covers make you want to open the magazine to learn more. Sadly, a cover of a pear, a mask and boa, or a man’s tie begs no questions. They’re BORING!

Advisory board, hear our (diminishing) voices, make our wishes known, don’t let our struggling network be ignored, don’t let us down. Or better yet, refuse to be on the board because, quite frankly, its seems to be a waste of your time.

Mr. Buerger, you have some very smart people in your network, try listening for a change and you might, just might, learn you don’t know everything, maybe there’s a better way, you can still learn, too.

I think I hear Travelhost calling, “shut up and sell!”

Another day, another nickel.

(A Teetering A.P)

Confirming AP teetering’s claim of “You just need to sell more.” In a meeting many years ago one of us voiced a concern from an AP that the national pages, which they received very little if any revenue from, cost them a small fortune in shipping. A good concern, we thought. The response was shocking! The lady questioned exploded! “You just tell so-and-so to get out there and start selling more ads! They shouldn’t be spending all their time worry about things like this!” That ended the questioning, as it was designed to do. I was observing this whole thing and my confused look got her attention but I decided to leave it alone. I knew many years before that that I was dealing with a well-oiled machine and the machine would not be tampered with. That question never came up again from any of us. Case closed.

And why do you pay more to print with Travelhost? It’s simple. Headquarters believes that you are paying premium because you’re paying a publishing price and not a printing price. (I will almost bet that your price quote for $8000 does not include typesetting/layout/proofing — etc., all the things that go into getting to plates. I’m not sure it would double your price, though, but it might add to it a bit.) You’re also, according to HQ, paying to be a part of the Nation’s Number One Travel Publication. It’s like selling a hamburger vs. selling a McDonald’s hamburger — name recognition, high value, national exposure — the whole package that comes with the distributorship. While this may be true in theory the question is: Does the Travelhost name bring good value? In some parts of the country, it absolutely does, and in others, it does not. It is up to the AP to decide if it brings good value to them and if it is worth paying for.

So sorry to hear another AP is teetering. Very sad, really. This is really like watching a building crumble and fall. I hope the best for you.

(Former Employee)

Thank you, Former Employee, for your perspective. It’s quite sad to hear this “well-oiled machine” has been handling the one group of people who are responsible for TravelHost’s existence with such disrespect. The associate publishers have invested their hard-earned dollars to associate themselves with a national brand with a positive perception. As it seems, the national perception and reputation is being tarnished, barring a few select markets. If corporate actions devalue the brand name, do the APs have any recourse? Quite frankly, I don’t think advertisers really care what name is on the cover – they care about the distribution and if the publication looks appealing. (and that’s a topic for another time!)

As for the “publishing” discussion, I would argue TravelHost does not “publish” at all, just pre-press and printing. Having been in the newspaper business previously, publishing typically includes gathering content, selling space to advertisers, printing and distributing. TravelHost does not collect content for any of the local markets, nor does it sell advertising for local markets. And their distribution is limited to putting the magazines on a truck. The APs distribute. So I think they are a printer. Printers have pre-press departments that can provide proofs, make corrections, etc. I would also venture to guess that many/most associate publishers do not rely on TravelHost designers to design any of their ads. While a very likeable group, their talents are in production and not creative graphic design. Another argument for “printer”. I would bet there are a few APs who use their own designer to lay out their publications and submit final packages to TravelHost for printing. So where is their discount for not using corporate for these services?

And, one step beyond, TravelHost recently announced that some APs have started using Publication Builder. No layout, no typesetting needed by TravelHost, the self-proclaimed “Publisher”. Did those APs get a discount? It seems TravelHost’s “publishing” days are drawing to a clear end, only to be left as a mere “printer”. What then…

(A Teetering AP)

AP Teetering, you are absolutely right. In my previous post I was writing what I was told at Travelhost, that the AP’s pay a publishing price not a printing price. The absence from actual publishing at TH was disappointing to many of us. The majority of work there is production. TH does provide the cover art (which I never actually cared for, as it rarely said anything about travel), the basic format (which is all right, I guess, but hardly cutting edge) but other than that the work printed is what has been sent in. Actually there is one market that I know of that does their own layout (which I won’t mention who in case that’s a no-no, and I would hate to cause any problems) and they actually tweek it from time to time and it comes out looking a bit better than the regular format. Many APs send in various pages from time to time, and a majority of ads are already done through ad agencies and the like, and ready to place on the page. As for a discount for them? You would think there should be one but I couldn’t tell you that as I don’t know.

Publication Builder sounds interesting but that must have been installed after I left. It’s a good idea for them, as they can save a bundle on expensive staff salaries and benefits, but it does take away from the publishing, as you said.

I have never doubted that the folks at TH HQ have great respect for the APs, and I’m sure have great appreciation for you and your work. I have heard those high up many times say that the production staff need to continually strive to produce a excellent product as the AP’s work very hard to sell each ad and keep their businesses going. I had tremendous respect for each AP I knew, and must confess was even a bit envious in their professional freedom. This is why the response to the comment about selling more ads that I mentioned in the previous post was disappointing to me, as I thought such a concern deserved a good answer, and perhaps even a simple solution. This cold response we received in the meeting that I mentioned was disrespectful to that AP but I don’t want to give the impression that this was the norm. When it came to the day to day dealings with APs everyone from the top down strived to help and assist quickly and timely to nearly every concern.

I want to be careful in my postings that I share accurately what I witnessed at TH, both the good and the questionable. I respect Mr. Hickey’s efforts on this blog to bring out the truth so some may avoid an investment that will not work for them, and I will chime in from time to time, but what I hope for is that all of this makes Travelhost better, not destroy it. I’m just hoping that it’s not too late.

(A Former Employee)

End of “back and forth” comments.

P.S.


As you can see, the things I talk about in this blog, are the same things that go through the minds of not only other AP’s…but EMPLOYEES of Travelhost too!

Speaking of employees, I have to wonder how guys like:Mr. Smith, Mr. Slabaugh and Mr. Thrailkill can all sleep at night, knowing they spend each and every waking day misleading hard-working entrepreneurs…taking their money, without disclosing the relevant information needed to make the right business decision?

Come-on gentleman, what are you thinking here? Is the money THAT GOOD?

Don’t they have a conscience? Don’t they know that as the ” market expansion team,” that they’re the main cogs in Jim Buerger’s “well oiled machine” that misleads FRANCHISE investors all over the country?

Don’t they know they may be PERSONALLY liable for the very sales process they use every day, which seems to violate EVERY FRANCHISE LAW known to man-kind??

Well, they know now. Gentleman, check with your attorneys! Don’t take my word for it.

I’m curious, how many AP’s out there have been told that they can easily make 300-400,000 dollars per year as a Travelhost AP?

And, how many actually are?

I’d love to hear from some people…Click below to email me, names will be withheld to protect everyone from Travelhost retaliation.

EMAIL THE PUBLISHER’S ADVOCATE

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