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Woodall’s Publications Corp., the oldest and best-known brand in the Affinity Group Inc. (AGI) family of companies, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year with a series of special events and promotions that include daily drawings for Woodall’s North American Campground Directories, the launch of a new Internet-based RV and camping club at www.woodallsdiamondclub.com, plus other drawings and activities at RV shows throughout the year.
In addition to publishing 11 national and regional campground directories, Woodall’s in 2005 is producing several cookbooks and RV owners’ handbooks as well as eight regional monthly newspapers, including Buckeye/Keystone RV Traveler, Camperways, Camporama, Carolina RV Traveler, Midwest RV Traveler, Northeast Outdoors, Southern RV and Texas RV.
The company also generates several special edition annual publications, among them Discover RVing, Northeast Summers, Sunny Destinations and The Checkered Flag. In addition, Woodall’s also serves as a contract publisher for Camping Today, the Florida RV Trade Association’s Supershow Directory and Camping World’s RV View magazine.
Complementing its print portfolio, Woodall’s hosts an interactive website at www.woodalls.com that draws about 400,000 unique users per month who can access seven searchable databases of RV parks and campgrounds, attractions, RV sales and service locations, RV rental locations plus related articles.
Woodall’s also serves campground operators through its trade publication, Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM), and next year, Woodall’s will begin providing consumers with the ability to book their campground reservations online.
Also in the works, WCM will be collaborating soon with the directory staff in launching a business-to-business website to reach RV park and campground operators, as well as their vendors, with a whole menu of offerings, including a news-posting service that will consist of WCM news articles, national news stories and material extracted from the monthly Woodall’s eMarketing Newsletter.
However, Woodall’s most visible and best known product remains its campground directories, especially its flagship national directory, which has the distinction of being the first of its kind in the campground business.
“Being around 70 years old carries a whole lot of tradition,” observes Mike Schneider, president and CEO of AGI, which acquired Woodall’s Publications Corp. in 1994 and relocated the firm from suburban Chicago to its home base in Ventura, Calif. “I talk to people all the time who say not only that they use the directory, but that they remember their parents using the directory. Seventy years is a great testament to the value and integrity of the publication, and I think consumers appreciate that history.”
And while AGI owns both Woodall’s and the competing Trailer Life Campgrounds, RV Parks & Service Directory, Schneider said both directories continue to thrive and to serve distinct markets. “Each one has its own identity in the market,” he said. “We’ve specifically and purposely kept the two directories separate and apart in terms of delivery of the product and marketing to the campgrounds.”
The Woodall’s campground directories, which serve as the official guides of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and Camping World’s President’s Club, are primarily sold to consumers through bookstores, newsstands and RV dealerships, while the Trailer Life directory is marketed to members of the million-member Good Sam Club, also owned by AGI.
Schneider said the Woodall’s and Trailer Life directories both fill important market niches. “One of the corporate goals we’ve always had is to be the one-stop-shop for anyone seeking to market their services to the RV industry,” he said. “And having Woodall’s is a critical part of that effort, much like it is owning the Trailer Life directories.
“The campground directories,” he added, “help us complete the loop. A huge component of the RV lifestyle is the experience consumers have at the campgrounds. And the campground directories allow us to serve that need, both for the consumer, in giving them the information they need about where to go, and the campgrounds, in terms of helping them market their properties to the RV consumer.”
Consequently, both directories will benefit from AGI’s recent agreement with Barbados-based Digital Rez International to provide online campground reservations capabilities for consumers through the Woodalls.com and TL.com websites.
“It will be the largest online reservations system for campground reservations in the world,” said Digital Rez President and CEO Ken Lahoda, adding that the Woodall’s and TL websites together have about 300,000 unique visitors per month during peak season.
Joe Daquino, vice president and group publisher for AGI’s Multi-Media Division, said Woodall’s is in a unique position to capitalize on growing consumer interest in online campground reservations. “Nobody has the point of contact with every campground every year the way Woodall’s does,” he said.
Daquino added that Woodall’s is stepping up its investments in research and development to identify new ways to integrate its print and online products and services. “Our online revenue has tripled in the past year,” he said, adding that the Internet will become an increasingly important communications tool for Woodall’s in the future.
Meanwhile, Schneider noted, demand for Woodall’s print directories is on the rise. “It’s been a very strong financial performer for us,” he said. “We’re having increasingly strong interest (in the Woodall’s campground directories) in the bookstores because as the RV market gets younger, those are the kinds of people that look for information on the camping lifestyle.”