navel gazing
943 days ago
 

Travel bloggers – time to stop navel gazing and get on with the job. Please

The early to mid-1990s saw an explosion of exciting, creative and independent (indie, not signed to major record labels) bands in the UK.

The music industry and fans in the UK,  like many others around the world, were hungry to hear cutting edge bands, find the next big thing, enjoy listening to those willing to at least try something different.

The period was known, again, as a “Golden Age of new music”, one to rival in terms of intensity and creativity that of the 1960s (The Beatles, Rolling Stones), 1970s (The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks) and 1980s (The Smiths, The Cure).

Inevitably, groups of bands with similar styles came along at the same time. The so-called Nirvana-style grunge bands were in one group, Britpop (Blur, Oasis et al) was the name of another.

Bands in another group were known as the “Shoegazers” (Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, the final days of the fabulous Cocteau Twins) – a somewhat whimsical collection of groups titled, perhaps cruelly by the music press, because of a tendency to strum hard on their guitars but stare moodily at the floor rather than the audience.

Some of the bands had modest success in terms of record sales, but they all gigged hard, often playing support roles on each other’s tours around the country, etc.

Turn up, for example, to a Slowdive gig in London and punters would often see various members of countless other Shoegazer bands in the audience, or standing at the side of the stage (staring at their shoes!).

Soon enough, the press got bored with the music and decided to aim its ire not just on the creative output of the bands, but on the community around it.

It quickly became known as “The Scene That Celebrates Itself” in the pages of the weekly UK music papers such as the NME and Melody Maker.

Eventually, a few of the bands managed to extricate themselves from the “scene” and went on to have further success, in particular Ride, but mostly the others simply fell by the wayside due to being, well, mediocre and often too wrapped up in the community and not concentrating on how they might push forward.

Why give this potted history of a relatively small scene in a completely different industry from nearly 20 years ago?

Unfortunately the Shoegazer situation in the early-1990s can be compared to where travel blogging is in late-2011.

Let’s get something straight – Tnooz is an active and eager participant in the travel writing and blogging community, not by virtue of being “bloggers” (see why Tnooz is more than a blog by our CEO Gene Quinn) or writing about destinations on our travels, but because we are generally interested in how travel content is created and shared around the web.

We take part in various events (Tnooz ran an Appy Hour at TBEX in Vancouver in June this year and we are a proud co-organiser and moderator of the annual and fantastic TravelBlogCamp in London) and many of us on the team probably count many writers and bloggers as excellent contacts and even, given the social aspect of the community, good friends.

But, officially, we view the community from a B2B perspective, trying to understand it through the prism of how the industry likes to work with writers and bloggers… or not.

And this is where a potential problem lies.

A few incidents in recent months have given us cause to think that for all the talk of the travel blogging world finally coming of age, with events, trips and initiatives dedicated to it, a lot needs to be done to improve its overall image.

First of all, why should it improve its image?

The social media and content manager of a major tourism board said this during in private conversation at World Travel Market in November:

“The problem with travel bloggers is that, outwardly, to people like me and also DMOs [Destination Marketing Organisations], they seem to be writing solely for just themselves or other bloggers.”

Well, the obvious answer in part is that bloggers often write just for themselves, using the web as a way of charting their journeys around the world.

But for every Hey-Me blogger, there are countless others trying to be professional, secure some kind of revenue from the form to support their travels, even become businesses in their own right.

They want to reach the industry, be paid for content either through one-off commissions or be taken on trips (more on that later). While this is certainly starting to happen, it simply isn’t on the scale where an entire community can be supported.

The second, equally important issue, was highlighted in a discussion with a senior figure with similar responsibilities as those at the tourism board, but with a large, global airline:

“I see so much of the content – and it’s kind of okay. What I do not see are metrics that are useful to not only me as a potential supporter of these bloggers, but in the wider marketing world of ad agencies.

“It is wonderful for these people personally that they might have tens of thousands of followers on Twitter, but as we know Twitter is a snapshot of a certain individual’s daily life. The metric is nonsense. I want to see hard numbers which, crucially for me, as to where, who, why, when visitors are reading the actual content on their blogs.

“I am rarely shown this data, perhaps because either they do not use analytics platforms at all or are simply too embarrassed to disclose it.”

The “it’s kind of okay” line, when asked to explain further, was short-hand of sorts for “there is a lot of poor, poor travel content out there”.

A very recent example is the so-called GoJordan initiative. A group of bloggers was whisked away to the Middle Eastern country for a jaunt around the main sites, encouraged to do their thing on Twitter and write copious amounts of content about their trip.

The wonderfully waspish David Whitley captured it all in a terrifyingly sarcastic but hilarious article a few weeks ago. He later wrote another piece explaining the reason why he wrote the original, such was the backlash he received from, err, travel bloggers.

Once again, the metric being splashed around the web after the Jordan campaign was about Twitter “hits”, a figure which is, by all accounts, utterly meaningless to a marketer, it being primarily about follower numbers, not readers.

The same could said for the – sorry, controversial comment here – bizarre and often tedious Twitter chats such as #TNI and #TTOT. Certainly they are perhaps interesting initiatives for the community, but do they truly serve anything else other than allowing bloggers to show off their knowledge?

Both of the anecdotes from the industry above are intrinsically linked. The so-called circle jerk behaviour of bloggers does not help the external image of the community, especially when it often struggles to explain to potential partners why they should be included in various initiatives, or simply paid to write.

There are some stand-out success stories, of course. Lara Dunston and her partner Terence Carter’s project Grantourismo with HomeAway (explained further here) is often quite rightly cited as a shining example of how writers can work with the industry in a meaningful and medium- to long-term way.

But there is certainly a sense in the industry that many bloggers are either too busy whining amongst themselves or with journalists, writing for each other, and simply not taking the professional approach of trying to understand what an audience can be and how to grow it (the critical element being reach, something every marketer wants to know more about and potentially exploit).

So here is a rallying cry of sorts.

Let’s continue to have a few events each year such as TBEX, TravelBlogCamp and Travel Bloggers Unite, where bloggers can swap ideas and debate issues – exactly the same as the industry does at numerous conferences around the world.

Keep an eye on the excellent Travelllll, a fairly new site doing a fine job of bringing some of the discussion under a dedicated media brand for bloggers.

But rather than continually debating the differences between bloggers and journalists in a myriad of articles littering the web, willy waving about which trip a blogger has just secured, perhaps it is time to just focus on the content.

Write more articles about destinations and airlines and hotels and tour operators and activities. And rather than retweeting each other’s content on an hourly (often more) basis, dive into your analytics for a bit longer and come up with data and trends which can support the commercialisation of the craft.

The headline above is certainly not intended to suggest that bloggers are lazy or not focused on their passion for writing – but unfortunately the opinion from some parts of the industry (those that would seemingly want to support blogging commercially) is not a particularly healthy one at present.

There is a decent enough argument now to suggest that the new Scene That Celebrates Itself needs, therefore, to show its desire to embrace the art of simply writing excellent travel content, rather than endlessly debating the concept of blogging and worrying (publicly) about what everyone is doing.

The industry does have a genuine desire for quality content, whether it’s from bloggers or journalists or PRs or consumers. The talented bloggers will rise to the top and be able to compete head on.

So just get on with it for a while and see what happens.

Please.

NB: Image via Shutterstock.

 
 
Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.

He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.

 

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  2. Kate

    Insightful post – I am just starting out in the travel blogging community and I have noticed that I have a tendency to think of post ideas that will connect to the travel blogging community, not the larger community of travelers. I’ve created my own personal rule of asking myself who my audience is before I start the post. I’ve had to nix a lot of ideas.

    Temptation is leading me to want to put a link in my footer with articles just for fellow travel bloggers, but I’m holding back on that for now because there is just not enough time in the day.

    Anyway – lot’s of good stuff here!

     
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  6. Scott Kennedy

    Hi Kevin,

    great article and a very interesting insight into the current state of blogging and writing. As a professional writer, who’s been in the publishing world for the better part of 15 years, my opinions on the matter are much like yours. Last May I posted a similar article on my website and was hit with a similar volume of both praise and blame. Once again it appears that some members (underline some, not all) of the travel blog community cry fowl when a counterpoint to their ‘industry’ is presented yet happy to vent their venom towards those that they disagree with in an often spiteful and knee-jerk style.

    Re-reading my post from last year I still stand behind every word of it and I think you might enjoy reading it too. You can find it at: http://www.adventureskope.com/bloggers-writers-the-past-and-the-future/

    Cheers and best,
    Scott

     
  7. Durant Imboden

    Requiring approval before comments are published could be a better solution.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @durant – we have to use that system for some people that comment here, unfortunately.

       
  8. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    All

    Seriously, ladies and gentlemen, let’s have some time out here.

    Go on the offensive with me, like some have (one individual was sufficiently moved to even write a piece on his own blog, though later mysteriously removed my comment :) And has now re-appeared again!), as I wrote the damn piece, but let’s all TRY and be pleasant and respectful to one other here eh.

    I do not want to have to turn comments off, as Jeremy Head was forced to recently for a discussion about press trips on his own site.

     
    • Jeremy Head

      Hi Kevin
      Ironically, I feel bound to comment now ;-)
      I wasn’t really ‘forced’ to turn off comments. I just decided the discussion had run out of steam.
      I’ve absolutely done my bit on this topic and do not intend to revisit it!
      Some interesting challenges around moderation here eh!? – but that’s for another blog post I think.
      Happy 2012!
      Jeremy

       
  9. Jools Stone

    Surely the title should be ‘time to stop shoegazing’? Gotta love a post that opens with a lengthy exposiiton of the early 90s Brit Indie scene, even if the gist of it turns out to be somewhat old nooz. C86 forever!
    There’s always going to be noise on twitter of varying kinds and loudness, just get yourelf some better isolating earphones. Go left of the dial. if you really wanna get straight, read Norman Mailer, or get a new tailor. Course some folk like it that way. They’ve gotta buzzbox and they’re gonna use it. Does anyone actually enjoy listening to My Bloody Valentine, isn’t anything sacred?
    As with the baggy/britpop label signing goldrush, quality varies in the bloggodrome, some will sneak through the net simply because they’re skilled networkers, they bend the ears of the right people or drink in the right boozers. Good Mixer anyone? I hear Menswear are holding court there.
    Course bloggers have to accept that organs like this exist – at least partly – to needle young guns going for it. It’s their role to be skeptical, questioning, critical. In the words of the none celebrated, jangly, Ayrshire gloommeisters the Trashcan Sinatras on theie relationship with the music press which largely shunned them: ‘My therapist has the rapist’s heart.’ (See what they did there? Pearls before swine eh?)
    Indie music and indie publishing present interesting paralels and long tailed opprtunities for some. Everyone’s ‘famous for fifteen people.’ Is this what tourist boards want? Maybe not but the good will out or at least find themselves ‘big in Japan.’ Their names be wistfuly recalled in future anoraky blogs dedicated to archiving lost classics, and then reforming to live Re-tweet their top ten most loved posts, ‘not for the money, just cos we can.’
    I’d posit that all blogging (probably all writing and any other vaguely creative pasttime) is essentially an egotistical exercise anyway, there’s no escaping it. Unless you’re writing to order or with SEO at forefront of mind. ‘I wanna be ado-oored!’ If you wnat to build an indie information-based travel website, go do it, but a blog’s a different beast.
    Personally, I’ll be happy with being Breathless or Kitchens of Distinction. Maybe even Galaxie 500 if I’m a very good boy. If a few people get on board the groovy train, so be it.
    Here’s another way of looking at it – maybe some bloggers could use guest editors? Kinda like the superstar remixers of the baggy era, who can take the temperature of the travel content zeitgesit and freshen things up? Happy Mondays and Primal Scream would’ve prob languished in the inky indie gutter for all eternity were it not for the likes of Oakenfold and Weatherall surely?
    Anyway, I mostly enjoyed this and look forward to more in the series. Is Alastair Mackenzie the new Tony Wilson? Where is the 23 Envelope of blog design? And who is the Barry Mooncult of trav blogging? What’s more important, attitude or ability?
    P.S: Where’s Bill Grundy now?

     
    • Hotel Haiku

      Brilliant! The only lengthy comment in this post worth reading in its entirety. The 23 Envelope of blog design? I’d like to think Hotel Haiku falls into that category. I’m sure Vaughan Oliver would approve ;-)

       
  10. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    I find the nature of this debate interestingly esoteric but I think I have to agree with Kevin’s headline. There is just a lot of hot air being expended. I am chastising myself for A) reading it and B) commenting here.

    In my view there is little economic value in the vast majority of blogs. And on the one hand that is good on the other hand there is one hell of a lot of BS because its all about… well this post has already used many more erudite expressions.

    I blog. With very specific purposes in mind. Examining the blog’s readership gives me a degree of satisfaction in that what is written is actually read by those who I intended to read (with a bunch of spill over as well). The intention of what I write to stimulate thought and to balance a series of debates where the traditional message is governed by those with money vs those without money.

    It is clearly not of economic value, although in my day job as a consultant/subject matter expert in various areas associated in the general travel category – there are some secondary benefits.

    Let’s not kid ourselves that we are out to save the world nor that this will be the ultimate get rich scheme. In the big picture scheme of things Travel is interesting and an emotive topic. Travel writing that was published used to be (largely) pap re-hashed PR releases for “news” and rehashed “brochures”. Sadly there is still a lot of that. Some Bloggers must shoulder the blame for this. Just as we have fake reviews we have a ton of fake Blogs. Just to be clear there is a difference between fake Blogs and Blogs not appearing under your personal identity.

    On second thoughts maybe there is economic value in Blogging.

    UGH!

    Timothy

     
  11. Kash Bhattacharya

    Time to dive in… been watching from the sidelines and wanted to speak my peace and hold my silence.

    Think it’s time we first of all move on from the Journo Vs Blogger debate- bloggers and journos or joggers alike: we all agree we are pretty fed up of this.

    In recent weeks there has been a lot of ‘debate’ about the quality and ethics of bloggers made on a number of forums.

    I’m all for debate but I feel majority of discussions seem to be bringing into question the value of travel blogging and credibility of our profession by certain members of the ‘industry’

    As a result of these debates there seems to more more problems created and less people talking about solutions of ways forward.

    As Stuart has suggested a Q&A session with a DMO of what they look in a blogger-I like the debate to move on now and have some outcomes, ideas of what can be done to improve our profession……

    That is if you feel travel blogging is leading the way forward.

    Ok some general points I’d like to make.

    The professional travel bloggers I know….are dedicated to their craft, have established a strong niche ( not necessary for everyone to have a niche, but helps when pitching) speak to their readers, travelling to destinations and working hard to create good content, plus pitching and creating new project ideas that will interest their readers- they seriously have no time for navel gazing and to take part in umpteen debates about the value of their profession.

    Some people have a lot of time for commenting, it’s a full time job in itself :)

    In terms of quality I think there is an existing pool of talented travel bloggers who are working on some really exciting projects plus lots of new talented bloggers emerging so I think that’s great for the profession.

    Sure there are a few bloggers who I admit I don’t follow maybe because it’s not of interest to me or I simply don’t have the time to read everyone’s blogs.

    At the end of the day, a blog is a personal journey and while I may not be interested in their great round the world travels adventures, they do have a loyal and dedicated readership. If a DMO or travel brand sees the value in that and their great following on social networks- great for them.

    There’s enough room for everyone to co-exist peacefully. At the moment.

    Your comment from the secret DMO at WTM: I don’t think there is anything wrong in travel bloggers writing for themselves, as long as it’s interesting, relevant and of interest.

    I am in the midst of doing a survey about my blog asking them why they come to my blog.
    One of my top answers I’ve got so far from a handful of responses is that they are coming to my blog to find inspiration for their future travels.

    In that sense I feel the blogging model is best when geared towards being a source of influence, new trip ideas alongside writing about popular destinations. Needs to be a balance.

    Likewise, #TTOT may not be your cup of tea Kevin personally but if it gets so much engagement and following across travellers from across the world every week, surely that’s a positive thing?

    I don’t take part on a regular basis but everytime I do take part, I learn something interesting , make new connections and take away something positive from my half an hour of discussions.

    Travel means different things for everybody.

    Plus whatever the reasoning behind organising #TTOT or travel blogging- just for the odd trip or to make a living out of it- the main idea is about inspiring travellers.

    As long as travel bloggers are inspiring their readers through original content or ‘well written’ [ please let me emphasise the importance of well written] sponsored content – they are doing fine by me.

    Let the readers be the judge.

    I think we saw at World Travel Market that already a number of travel brands and DMO’s are showing interest in working with bloggers and engaging with us.

    Still early days but I did see a big change in the travel industry’s sentiment and attitudes towards bloggers.

    Hopefully these new beginnings will translate into positive engagement for us during 2012.

    I’d like to think the comments of the social media person of the major airline brand is an exception rather than the general feeling.

    Quality of reporting is getting better.

    I’ve been on a number of individual and group blogtrips this year where DMO’s, travel brands are getting more and more savvier about a range of metrics plus looking at relevance before taking bloggers on press trips.

    Yes metrics being banded around may seem pie in the sky for some but you know what, it’s a start. A start of being able to show some sort of yardstick, trackability of the readership and following of their blogs or twitter chats.

    As #tbcamp11 pointed out, analytics will only get better so there will be more better tools to monitor social media channels.

    I’ve worked in publishing for 7 years before where PR companies would call me up for the price of an advert in a magazine to help quantify the value of press coverage they received in a magazine- in that sense we’re light years ahead and offering something concrete, different.

    I’ve been lucky that all the many press trips barring one ( Which was less the fault of the DMO, more the problem with the destination), I’ve been on this year have been well organised and offered me a ton of great content.

    Yes, there are always some parts of a press trip that you wish could be better suited to your niche (which I do offer in my feedback to the PR’s ) but overall, I have found them quite positive and also great in building relationships for the future.

    Again, press trips may not suit everyone’s blogs. That’s fine by me.

    On that note I end and say: there needs to more mutual respect and understanding moving forward, less talk and more action.

    Amen.

     
  12. Murray Harrold

    I have re-read this piece, along with most of the comments (at least, those comments which seemed to have something to say). Clearly, this has hit a raw nerve though in essence it is a nettle to be grasped. There are a lot of bloggers – writers – out there; but do they have a purpose – and if so, what is that purpose? It seems to me that many have started writing with little thought about why they are writing – and now see it their station that they should be worth some sort of recompense for their labours.

    Let me first deal with followers. Do they matter – put another way, do you want them to matter? So, you have become a respected tweeter with a few million followers. One day, you say that the country – “X” – is worth a visit and write enthusiastically about it. Many people go. There is a revolution and many people are killed. How would you feel then? Are you prepared to take responsibility for your writings? When people listen, it is not just about monetising – it is also about responsibility.

    Do metrics matter at all? Yes – but there is only one – sales. From a travel perspective, only one question may be asked, for people do not care if you have 1,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 followers or readers – How much travel has you last piece sold … for me? I would much to prefer to have a well written, heavily focused writer who sells 3 holidays each piece rather than have a writer who has half the planet as “readers” but sells one holiday a year (if lucky).

    The other side of this is of course, the focused blog (or writing) – take those blogs which are geared to focusing customer issues or complaints. Here, there is no intention to sell holidays but to deal with consumer issues. Then there are the straight forward, topic specific blogs, such as those that are designed as help and tips on a focused sector – such as business travel. These could (it may be argued) gain income (don’t like the word “monetise”) from subscription. If a blog has gained a reputation and consumers know it works, why should one not make a small donation to resolve an issue? I spent 4 years as a District Councillor and though I enjoyed my time, was glad when it came to end. Why? Because throughout the whole 4 years of frying other peoples sausages for them, not once did anyone say “Thank you”. Consumers see a complaints blog as a free way of being heard and if such gains traction why should one not be rewarded?

    Kevin is right. Most bloggers do navel gaze. Their following is amongst their peers, which serves little purpose. I have read through some of the #TTOT type stuff and most of it is purely some sort of introspective light entertainment.

    There is a way, though. Start small. My feeing is that bloggers are trying to be a tail to wag the dog. The main method, at present, seems to be: Start writing, produce volumes of marginally competent copy, focus on getting as many readers/ followers as possible and then pontificate about how one feels ignored. Back to square one. Holiday companies want you to sell holidays, tourist boards want you to sell the destination. If you do not wish to go along with this simple ethos then you are wasting your time. You can still write honestly. You can still be independent – but at the end of the day you cannot reconcile total independence and total warts-and-all honesty with receiving an income. It is simply not going to happen.

    There are some excellent writers (and some not quite so excellent ones) who have embraced some of these concepts. They have aligned themselves with agents, operators and destinations and as a consequence, are successful.

    I could dilate further, if people would wish me to!

     
  13. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    @ALL:

    Mr Travelfish raised a good point earlier in the comments:

    http://www.tnooz.com/2011/12/23/news/travel-bloggers-time-to-stop-navel-gazing-and-get-on-with-the-job-please/#comment-1403509

    “Just thinking, a good followup to this piece would be a few Q&As with some of the abovementioned DMOs etc describing what they look for in a travel blogger. Highlighting what are “best practices” (in their view) would probably be helpful to many.”

    We are looking into it during the course of this week…

    Keen to keep these Q&As as worthwhile as possible, looks like a good opportunity for many people to chime in…

    So, what other questions should we ask?

     
    • pam

      1. What specific data do PR?DMO people want/need from bloggers?
      1a. How do they interpret that data?
      1b. What weight does it carry in investing in a blogger? For example, does low traffic disqualify you?

      2. How is quality work defined?
      2a. When evaluating ROI, is a positive result traffic based, “engagement” based or something else?
      2b. Is quality content defined as a overall positive review of the destination?
      2c. How important is it that the content generated from a trip be unique?

      3. How much homework do PR/DMO people on the blogger(s) beforehand?
      3a. Do they read the blogs before they extend an invite?
      3b. Do they ask others in the industry about the bloggers they’re thinking of inviting?
      3c. How much insider information is shared?
      3d. How much awareness is there of black hat strategy to game stats (buying FB friends, Twitter followers, inorganic link exchanges,etc.)

      4. How much weight do “off the blog” activities bear in selecting bloggers? Is it enough to be “just a girl with a blog”?

      5. How much risk are PR/DMO folks willing to take on content on blogs? It’s easy to “guarantee” a certain amount of shiny coverage with a strict itinerary and a closed bubble populated with friendly fun bloggers, it’s less easy to do that with individuals or +1 trips.

      I could probably come up with more, but I’ll step away from the comment box and give someone else a turn.

       
  14. Blagger

    @Kevin
    Ha, well good luck, I’ve not been home a lot over Xmas.

    Anyway, thanks for taking my points in consideration.

     
  15. Darren Cronian

    I’m not going to sit here and defend those bloggers that produce shit content and have their head up their arses and think the world owes them something because they have a high Klout score or have x number of Twitter followers, but I am bored at the amount of posts written by journalists and what I class as traditional travel writers, on the travel blogging community.

    Yes, they are blogs that have poorly written content – Yes, they are bloggers that publish sponsored content, that sell paid links, but remember that a lot of the changes that Google has made in 2011 have been around quality, so those blogs will simply get buried amongst all the good quality content that is published.

    In 2012, I would like to see less snarky posts about what the blogging community should or shouldn’t be doing and more highlights on bloggers that are doing good things within the travel industry – those bloggers that are being creative, innovative, and produce great content for the consumer, because after all isn’t the consumers that we should be writing for, not other bloggers, journalists and travel writers.

    I would like to see more bloggers collaborating – don’t be embarrassed to identify your skill gaps, and work with other bloggers, journalists, writers who have those skills.

    That’s all I’m going to say on this topic, but if there are any bloggers, writers or journalists want to collaborate with me in 2012 – you know where to find me. All the best in 2012.

     
    • Paul Smith

      Who are these “journalists and traditional travel writers” who are writing “99% of the negative content about the blogging community”?

      As far as I can see, from this post and others, there are as many bloggers who are critical of some of the current practices, as there are travel writers (and most of these travel writers are writing for online outlets). I’m a blogger, to all intents and purposes – I still write predominantly for online outlets, I’m certainly not a journalist.

      Why is everyone with a criticism marked down as a “journalist” or somebody working in “traditional media”? Why are they labelled as “jealous” or “scared of change”? You might be bored of the points raised in these articles – I’m bored of seeing people hide behind these massively sweeping generalisations instead of addressing the points.

      Can somebody please point to people who can be rigidly classed as “journalists” or “traditional writers”, or can we all accept that it isn’t the case doesn’t matter because it’s completely irrelevant to the points being made?

       
      • Karen Bryan

        Paul it seems to me that many travel bloggers quickly dismiss any criticism by saying it’s made by travel journos. As a blogger/online publisher, I am heartily sick of blogger vs journo debate but I’ve voiced concern over several aspects/claims of travel blogging.

         
      • Durant Imboden

        Good points. Fact is, a good many “traditional travel writers” and “journalists” have blogs these days. Christopher Elliott, Wendy Perrin, Chris Gray Faust, and Nancy D. Brown come to mind. Some are active in the “travel-blogging community,” and some aren’t, but the fact remains that they have as much right to call themselves “travel bloggers” as hobbyists and wannabe pros do.

         
      • Hal Peat

        @Paul – and why are there only crickets chirping in the 10 days since you asked that basic question and I repeated it? Oh wait, squeals of “Rude!” and “how dare you attack our lovely blogger community” are a great deflection but never mind – you’ll never ever get an honest answer to that question no matter how you ask it or say it because guess what? There is none.

         
  16. Durant Imboden

    It seems to me that many of the commenters here are so busy attacking the messenger that they’re ignoring the message (which, in my opinion, is both simple and reasonable):

    If you want to get free trips, ad money, or other perks from DMOs and travel vendors, you need to (a) reach active travelers and (b) provide audience data to back up your pitch.

    If you’re a “hey-me” personal blogger who has no interest in freebies or revenue, Kevin’s comments aren’t directed at you.

     
  17. Blagger

    @Kevin

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, Christmas got in the way.

    Ok, where were we?  I was making fun of that fact that you’d written a blog chastising self-indulgent bloggers which itself had a large self-indulgent intro.  You didn’t take it well and you dismissed my comment as I’d chosen to comment anonymously.  Hmm O.K.

    I’d just like to explain my reasons for feeling like I had to be anonymous…

    As the old proverb says “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel”. 

    I simply could do without the Tnooz ‘attack dogs’ on my case forever more.  

    As evidenced above and elsewhere on Tnooz contra comments often get a “snarky response” as Scott said above.  I couldn’t agree more.

    In addition, Tnooz has a large number of loyal followers who can be relied on to agree & support at any given opportunity.   I just could do without all the heat from the Tgang to be honest.

    Don’t get me wrong, I respect what you’ve done with Tnooz and I get the ‘disruption’ angle.
    I just think you try to be more accommodating, inclusive and dare I say it friendly, in your reactions to encourage real debate. 

    Otherwise all the sarcastic, cheap-shot responses will continue turn people off from commenting and you’ll end up with only sycophantic comments and RTs which has no benefit to anyone aside from a nice ego-boost.

    All the best for 2012.

    You’ll no doubt want the last word, so over to you… ;)

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @blagger

      A co-founder’s right, getting the last word in… ;)

      Anyway, losing the will to live going back and forth with you…

      Would just say that the so-called TGang (kinda like that actually, thx!), apart from our US sales guy Jim Craven, has hardly been leaping to my defence. And I wouldn’t want them to or dare ask them to – big enough and ugly enough to look after myself.

      Anyway, will happily take all your points on board about lightening the discussion, it’s a valid PoV and interesting to hear.

      We do have a certain style which is not everyone’s cup of tea, I admit, but I guess that is what sets us apart from the other travel trade media brands out there.

      But, hey, seriously, if you’re going to take the piss out of the intro, surely the least you can expect is a retort?

      BTW: I would’ve reacted the same way if you’d posted anonymously or not, I just find it curious that the most snarky or vitriolic comments often come anonymously.

      Trying to second-guess from the IP address is proving more difficult than normal, unfortunately – people move around at Xmas :) .

      Seriously, whoever you are, Happy New Year.

       
  18. Paul Smith

    Darren, I don’t understand why this discussion is constantly forced into a journalist vs blogger debate. 

    I don’t understand why any criticism of the methods and content of some (not all) travel bloggers is instantly dismissed because it may have been offered by a journalist – I simply haven’t seen a single comment from a journalist suggesting they are somehow threatened by travel blogs, or that they know best because of their position, yet that appears to be the justification for waving aside any debate. 

    I’m not a journalist, I’m a writer – I made my money blogging before I received my first newspaper commission. I don’t understand the manic desire to label everyone who has an opinion. 

    Darren, nobody is criticising you or your work – you’ve a professional work ethic, you provide quality content. More importantly, you don’t assume a position of importance above others, or speak on their behalf. You organised one of the most relevant and important events for the community, yet you’d never assume to speak on its behalf.

    This article is about those travel bloggers who pump low-quality content onto the internet, who confuse activity with quality and influence, and who set themselves up as experts without the need for validation. To reiterate – the issue isn’t with any and every travel blogger; it’s with those that have expectations way beyond their ability.

    I stopped blogging so I wouldn’t be associated with people like that. Like Matt, I’m happy getting on and doing my own thing; I only care because I see the good work of some sullied by the reputation of others.

     
    • Darren Cronian

      Paul,

      I get the impression that you’ve assumed because I have posted a comment on this topic that I am sensitive about people criticising my work as a blogger. I’m not. What I am trying to understand is why journalists and traditional travel writers have a problem with bloggers because 99% of the negative content about the blogging community is written by these people.

      I also read the post and I know that it is about the poor quality content out there written by bloggers. I also see on my Twitter stream that some bloggers have their heads up their arses and think that the world owe them something because they have a high Klout score or because they have x number of followers on Twitter.

      In 2012, i would like to see less snarky posts aimed at bloggers and more highlights on those bloggers that are doing great things in the space, are being creative, innovative. Please?

       
      • Hal Peat

        Maybe for once you should try to substantiate your utterly absurd comments, Cronian. You were called out by Paul Smith and like a child you just keep reiterating your boo-hoo rubbish about “I’m trying to understand why journalists and traditional travel writers have a problem with bloggers because 99% of the negative comment about the blogging community is written by these people.” So do elucidate some more: who is this singular blogging community you keep referring to? The one that’s in with your clique and associated cliques at TBEX? You honestly presume to speak for a fictional non-entity called the “blogging community”? All half a million and counting individuals out there? Likewise with travel writers – they all march to their own drummer, sorry we don’t have a secret handshake we use to get together and bitch about you. In 2012, take your own advice and stuff your snark before you visit it on others of whom you clearly know nothing of.

         
        • Caitlin @ Roaming Tales

          I recognise Hal’s name from other comment threads on other blogs. He seem to make a habit of being rude and insulting to other people.

           
          • Melvin

            @Darren & @Caitlin It’s best just to ignore that. I mean you see his comments and it’s not really worth to respond, right? A good & fair discussion is fine, but there is no need to get so rude.

             
  19. Stuart

    Mainly I want to write about the Cocteau Twins and how they influenced Tangerine Dream (and vice versa), the 90′s Indie Scene, trip-hop, Cafe Del Mar, theIbiza dance and most Scottish bands since the early 80′s (navel gazers my arse) but I suppose I better stick to Blogger-dom, and their tendency towards a little bit too much Aristolean self examination, shall we say

    1. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with a self love and chat, and god knows every other section of the travel industry does it, methinks a lot of folk haven’t susssed that it can scare off potential sponsors. Going to charge the rates of a professional writer? Then you need to behave like a professional. Comment fine. Disagree fine. We’re not in North Korea after all. Slagging off this author on Facebook is amateur hour. Stop it if you want to be taken seriously.

    2. Analyticis is an issue. Benji at #tbcamp11 made a good commment about analytics improving over the next 2 years and the Marketing Director from lastminute.com said they were spending a bundle on it (two year ago). You need to know how many hits you’re getting plus their source. Like other travco pros it’s the first thing I do in the morning and last thing I do at night. So important.

    3. Quality. No honey no money. Original well-written content is hard work to compile and even harder to write well. And then you come to the hardest bit which is flogging it. That’s where the focus needs to be though. On the plus side Google likes quality, and I believe they do, so better content will become more valuable (that’s the theory anyway),thus (SEO-wise) more Panda changes should be good for the pro blogger/writer community.

    4. I’ve been to DMOs and asked them for marketing money for writers/bloggers. I got looked at as if I’m a bit mad. Most are conservative organisations who get confused by the noise. They don’t get it. Yet. But they are watching. Exactly why point 1 is so important. Worth pointing out that it took them about 3 years to get Google Adwords campaigns. They’ll come round eventually, just might take some time.

    5. I love good travel writing. And roundtheworldflights.com is lucky enough to have some top scribblers a scribbling for us. But some of the best writing I’ve read this year is by pro blogger/writers (as opposed to writers who blog). Here’s my top 3

    http://www.legalnomads.com/2011/06/an-ode-to-spices.html

    http://www.501places.com/2011/10/nagasaki-atomic-bomb-museum/

    http://www.adventurouskate.com/adventurous-kate-gets-shipwrecked-in-indonesia/

    I feel that if the blogging industry can write more like this then it’ll be just fine. But the Travel Business is just that, a business. Next year is going to be a toughie. Time to get the quills out, head down and get grafting. Good luck.

    Cheers Stu

    ps agree about travelllll.com – smashing site

     
  20. Darren Cronian

    I wish I could see my navel never mind gaze at it.

    Well, I have never known a time in the six years I have been blogging that the new and old media have written about everything that is wrong with blogging. Why? Do journalists and traditional travel writers feel threatened that bloggers are a more cost effective platform to promote a destination – probably so, and so they should. I’d take my hat off to people like Keith, who has got off his backside and tried to think of new ways to do his passion, which is travelling. I am a firm believer that you should try things out and see if they work in business.

    There’s no doubt that they are some bad writers out their in the blogging community, hell, I am the first to admit that I am not a good writer, but, I don’t think I have done bad out of this blogging lark. I think 2012 needs to be the year where writers, journalists and bloggers, need to work together, we are all in the travel industry for a reason – be it trying to make money, or just have a passion for travel.

     
  21. Hotel Haiku

    As someone whose past life was in the indie music biz, I love the reference points to the early 90s and as someone who has been previously described as a ‘travel blogger’ on Tnooz, I wonder where Hotel Haiku fits in to the analogy?

    There can’t be many travel bloggers, if any, to have been interviewed by Laurene Laverne live on radio, as I was earlier this year for my work with Hotel Haiku:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/laurenlaverne/2011/04/mpfree-27th-april.shtml

    Hotel Haiku was, in part, conceived as a reaction to travel blogging and all the cookie-cutter crap web design (think premium WP themes) cluttering up the web these days. My prediction for 2012 is that it will only get worse!

     
  22. Roni Weiss

    “The same could said for the – sorry, controversial comment here – bizarre and often tedious Twitter chats such as #TNI and #TTOT. Certainly they are perhaps interesting initiatives for the community, but do they truly serve anything else other than allowing bloggers to show off their knowledge?”

    WTF? “Bizarre and often tedious”? I have no clue by what definition #TTOT qualifies as ‘bizarre’. As for tedious, it’s what you make of it.

    What do they serve other than showing off knowledge? It’s a community. I’ve made great friends through #TTOT (and, to be fair, during my prior time in #TNI, as well). It’s a place to share ideas and opinions.

    I am profoundly shocked by your ‘bizarre’ comment.

    And for clarity’s sake, I’d link to the FB page, rather than just a Twitter search: http://facebook.com/TravelTalkOnTwitter

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @roni – cheers for chiming in, appreciate you making the effort.

      #TTOT #TNI #TRAVEX et al are certainly not everyone’s idea of a useful way to spend an hour of their time.

      Please don’t be shocked by the “bizarre” comment :)

      I think hundreds of people retweeting each other’s questions and responses to often utterly anodyne questions is, well, bizarre. That is all.

      I appreciate that some people might find it useful and get some tips, but for me the spirit of travelling is actually about discovering this stuff for yourself.

      I fear for the day when a travel chat session has the question which seems to strike at the heart of why Twitter can sometimes be so utterly pointless (“Hey, I’m eating a bagel”).

      Q1: Best place in the world to eat a bagel?

      Or maybe that one has already been asked ;)

      Anyway………………………

      Re the link – thought it would better to link to the Twitter search for #TTOT given this is where the initiative is based.

       
  23. Durant Imboden

    ” it’s not only about the numbers, but about the quality of the content and the engagement of the community”

    It may not be ONLY about the numbers, but the numbers are a pretty good indicator of whether the DMO or travel vendor should invest time in vetting the blog or site.

    As for reader engagement, that may be less important than reader motivation. Are the blog’s readers interested in the blogger’s travels or in traveling?

    Demographics matter, too–and for blogs or sites with reasonable levels of traffic, U.S. demographic data is available at Quantcast.com.

     
  24. Stuart McD

    Just thinking, a good followup to this piece would be a few Q&As with some of the abovementioned DMOs etc describing what they look for in a travel blogger. Highlighting what are “best practices” (in their view) would probably be helpful to many.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @stuart – i agree 101%.

      I’m looking into it and will happily publish something in the New Year with some pointers.

       
  25. Nomadic Matt

    Here’s my deal with this ongoing discussion:

    I don’t care.

    Not one bit.

    Does the unprofessionalism in travel blogging hurt? Yes but it simply makes it harder but not impossible to get sponsors, coverage, etc.

    However, at the end of the day, if you produce quality content, have been cited in many places as a trusted source, and have good numbers, people aren’t going to care about what others in your industry do, they will simply care about you. It will make it harder to be taken seriously since you’ll be associated with an unprofessional crowd but in the end, your work speaks for itself.

    I don’t care who gets sent to Jordan, who is selling text links, who is ruining their content with sponsored posts, or who is talking to other bloggers. My success is dependent on my ability to get my shit together, not theirs. If they want to burn out in a blaze of press trips, they can. I’ll still be doing what i’m doing, which is working just fine for me.

     
  26. Audrey

    This discussion is timely as Dan and I just returned from an “e-tourism and e-marketing” conference run by IOETI in Cairo. We spoke on the benefits to DMOs, PR companies and tour companies of working with travel bloggers. Yes, we realize this is a common theme. However, we focused on the concept of working with travel bloggers as storytellers, as agents to get a destination/property/tour story out there.

    We emphasized that the goal of this cooperation is not just buzz, but conversion and action — people actually booking trips, tours, etc. This is difficult to measure, I realize, but it’s gradually becoming easier.  (For the record, I realize that the impact of print is relatively immeasurable.)

    Everyone wants a quick answer to the question of: “How do I find the right match in a travel blogger?” We emphasized the importance of qualitative as well as quantitative research when choosing a travel blogger. As Pam (and others) mentioned, it’s not only about the numbers, but about the quality of the content and the engagement of the community — a community that extends beyond travel bloggers. The reality is that if DMOs, PR companies and others in the industry are really interested in ROI, they have to spend time and energy on a blog and its social media networks to sort this out. There’s no magic tool right now that does this for you.

     
  27. Durant Imboden

    The word “blog” is vague: It’s about process, not about content, and it encompasses everything from personal diaries to professionally-written columns with reader comments in The New York Times.

    Instead of thinking of yourself as an aspiring professional “blogger,” think of yourself as a “Web publisher” and behave accordingly. Put narcissism aside and focus on serving your readers. Just as important, define your desired target audience and, if necessary, adjust your target audience and content strategy. (“Hitchhiking” might be a great topic for a personal blog, but if you want to earn a living from your site, targeting an audience of people who can’t or won’t pay for travel isn’t likely to be an effective publishing strategy.)

    Of course, the above doesn’t apply if you simply want to write about your ’round-the-world trip for family, friends, and fans–in which case you can go on being a “travel blogger,” which is a perfectly honorable and worthwhile pursuit. But if you want DMOs, travel vendors, and advertisers to come a-calling, give some thought to evolving from “travel blogger” to “travel publisher.”

     
  28. Happy Hotelier

    Hey Melvin!

    That’s gooood! Very good to know. There is not enough fun out there! Although I fear TTOT may succumb to its own success. For me old eyes it goes too fast, gives an information overload and takes too much time to participate…Nevertheless Good Luck!

     
  29. Melvin

    It seems that I should tell you a bit more about #TTOT, as it seems that you miss a bit of information. I’ve created #TTOT just for fun & sharing travel experiences. It’s completely non-commercial and we don’t care at all if any DMO or any marketing guy wants metrics.

    I’m just proud that it’s possible to run a chat like that without any profit reasons like others do. And I’m also proud that the whole industry gathers together each Tuesday & have fun to chat about travel.

    The hashtag reaches 2 million users and creates 25 million impressions! Puuuh! Whatever people think about Twitter stats, but this is & stays impressive! There are every week over 1000 travelers joining actively & many more following the hashtag live.

    Again… Nobody earns a cent with #TTOT. It’s for the fun!

    Maybe you just join #TTOT once in a while & see how much fun we have. It’s not at all a show where travelers show off. Sure, there will be a few who do that, but the majority is just having a fun time.

     
    • Simon Jones

      You seem to have made some very peculiar decisions this past year, Melvin. It seems to me that #ttot is nothing more than a brag-fest. Are you really that proud of the fact that you’ve spent all that time on a project in which you have received nothing in return? Perhaps you should seek some professional guidance because you appear to be way off course. 

       
      • Roni Weiss

        “received nothing in return”… Meaning monetizing/sponsoriship is the only thing of benefit?

        Pretty narrow version of ROI, Simon.

         
        • Hal Peat

          Yes, since supposedly all these events like TBEX and Blogworld are largely about how to monetize a website. If you’re just concerned with having a koombayah lovefest, however, why not start up your own annual event on how to garner more lovenhugs. Why be posting on other people’s forums where you’re clearly irrelevant except for the fact that you’re there to get some traction for your own dismal blog per your link in this thread?

          Let’s leave aside the fact that in 2011 you and “Melvin” and others went on a bashing campaign against #TNI trying to wipe them out over the fact that they were using people’s tweets. Actually, that seems to have been partial payback for them not cutting you into their profit-making arrangement? How lame, but obviously the agenda was to diminish them so you’d get off to a better flying start with #TTOT. Yes, talk about pretty narrow….

           
          • Melvin

            Hal, you have no idea what you are talking about… So just stop & forget it. What you’ve just said is completely wrong & you have no clue about #TNI and/or #TTOT how it seems. So please, solve your own problems, try to get happy & take it easy.

             
          • Hal Peat

            Melvin says:
            December 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm

            Hal, you have no idea what you are talking about… So just stop & forget it. What you’ve just said is completely wrong & you have no clue about #TNI and/or #TTOT how it seems. So please, solve your own problems, try to get happy & take it easy.
            ________________________________________________________________

            Really? What do I have “no idea” what I’m talking about? What I stated is factually correct. I have more than just clues about TNI, there’s the evidence all there in your other pal’s rather boring navelgazathon about #TNI & the Horrible Crime of not paying people for their Tweets. back earlier this year. Then there’s your slurring account in email to me of what happened between you and the operators of TNI. I’m not the one with problems, Melvin, but you may have a few in 2012.

             
          • Kevin May

            Kevin May

            @melvin/@hal…

            time out, fellas.

            please.

             
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @melvin – thx for the comment…

      This is what I wrote in the piece:

      “The same could said for the – sorry, controversial comment here – bizarre and often tedious Twitter chats such as #TNI and #TTOT. Certainly they are perhaps interesting initiatives for the community, but do they truly serve anything else other than allowing bloggers to show off their knowledge?”

      Certainly didn’t make any comment about monetising it.

      The point I am making is around whether it’s valuable to people outside of the 1,000 that participate in it – as Simon notes in an earlier comment, it’s a big of a brag-fest, to be honest.

      Anyway, your metrics – “the hashtag reaches 2 million users and creates 25 million impressions”.

      If any of the tweet-chats had any real value, from a content perspective, they would have marketers queueing outside the door to have a chance of tapping into those 25 million impressions and reaching two million users in some way.

       
      • Roni Weiss

        You say it like we haven’t had people come to #TTOT to want to sponsor/co-opt it.

        Of course there is value in it. And we have values and have chosen to run #TTOT based on those principles, avoiding the problems of sponsorship and monetization that others have run into, causing a community desire for an alternative.

         
      • Melvin

        @Kevin There were quite a few very big businesses who contacted me already and asked for the chance of sponsoring it.

        We’ve started #TTOT for other reasons, which are to have fun & not for the profit, as we made our own experiences with another chat. You should ask the other chat how much profit they make with each single event. You will be amazed how big that amount is. That will give you the answer that there is a huge value for some marketers.

        There are still people in the travel & marketing industry who haven’t understood social media and blogging yet and what it will mean in the next few years. If they don’t see the value, that’s totally fine, but there are others who does see the value.

        @Simon There is no need to have proffessional guidance. I think we have a fab community and team, otherwise #TTOT wouldn’t be the biggest travel event on Twitter.

         
        • Hal Peat

          Go on then, tell us all what the Mysterious Value in social media is that you alone know all about, Melvin? We notice you keep attacking print writers but never name them out. We notice that you also claim to have a secret insight and knowledge of how social media works which somehow you also claim others don’t see. Yet you never explain exactly what that is…just like you never explain who all these hordes of travel writers are that hate on you. My own conclusion is that you’re just projecting your own genuine hatred and fear of travel journalists, because when you think you have any competition in any sphere then it becomes a zero sum game of destroy the other party online that people like you or Weiss or blagger want to play. Kind of like when you couldn’t get the type of control and MONEY you yourselves wanted from the TNI people, then you also set out to try and run them through the mud. People like you are more about the money than anyone else, you just don’t succeed very well at it.

           
  30. Liv

    I totally agree that ultimately quality content triumphs all. It is usually fairly easy to notice within the first few sentences how much information is being shared in blog posts, or how much I will enjoy reading them, so I embrace the diversity.

     
  31. Karen Bryan

    I asked where are travel bloggers heading beyond the next free trip:
    http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/blog/2011/03/29/blogging-business/
    in March this year? I concluded:
    ” For me it comes back to the reader, I will only have readers, traffic and earn a living if I give my readers something that is useful, entertaining or informative to them. Readers are pretty smart and if they think a blogger never mentions anything negative about a press trip, they won’t trust what’s written in that blog, they’ll just see it as advertorial and the social media equivalent of a press release.”

     
  32. David Whitley

    So, reading between the lines, travel companies really want to put some investment into blogging, but aren’t doing so because what they see out there is pretty much a wall of crap?

    If that’s the case, it’s the best news I’ve heard all year. The amount of crud out there doesn’t devalue good stuff – it makes it more needed and more valuable.

    Here’s a prediction for you. 2012 will be the year where the current cosy travel blogging circle jerk will be muscled in on by ‘outsiders’ with new ideas and ways of doing things. 2013 will be the year that these infiltrators will start getting it right and pulling in the ad dollars. 2014? The delicious irony of the current guard complaining that all of these newcomers have bastardised their industry and the new way of doing things. 2015? After six or seven years of prolifically posting rubbish for no return, aside from a few three course meals bought by misguided tourist boards, the self-styled travel blogging industry of 2011 gives up and goes back to the office jobs to stave off poverty.

    The industry is foetal; many of the long-term successes probably haven’t emerged yet. And the cast will have changed dramatically by the time travel blogging is part of the establishment.

    Hooray. And merry Christmas.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @david

      “travel companies really want to put some investment into blogging, but aren’t doing so because what they see out there is pretty much a wall of crap?”

      Pretty much… But also – at least in the conversations I’ve had in recent with the people in the industry that would certainly have the ability to support bloggers – they apparently want less of the constant analysis and soul-searching around the craft and more of, well, what these people can apparently do.

       
  33. Happy Hotelier

    Ah
    I said I wouldn’t comment, because I don’t monetise my blog. So I’m glad I don’t have to gaze at my own navel. I like the one shown here better.

    However
    Just look who is talking: Our ultimate DJ Kevin shuffling as usual between his Journo persona and his Blogger persona (Tnooz is a blog ain’t it? ant travel is the subject ain’t it? albeit the tech part of travel). I do like his eloquentia and the fact he succeeds time after time to needle you and me.

    To me the issue is the same as with photography. Everybody can take a photo and publish it nowadays. Everybody does. However the Airline Pro’s and the DMO pros won’t just pick any photo to tell their side of the story to the public. Everybody can write about travel in a blog and does so. Just the same old story…Still there are travel writers out there….still there are photographers out there….

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @happy hotelier – thx for being sufficiently moved by it all that you had to give in and leave a comment :)

      Not deliberately needling people, just highlighting a few points that have come to the surface in recent months from talking to people in the industry.

       
  34. Paul Smith

    Ren / Pam – there’s a danger of lumping all ‘travel bloggers’ intogether and tarring them with the same brush, and I don’t think that’s what Kevin set out to do.

    The issue is with those individuals who are shouting the loudest, who are looking to monetise their actions, who are of the opinion that blogging and social media cannot be ignored by any DMO. On that last point, they’re probably right.

    Except.

    Many of those concerned aren’t very good communicators. The quality of the content they’re churning out is poor. They continually mistake activity for engagement and see no issue with spamming Twitter with self-indulgence. These individuals carry on as if numbers – of Twitter followers, of posts published – equate to ability. 

    However, because they shout the loudest, they find themselves in a position of strength because there are DMOs and agencies who don’t understand the space at all. They’re considered to ‘represent’ travel bloggers as a whole, and present themselves as experts on the subject. The one-eyed man is king. 

    If you try to challenge these individuals, your opinion is deemed irrelevant, usually because you’re a ‘journalist’ (a derogatory term for anyone who has dared to make money from writing for the media). I made my living writing for the web before my first print commission; I’ve also had plenty of experience of social media and travel – yet I’m considered either ‘jealous’ of their success or too ‘old-school’ to understand their methodology.

    DMOs will learn from the process. They’ll look to this clique of self-styled experts because they’re so pro-active in the industry. The agencies that are savvy will recognise the potential but look to raise the bar, and that will be good news for bloggers who can offer ability as well as an audience.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @paul – thx for clarifying my point in your first few pars, clearly got it across far more eloquently than I :)

       
  35. Robert Hicks

    Is it time for bloggers to drive blind whilst they write about the kaleidoscope of travel? Are they Paralysed whilst their travel writing dreams burn down.

    Do they have the taste for it anymore, are they like the planes leaving a vapour trail, on a road to nowhere.

    Will it be a Chelsea girl who takes the stage by storm or will be it more of the same, like when the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @robert – Ride lyrics and Wisdom of Cantona in the same comment, this is taking quite a surreal turn :)

       
      • Robert Hicks

        9 or 10 ride songs in the 3 paragraphs, with a dash of Eric for good measure

         
  36. kimba

    “The problem with travel bloggers is that, outwardly, to people like me and also DMOs [Destination Marketing Organisations], they seem to be writing solely for just themselves or other bloggers.”

    Yes, I am writing solely for myself. I write about things that interest me, whether that is a destination or a piece of art, a memory, or a snippet of culture such as a recipe or a thought on language … I think the point that is being missed by the social media and content manager of a major tourism board, and tourism boards in general, is that a lot of people travel to a destination because of the stories that they’ve heard about a place – not because the place was sold to them via a method approved by a public relations team.

    I don’t write for other bloggers. I do write for people who interested in art and culture and as a by product of those two subjects, travel. My stories are valuable to the travelers that like to read and be influenced by others’ experiences.

    Is that so much of a niche in and of itself that it doesn’t warrant support by tourism boards or visitors’ bureaus?

     
  37. Blagger

    @Kevin

    I just used ‘word count’ function in MS Word, easy.

    Try it out, it might avoid the occasional self-indulgent blog intro. ;)

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @blagger

      It’s heartening to know you care so much that you took the time to cut and paste the intro into MS Word.

      However, I would certainly take on board your critique of the writing style for this particular piece if you didn’t post your comments anonymously.

       
      • Scott

        Wow… this is my first visit to the site, and I have to say, these snarky responses are a big turnoff. Anon’s critique of the intro seems totally spot-on. Why the oversensitive response? To this reader, at least, nothing shreds credibility faster than being a jerk to people who make valid criticism (anonymous or not.)

         
        • Kevin May

          Kevin May

          @scott – wouldn’t say it was overly sensitive at all given the initial snarky comment about the intro.

          Seriously, would advise not to leave comments like that if one doesn’t expect the writer of the piece (err, me) to respond in a similar fashion.

           
  38. Stuart McD

    Before anything else, I do think the term “travel blogger” has been somewhat hijacked by all this. There’s no right way to be a travel blogger — and it certainly need not involve money.

    That aside, what you’re saying is get your act together right? Some have been — for some time — they just don’t have a Twitter hash for it.

    It’s just an unfortunate feature of some of the mediums that retain our attention, that the bloggers who either haven’t got their act together or who are pursuing approaches that are, lets be polite, ill considered, are often the ones making the most racket — and perhaps, longer term, doing the most damage.

    There are simple solutions: Unfollows, blocks, filters and so on to reduce their clamour to a distant hum. I assume some of the DMOs you talked to are familiar with these.

    The internet is a big place and once someone is ignored, it’s far more difficult to regain attention than it ever was to gain it in the first place. People will learn that over time and, as you say, the talented will rise to the top.

     
    • Caitlin

      I don’t think Kevin ever suggested that travel blogging had to be about making money? He was addressing those that do.

      “Well, the obvious answer in part is that bloggers often do write just for themselves, using the web as a way of charting their journeys around the world.
      But for every Hey-Me blogger, there are countless others trying to be professional, make some kind of revenue from the form to support their travels, even become businesses in their own right.
      They want to reach the industry, be paid for their content either through one-off commissions or be taken on trips (more on that later). While this is certainly starting to happen, it simply isn’t on the scale where an entire community can be supported.”

       
      • Stuart McD

        It wasn’t so much directed at this particular post, but at this conversation in general.

        When people talk about “travel writers” I think it’s a fair assumption that in the vast majority of cases the writer is at least attempting to earn something from their writings.

        Not so with travel blogging — in fact I’d say for most travel bloggers the thought of making money out of their blog hasn’t even crossed their mind.

        In an ideal world they’d be a different term for those trying to make a living (or just some beer money) out of it — just to avoid confusion and offense I guess.

         
  39. John R

    @Craig Makepeace – Thanks for recommending the Gary Vaynerchuk video on Youtube. I am going to Twitter and thank one of my customers right now. Thanks John R.

     
  40. pam

    Mmmm. A few disorderly thoughts…

    1. It’s not unusual, when I’m being courted for participation or asking for media support, for a DMO or PR agency to ask for the numbers you’re dismissing as not valuable. I’m asked for RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, Alexa and/or Compete ranking, once I was even asked for my Klout score. Those metrics that you’re claiming are meaningless are exactly the metrics I’m being asked to present. YMMV and all that, but I recently compiled a proposal for support for a small group, and this is what the DMO’s PR firm wanted.

    2. A bit of inside baseball seems necessary and healthy. Maybe it’s the medium that makes the inside stuff so public, but I’ve found the open discussions of policy, process, that sort of thing that I’ve initiated on my own site to be pretty helpful. This post is inside baseball, too. It’s through conversations like this that we learn “what an audience can be and how to grow it.” Meta discussions that are smart are a great opportunity to share ideas.

    3. Your travelsphere might be different than my travelsphere. I hang out with writers and photographers who are devoted to craft, or business minded types who are trying to use blogging as part of a larger strategy. Some of these folks are pretty new, but they’re all striving to do quality work. They’re also unbelievably generous with their leads, their time, their skills. Circle jerking and willy waving happens (two, count them, two genitalia analogies in this piece!) but over /there/ amongst people who have different priorities. That stuff is actually pretty easy to ignore, and it devalues the, well, solidarity, I’ve experienced while communicating with total pros. Shirtless profile guy bragging about getting hammered on his 14th bloggers trip? I don’t read that guy. Ever.

    4. Here’s an interesting cross reference on bloggers writing for bloggers. Over on World Hum, there’s a piece by Tom Swick that suggests that we travel writers may, by the nature of what we do, be writing for… travel writers.

    http://www.worldhum.com/features/travel-stories/are-travel-writers-the-new-poets-though-not-in-a-good-lyrical-way-20111024/

    I’ve more but I’ve probably already gone past the polite comment length.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @nerdseyeview

      thx for the disorderly thoughts :)

      what the article is *trying* ( :) ) to do is get across what many in the industry think.

      i’m not a travel blogger and certainly no expert in the commercialisation of writing about travel (i’m a business journalist, it’s a very different craft), just sharing what some in the industry – watching from the sidelines, perhaps willing to support the blogging world – have concerns about.

       
      • pam

        Did the “many in the industry” also talk about how they pick their participants? Because if they’re seeing poor quality coverage as a result of their investment, they might want to reconsider what they look for when they decide who they’re inviting on their press trip.

        There are always going to be loads of Hey Me bloggers, the medium is perfect for that. But if the “many in the industry” can’t filter that style for themselves, then they’re getting what they paid for, aren’t they?

        There was a PR guy at TBEX in NYC that said he wouldn’t support a blogger (or writer of any kind) unless they had a specific angle they wanted to cover. “I want to go to Petra” is not an angle. “I want to find out what makes Jordanian food Jordanian” is an angle. (Just an example, I’m not pointing fingers.)

        Do those industry people ask if the writer has specific interests or a point of view on the world before booking plane tickets? Or is to good enough for them to look at stats and demographics? Let’s get some “popular” bloggers and send them to Jordan isn’t exactly a strategy that’s going to buy them sophisticated coverage, is it?

        Sidebar: I totally want to go to Petra. :P

         
  41. Ren

    It’s an interesting read, though maybe not one I fully agree with. TTOT (which I participate in) and TNI (which I don’t) I think have their place within the travel blogging community; it might not be for everyone, but it’s interesting to me because I get to see different points-of-view on the same topic. For example, I get to see differences on how one thinks about winter and winter travel between someone who lives in a temperate region and someone who lives in a tropical region.

    Also, I feel like the article is leading me to think that the message on writing “quality content” is mainly about writing for the public, or writing “SEO bait” that’ll get one the necessary traffic and metrics, and ergo money. I guess that’s valid in the general money-making scheme of things, which I suppose the article is really about, but then I guess there’s gonna be some kind of segmentation and segregation within the travel blogging sphere. “Write more articles about destinations and airlines and hotels and tour operators and activities.” It doesn’t say anything about writing about one’s experiences, which the article labels as “navel-gazing.” But… that’s generally what I do, and that’s generally what I enjoy reading on blogs.

    To wrap up this long-winded comment… maybe we’re moving towards a point where there’s going to be two classes of travel bloggers. One is the professional travel blogger, whose main goal is to provide tips and write content that bumps up his/her metrics. The other is the amateur travel blogger, probably littered with navel-gazers like me. And… I guess that’s fine.

    Sorry for the long-winded and rambly comment. >.<

     
    • Ren

      In any case… I think ultimately this article is valid if you truly are making travel blogging your profession. But not all of us are doing that, for various reasons. And I feel like the article discounts what we do as “navel-gazing” activity that ultimately negatively affects the image of travel blogging as a whole. I don’t want to be viewed as someone who’s doing that, and I hope that’s not what professional travel bloggers think of small fry such as myself.

      Again, that’s my impression.

       
    • Hal Peat

      @Ren – “I feel like the article is leading me to think that the message on writing “quality content” is mainly about writing for the public, or writing “SEO bait” that’ll get one the necessary traffic and metrics, and ergo money. I guess that’s valid in the general money-making scheme of things, which I suppose the article is really about, but then I guess there’s gonna be some kind of segmentation and segregation within the travel blogging sphere. “Write more articles about destinations and airlines and hotels and tour operators and activities.” It doesn’t say anything about writing about one’s experiences, which the article labels as “navel-gazing.” But… that’s generally what I do, and that’s generally what I enjoy reading on blogs.”

      I didn’t come away perceiving any of that being said by Kevin. Or by Matthew Teller or by David Whitley in their recent blogs relating to this same topic. What they’re each expressing in their own way is a frustration with self-indulgence that has nothing to do with being personable or engaging but just…self-indulgent. i.e., the navel gazing, which is only self-involved and really, even when people who are actually interesting humans like James Joyce does it in “Ulysses” it’s still ultimately off-putting. I think what Matthew/David/Kevin are all advocating each in their own ways is finding the right mixture of valid and valuable observation, bringing along the first-person point of view while still providing informational or insightful narrative that conveys both fact and some of the likely experiential quality of a place or event. It really doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. Elevating oneself to self-designated travel celebrity status based purely on the number of your “followers” is just the online equivalent of what Barbara Walters recently stated to Kim Kardashian: “you are famous for doing absolutely nothing…you don’t sing, you don’t act, you don’t perform, you have no talent.” In other words, in this instance we’re discussing if you have a talent to deliver both useful information and an engaging sense of what you’re describing, then be brave and do it. But stop gazing at the navel. We all have one, but it’s really not a basis on which to relate to you.

       
  42. @CravenTravels

    Kevin:

    Fantastic post, couldn’t agree more, especially: “dive into your analytics for a bit longer and come up with data and trends which can support the commercialisation of the craft.” Plays right into my 2012 prediction: http://www.tnooz.com/predictions2012

    Jim Craven (Tnooz)
    1. Social media analytics and travel bloggers
    Social media influence analysis and metrics will improve significantly and standards and benchmarks will start to be established.
    These metrics and benchmarks will help travel suppliers, CVB/DMOs and PR companies give a weighted value to travel bloggers when comparing to travel print journalists. This will provide travel bloggers a quantitative way to gain a seat at the press trip invite table.
    Ad dollars will follow, but will be slower to migrate from print travel publications to individually branded travel blogger sites. The migration has started; the analysis tools and metrics will help it gain speed.

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @jim – thx.

      be careful, you – as a Tnoozer – first complimenting the article and then linking to your own Prediction 2012 will probably find us accused of navel gazing.

      :)

       
  43. David Whitley

    Eventually, somehow and somewhere, a solitary travel blogger will get to be as successful as Ride. That’s a heartening thought.

     
  44. Blagger

    Wow, a 400 word intro about music history?

    To paraphrase your own article: “does this serve anything else other than to show off your music knowledge?”

    ;)

     
  45. Amy Moore

    I don’t think you can overlook one of the inherent problems with blogging about travel. A lot of travel bloggers begin writing to chronicle their journey and for a majority of them, their journeys end. They have moved to another portion of their life and although they may travel infrequently, it’s usually not frequently enough to sustain a full travel blog. So either their blog ends or they start blogging about something else which is often about blogging itself. I think you’d see it in mommy blogging too if kids grew up as fast as trips end.

     
    • Caz Makepeace

      I think a lot of mummy bloggers blog about their lives as mums, and of course the children play a large part in that. But mothers never stop being mothers even though their kids grow up, so they always have something to blog about

       
  46. Turtle

    Great post – and there’s a lot of food for thought here.

    It’s interesting to hear what DMOs and other travel companies think about the blogging world. And in some ways it doesn’t matter whether it’s wrong, too simplistic, naive, or spot on. If that’s what they think of travel blogging, then that’s what we need to address.

     
  47. Alicia

    Interestingly enough I found a link to this article on Twitter. I’m not a travel blogger; my blog falls unenthusiastically under the “fashion” umbrella. I really feel that this post can be applied to pretty much any blogging genre. The blogging community “circle jerk” as you so eloquently state is present in every facet of the blogosphere. I’m guilty of it to a small degree but I see it happening under my own umbrella more offensively and it’s pretty sickening. It makes me wonder who really cares? I’m really pleased to see someone say something publicly about it. It’s given me a lot to think about going into 2012. Thank you.

     
  48. Durant Imboden

    Nice post, and it ties in with the question of whether travel blogs are “social media,” editorial media, or both.

    We need to remember that not all bloggers are going to be professionals or even *want* to be professionals. People who launch blogs to record memories, to express themselves, and to share experiences with family, friends, and fans are perfectly entitled to gaze at their navels and interact umbilically with their communities. They’re under no obligation to write for broader audiences, publish their traffic data, or worry about perceived conflicts of interest. As long as they don’t violate the law, they can blog in any way they like.

    Bloggers who think of themselves as being professionals–or who don’t, but who aspire to professional status–are another story. They should focus on serving their readers, and they need to be realistic about the level of support they can expect from DMOs and travel vendors until they’re able to deliver suitable audiences. At the same time, DMOs and travel vendors need to exercise due diligence when handing out freebies. If a blogger with a circulation of a thousand unique visitors per month gets invited on a $10,000 trip and the sponsor’s return on investment is nil, that’s the sponsor’s fault as much as it is the blogger’s.

     
  49. Craig Makepeace

    Hi Kevin,

    Firstly, I take your point in regards to bloggers writing too much for the general blogger community and networking just within the niche. When starting one’s blog of course it is important to reach out and network with your fellow bloggers for guidence and support.

    But one should not just cater their articles to other bloggers, but to the much wider audience on the web. And yes we must focus a lot on the logistics of travel and stories, as feedback shows people want your personal stories, they want to be informed and inspired about how to travel and the logisitcs involved.

    And that is the direction I will personally be focused on the next 12 months with big travel plans in the works and for our blog.

    Secondly, I’d like to answer your ‘metrics’ question with a question…

    How can an airline or hotel or whatever prove to me who has actually watched and acted on their 30 second TV commercial? How do they know if anyone reads their full page magazine spread on page 139? They can’t.

    Just because a TV station reaches an audience of x, or a magazine has a subscriber base of x, can you guarantee me that people are watching, reading, and acting on that advertisement. You can’t. People aren’t watching TV like they used to. Sure, the TV may be turned on, but whilst sitting on the couch we have a smart phone in one hand, an iPad on the lap, and a laptop on the coffee table. And how many people are recording their favorite TV shows these days and fast forwarding the commercials? I know I do!

    Also, take a look around at other drivers and their passengers on the road next time you’re in your vehicle. What are they doing? They are on their phones. They are not looking at bilboards, they are not even looking at the damn road :-)

    And I can say the same for direct mail. Who reads that? I defintiely agree that bloggers shouldn’t just be using twitter followers and number of tweets as a metric. It needs to go much deeper than that. But I think it’s time that big companies need to realize that their metrics need to be looked at also and it’s important to think about investing into humans (bloggers) and stop wasting ALL their money on traditional media.

    And it has to be the right bloggers for their campaigns who understand what the companies objectives are! Like any industry, their are good and bad bloggers but this is getting easier and easier to research. Look at their experience, references, and analytics closely.

    One-on-one marketing and word of mouth is key, and has always been so powerful. With our social media channels we now have a way to put word of mouth advertising on steroids. Our engagements are being spread like never before. I personally go directly to friends, other bloggers and social media for travel advice and tips. I certainly don’t look in the Sunday spread of the newspaper or watch TV commercials.

    So what’s the ROI on social media and blogging?

    The best answer I have heard yet was explained by Gary Vaynerchuk at his Inc 500 keynote speach in 2011. I encourage everyone to grab a beer, or coffee, and take the time to watch and absorb this video: I know a few light bulbs went off for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbHy7yESiyg

    Thanks for the discussion Kevin. Happy Christmas!

     
    • Caitlin

      @Craig When marketers buy a 30-second TV ad or a page in a glossy magazine or invest in a direct mail campaign, they actually have pretty good metrics on who sees it. The marketers care about ROI so they – and the media agencies who book the ads – spend a lot of money on research. The media outlets and industry bodies representing various types of media want to sell advertising so they also spend a lot of money on research. Circulation and ratings numbers are pretty much only used to set the price of the advertising. All the planning and analysis is done on the basis of pretty comprehensive surveys. It is just not true that it is a crapshoot.

       
    • Jeremy Branham

      I have to agree with Craig on much of what he saying. It pains me to actually discuss some of these things because they have been beaten to death but here it does.

      First of all, I completely agree with Craig. I just don’t write for bloggers. I’ve written two posts that deal with bloggers somewhat (a humorous look at upcoming events which included TBEX and one on the effect of social media) but my content is meant for people who enjoy travel. I love the feedback, support, comments, and encouragement from travel bloggers and the travel community. However, I don’t write content for them. And like Craig stated, I will be even more focused on engaging readers and networking with people outside of travel bloggers to find out what people want and what I can give them in 2012.

      Secondly, I admit some bloggers have lost the plot. We get lost in our world of travel blogging and sometimes forget the community we are trying to reach. That’s more of my focus for next year – writing content that will engage people from a personal perspective and give them a unique take on travel, destinations, and places to stay, eat, and things to do.

      Thirdly, I have to agree with Craig again and disagree with Caitlin. Twitter followers are a valid metric to use for travel bloggers. Let’s face it, we’re not Expedia, Priceline, or some luxury cruise line. We don’t have the same opportunities in magazines and media that they do. Times are changing so the metrics used to evaluate us are going to be different. You can argue this all day but it’s not going to change anything – we can’t use the same metrics as large travel companies nor can we ever be measured in the same way. Don’t try and convert us to use similar metrics because large corporations do. We just can’t do that because we don’t have the same opportunities.

      I do agree that numbers are needed to really understand our influence. And I will say something that will probably annoy a few travel bloggers on here – stumble upon, digg, and other numbers are complete crap. There is no denying their impact on getting a post or a blog in front of lots of eyes. And some of those people who view will become followers. However, those hits grossly overinflate a blogs real readership and influence. I have even contemplated not using them altogether now. I want my numbers to reflect real people reading my site because they want to be there and not because some site generated hits to my site as a result of an algorithm.

      Bloggers do have a long way to go and people need a bigger perspective on what they are doing. I’ve made money and done an occasional press trip. However, the day my focus in on those things alone or just engaging with a travel blog community and not a love of travel and helping others, then I will quit.

       
  50. Caitlin

    My analytics tell me that my most popular content is food rather than travel, especially recipes. so may e we should all go become food bloggers instead?

    Also I rate well for quirky thing like a picture I took of a guy with a bong made out of a gas mask on a bus in San Francisco or pictures of naked cyclists in Cardiff. I am not sure this us an industry-wide trend though – I think it’s more about the lack of competition for those topics. Is that what they mean by going niche?

     
  51. Robert Hicks

    The early 90s was a golden generation of music, growing after the late 80s and its few bands of real note.

    Interestingly the late 80s also produced the boom of mass market electronic music, ie house.

    What creativity is there is new music these days?

     
 
 

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