The attitude in the media towards superyachts is like the two-headed Indian God of Fire, Agni, looking in two different directions. A condition that is known as Polycephaly. Or as the Roman poet Catullus wrote: I love and hate in equal measure. Should the industry be concerned?
Dedicated press such as the Superyacht Times and the Superyacht Report group examine the minutiae of the industry. They have a target audience of industry insiders. Martin Redmayne’s Superyacht Report covers technology, new builds, crew and statistical analysis plus a dedicated edition for owners. This set of co-ordinated publications sets out its stall as the industry’s prime influencer. It is information-driven. Whatever you read is guaranteed to be thoroughly fact-checked and researched.
If there is a superyacht conference anywhere in the world you can bet your boots that the Superyacht Report will be there. If you want to take a further punt you could bet that they even organized the event. The print version is a workmanlike industrial matt, with reassuringly thick pages full of opinion and analytics
The statistical analysts do a brilliant, if somewhat tedious to read, breakdown of who has built what where and when. If you are interested in the latest developments in paint technology for the hull or automated lighting systems, the Superyacht Report is your place to go. If you need an analysis of how many yachts a superyacht builder has built, with the metrics broken down to several levels of data, going back many years, the Superyacht Intelligence report has this on tap.
Where the Superyacht Report excels is how it identifies and addresses the various issues affecting the industry. The articles are examples of good market focussed journalism, and not afraid to raise controversial issues, without bias. Its online presence is to be found at superyachtnews.com
The Superyacht Times and many other industry web sites, on the other hand, are more concerned with passing on information about the industry than influencing its direction, with lists of yachts for sale and charter, suppliers and products. They are primarily database-driven. Their news sections do rather feel like a series of press releases rather than genuine journalism.
Glossy magazines include Superyacht World, the Superyacht Digest, and Boat International. Most publications go for the ‘isn’t life wonderful?’ look, full of money shots of yachts and stunning images of exotic places. These glossy mags reinforce the luxury brand of the superyacht experience. No editor is ever going to get radical and challenge the legitimacy of the superyacht experience. No way. The advertisers pay their wages.
The Islander is an industry magazine that combines successfully glossy images of fabulous people and places with insights into crew lifestyles, events and interviews. Based in the Balearics the Islander is very much med focused. The current edition is available as an Issu embedded web app. The Islander goes the extra distance in providing original content rather than settling for life as a listings catalog and press release outlet. To be commended.
We have a list of current magazines at our magazine’s page on the focusonyachts app
Then there is the rest of the international media which displays an ambivalent attitude towards the super-rich world of yachting. There is a certain fascination at the sheer opulence of the interiors, with a degree of voyeurism into a lifestyle that most readers could never afford. When Beyonce or Kyle Jenner charter a yacht at over a million dollars a week, the press goes ape. These celebrities are like gods and the thing about gods is that they don’t live like us mortals.
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But there is a level of resentment too at the excesses of that extraordinary lifestyle which finds itself aired in non-industry media publications
Where the narrative was once about admiring the life of the rich in their floating palaces, now it is increasingly about the excesses of their lifestyle.
The media is full of stories with enticing titles such as ‘what really goes on aboard a superyacht ‘ focussed on tales of guests behaving badly. While some stories about topless prostitutes and owners sending helicopters 500 miles to make sure they get their preferred croissant for breakfast are generally true, much of the content is sensationalized for the target audience which is definitely not the superyacht charter or sales market.
The perception of the rich behaving like decadent aristocrats is starting to achieve mission creep. Life on a superyacht = rich people who don’t give a flying flamingo about the rest of the 9 billion inhabitants of this planet. Once this idea gets into the mindset of the public, editors will print stories that confirm what the reader have been lead to believe. Then the industry will have a serious problem.
The industry becomes its own source of negative propaganda
The real story is that most guests don’t quite get how things work on a superyacht. They assume because they want a meal at 3 in the morning, there is a chef on call. Spontaneity on a superyacht comes at a cost. Many Guests lose touch with reality when they step onboard. Perfectly decent people can become petty demanding tyrants. They probably think when they are back home: did I do that?
People lose their inhibitions on holiday.
There are some genuine sons of bitches out there who abuse the power their money gives them, but the majority of owners are sensible and reasonable. But sensible makes boring press
What’s your problem?
Globalization has brought better lifestyles to most people and its effects have been positive. A very small percentage have made huge amounts of money and this is funding the superyacht industry. The problem that we are heading towards uncertain times. People are increasingly challenging the status quo. And the superyacht industry seems to think that doing a big splash in the media just how fabulous Monaco is will somehow placate the increasingly suspicious masses. Whereas before they might look at the fabulous superyachts in awe, now they are more likely to grumble: all right for some.
The media needs to be steered in the right direction. Yacht Aid is a good example of how the industry can shape public perception. Yacht Aid combines aid relief and superyachts in an organized program to help disaster-affected areas. Superyachts are already on the case in the wake of hurricane Dorian, bringing much-needed supplies. Yacht Aid Performed magnificently in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2016/17. 44 superyachts were involved.
The non-industry-specific press is not picking up on the work done by Yacht Aid. Perhaps because the charity works on such a tight budget, they probably don’t have the resources of a PR team. Looking at the superyacht’s own press this does rather appear as a collective self-congratulatory pat on the back. Hey guys – aren’t we nice people?
Another example of an initiative doing good work and slightly a missed opportunity is the newly built REV Ocean which collects ocean debris.
REV Ocean is the brainchild of billionaire businessman Kjell Inge Røkke. He has described the yacht as pivotal for his goal of improving ocean health worldwide. The Norwegian philanthropist considers the boat equal parts research vessel and charter yacht. The yacht will take scientists around the world, allowing them to harness vital information about the impact of carbon dioxide emissions, plastic pollution and unsustainable fishing. Røkke intends that his mission in the superyacht industry be considered as ocean preservation.
Superyacht Charities hosts well attended gala events. The purpose of Superyacht Charities is to promote and assist in the raising of funds for charities that superyacht professionals both participate and donate to. The fund raising pages are individually focused initiatives rather than targeted like Yacht Aid
Nobody expects the superyacht industry to single-handedly take on the task of saving the planet’s oceans. The industry will always be primarily leisure related. But, when there are initiatives such as Yacht Aid and the REV Ocean, these should be trumpeted to the international media. The optics of rich folks necking copious champagne on their yachts while the polar icepacks melt is not good.
Perhaps there is a need for an industry-financed PR company to help yachts that are putting in the hours in terms of aid and ocean preservation get their message out to a wider audience?
Main image: Google archive cover of the Superyacht Report July 2017. Not actual cover style