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1224 days ago
 

Why do travel advertisers continue to avoid bloggers?

NB: This is a guest article by Gary Arndt of Everything-Everywhere.

As we have all heard, old media is dying. Ad revenues are drying up, journalists are getting laid off, ad pages are shrinking, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Yet, as large as the shift to the internet has been, there is still an enormous disconnect between time spent on new media vs the amount of money spent on advertising.

Former Morgan Stanley analysts and current partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mary Meeker estimates that 28 percent of all time with media is spent online, yet only 16 percent of advertising is spent on the internet. This disconnect between media consumption and ad spending is estimated to be $50 billion annually.

That $50 billion dollar disconnect falls most squarely on print, which gets 26% of all ad spending but only 12% of media consumption based on time. Television has only an 8% disconnect, whereas radio is in the same boat as the internet.

Where is that $50 billion going? It is basically a transfer from corporations to media companies. As large as the woes for the print media industry have been, believe it or not, they are still receiving enormous economic rents from advertisers in terms of what they are providing compared to the overall media market to the tune of a cool $50 billion.

This also means that there are some enormous bargains to be had online for companies who are savvy enough and smart enough to search them out.  In particular, the bargains are to be found in the blogosphere.

Lets take a look at some examples in the travel industry.

Top travel magazines such as Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic Traveler charge around $100,000 for a full page ad for a single issue. Volume discounts and variable pricing for a four color vs two color ads may come into play, but $100,000 for single full page ad for a single issue of a magazine is a reasonable working number.

Likewise you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $20,000-25,000 for a 1/6 page ad. The circulation numbers for the above publications range from 715,000 for National Geographic, to 800,000 for Conde Nast Traveler and 957,000 for Travel + Leisure.

To reiterate the point….$100,000 for a single flip of a single page of a single issue of a single magazine.

blogger

Now compare numbers for a travel blog. For illustrative purposes I’ll use my own site, Everything-Everywhere, but you can find similar number for other travel blogs. I average about 100,000 unique visitors per month.

I’ve had approximately 1.5 million unique visitors during the last 12 months, with approximately 4,000,000 page views, according to Google Analytics. My audience isn’t as large as any of the above mentioned travel magazines to be sure, but unlike many print publications, my audience is growing, and most importantly, they know and follow me.

For the sake of argument, lets say my audience is 1/10th the size of one of the above publications. (if you think that is too generous, and I don’t think it is, you’ll see the same point can be made if you assume 1/100th the audience.)

My audience is smaller, but my cost structure is MUCH smaller. My entire operation consists of one person, a laptop and some camera equipment that can be carried in a single bag. Compare that to renting office space in midtown Manhattan, having a staff of hundreds and the shipping and printing costs of a magazine.

I could get by on $50,000/year where as a major publication might lose money on $50,000,000/year. The difference in our audience size might be an order of magnitude (or two), but the difference is our burn rate differs by THREE orders of magnitude!

Even for smaller print publications, there is still an enormous difference in costs. Take a great, small travel publication like Afar. They claim a circulation of approximately 100,000 people, which is in the neighborhood of what my blog brings in per month.

They charge about $15,000 for a full page ad. Again, it is $15,000 for one page of one issue of one magazine. (Also, Afar only publishes six times a year, so my annual audience would be larger)

For the cost of a single ad on a single page in that publication with an audience on a par with my website, I could travel in style for a month, upgrade my equipment, and hire an assistant.

The difference in advertising prices between print and online are so out of whack that online travel publisher Matador Networks recently announced that it is launching a print publication… and paying writers 10x what it is paying them to write online.

Why would an online company enter a declining industry that is laying off staff, shutting down publications and seeing industry wide drops in revenue, AND pay an order of magnitude more for content in the process? Because print advertising rates are so inflated. I really can’t fault Matador for making the move.

Taking into account the differences in audience size vs the difference in cost structures, there are efficiencies of 10 to 100 fold to be found in the blogosphere. I’m not talking even double or triple the benefits, but one or two orders of magnitude.

Please re-read the previous two sentences to let it sink in.

There has been talk in media circles of turning analog dollars into digital dimes. Most traditional media companies are desperately trying to bring in enough revenue keep their companies operation. Sadly, it is a fools errand. They will never be successful.

The promise of the internet is not and never has been making more money. The power lies in reducing costs. Analog dollars are going to turn into digital dimes, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. What people fail to realize is that even though revenues may shrink from dollars to dimes, costs are going to pennies.

To give you a rough idea of how massive the cost savings can be, the New York Times online gets approximately as much traffic as the Huffington Post. The New York Times has 1,800 people on staff where as the Huffington Post has about 50.  Perez Hilton is able to command an audience comparable in size to People Magazine, but with a shoestring staff.

Yet the disconnect still exists.

Yet, you will not find any serious advertisers approaching most bloggers, especially in the travel niche. Most bloggers have to fight tooth and nail to earn a living for themselves, often through Google Adsense ads or selling ebooks.

In four years of running my site I have never been contacted by an advertiser that would offer to pay the equivalent of even 1/6 of one page of one issue of one magazine for an entire year of sponsorship of my site. I do not know of any other blogger who has either.

So why the massive discrepancy? There are enormous economic potential waiting to be claimed by advertisers, but no one is picking up the ball. I’d like to think that somewhere in a conference room there is a meeting being held where someone is deciding between advertising on blogs vs magazines and newspapers.

The reality is, however, blogs aren’t even part of the conversation at this point. There are several reasons:

1. Many blogs exist outside of the travel industry.

I have one of the larger travel blogs out there, and I have no background in travel, tourism or journalism. I have never attended an industry event save for the annual Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference.

I have few contacts in the travel, public relations or advertising world. I don’t have a staff that can represent me and I’m usually traveling, so I’m not available to attend industry events to network, even if I wanted to.

I didn’t even attend PhoCusWright because the $500 blogger admission was too expensive (see the above part about my low cost structure).

Everything I do is direct to consumer. I travel and talk directly to my audience via my blog, Facebook and Twitter. Hundreds of other bloggers like me are having a conversations about travel with the public and for the most part, the industry has no clue that it is even happening. If anyone is familiar with travel blogs, they are probably only familiar with the subset of blogs which cater to professionals in the travel industry.

Until they realize we exist, it is hard to expect them to spend advertising dollars on blogs.

2. Inertia is the most powerful force in the universe.

What is the #1 reason companies continue to spend so much money on print advertising? Because they always have. There is an old saying that no one ever got fired by hiring IBM.

Likewise, no one will ever get fired for buying an ad in Conde Nast Traveler.  Large print publications are established, reliable properties and if it has worked for years – why rock the boat?

Working with a blogger on a sponsorship, even if it is for a fraction of what is spent on print advertising, will draw attention to it because it is different.  In a world with lots of layoffs, it is probably a better career move to do the safe thing that has been done before.

I know one independent travel blogger who actually tried to launch a small print magazine just because he found that advertisers were more likely to buy if they saw something printed. It felt more real when it was on paper.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of the 15% commission that ad agencies get for doing ad buys.

3. Blogs have a perceptional problem.

Being the new kid on the block, there are a lot of stereotypes floating around about bloggers. Some true and some not so true. They have a reputation of being people who spend all day in the basement wearing pajamas, or they are lose cannons, etc.

The fact is, there is a far greater range of professionalism in the blogosphere than what you will find in traditional media. There indeed are bloggers out there that you wouldn’t want to associate yourself with. The long tail is something you never had to deal with in the analog world. If you could afford to publish a magazine, that itself was a test of professionalism.

Many companies would like in an abstract and vague sense want to work with “bloggers”, but they have no idea where to start or who specifically to work with.

4. Stuck in a page view paradigm.

The idea of page views is something that caught on quickly because it was an online analog of what you saw in the world of print: pages with advertising.

The problem is, CPM rates, cost per click, cost per action and other forms of display advertising don’t take into account anything other than eyeballs.  Almost all money spent online for advertising and marketing is spent in form of the above methods.

Certainly, having a large audience is beneficial. However, just counting views and clicks doesn’t capture things such as trust, authority and influence in a world with social media. In this world, individuals matter and are trusted more than anonymous brands.

Having an influential blogger on your side as an advocate who really loves your product is qualitatively different from just serving up banner ads. To give an extreme example, how much was the value to Australian Tourism of Oprah’s decision to move the show there for a week? Estimates I’ve read are in the “several hundred million dollar” range.

Granted, no bloggers are anywhere close to Oprah, but the point remains. It had nothing to do with advertising, pageview or any other normal metric. The power of Oprah’s decision had to do with the fact that she had an audience who trusts her opinion.

Bloggers are better.

I’m certain that many people with a vested financial interest in print media (and lets be honest, I have a vested interest in the success of travel blogs) will go to great lengths to explain just why print advertising is worth the money

They will tout the higher quality of the publication, they will trot out statistics by publishing groups to explain why advertising in print is still a great value.

It is all hogwash.

Even if you could justify two, three or even a four-fold increase in value for a dollar spent on print advertising, there is no way you could justify a ten or 100 fold increase in price.

I’ve heard it said that if you really want to change an industry, you can’t just be better; you have to be better by a factor of 10x. Bloggers have that and I believe it is going to be the next big opportunity for savvy businesses.

Their low cost structures, plus the trust and authority they can generate as independent actors, makes them excellent candidates as marketing partners for companies.

2010 has seen the first steps in this direction in the travel industry. Not surprisingly, it has been small to medium size companies with internet savvy CEO/founders who have been the first ones to take the leap.

This year Scott Jordan, the CEO of Scottevest, sent Rolf Potts around the world with a No Baggage Challenge. The story was picked up by multiple major news outlets and the entire project was set up to build buzz and discussion, not pageviews. He has already conducted a second No Baggage Challenge with Peter Shankman.

Likewise, Bruce Poon Tip recently launched the Wanderers in Residence program for Gap Adventures. In 2011, some of the most influential bloggers in the travel industry will be talking, tweeting, and blogging about trips they are taking with Gap Adventures around the world. Moreover, by acting early, Gap Adventures has shut out most of their competition from working this group.

[NB: Disclosure – I am one of the bloggers in the Wanderers in Residence program)

Conclusion

The economic case for working with bloggers is overwhelming, especially in light of the cost of traditional media alternatives. Low burn rates plus personal attachments to their audience make them compelling choices for companies in the travel industry to partner with.

I predict the small handful of companies who have chosen to work with bloggers at the end of 2010 will grow into one or two dozen by the end of 2011.

The companies who are nimble and smart enough to embrace the blogosphere will be the ones who reap the greatest rewards.

 
 
Special Nodes

About the Writer :: Special Nodes

Special Nodes is the byline under which Tnooz publishes articles by guest authors from around the industry.

 

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  1. Wandering Educators

    The more a blogger is connected to their audience, the stronger the relationship is between what they do (and recommend) and ROI. I’d definitely work with bloggers, if i was an advertiser – it’s a direct connection, through a great influencer.

     
  2. Best Travel Destinations

    Life is quikcly getting “internetalized”! If some time ago, people would read books and magazines to learn something new about countries worldwide and make their choice, nowadays, you can hardly see anyone going for magazines and books. The first thing everyone does is to look it up in the Internet, and in this case no one can deny the great help travel blogs give them! To me, the conclusion of this article is definitely coming to life, and one day those travel magazines will also start their own travel blogs to survive in this industry!

     
    • Durant Imboden

      I’d guess that most travel magazines already have blogs (I know that some of them do). But for researching trips, the majority of travelers turn to:

      1) Travel-planning sites, which range from big brands like Lonelyplanet.com to mom-and-pop niche sites that travelers find in Google, Bing, Yandex, and other search engines.

      or….

      2) Community sites that are geared to active travelers, such as Tripadvisor.com and Cruisecritic.com.

      That isn’t to say that blogs can’t attract travel advertising, but–except for the highest-traffic blogs that cater to people who are planning trips (as opposed to “armchair” or vicarious travelers)–most travel ads on blogs are likely to come from relatively low-paying networks like Google AdSense that aggregate impressions and/or clicks from millions of sites.

       
  3. 2012 the year corporations partner with travel bloggers? | Nancy D Brown

    [...] not naive in thinking that the travel blogger path is laden with gold. In a Tnooz guest post, Travel Blogger Gary Arndt noted that travel advertisers continue to avoid bloggers. “There are enormous economic potential waiting to be claimed by advertisers, but no one is [...]

     
  4. Time for advertisers to stop wasting money on print - Travelllll.com

    [...] full post, with stats, is here.Hat tip to Gary Arndt (@EverywhereTrip) who alerted me. Gary himself wrote on this same subject a year ago on Tnooz.This confirms what I’ve been saying for years about travel. Print advertising sucks. [...]

     
  5. » Travel Bloggers & Travel Businesses – A topic that won’t go away » 501 Places

    [...] some posts on this from the blogger’s point of view (I’d like to point you to pieces by Gary Arndt, Lara from Grantourismo and Andy on this very blog if you are interested in some back reading), [...]

     
  6. Durant Imboden

    Three thoughts:

    1) Comparing blogs to CONDE NAST TRAVELER is like comparing kumquats to caviar. CNT is as as much a “lifestyle” publication as it is a travel magazine, and advertisers are buying its demographics (which is why you see so many ads for luxury cars, expensive watches, designer perfumes, in CNT’s pages).

    2) Most travel blogs are about travel narrative, not travel planning. Travel advertisers want to reach people who are actively researching where to go, what to do, and how to spend their money.

    3) Major advertisers aren’t interested in buying small “flights” of ads. They buy millions of impressions at a time. That’s why even some of the larger travel publishers (such as Lonely Planet) sell ads through vertical rep firms or networks like the Travel Ad Network that can aggregate impressions from multiple handpicked sites.

     
    • Bret @ Green Global Travel

      To me, an advertiser/publisher agreement is like a relationship: Both parties want to make sure they get treated fairly and that the other person is gonna contribute their 50% to the equation. Print media is like a cougar. It’s been around a long time, it’s pretty clear what it is, and you know you’re not gonna get a whole lot of surprises. But the blogosphere? It’s the Wild Wild West, and for every gunslinger like Gary you’ve got a thousand curvy bar wenches looking for their train ticket out. Travel blogging is in its infancy, and it’s just too impossible to predict where it will be 6 months to a year from now. If I were an ad buyer in print, I’d be looking for the safest return on my investment, even if it wasn’t necessarily the best possible return

       
  7. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    Hi all,

    Lara Dunston has written a follow-up article for Tnooz in response to this post, as a counterpoint.

    It’s worth a look:

    http://www.tnooz.com/2011/02/15/news/an-entrepreneurial-model-for-travel-writers-working-in-an-evolving-media/

     
  8. An entrepreneurial model for travel writers working in an evolving media | Tnooz

    [...] was asked by a Tnooz reader and editor to respond to the post Why do travel advertisers continue to avoid bloggers? by travel blogger Gary [...]

     
  9. Travel Predictions for 2011 | BootsnAll Travel Articles

    [...] Arndt of EverythingEverywhere will continue to lead the charge for Travel Bloggers with the “We don’t get any respect” message.  Gary’s site and audience has grown and with it, his opinions about why advertisers should [...]

     
  10. wes

    Tourism advertisers expect bloggers to use adsense….they don’t have time to setup ads one by one.

    If your site isn’t coming up for search terms like “destination spa resort” or “destination pet friendly luxury waterview” then the hotel advertiser won’t see good results. These are people searching for specifics who are ready to book.

    How often does Gary stay at hotels over $50 a night? How many hotels with rooms less than $50 a night have their advertising act together? My point is that advertisers with money are not interested in his “budget audience” and super budget hotels can’t even keep their toilets clean…. much less run an effective advertising campaign. No offence to Gary’s site…but this is what I gathered from his site’s “About” page.

    Wes

     
  11. Will IPAD Magazines Be Able to Charge a Premium for Advertising Due to Ad Buyers Prejudices? | TripInquiry

    [...] about old media and new media. One by Gary Arndt of Everything-Everywhere in a new media blog at Tnooz, the other by blogging eminence grise Andrew Sullivan (he of http://www.andrewsullivan.com). Ironicaly [...]

     
  12. Shane Hayes

    You make an excellent point about advertisers liking to be able to touch and feel their add thus driving up the percieved value. I wonder will the advent of IPAD based magasines address this.

    An IPAD looks more like a magazine that a PC or a smart phone.

    S

     
  13. Shane Hayes

    Excellent read.

    You may be interested in an example of a major company that reached out to bloggers. It is the Irish Betting Company Paddy Power. http://www.paddypower.com. They set up a unit to see where their punters (literallly) were spending their time online. A particular focus was the Grand National, which is a major national hunt (jump) race. They found that a particular blogger, working quietly from his attic, was the unofficial historian of the race and had huge readership.

    As they tell it, when they contacted him to see if they could advertise on his site, he nearly fell out the window of his attic.

    Andrew Sullivan, in his column in the Sunday Times (behind a paywall – I read it on dead trees) touched on the same subject at the weekend. More to point out that the Atlantic, where he writes, has embraced the web and made a couple of million in profit as a result. Interestingly, they still publish on dead trees too.

    Shane

     
  14. Nic Blair

    Lots of comments! I have skimmed through them all and here’s my thoughts. I am a Digital Marketing Exec for one of Australia’s largest travel companies. As I deal purely with online marketing, working with bloggers is something that we want to do, for a number of benefits including traffic, SEO and brand exposure. There are a few issues however that stand in the way:

    1. As mentioned in a previous comment I saw there is the issue of bloggers not being commercial. I’m not saying it’s all bloggers, because some run very successful blogs, however often it is hard to tell who is and who isn’t. Contacting 30 bloggers per month generally gets an email reply from about 5 of them. 3 of those 5 become a painful process to have a discussion with. So with the exception of a few notable bloggers, it becomes difficult to find the ones that are worth talking to.

    2. Finding blogs can also be a difficult process. Often, as happens with finding websites to market on, blogs are lost in cyberspace and without typing the right search phrase to find it, they are hard to come across even with a high traffic volume. Most blogs don’t market themselves, so that makes it difficult to find them.

    3. Separation of marketing departments is probably the biggest issue when it comes to large companies. It’s not a matter of simply shifting budgets from print to online/blogs as easy as that sounds. Different departments within marketing manage different aspects, so there is no crossover in most cases between offline and online spend as a whole when making any decisions. This is an issue for larger organisations that smaller startups don’t have to deal with.

     
  15. Ryan Haynes

    As a blogger myself you’ve just totally destroyed the case of bloggers. This article was too long, not to the point, rambled and purely showed the irrelevance of bloggers. Why is a blogger any better to a customer review on a website? In one foul hit you’ve just shown that magazines have quality focussed journalism and writing that consumers want.

     
  16. Atlantic Birches Inn

    Very Informative Post

    I think some of the issues with travel Blogs is this that some of them are to specific on the area that they blog on (Europe, Asia Etc.). Lot’s of blogs are geared to a specific community, they must decide are blogging to make some money or really help someone make a travel decision.

     
  17. Bruce Rosard

    Wow, one of the most commented posts in Tnooz’s brief history? Lots of great comments, many of which I agree with, some of which I don’t. PhoCusWright was the first company in the travel events industry to truly recognize the importance of bloggers when we started the Bloggers Summit events at our conferences in 2007 (it was free for bloggers back then). Interesting that Tnooz is primarily a bunch of bloggers (the nodes) aggregated by professional journalists/editors, with a tiny staff to handle the business side and ad sales – and now it is probably the #1 travel B2B media site in the world, all in a very short period of time.

    As stated in many of the posts above, if a blogger wants to earn revenue/ad dollars, they have to get serious about their business plan, and not expect advertisers to come calling. There are a number of aggregated blogs that have done a good job of this, with Tnooz being the obvious leader (they sure have a lot of advertising!) and BootsnAll being another good example.

    Gary, you chose not to spend the $500 (plus travel) to attend The PhoCusWright Conference – but maybe attending would have provided you with a 10x or 20x ROI if you came armed and ready to do business above and beyond your tweeting and blogging.

    How about if you (any of you) spend $0 and join the New Media Summit at PhoCusWright@ITB and we can have a specific session on this topic? Anyone interested in free blogger credentials for PhoCusWright@ITB, please go here and submit an application. Space is limited.
    https://www.eiseverywhere.com/17790?categoryid=60333

     
    • Gary Arndt

      First, let me just say that from everything I’ve heard, PhoCusWright is a great show. I followed it closely online this year.

      That being said, there are only so many conference I can attend in a given year, so I have to pick ones where I think I’ll get the most out of it.

      The focus of your show seems more orientated towards travel industry insiders, which isn’t something I blog about, so it wouldn’t have done me any good from a content standpoint. It was more up the alley of a site like Tnooz which covers the business. The sites which covered PhoCusWright did a great job, and there wasn’t really anything my presence would add.

      Right now, I’ve decided attend events like TBEX or BlogWorld just because I know everyone who attends those shows are looking to talk to bloggers, and the cost of attending the shows is relatively low.

      For example, there were only a small handfull of travel companies at BlogWorld, but I managed to talk to almost all of them during the course of the weekend. I was interviewed for the Southwest Airlines website, did a sponsorship deal with Boingo and I’m also still talking to another company. Everyone I met with came there with the intent of meeting bloggers and I had several meetings arranged prior to the show.

      I’m certainly not against attending PhoCusWright and I did seriously consider it this year. If I knew I could make 10-20x back, i’d have gone in a heartbeat. I just didn’t get that impression I’d get anything out of it this year. Much of that, I confess, might just be because of the circles I travel in.

      My 2011 conferences currently are the LA Times Travel Show, SXSW, TBEX, probably BlogWorld, and I might speak at a travel show in Spain. All of those are either consumer orientated travel shows or are focused on new media.

       
  18. Murray Harrold

    The above, by James Wood makes a lot of sense. Basically, if they wish to get somewhere, bloggers need to get their act together. (Sorry, people, but you do!) They need to decide is they are blogging to make some money on the side or otherwise; or are they doing it just for fun? If one is approaching blogging as a commercially viable prospect, then there needs to be some coagulation of the blogging community into an association, with the obejctive of putting “the blog” forward as a viable advertising/ marketing avenue.

    Having done that, one needs to decide a) Who to approach and b) What to propose. James is right, bloggers are a disparate bunch (no slur intended) of fiercely independent types and at present any attempt to engage with bloggers as a community will be very hit and miss. The present ethos (for bloggers) appears to be to approach 1. Advertising agencies and 2. Newspapers/ magazines/ journals. This is, IMHO, incorrect. The target should be the likes of website owners of products. Further, I do not feel that coming at the issue from the “advertising revenue” direction is correct; more it should come from the “alternative SEO” approach. In other words, looking at/ putting blogs forward as good, original content which is pointed dierctly at a product, service or website.

    What to propose is next. Well, if someone says “Pay me £30k a year and I will write a blog” is not an answer. Bloggers wish to retain their independence and if something is rubbish, they do need to be able to say so. They can propose that they will put forward and honest assessment or review of a product or service, pointed at a site etc for a sum. In this way, the blogger can retain their integrity and command a premium for traffic rather than direct revenue. Now, this assumes that a) The blog in question is well written and contains integrity within itself and b) that the blogger has worked hard to ensure their blog has (this curious concept) “authority”.

    Curiously enough, someone up there mentioned something about a company not wanting to sack it sales team and then take on a load of bloggers. Actualy, a mon avis, the reverse could be the case. Taken from a “blog as an SEO approach” if a small firm decides to go down the “blog as a package” route, it becomes win-win. The firm only needs to pay for the blog input it wants, as it wants it, the blogger is able to retain integrity and only needs to do as much as he or she wishes to and given a period of time letting such a system grow, large agencies may well then learn to appreciate the value of the blogger as a tool within its range for (especially) SME’s.

    So, in a nutshell, bloggers (being, naturally, fairly techy-ish) need to step back a bit and try and look at the wood rather than the trees.

     
  19. james dunford wood

    Looks like I have come to this discussion late. Not had a chance to read everything here, but as the owner of an ad network that HAS targeted travel bloggers specifically, and continues to do so, with over 300 travel advertisers happy to trust us to put them in the right place, (Adnet), I have these observations:

    1. Traffic from blogs is hugely variable, and more often than not does not convert. People following travel blogs are generally at the research or even the dreaming stage, they are not ready to book anything.

    2. Contextual ad serving like the bulk of ours is a mismatch for blogs, because of the structure of blogs, with often multiple posts on the page. It has been hard to match ads to content.

    So, CPA and CPC does not work well.

    3. Many bloggers – as mentioned above – are completely uncommercial. They are also a one man band, so implementing your ads on the promise of revenue share is a long and tortuous process.

    4. CPM can work – and works best, but CPM display advertising is often about brand awareness, and since most blogs are small to very small, advertisers are nervous about where they will appear. Would you rather buy 500k impressions on one site you know, or 10k impressions on 50 blogs you don’t?

    Having said all that, there is an opportunity, and we are trying to crack it. But dealing with blogs is very time consuming. That’s why we recently set up a self-serve system, where travel bloggers can go in and download their own ad widget. Initially this displays only CPA and CPM, but where blogs have sufficient traffic of the right type, we upgrade them to CPC.

    There are also huge opportunities to be had in more subtle forms of advertising, like sponsored posts and advertorials. But then many travel bloggers are fiercely independent – and quite rightly so – so this is an area that has to be handled carefully. At the recent travel blog camp organised by Darren in London, the overwhelming message I got from bloggers was ‘This is a lifestyle choice, on top of my day job – I’m not in it to make money’. Until that mindset changes, it won’t be easy for advertisers and networks to target bloggers, however much they might want to.

     
  20. Michael

    Glad that this discussion has come to the floor recently. It seems like a hot topic around the blogosphere.

    My thoughts are that advertisers do actually realise the need to work with bloggers but it’s still in the ‘too hard’ basket so they go for the easy out (print).

    Like @Peter says ‘…no one wants to manage a campaign comprised of 50 individual blog buys when they can arguably reach the same audience with fewer buys on higher reach travel sites…’

    Someone needs to create an ‘influence algorithm’ that will allow advertisers to see the true reach of the blogger not just readership.

    If you look at Gary’s website as an example, his reach is larger than his readership due to his power of influence. So many amateur and professional travel bloggers follow what he says (even if only to help promote their own blogs) so essentially if he endorses a product/service he will get a stack of tweets, likes and copycat posts.

    Let’s see who will take the first step to narrow the gap.

     
  21. Happy Hotelier

    Ah and I was looking for an examples of a way of connecting like I believe Gary is aiming at:

    http://grantourismotravels.com/

    I’ve asked Lara to chime in here as she is a better native English writer than I am. in addition she could induce the company to chime in as well.

    And then another example: The Dutch guy who sleeps 365 days in another hotel in Amsterdam (only in Dutch alas) http://www.amsterdamslaapt.nl/

     
  22. Stuart

    Good post & comments. While I don’t agree that the maths of working with a herd of bloggers is as compelling as Gary suggests, I do largely agree with Pete, Stuart and Ben – especially on the ROI and Adwords being the main competitor. It’s a mistake to assume that Cartier would be able to switch to travel bloggers seamlessly — though sure I’ll take a watch!

    Like websites in general, many bloggers face challenges of low traffic, high bounce, average content, wrong end of the purchasing path and of course, discovery. Combine this with lazy and/or old school advertising execs and it isn’t exactly heartening.

    That said some bloggers do get good traditional deals and one certainly doesn’t need to reinvent the model to do so. CPM/CPC/CPA are all industry standards and are so for a reason — they work — and I think it is a mistake to suggest a nebulous concept like influence as an alternative on the basis that one can’t get the traditional metrics to work in one’s favour.

     
    • Gary Arndt

      It is nebulous, but how else do you take into consideration things like social media? In the pageview worldview, that doesn’t even exist because it isn’t serving up banner ads.

      And the fact is banner ads (and I dare say all advertising) is pretty useless. The 0.1% CTR you get is probably the same or better than what you get in print, especially considering you can’t immediately click like you can online.

      As someone once said, “Not everything that counts can be measured, and not everything that can be measured, counts.”

      Influence, authority and trust are nebulous concepts and that are harder to pin down than pageviews. I will grant that. That being said, I don’t think that because you can’t measure it, it means it is meaningless.

      This is why I think small to mid sized companies with strong CEO/Founders are going to take the lead. They can make that decision without having to suffer any internal flack for doing so.

       
      • Stuart

        Social media can be tracked to an extent, albeit not as accurately as banners/aff codes etc, but measuring the gist of it is possible.

        I do think the GAP concept is an interesting tact, and it will be interesting to see how it develops – both for GAP and the bloggers involved. In a way though, it’s a bit like text-link-ads in that bloggers are being being compensated ($$$/trips/whatever) in return for some kind of social activity on the company’s behalf which may not always be disclosed in the best possible manner – can you “nofollow” a tweet?!

        As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I do think that for bloggers who are actively travelling, stuff like specific, targetted property recommendations is an obvious way to monetise that doesn’t get used nearly as much as it could.

        It’s an interesting area that’s for sure and kudos to GAP for giving it a spin.

         
  23. Sam Daams

    Great post!

    One consideration with regards to traffic numbers is that a unique visitor is only considered unique for 24 hours. Especially in blogs, there tends to be a lot of the same visitors coming back every day, so 100 000 uniques a month is often more like 40 000. There also tend to be a lot of posts on blogs that are focused on generating a lot of ‘quick views’, top xx lists for example. These are great for driving up page views by other bloggers and twitterers, but not so great for advertisers looking for quality traffic that will end up converting. I don’t mean this harshly, but as an advertiser I’d be careful about spending money to reach the same group of people over and over again, especially if they happen to be the kind of people that is clicking willy nilly on links all day.

    There is a HUGE opportunity though for advertising on blogs, provided you find the kind that has the type of traffic that will let you meet your goals. For one of my companies in Norway for example a blogger did a post that multiplied traffic to the site by a factor of 5, and led to a number of bookings in just the first week alone (bookings of over 3000$ each). The best part; we didn’t even know about her or her blog or that she was going to write the post. What we *did* do is get in touch with her afterwards and see if we could work together with her in some way, something which we now will, and which we have no doubt will lead to a positive return for both her and us. I love what Gap Adventures are doing as well; that’s clearly something that will work for both parties.

    I really hope this nut is cracked for bloggers’ sakes, so that more can make more without relying on selling text links for 80%+ of their income! The bloggers that I’ve spoken to that make money, all make it this way, and they know the risks that come with it and thus that it can disappear equally quick. Some solid income that doesn’t rely on this method will give the serious bloggers with quality traffic a better shot at a serious income, and that can only be a good thing for everyone!

     
  24. Ben Colclough

    I can’t see a travel blog advertising network working.

    At the end of the day marketers spend their budget either to build brand awareness or to generate a direct sale.

    If marketers are looking for direct sales then I’m doubtful that travel blogs are the right place. I have a hunch that the vast majority of travel blog’s audiences consist of other bloggers and tweeters. Any potential travel buyers who do view blogs will be so early in the inspiration funnel that direct marketing is going to show a pretty crappy ROI.

    If marketers are looking to build their brand then they will choose outlets which not only have an audience, but that also invest in creating an attractive surrounding for that ad. Think how an ad is displayed in Nat Geo. The quality of the design, the quality of other advertisers and the content all works together to enhance the ad.

    Having said all that, I’m incredibly happy with the investments we’ve made at Tourdust into working with bloggers. But the model is far removed from advertising, it is very much a partnership.

    There is an untapped opportunity to work with bloggers, but it isn’t advertising, you do need to be inventive, it isn’t going to deliver scale results and you have to be willing to invest towards objectives further upstream than simply direct sales.

     
    • pam || @nerdseyeview

      I wish I had BlogHer ad network numbers; they seem to be rather successful at it. Maybe their reach makes up for crappy per blog ROI? As for design, that’s why picking the blogs you work with as an network by hand rather than having some blanket “You get an ad! And YOU GET AN AD!” thing helps makes sure the advertisers are framed in ways that are both aesthetic and a good fit for their services.

      I don’t know enough about how TourDust works with bloggers to have an opinion, would love to hear more.

       
      • Ben Colclough

        @Pam You are right that by being selective you can find some amazing blogs with lovely designs and great content, but I fear that would be a lot of work for an advertising network to be so selective…. And I guess if you are going to go to so much effort to find the perfect outlet, and it has a fairly niche sized audience, why not deepen the relationship beyond simply advertising?

        We have only just started working with bloggers, but I’ve been delighted with the results so far. We’ve basically asked bloggers to guest edit our blog and twitter account for a period. We’ve deliberately chosen fantastic writers that we know are interested in similar topics to us, and then give them a lot of freedom to choose both what to write about and how to promote the content.

         
        • Gary Arndt

          It isn’t really THAT much work. It could be done in an afternoon, or certainly a day. There are lists of top travel blogs out there, top travel social media people, etc. You can contact people are in the know and ask their opinion.

          It isn’t that hard to get this information. It is just that no one is doing it.

           
  25. Stuart

    Yup lot of theory and very valid points here. Just a couple of points as an advertiser for a smaller travel co who has worked with a few writers and bloggers over the last few years (when not in box seats at the fitba/opera whilst eating a 5 course meal)

    1. I really believe bloggers biggest competition for the ad dollar isn’t the glossy rags (and Sunday Supps here in the UK). It’s Google Adwords. Bloggers should learn how it works (really works) and price accordingly ie If you’ve got a great post about a cracking 5* resort then you should be pricing at $3 a click, not 50c. What I’m trying to say is know how to price your blog. If google was going to charge an advertiser $300 a day to get interested people onto a travel site, then how much should you charge…

    2. Steve at Travellers Lounge has a pretty good and transparent pricing model. Fair price based on a Google adwords metric too. On our 3rd year now. Good long term relationship.

    http://www.thetravellerslounge.co.uk/about/advertising.htm

    He sends me an invoice I pay. He’s happy, I’m happy and it’s all pretty low maintenance (more important than you’d think). Thinking about it slightly amazed at the lack of costings on a lot of prominent bloggers sites. Something to sort out maybe….

    I agree with David above though. Travel Cos are usually looking beyond CPC and linkage – association, voice, funny, serious, good/great writing (or photography or video), social meedja, stickability and therefore bookings are the new CPC in my book. But I’ve been wrong before….

    Anyway just saying. Posts about blogging certainly get the comments flyin in…

    Cheers Stu

     
  26. Pete Meyers

    Enjoyed your article, Gary, and everyone’s feedback.

    @Kevin, I think the biggest challenge for travel bloggers to secure greater direct ad dollars is generating sufficient reach and scale.

    The unfortunate truth among the big spending media agencies is no one wants to manage a campaign comprised of 50 individual blog buys when they can arguably reach the same audience with fewer buys on higher reach travel sites. Budgets follow the eyeballs, as they say, and the niche nature of blogging creates a media buying fragmentation dilemma.

    To counter this I think someone should launch a new ad network that focuses on and embraces travel blogs directly, essentially a TAN for blogs.

    It would need to focus on established blogs that have existing readers / followers / fans to be effective, but I think the audience aggregation would make a more potent sell among blog owners and help overcome the campaign management bottleneck among those controlling budgets.

    As an aside, I don’t think this is a print v. online dilemma. Ad spend allocation has shifted dramatically in the past 10 years and there is plenty of digital pie to be eaten.

     
    • pam

      I’d LOVE to see someone launch an ad network that makes sense. I was booted out of the BlogHer ad network AGES ago because I take comps, something that’s really industry standard in travel, especially with bloggers. I’d LOVE that. I don’t want to do ad sales, though and that’s what keeps me from pursuing this in any manner. You gotta have that piece, along with a carefully selected network that give advertisers not just SEO, but placement on quality blogs. (And I’m not saying I AM that, just that the selection process of participants is a critical piece.)

       
  27. Travel » Blog Archive » Why do travel advertisers continue to avoid bloggers? | Tnooz

    [...] drying up, journalists are getting laid off, ad pages are shrinking, yadda, yadda, yadda. Link: Why do travel advertisers continue to avoid bloggers? | Tnooz Tags: are-getting, have-all, laid-off, old-media, pages-are, revenues-are Category: [...]

     
  28. Gary Arndt

    @Melissa The reality is, web metrics are far more accurate than print. Web metrics are counting actual events, where as print metrics are guesses. People have bought into the TV and print metrics for decades, so they tend to think they are more “legitimate”. In reality, no one has a clue who actually read an article or looked at an ad, let alone took action on it. It is all a big mystery.

    @Sean Most online ad money is spent on large online sites like Google and Yahoo, not on smaller players like bloggers. Even then, they are not being proactive in finding places to advertise, but letting agencies do the work for them and paying a premium. Maybe that is the most efficient way for a billion dollar company to work. I don’t know. Also, I am sorry about the omission of BootsNAll for the No Baggage Challenge, however, I think the general point I was trying to make is still the same.

    @Pam Bloggers certainly need to uphold their end of the bargin. Right now, however, the professional bloggers are being drowned out in perception by the long tail of the hobbyists. Bloggers I think are still thought of as a collective entity. Given some press trip invites I’ve seen the past year, I honestly think there is an attitude at least among some people that any blogger is as good as another. I think “professionalism” should be the theme of TBEX ’11 this next year.

    @Andy Scale is a problem. The time and effort it takes to buy one Superbowl ad is probably not that much different than the time and effort it takes to buy and ad a fraction of that size. When it comes to bloggers, the time and effort associated with trying to do deals with a ton of small entities is a huge, non-monetary cost. I have been saying for a while now there is an opening for someone to create a blogger middle man group that acts as a go between for bloggers and companies/PR firms.

    @Kevin The only people who really talk to bloggers are the companies that do remnant ad sales. They are usually one or two steps removed from the companies who’s ads they sell. As I noted, I don’t think blogs are even on the radar of most companies and I think the executives in most travel companies would be hard pressed to name a consumer orientated travel blog. As of the end of 2010, travel blogs just don’t exist to most companies. They don’t look at things

    Ultimately, economics will win. It will take time, however. More and more companies will start to ask “what are we paying for with our money, exactly?” and not like the answer they are getting.

    Pam is also right, while we are waiting for attitudes to shift, bloggers have to take the responsibility on themselves to to increase their professionalism and the perceived professionalism of the entire industry.

     
  29. Dave from The Longest Way Home

    Interesting article, including the comments.

    I think Melissa Shales point is a key aspect.

    Advertisers are moved by quantifiable statistics. Travel bloggers, in general, are near impossible to legitimately quantify.

    Having just finished up work with several local tourism authorities it’s quite a throwback to see the methods used to justify money being spent.

    Most of it coming from outsourced tourism statistics and trends.

    Until travel bloggers have a means to quantify their reach and/or value they will be stuck for a few more years.

    Cases in point that are often brought up are rankings, volume, and reach.

    A travel blogger with under 6 months of blogging and little to no travel can game a surface popularity system with “bloated” alexa rankings, email / twitter subscribers, link building/buying e.t.c., to look like a wizened and popular authority from the outside and the general passerby.

    It makes the quantifiers, and the companies / advertisers that buy from them, far too wary. Their necks are on the line too remember.

    I do however see a light for those with genuine authority, experience, reach and popularity with Gary’s point about the internet savvy middle ground.

    Those savvy SME’s are the people with an ear to the ground and are who will ultimately move these industries forward.

     
  30. David Whitley

    I’m not sure I concur on the reasoning here. I don’t think companies splash 10-100k on a glossy ad for measurable return on investment. They do it for branding; they want to be associated with the kind of material running in the mag and the perceived audience that reads it.

    And I reckon the same applies to blogs. The companies that are advertising on blogs/ forming partnerships with bloggers are the smaller, niche companies that find the blogger a good fit and want to be associated with them. It’s not necessarily about measurable business gained – it’s market positioning, establishing credibility and respect by association.

    I’m not sure the big advertisers (the major holiday cos for example) want to be associated with plucky one man blog operations. Also, if you look at the advertisers in travel mags, an awful lot of them aren’t travel companies (there’s a lot of posh watches etc).

    Also: Magazines have sales people contacting potential advertisers and persuading them to advertise. How many bloggers do this?

     
    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @david – yes, thus my point above about the conversations bloggers have actually had with agencies/advertisers.

       
      • David Whitley

        Well, from my experience, it’s gone a bit like this:

        Advertiser: “Hello, would you like to exchange links.”
        Me: “No. You want advert/ link juice, you pay for advert/ link juice.”
        Advertiser: “How much for a link?”
        Me: “Depends who you are. Someone I respect, a reasonable price but still probably more than you’re willing to pay. Someone who looks dodgy or I have no knowledge of – a scandalous amount.”
        Advertiser: *STONY SILENCE*

        But the key point is that most bloggers are waiting for advertisers to approach them. The ad world, by and large, just doesn’t work like that.

         
        • Gary Arndt

          David, you are correct. I think that is one of the huge reasons why the gap exists.

          You can’t have a low cost operation and then hire a sales staff. Once you go that route, then the economics of everything changes.

          Precisely for that reason however, companies (usually smaller and more net savvy) who do go looking for bargins will be able to find them in abundance right now.

           
  31. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    @Gary and others.

    So I have this to ask:

    Plenty of talk here about the issues, all of which are very valid, but I’d like to understand how any conversations have progressed when bloggers have actually had an exchange with a potential advertiser or buying agency.

    What reasons are given for not advertising on a blog? Do they come back with derisory offers? What processes have people gone through to try and reach out to advertisers?

     
    • Guillaume

      Hi Kevin and others,

      From my own experience, I have always have potential advertisers who emailed me about what they could do on HotelBlogs and at which price. I have always answered to their inquiries but I have always been firm on my pricing.

      Before I came across with a structured pricing, I did some research about what I could charge and how much time it will take to handle advertisers.

      I have been fortunate enough to have loyal advertisers on HB and I am considering moving to the next level: prospecting. Until now, I only dealt with incoming advertisers via my email inbox. So I will let you know how am I doing next year. :-)

      One last thing, I have always considered my blog as a business as soon as I started to think to monetize it.

      Guillaume

       
  32. Andy Murdock

    Nice post, Gary.

    It would require a major shift in thinking and resourcing for large brands to put their eggs in the blogger basket – it’s not that they’re explicitly avoiding bloggers, they’re looking for reach and measurable ROI.

    There are undoubtedly exceptions, but companies with significant advertising budgets generally spend that money with agencies and ad networks — companies of that size aren’t in the business of tracking down the individual websites to host their ads, blogs or otherwise. I don’t see this model changing, but savvy bloggers (or, even better, well-organized networks of bloggers) can court the ad networks, and innovative targeted ad networks should be open to working with bloggers for all of the reasons you list above.

     
  33. Maureen @TCIadventure

    @Alex, I agree – I’m finding that small local companies are more than happy to advertise or work on a fee per referral basis with travel bloggers. Although more work to set-up and keep track of, referral fees bring in more revenue in the long run.

     
  34. Sean

    Interesting thoughts and great post Gary.

    1) Travel Advertisers are not avoiding bloggers. They are just being ROI oriented with their spend. (Not sure that happens with a company that buys the inside cover of NatGeo Traveler) Every year more and more coinage is allocated online/digital – of which bloggers (in this case travel) are part of the increase in spend.

    2) Regarding the 1st No Baggage Challenge that you linked to, BootsnAll – was a co-sponsor of that trip and paid for the tickets for both folks on that trip among other things. Sounds like we didn’t do a good job of communicating that. But yes, the idea behind it to build discussion around lite traveling was one of the reasons for conducting the experiment.

     
  35. Melissa Shales

    I have been dealing with exactly this subject with various travel PRs in my guise as Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers as many of our writers work both online and in print, but the PRs do not recognise the online work. I was told that it is because there is no standard way of quantifying audience such as the recognised print ABC audit. Many web publishers are very precious about releasing exact data. Until we can find a way to quantify readership that will prove to the trade that they are not wasting their money on a hobbyist in his/her bedroom writing for an audience of 2, we are all going to struggle. We need to work together to find a solution that will prove the power of internet writing. Then perhaps the money will flow and we can all get paid for it.

     
  36. Matt Stabile

    Gary:

    great post, and to follow-up on Point 2 (Inertia is the most powerful force in the universe), I think you really hit the nail on the head with this one.

    The publishing industry may be full of bright, young, tech-savvy employees in the lower ranks, and this probably holds true in the industries who are looking to buy advertising. However, their bosses, the ones who hold the purse strings and the ones who are tying to get at that purse, are the same ones who have been buying and selling ads in the same print formats for decades (and who, I should probably point out, are the same ones getting taken out to football games in box seats, fancy dinners, and are being invited to lavishly-catered events.)

    For the buyers, they seem to care less about the effectiveness of an ad (because, well, as long as the product sells and they spend their ad budgets, who cares?) Why should they start biting the hands that feed them (sometimes literally, usually via waiters), and start using, perhaps, more effective means of advertising that, incidentally, is much easier to track regarding viewer involvement and effectiveness.

    The fact is, it will take time for things to change; for the blog readers to become the ad executives. The barbarians are at the gate, but they’re too busy blogging and too poor earning pennies by the day, to change things themselves.

    Until then, I suggest bloggers take advantage of those low means of production and do what they can to support themselves, like self-publish a book (like we did at TheExpeditioner.com), and spend more time worrying about content and quality than on ad revenue, so as to be prepared for that day when the barbarians run the kingdom.

    – Matt

     
  37. pam || @nerdseyeview

    I think there’s a shift in thinking that has yet to happen from bloggers as commodity vs. bloggers as genuine business partners. All the social media driven campaigns, the user generated content models, the lousy pay rates, those are on the bloggers as a commodity model. Bloggers are cheap, goes the dominant perception. If business pours us a bowl of kibble, we’ll give ‘em what we want.

    (A-hem. End angry ranty tone.)

    Shifting from that to thinking of bloggers as people with skills to tell stories, to motivate audiences to explore, to inspire future traveler, means taking bloggers seriously. Forward thinking organizations have someone on staff or they consult with someone who helps them navigate the messy blogosphere landscape. They invest a little cash in engaging bloggers (the classic press trip model comes to mind) and they track the results.

    It still feels a little shallow, though. Maybe it’s reluctance to break the PERCEIVED editorial firewall between advertising and editorial (insert sharp reality check here). There’s got to be a more mutually beneficial partnership for both sides. It involves bloggers taking their work seriously and businesses doing the same. I get that this is fuzzy thinking, but I also think it’s a critical piece in the equation.

    If everyone acts like the blogger is running a business — INCLUDING the blogger — there’s a better chance of the whole equation being of value to both parties.

     
  38. Alex Bainbridge

    I think it comes down to brands want to work with brands, individuals want to work with individuals.

    i.e. big online travel brands want to work with travel magazine brands – and only entrepreneur types (who tend to be much more individual in nature) want to work with bloggers.

    Or is that far too much of a generalisation?

     
  39. Murray Harrold

    Very relevant. I run a non-travel website that relies on our own blog and that of a lady based in Sweden (do a lot of business there!) and on a value for money basis, you cannot better the blogger. One needs to study a person’s blog, of course, make sure they are talking about the right sort of thing and (very important) one cannot infringe on their right to say what they will – if a product is ribbish, they must be able to say so.

    The biggest issue is finding the right sort of blog with the right look-and-feel for one’s website. This has been most challenging. Secondly, approaching bloggers can be difficult – either our email goes in their spam folder or the blogger may feel that we are simply after something… or worse. There does not seem to be a suitable forum where websites can meet bloggers – there are plenty of directories, not forums. Bear in mind that the forum needs to be across national boundaries as well as acropss disciplines. Maybe this will come in time.

     
  40. Tweets that mention Why do travel advertisers continue to avoid bloggers? | Tnooz -- Topsy.com

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