"Our readership is basically the people that other publishers throw parties to have their pictures taken with," says Gollan, the mag's president and editor-in-chief, without a trace of arrogance in his voice. "Did you hear about that woman who was about to have her shoe collection catalogued - I think it was Kimora Lee Simmons or somebody like that? That's who we're writing for."
Elite Traveler doesn't merely pride itself on being able to reach a higher concentration of the super-wealthy than any other publication on the planet, it almost luxuriates in it. Consider, if you will, a few numbers: according to Mendelsohn Media Research, the median household income of Elite Traveler readers is $1.15 million. The next closest title is Departures, at $189,000. Sixty percent of ET's readers are C-level execs and business owners, while the other 40 percent come from the worlds of sports and entertainment. And the mag's cover price is $35 per issue - or roughly $5 more than the going price at www.magazinecity.com for a two-year subscription to Town & Country.
"The cost to fly on a private jet is around $5,000 per hour," Gollan notes (again, not smugly). "For most publications, the cost of entry is 12 bucks or 20 bucks for a year's subscription. For us, the cost of entry is that $5,000 per hour."
Hence it's not really a stretch to say that Elite Traveler is like few other publications in the history of the printed word. Targeting only those brands and readers that qualify as both hoity and toity, the bimonthly title has become the venue of choice for luxury advertisers in the two years since its September 2001 launch. Since then, it has grown its BPA-audited circulation to 131,428.
Ironically, arriving at the same time as the terrorist attacks on the United States proved somewhat of a boon for Elite Traveler, even as travel and luxury goods advertisers sharply curtailed their spending. "Our primary distribution is on private jets," Gollan explains. "That was a strong growth area prior to 9/11 and, as terrible as it sounds, it's grown exponentially since then. 9/11 was a catalyst for extremely wealthy people to gravitate away from commercial travel."
Along with private jets and yachts, Elite Traveler counts country clubs, first-class lounges and the locker rooms/facilities of professional sports teams as its primary distribution channels. With their ambulatory lifestyle, the obscenely wealthy have traditionally been hard for publishers to pin down, but Gollan believes this distribution model has helped the magazine clear that hurdle. "Their mail gets sorted out by what I like to call 'gatekeepers': lawyers, agents, secretaries and whoever else," he notes. "The beauty of our model is that we usually reach them when they have some time on their hands."
This pays off in a variety of ways, none more so than when CEOs fresh off a charter from Tuscaloosa to Teterboro instruct their marketing minions to advertise in the publication. "We get a lot of 'our president just saw the magazine and we're interested in doing business with you,'" Gollan chuckles. He may laugh, but this is actually an important component in generating advertising in Elite Traveler, especially given that media firms aren't 100 percent sold on the mag's distribution model. "Like with everything else, it's an education process," Gollan shrugs.
High-end marketers are, however, smitten with ET's readers. Split 60-40 between men and women, they are both staggeringly wealthy and very young: their median age is 34, compared with 49 for Town & Country and 47 for Departures. The reason for this, most likely, is the high concentration of young athletes and entertainers jetting from photo op to photo op via the private planes that stock Elite Traveler.
When asked about these readers, Gollan has a handful of statistics at the ready. He points to data compiled by luxe retailer Bergdorf Goodman (three percent of its customers account for more than 40 percent of its business) and the Federal Reserve (one half of one percent of the American population owns 54 percent of all businesses and 25 percent of all net worth). What this means to him is that if anything, Elite Traveler should strive to be even more exclusive.
"The consumers our advertisers want to reach are the women who go into Neiman Marcus and spend $10,000, then buy three $1,500 watches as gifts, or the pro athletes will who buy 15 $2,000 watches in one shot," he says (once more: there is nary a hint of conceit in his voice). "They don't want the occasional buyers of luxury products. It's like what McDonald's does: they go after the person who eats fast food twice a week, not the one who eats it twice a year."
The word "selective" is used many times by Gollan during the course of a single conversation, both in regard to his readers and his magazine. It's no surprise, then, that he chooses to list the companies whose ads he wouldn't consider rather than the ones he is actively pursuing: "We're obviously not targeting Toyota and Nissan. Definitely not the U.S. airlines. I mean, I see cat food ads running in some of these luxury magazines - that amazes me."
Editorially, Elite Traveler aims to maintain this air of exclusivity, though its short-and-succinct story format is more Maxim than Vanity Fair. "We showcase the best of travel and the luxury lifestyle, but in an easy-to-read format," Gollan notes. "We don't ask the reader to read 14-page articles. There are no long, puffy, fluffy stories designed to ingratiate the publication to a designer or company."
He pauses, then adds, "At the end of the day, we're a Lucky magazine for the rich and famous. We're a shopping catalog for these people."