Sean Murphy: Editor-in-Chief of Jetsetter

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Prior to Jetsetter, Sean led the award-winning Custom Media division at American Express Publishing, home of Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, Departures, Executive Travel, and Black Ink. He served as content director of Hearst Magazines’ Integrated Media division and editorial director of Hearst Custom Publishing. He has held editorial positions at Vogue and Vanity Fair. He studied comparative literature at The American University in Paris where he developed a lifelong passion for travel and exceptional experiences.

How did you get into the publishing industry?

My first job in publishing was as a researcher at Vanity Fair.  I was living and studying in Paris and read a book called Bright Lights Big City, by Jay McInerney. The main character was a fact checker at The New Yorker. I thought that must be a fascinating job. When I moved back to New York, I interviewed at Condé Nast. I was told no positions were available, but to keep in touch. On the way out, the elevator stopped on Vanity Fair’s floor. I recognized this was one of those moments when life presents you with a choice. I stepped off the elevator. As I was trying to convince the reluctant receptionist to take my resume, a kind editorial assistant passed by and said she would copy it and pass it around. Before I got back on the elevator the head of Research came out and asked me when I could start. They were working on an article about a Paris-based company and needed someone who knew French. I started the next day. Working at Vanity Fair was not only a crash course in compelling storytelling, but akin to graduate studies in what makes a great magazine.

Tell us about Jetsetter.

For the discerning traveler, Jetsetter is where you’ll find insider deals and expert knowledge on the world’s best travel experiences. We select, review and recommend only places we love, everything else we leave out. With over 2,000 hotels and travel deals, and 23 million members, we are the world’s leading travel site dedicated to the distinctive. About a year ago we became part of the TripAdvisor family, bringing the power of the world’s largest social travel network to effect at Jetsetter.

What industry trends are you noticing and how does Jetsetter capitalize on them?

Authenticity is the strongest trend and one that is of the upmost importance at Jetsetter. We have a contract with our members to deliver insightful, valuable, useful content that will give them the confidence to plan and book what we know will be an exceptionally rewarding travel experience. Authenticity brings trust and trust is the cornerstone of our value proposition.

With so many social media outlets, how do you create such great content?

When I tell people I work at Jetsetter, they routinely respond with a passionate, “ Oh, I love Jetsetter.” They respond enthusiastically to its strong visual aesthetic and highly curated offerings. At Jetsetter we use content to put both our brand and our product into a specific, travel lifestyle context. We always ask ourselves if our members will appreciate, enjoy, and learn from our content. Will they find what we create useful and does it reinforce our mission to be the worlds leading luxury travel site? Jetsetter has a particularly strong social community; we have 4.5 million Pinterest, one million Google+ and 38,000 Twitter followers with 250,000 Facebook fans and a growing Instagram following. Because we value this community, we are constantly innovating to craft the best content that fits the channels our members are using.

What traits make a great Editor-in-chief?

Insatiable curiosity combined with an astute ability to curate.

What are you favorite hotel amenities?

High-thread count, high-quality bedding wins me every time, but room service is what makes a hotel more than just another place to sleep. I also appreciate an active, comfortable lobby and an on-premise spa. The spa at The Corinthia Hotel London, for example, is reason enough to book a room there.

How important are the success of the hotel bars to the hotel?

Hotels are quickly learning that by attracting not only jet-lagged travelers, but also enthusiastic locals to a vibrant bar scene can make a hotel a sought after destination and experience. Hotel bars are some of my favorites because they are populated by a mashup of cultures at a distinctive crossroad. What draws me in is that I always meet people from all over the world who are eager to share their journey stories and impressions of place.

Favorite third world destination? Favorite luxury destination?

As Editor in Chief of Jetsetter, I am discovering new places all the time. We have so many trip-envy-inducing hotels and resorts in destinations all over the globe, it would be a challenge to pick a favorite.

It may not exactly be third world, but the remote Greek island of Patmos in the Aegean has had a lasting impression on me. It is hard to get to, starkly beautiful with an air of the sublime. Since the journey there requires great effort, it feels like a pilgrimage, but the reward for me is bliss.

Your advice to an aspiring travel journalist?

Travel, experience, and learn to see things from different perspectives. You will never know a place completely, but you can reveal how it presents itself to you.

What literature is on your bed stand?

I was a comparative literature major with a strong interest in art history, so there are books all over my house, but I’m not much of a book-in-bed reader, unless I can’t sleep. Instead, I read on journeys, whether on the train, on flights, waiting in line or any spare moment between places. I like to read to gain insight or knowledge, so I mostly read non-fiction, but I will read poetry, great literature and peruse art and photography books to reconnect with what matters. My iPad is loaded with books on leadership, marketing and branding, so I can highlight and circulate what I find fascinating. I still buy hardcovers of everything else because I like to keep a library. Right now, I am reading: Walter Isaacson, The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution and A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton.

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

Not an easy choice, but Jean George’s ridiculously simple, but delicious Gulf Shrimp Salad with truffle vinaigrette and champagne dressing or anything from Italy. To drink, A 1982 Haut-Brion, which is a remarkably big, opulent and beautiful Bordeaux (Not necessarily the best pairing, but drastic times calls for drastic measures).

Current Passion?

Friends and family will tell you I am visual addict, which makes Jetsetter an enabler. I am an obsessive, passionate photo-taker, Instagramer, and destination voyeur (Checkout #Jetsettering). I want to capture every extraordinary moment. But even when I put the camera or iPhone away, I am still looking intensely, seeing with ravenous eyes and burning images into my brain.  I can’t help it.

What's the most interesting headline you've read this week?

Man Waits in iPhone Line for Two Days to Win Back Estranged Wife

Role model - business and personal?

People with vision and those who are not afraid to take risks with their thinking and doing inspire me.  There is no one person. I have more a collective admiration for people who think of possibilities rather than probabilities. Whenever I meet, read about or work for people who inspire ideal effort in the pursuit of excellence, I take note and learn from their example. 

What's next for Jetsetter and Sean Murphy?

There is no sitting still at Jetsetter. We are constantly moving and improving how we serve our members. We innovate relentlessly and continue to define the way that travel is sold online and via mobile. Right now we are experimenting with visual storytelling, personalization and how content can enrich engagement, drive business and build awareness. As for me, I will continue to explore and expand what I know by absorbing and learning from what all the world has to offer.


Kicking back on a tropical beach. Zipping down a snowy slope. Exploring a capital’s hot new neighborhood. There’s nothing we’d rather do with our spare time than travel, and we’re guessing you feel the same. But it’s a wide, wide world and working out where to go and where to stay can really eat into that precious time. That’s why we founded Jetsetter. We’re a community of travelers that provides insider access, expert knowledge and exclusive deals on the world’s greatest vacations. We curate travel experiences, which means we only recommend places we’ve been, loved and would go to again. Everything else we leave out.

Since April 2013, Jetsetter has been a part of the TripAdvisor family of travel sites.