Summary:

BBC Worldwide may now own all 100 percent of Lonely Planet, but the travel guide’s ultimate flight path is not yet necessarily set out.

BBC Worldwide may now own all 100 percent of Lonely Planet, but the travel guide’s ultimate flight path is not yet necessarily set out.

Lonely Planet’s biggest long-term opportunity lays not in its printed guides but in digital. On that front, despite growing popularity of its smartphone apps, BBCWW considers the publisher has a great deal more potential.

So paidContent:UK understands it is seeking a major online partner to give it larger online scale. Although BBCWW last week bought from Lonely Planet’s founders the 25 percent it didn’t already own, that kind of stake could become a sell-off enticement to an entity which could help it achieve that goal.

BBCWW has already been speaking with potential partners about an alliance, including content portals like Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), we understand.

BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s revenue-raising commercial and overseas arm, acquired three quarters of Lonely Planet in 2007 for £88.1 ($142.93) million and has used it to add a travel section to its BBC.com site.

Following the deal, the BBC’s regulating BBC Trust had asked the BBC to make no further acquisitions except in “exceptional circumstances”. But, although BBC Worldwide is disposing of its BBC Magazines business, there are no plans to sell Lonely Planet in its entirety or to appease regulators.

Lonely Planet revenue grew from £43 ($69.76) million to £51 ($82.73) million in 2009/10. Digital revenue grew 37.2 percent to comprise 22.1 percent of total revenue.

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