Media Q&A with Gaya Travel

Gaya Travel magazine is a renowned bi-monthly Travel magazine published by Chandi Media Group. We recently sat down with its Editor-in-chief, Juhan Kamaruddin, or better known as Jeremy Khalil, to understand his role as the Editor-in-chief of the magazine as well as how his team works.

1) As the Editor-in-chief of Gaya Travel, can you tell us how you manage/lead the team?

Though my business partner and I set the strategic direction and expectations for the team to follow and meet, we prefer to empower our staff to determine on their own how to deliver and achieve those expectations within a specified deadline. My role is more of guiding and encouraging the team because it consists of young, competent, high potential, bright, technically-savvy individuals with a global outlook. We also adopt an open office layout so that communication flows unhindered, ideas freely exchanged and matters resolved quickly. However, when it comes to editing copies, I need to be exacting.

2) What is the current editorial team structure in Gaya Travel?

I oversee the overall print and digital content for Gaya Travel Magazine, while my partner is responsible for marketing, finance and events. We engage two full-time in-house writers, a few external contributors, a freelance designer and an illustrator. My partner is supported by a part-time office manager and two other associates, one is responsible for Events while the other takes care of business development and client relations. However, all our employees rally together when we organise company-wide projects, for example when we needed to reach out to the public and tourism industry players during the recent Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) Travel Fair 2018 last January to boost the magazine’s exposure, including the upcoming Gaya Travel Magazine Aidilfitri Open House at Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau event space on 6 July 2018.

3) Gaya Travel is considered a magazine that focuses mainly on Travel. What are the challenges of running an industry-specific media outlet?

I think the challenge does not necessarily lie in the fact that we are an industry-specific media outlet, but more on how to cope with the extent of the general public’s behavior in consuming the media in the last few years, which has significantly shifted from conventional to new. This change influences how businesses out there value the media. From what I see, the challenge faced by conventional media outlets – irrespective whether they are industry-specific or not – is to quickly evolve and embrace the new media and develop competencies to manage that change within their organisations, while at the same time keeping costs optimal and increase revenue by expanding their client base and service offerings.

4) What is the best part about running a Travel magazine?

Running a Travel magazine offers tremendous opportunities for us to explore and experience enriching destinations, attractions and accommodations that meet our audiences’ aspirations. It has brought us to places that we didn’t even dream of visiting before.

5) What kind of press releases/media invites will have a higher chance of getting picked up by Gaya Travel?

We normally select releases and invites concerning travel and tourism that are relevant to our audience (Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei-based English-speaking urban professionals, managers, executives and technicians between 24 and 65 years old, with a slant towards halal travel). Releases that are time-bound or time-sensitive are generally uploaded onto our website under ‘News’ or ‘Promotions’ categories. The printed magazine is generally reserved for reviews on destinations and accommodations, including special features, branded contents, advertorials and advertisements. We also place the past destination and accommodation reviews on our website to reach wider viewership.

6) Could you kindly provide some tips that PR Agencies should take note of when pitching to Gaya Travel?

We constantly seek win-win collaborations and long-term relationships with all relevant parties, PR Agencies included. Ideally, we prefer to collaborate and maintain a close relationship with those who understand that Gaya Travel is also a business entity that needs to look into its costs and revenue, including monetary and non-monetary benefits as it strives to increase its audience and client base – would be great if this is taken into consideration during pitching.

7) What difference or variance did you come across when evolving from print to digital?

Based on our experience, when we began expanding into digital, the most glaring difference we found was that we needed to learn how to convert our content from conventional (text-based, long-read, still images) into a new concise format (brief, precise, punchy, moving images) that makes it easy for us to attract our audiences’ attention, grasp the content and absorb information. We also needed to keep in mind that the audiences of today possess shorter attention span and expect things immediately, therefore the content needs to suit such attributes.

8) As an experienced Travel Editor, do you have any advice for Travel journalists who are just starting out in the industry?

Travel journalists today live in exciting times, because they now have the opportunity to develop their potential further from being mere journalists to social media influencers and content producers.

For a start, budding writers these days are urged to have the skill in producing work for print as well as digital platforms such as blogs and websites, thus requiring them to be familiar with blogging tools or content management system (CMS). They need to become adaptable and flexible in developing their ability to write and craft messages into different formats so that they can use them as foundations to effectively create and publish content through various platforms, from print to digital. However, using technology to publish their work should not come at the expense of crucial basics in writing and communicating such as grammar, spelling and structure.

To increase their appeal and relevance, dynamic Travel journalists of today do not only write and take photographs but also create engaging live feeds through social media platforms and viral videos, which are all made possible to the great advancements in information and communications technologies. It is ideal that Travel journalists become skillful in writing and photographing, including live-streaming and video-making, since the future is screen-based.

On top of that, since Travel journalists want to share their experiences during their travels and persuade their audiences to follow their lead, it is imperative that Travel journalists understand these audiences’ wants and needs when traveling. Based on this, Travel journalists could even carve out their own niches such as culinary, extreme sports, backpacking, shopping, heritage, ecotourism, etc. according to their passion, thus improve traction by engaging with their respective audiences on things that specifically matter to them, instead of focussing on travel generically.

9) Out of all the destinations you’ve chosen to review/write about, which are your top 3 favorites and why?

It is difficult for me to just mention three out of those that I have covered. Honestly, I love destinations that are essentially urban settlements built in human scale, walkable, cosy, intimate, possess heritage, authenticity and communal vibes such as the UNESCO World Heritage Core Areas of Melaka and Penang; Sandakan waterfront, Sabah; Ipoh Old Town, Perak; Zermatt and Bern Old Town, Switzerland; Venice, Italy; Prague Old Town, Czech Republic; Istanbul’s Sultanahmet and Fatih neighbourhoods, Turkey; Khiva Old City, Uzbekistan; Okayama’s Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, Japan; Bhaktapur, Nepal; Luang Prabang Old Quarter, Laos; and Central Ubud in Bali, including Tembi Village in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Though these places are no doubt touristy, they are all pedestrian- and flaneur-friendly.

10) What can we anticipate from Gaya Travel in years to come?

We will continue to focus on content creation related to travel and tourism for both print and digital. We also intend to build closer relationships with our clients by partnering with them to market their offerings, not only through print and digital but also helping them to roll out activations, engagements and events through Gaya Travel Magazine Events Unit. Over the years, we have accumulated experience in running familiarisation trips and programmes for our clients that involve bringing selected members of media, travel bloggers and influencers to promote various destinations and attractions, particularly to Selangor, Perak, Sabah, Terengganu, Johor, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.

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