Airbnb Studios? The travel pureplay digs deep into content

According to a report from Reuters, the latest brand to join Amazon, Apple and Walmart in developing content for streaming is none other than holiday home-share pureplay Airbnb, valued at $38bn in 2018.

At the moment, the project remains largely in the research and development phase, leaving details thin on the ground. The travel brand has announced plans to license or even create travel mini-series and documentaries, as well as shows featuring Airbnb homes, guests and hosts. According to reports, Airbnb may develop its own studio, or work with others to produce the required content.

Whatever its production strategy, Airbnb has been transparent about its ultimate goal: to use this content to attract and engage a wider audience. Chris Lehane, the brand’s Senior Vice President of Global Policy and Communications, commented: “The more we put content out there, the more you’re going to bring people to the platform.”

The move, while interesting, is not entirely unexpected. Airbnb has been investing heavily in new kinds of content since 2017, with the release of its glossy Airbnb Magazine, published by Hearst. The brand has also spent the last couple of years developing film and series projects, including docuseries ‘Home’ (intended for Apple’s upcoming streaming service) and documentary ‘Gay Chorus Deep South’, which follows the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus on a tour across America’s Southeast.

However, whilst Airbnb is perhaps one of the first major players in the travel vertical to throw its weight behind rich content in such a concerted way, there are numerous other precedents in the retail – and particularly fashion and beauty – categories.

Successful pureplay beauty label Glossier – a ‘unicorn’ currently valued at over $1.2bn – revealed last year that its customers were 40% more likely to convert if they visited the site’s blog before its ecommerce platform. According to research from Global Web Index, the effect is particularly noticeable among younger consumers, with 17% of Gen Zers agreeing that they would be more likely to promote their favourite brand if they had access to exclusive content or services.

If successful, Airbnb’s new content platform could offer its audiences an immersive experience of the brand – and a more engaging way to discover new travel destinations. Airbnb’s Chris Lehane added: “[Our plans are] not just limited to video. It could be audible. It could be physical.”

Of course, only time will tell whether Airbnb’s foray into content will translate into increased accommodation bookings and ultimately ROI, but it certainly lays down the gauntlet to more traditional businesses in the travel sector – and is just the latest example of Airbnb’s disruption of the industry.

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