A month ago, I received a big, hefty magazine in the mail. It included stories such as a guide on where to go in Buenos Aires, a feature on tiny houses, and a deep dive into the history of African-American jockeys. The magazine was part travel, part lifestyle and part interior design; which are all topics I gravitate toward. What's more, the stories were well-written, the photographs were beautiful and the graphic design was on point. There was just one weird thing about it: It was published by Airbnb.
Airbnb Magazine launched in May 2017 in collaboration with Hearst, an industry giant that publishes newsstand titles such as Esquire and Cosmopolitan. According to Airbnb, the magazine was created as a service for travelers and hosts. "People are hungry for local insights from true locals," said an Airbnb spokesperson. In 2014, the company had experimented with a publication called Pineapple, which Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky told the Wall Street Journal was a more "niche" and "bespoke" project that didn't ultimately succeed. Airbnb Magazine, on the other hand, is a much more professional affair, as the partnership with Hearst shows.
At the magazine's launch, Hearst's Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles said in a statement, "By partnering with Airbnb, we are able to serve their global community and provide readers with the most inspiring and most real-life travel stories, experiences and tips."
Marketing speak aside, the union still seems like that of strange bedfellows. Why would a tech startup that facilitates short-term rentals want to delve into the world of print, especially since the magazine industry seems to be in dire straits. Women's Wear Daily, a fashion trade journal, reports that magazines lost at least $417.5 million in revenue in 2017, according to numbers from the Association of Magazine Media. Conde Nast, a Hearst competitor, reportedly lost $120 million in 2017, forcing it to cut budgets, lay off staff and put three magazines up for sale.