Travel Blogs, Travel Bloggers & Travel Blogging Conferences Are Doomed
Are Travel Blogs, Travel Bloggers & Travel Blogging Conferences Doomed?
Having attended two large travel blogger conferences within the last 6 weeks, I have been reflecting on what I had observed about travel bloggers and travel blogging overall. I have been blogging, and making podcasts and videos, about travel since 2005. Until now I have never been to, nor got involved, in travel blogging events and conferences. I was doing it more because I enjoyed it, and it was great that people listened, watched and read my content.
Whilst I am learning a lot from attending travel blogging events, there are a lot aspects to travel blogging that have surprised me. It is an evolving space and a lot of people are writing travel blogs, but seems to me that it is typical of a business and industry in its early stages. I do believe that there will be a lot of shake out as travel blogging either develops into a slicker, professional and more valuable resource for both travellers and the travel industry, or simply withers away and returns to being more about people’s personal travel journals and records.
Here is my take on travel bloggers and travel blogging so far:
#1: Travel blogging is a big and growing industry. It is becoming an end in its own right.
In the space of 8 weeks alone I could have attended Travel Bloggers Unite in Porto (TBUnite), Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) in Girona, Travel Bloggers Elevator in Genoa and Travel BlogCamp in London. I went or will be going to 3 of them. Hundreds of bloggers attend them paying fees, admittedly fairly small, and paying for hotel rooms and spending money in the destination. Sponsors are coughing up to cover costs. The whole area of training, educating and connecting travel bloggers is growing and becoming a big business. Travel blogging brands and companies are being formed, and competition is growing.
#2: Travel blogging today seems to be more about blogging to travel bloggers, than to travelers.
It felt to me that most of the discussion and focus of travel bloggers, and of the events, is about travel bloggers rather than being about travelers. There is a lot of time spent looking at what others bloggers are doing. There is a real and tangible feeling of competition between bloggers, vying to be noticed by sponsors, other bloggers and brands. I was surprised, especially with my marketing background, that there is limited discussion about what real travellers and everyday people are seeking in the form of information, advice, education and entertainment about travel. There is almost no discussion and no data on what the real target are consuming, enjoying, returning to, valuing and seeking. The focus is on more on what is “in it” for the blogger, so how to do better SEO, how to be a better writer (on assumption that real people are actually looking for that) and how to get tourists boards and brands to want to work with you.
On none of the agendas was a deep understanding for bloggers to learn about how travellers see the role of a blog versus other forms and sources of travel advice and information. Looking at other travel blogs, even those of with larger traffic, it shows that almost all the comments and discussions are from other bloggers – not travellers. It makes me wonder how much the travel blog world is mostly a circle of bloggers blogging for other bloggers.
#3: Travel bloggers seem to be more driven and motivated by getting free and subsidised travel. Not in creating lasting content and resources for travellers.
The main obsession at the events seemed to me to be about which travel bloggers are getting free and subsidised travel, and how you can get it too. Bloggers seemed to be mostly interested in how to make pitches and get brands and tourist boards to give them free travel. It was quite a revelation to me about the extent that bloggers are getting free trips, but also how so many seem to get them off what looks to be relatively low visitor traffic and reach, with little discussion on things like bounce rates and extent that people are deeply engaging and acting on the content. There are so many travel blogs, the overall traffic numbers seem quite low – even for the larger blogs. Compared to other categories and blogs that I have seen some data on, like fashion and cooking, travel blogs seem to get much less traffic and loyalty.
It seems that no-one can make a living from a travel blog alone. Some people are making a living through becoming speakers and consultants on blogging and blogger outreach. The size and scale that travel blogs reach are unlikely to generate revenues that other content properties have been able to do, such as in the Tech world and news areas.
#4: A travel blog’s success is more driven by networking and who you know, than by substance and content that travelers really need, want, use and engage with.
It struck me that there seems to be a relatively small group of bloggers that are very well networked and have built amazing relationships with PR companies, and other elements of the travel blogging industry. The same sets of people seem to be the ones attending and talking at events, going on the trips and taking part. There does not seem to be a more rational data driven and ROI yet for travel blogger activity, and it does seem more driven by relationships, connections and contacts today. It takes effort to work the system and build the connections, as this seems to be the key to getting the trips, the events and the other perks. Unlike in the publishing and media worlds where there is more independent data and research. There are efforts underway to create a way to measure, rank and work out return on investments from individual blogs to help travel brands better decide who to partner with, but this seems some way off being developed and really agreed.
#5: Too many people are blogging about travel.
My sense was that there are just so many travel blogs and so much out there. The barrier to starting a blog is very low, with free platforms available. It is hard to see how it can ever be more than a hobby with a limited time span for most people. The future is unclear. I do suspect that the individual travel blog, unless highly specialised and focused, will not have longevity. I suspect that a few well targeted blogger portals, which aggregate and organise content around some themes or topic areas, will end up emerging as the model. It will need mass, clout and influence as travel brands and companies cannot manage the complexity and diversity of working with multitudes of independent bloggers. Will the TBEX, TBUnite, TBE be the ones that can manage and create this? Possibly and probably. But syndication of content in an aggregated site feels like the future, as I observe the hundreds of travel bloggers enthusiastically trying to learn and manage an independent travel blog. Google will play a big role in determining that too, I suspect, as they decide what content gets served up on that all important front page of search.
Conclusion: Do what makes you happy and you enjoy, as you are unlikely to be able to give up your day job to be a full time travel blogger for life.
Saying all of this, I had a brilliant time at the travel blogging conferences. I will keep going back to them. I had fun, met loads of new people, learnt a lot about blogging, networking, and what is working for other bloggers and things to do to build my blog. Though, it does make me feel that unless independent bloggers accept that they have a hobby on their hands, they will end up being dissapointed. So my take from it all is that you need to embrace your passion, enjoy your hobby and make the most of it, and take on board the learning and apply as much as you can. But mostly do what makes you happy and what you enjoy, as you are unlikely to be able to give up your day job to be a full time travel blogger for life.
Do you agree or disagree?
Am I way off beam? What do you think as a blogger or traveler that uses blogs?
I agree. Not that the conferences are doomed, but in almost all of your topics.
1. I think the number of travel blog conferences will self-adjust. Blogworld no longer has a travel track, but is combined in to TBEX for US/Canada and with a growing success for TBEX in Europe, I suspect some of the smaller will die. But in the end, the conferences need to adjust to alot of what you are saying. The focus needs to be moved to include more perspective than just monetization (and bloggers need to wake up and relaize that money is a wrong reason to start a blog – or at least that a lot of work needs to be done before you can start making money).
2. I completely agree. I attended my firste travel blog conference this year (TBEX in Colorado) and in my research I was surprised to see how much repeat traffic from the same (bloggers) accounted for the majority of activity across a large number of blogs – and hardly any real people looking for travel info. I was even more surprised to see, that a lot, if not all of the bloggers at TBEX spent time talking abot the conference, the sessions, SEO tips etc. on their own travel blogs (and other travel related channels such as twitter, facebook etc). Content that has nothing to do on a travel blog (at least in my opinion – unless you write a travel blog about being a travel blogger).
3. One of my pet peeves is focus and niche. A lot of the travel bloggers can benfit from carving out a niche and focus, rather than ‘going for gold’ in the form of freebies – diluting a potential niche with ‘what ever is at hand’.
4. My approach here is to explore my niche and become an expert (authority). This can subsequently lead to growth and broader awareness etc.
5. Back to my pet peeves. Focus and niche. The sooner a blogger realizes this, the better chance of success (or realisation, that this is not for them).
Thanks for taking the time to read the article and add your thoughts and point of view. Focus and niche may well be very key, and probably a key way forward as many of the bigger sites and traditional publishers will be able to cover the broader topics better.
I’m on board with a lot of what you say, and I’d even say that I’m guilty of one or two of these factors (who *doesn’t* want a free trip??), but I think it’s important to make a distinction between people who (a) people who travel and have a blog and see that as an end in itself and (b) people who travel and have a blog and see that as part of a larger goal for their business. Yes, I said the dreaded “B” word 🙂
The reason so many of us will fail is because we can’t see past the “profit gnomes” model of Start a Blog and Post Regularly–>???–>Profit. What needs to happen for travel blogs and the industry itself to survive is for each blogger, in addition to finding their own slant (like how CandiceDoestheWorld.com is sort of guide-style, but with glitter and sprinkles and a bottle of Bacardi 151), but also thinking past the blog itself. Are they thinking about writing a book? Do they have an interesting travel product that the world doesn’t even know it needs yet (see: Scott eVest)? Do they want to pair with tourism boards for long-term, comprehensive branding (see: Ecuador. Brilliant tourism campaign)? Or has the fabric of great travel just torn a little, and there are tons of us freeloaders trying to make a go at working for ourselves?
I’m still figuring out what that looks like, but I think I’m getting some traction. Hopefully I’ll make the cut 🙂
Thanks for reading the article and posting your thoughts. Much appreciated. I agree that the key is to decide why one is blogging at all. And what the medium and long term goal is, versus just focusing on the immediate gains or benefits!
Great post and great points. I am a travel blogger who has attended TBEX twice and TBU once and the points you make are absolutely correct – it seems to be more and more about blogging for other bloggers, for SEO and for PR companies than for the travelers who might be reading. There are so many new blogs popping up by people who want to immediately be “location independent” and just travel the world that I can understand they are feeling the pressure to make a little money and to get free trips. I found at the last event I attended, I found it hard to relate to a lot of the bloggers I met because that is so far from my own mindset – I just want to travel when I can, share those experiences with other people interested in travel and hopefully inspire some people along.
Thanks for reading and commenting. It would be good to get more speakers and topics from outside the “how to blog” and more on meeting traveller needs and how to bring some skills and thinking about what value travel blogs are bringing versus other sources with more resources and funds.
Hi Gary. I agree with a lot of your sentiments. I’m a digital marketer myself with a sales and technology background and I’m really surprised (well not really) at the lack of concern for ROI and meaningful measurement of value add for travelers and not other bloggers. To your point about the same circle of bloggers speaking at all of the events, going on all of the press trips, etc, this is why I skipped out on TBEX Girona.
It is all a very interesting monster that’s being created and I’m taking a few steps back to see where and how I realistically fit into the mix. I’m not interested in competing for free trips, but partnering with organizations/destinations to devise and execute innovative travel promotion/marketing strategies that are mutually beneficial for all involved the travelers, the local communities, the brand/org/destination and of course, the blogger…
April, thanks for adding these thoughts. I like the point you make about thinking about what how what you do (and we all do) fits into adding value to established travel entities and vehicles. It would also be good to get more of the business side into conferences and hear from the world of business than bloggers talking to bloggers. It would add a new dimension I think, and be more challenging…
Great article Gary, and some really valid points. I’ve attended TBEX North America the past 2 years and have found particularly the issues in #2 to be glaring. I know a lot of travelers and none of them read travel blogs to get tips or find stuff to do – they do what everyone else does, which is buy a Frommer’s Guide and read Tripadvisor. Not that some blogs aren’t successful in their mission, but I think we all need to realize that travel blogging is a unique animal – its not like fashion or cooking site where it’s an everyday thing that people will follow and get involved with on a daily basis.
I want to be a better writer and share experiences more effectively just because I enjoy doing it, but travel blogger resources (conferences, meet-ups, etc.) definitely need to be less about SEO and monetization than they should be about how to reach the consumer, travel trends, travel opportunities, etc. – things that people OTHER than travel writers will read and be interested in. I think a lot of people at the last TBEX felt the same way. As travelers we have an inside track same as the folks at Fodor’s, but how do we become trusted experts? That should be the conversation!
I really like the point you make in your comment when you say “travel blogger resources (conferences, meet-ups, etc.) definitely need to be less about SEO and monetization than they should be about how to reach the consumer, travel trends, travel opportunities, etc. – things that people OTHER than travel writers will read and be interested in”….. I really think this is key for all of us. We need to get data and insights to better understand what travelers want!!
Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment
Okay, where to begin. I’ll start with I’m here via the TBEX posting of this on Facebook. I spoke about writing at TBEX with unlikely sidekick Will Peach. So.
I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. And…
1. Yup, it’s a growing industry all right.
2. At the conferences, it’s easy to get the idea it’s blogging for bloggers. It’s pretty clubby. But I’m not sure this is really the case. It would be interesting to see some hard data on readership, no? X% of my readers have blogs about travel, X% of my readers are armchair travelers, that sort of thing. I’m just not sure this is true. Not saying you’re wrong, and I do think there’s a subset that relies on fellow bloggers and that they’re more likely to be present at an event like TBEX.
3. Absolutely, and I really wish it would stop. Don’t get me wrong, I love the perks as much as the next blogger. But lord, the perks as motivation thing is making me crazy. CRAZY. I recently saw someone recommend a travel writing program because “they hook you up with press trips.” Head>Desk. Pulling it back to data, I also think it’s time for PR/Sponsors to ask for bounce rates, time on page, repeat visitors, over raw numbers.
4. What you said.
5. Find and replace on your topic. Mommy for Travel. Craft for Travel. Food for Travel. It’s not really relevant what the topic is. There will always be “too many blogs,” that’s not something we can control. Aggregation seems interesting, but it’s troublesome too, look at the HuffPo which has tons of content but what percentage of it is quality? This remains an interesting problem, I’m with you on that, but it’s not unique to travel. I think the people who are doing the best are those for whom the indy blog is only one portion of their strategy, they’re not reliant on it for the whole of their success. And hey, there are hobbyists who are happily just having a great time. More power to them, right?
Pam, really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I really enjoyed the talk you did, though actually found the PDF of all the ideas and thoughts expanded upon that you did even more helpful.
I think you are right when you say that people who are, and will, be do well are where the indy blog is part of a bigger plan and strategy. The key being having a strategy too!
Good points, well made.
As somebody who organises a conference for bloggers and other practitioners of social and digital – DMOs, marketeers, PRs etc., – we do indeed spend no time in looking at the end-user: the traveller.
Is that wrong? Not so far, as this industry is so nascent the conference (socialtravelmarket.co.uk) is designed to answer the questions of where blogging and its partners is going right now. And right now is white-hot stuff.
My take is that as print declines, so a new breed of digital travel writer will fill the void and expand given the explosion of technology available to use for free. Then, in a short time, the focus will swing towards meeting the needs of the traveller.
UGC, for example, is a huge area of interest and one that should be addressed. The explosion of travel planning sites is another.
So you’re right: aggregation, filtering and ranking will eventually – in a year or two – will be the main area for the maturing blogging scene to meet the needs of the traveller. Right now, it’s the Wild West and a good, fun, rollicking ride it is.
Will be interested to read your follow-up post this time next year.
All the best, Steve
Steve. Thanks for the comments and ideas. I have learnt a lot from the focus that conferences etc have had on the how and what to do, so I agree there is a real role for that as the industry kicks off. As you also say, no doubt in a year things will be different. Be interesting to see what the different will be!
Absolutely. Old travel writer hacks like me get a hard time banging on about this kind of stuff. It’s great to hear someone like you Gary who has been to the seminars and conferences confirming what I’ve felt for a long time. Some hard truths here – but very well articulated and food for thought for anyone thinking of travel blogging as a career path. And Pam is right – more power to the people just having fun and telling people about it along the way.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I do think, as you say, either it is about having fun and enjoying it while you are doing it – or it needs to be a much more considered and professional industry. Free trips and the lure of them are distorting reality….
I have an advantage of speaking two languages (Polish is my first) and I read both English and Polish language blogs. The significant difference between them is that there is more valuable advice for travellers on Polish blogs than in English. Bloggers writing in English write about their adventures and the places they’ve been, but there is no advice on pricing, preparations etc. The same applies when it comes to books. Travel books in the UK are the ‘I’ve cycled Africa’, ‘I’ve driven my tractor through Asia’, which doesn’t really give me any idea on how to prepare for my backpacking trip. In Poland people value their travels more, I think and the idea of backpacking is thought of as an adventure itself.
I agree that the blogging here (Western Europe, USA etc) is more for bloggers and making money than doing something you actually like.
Jo, that is really interesting – so passion versus the lure of free trips driving content…
The number of travel bloggers is growing but so is the number of people who read blogs and go to blogs over handbooks for travel advice.
Interesting post and I agree with what you say. I started my blog to share my experiences with family and friends when I took off to Africa with a one -way ticket when blogging was becoming something.
Now when I hear new bloggers making money or getting paid for trips I wonder how/what they are doing.
I often wonder what it would be like to take my blog to the “paid” level but I also feel my writing may be compromised or I won’t be writing from the heart vs. because I need to but then sometimes I wonder, if that’s just fear speaking…
I feel many travel bloggers blog for various reasons… It’s an interesting blog scene right now.
I’ve been to a few travel blogging events and was lucky enough to win a free trip at one of them. However at times I do feel like there is an ‘inner circle’ of travel bloggers and have felt exhausted trying to keep up and compete with them.
My travel blog does aim to be more niche and has always been a fun way to document my travels and share experiences. I do feel like travel blogging is a saturated market and certainly don’t expect to be a full time travel blogger. However I do work in marketing in the travel industry and think it’s important to recognise the value of travel bloggers as a growing industry.
Natasha. Thanks for the thoughts. I think the challenge is going to be how travel companies finally decide to engage and which blogs they want to work with – as is too complex and hard to work with loads of small blogs. In the podcast space there has been some interesting coming together of podcasters that then offer one point of contact but then have many, many podcasts implementing to get the critical mass..
Great post on the world of travel blogging Gary! I’ve suspected most of what you’ve written and I’m somewhat relieved to read I’m not the only one…
“circle of bloggers blogging for other bloggers”
Seems to me that most of the more popular travel bloggers typically comment on each others blogs and they’ve created a tightly woven peice of the web for each other but it’s tough to get in this circle of successful travel-bloggers because I don’t have the traffic numbers or klout to help them get noticed…
I’ve written a travel guide for new travelers and it’s sold enough to buy a few coffees but it has yet to fulfill my dream of traveling for a living… might happen one day but like you said, we should blog for the love of travel and sharing experiences. I’d like to think I’ll be discovered someday by real people who enjoy what I create and actually use my travel tips for traveling but only time will tell…
You’ve made me think of a lot with your post and it’s tough to write a response here… I know I’ve read something significant when I have trouble commenting or defining my thoughts into something short… so thanks for writing it. Good stuff!
Jeremy. Thanks for the words and also your comments and thoughts. There does seem to be a tight circle, but not always based on scale and size. This will change, and circles may need to develop based on a common base to then be able to market as a package to travel companies. I, like you, am wrestling with the ideas and what it should mean I need to do about it all! Keep me posted as you come up with any more ideas and decisions..
The circle is comprised of regular attendees to travel blogging conferences and meetups. That is pretty much the only requirement, nothing to do with success of a website (however you personally judge success of course). I was informed recently that over 60 people attended both TBU and TBEX, which begs the question, why were two conferences so similar that they both attracted the same crowd? Or why do we have two conferences when there’s really only enough attendees for one?
One of the best round-ups of what blogging conferences and the perceived world of travel blogging is currently about. Nice work Gary.
Yours is not a new discovery either. I’ve long had this opinion and voiced it while I was on the panel at TBU in March of 2011. Bloggers constantly think they need to please other bloggers in order to be a success, rather than finding out what their audience wants, which 99.9% of the time is always non-bloggers (unless your blog is all about blogging obviously).
It should be no surprise that travel blogging conferences pander to this desire of travel bloggers to be noticed, get press trips, etc. Hope is always a big seller and judging by the growth of conferences its clear to see it works.
The conferences can be fun but they’re never a game-changer at the moment. They’re for the amateur or semi-pro blogger. They’re not for the blogging industry, at the moment there’s not one that only offers pro-blogger seminars, professional networking opportunities, etc. This may be because there’s not enough pro-bloggers out there to attend.
So at present blogging conferences are just another way to make money for those in the travel blogging industry. They’re not useful tool for anyone other than aspiring amateurs. The day a conference starts offering something for the professionals will be the day the travel blogging industry turns a corner and is seen as a viable business, more than just a monetized hobby.
Just my 2 cents, I reserve the right to be wrong 🙂
Matt. Thanks for the kind words, and adding your comments. I think you are right, and do think though that there needs to be a big shift towards the end consumer. My years of marketing showing through!! I, like so many others, do not spend enough time thinking about who the target is, what they really want and how to make sure I give that to them. Will you be at WTM next week by the way?
We started our new brand from the lessons we learnt with our blog. We had two goals, what do visitors want and how can we give it to them while creating a viable business model. We found the answer thanks to research in visitor trends, analytics and quite frankly just thinking more about what we do when we search for the info we want. Its not rocket science but new bloggers do get caught up in the illusion that travel blogging is a glamorous hobby and the more they please their peers, the more breaks they’ll get. Its a very short-term view. The real winners in the industry are the ones who have a long term business plan. Who avoid the hype and get on with the business of blogging. You don’t need a conference to be successful but I doubt you’ll ever hear a speaker say that at the next blogging conference 🙂
We will be at WTM next week. Monday, tuesday and in the evenings too. Would be great to meet up at the event or in the evening, whatever suits. Would love to chat more about your marketing background and current projects!
Agree! Data and insights will win out… Great, I will be at WTM all day Monday and probably Tuesday. Will give you a shout via Twitter when there and be great to catch up. Not been to WTM before and all sounds a bit crazy. Hear this is the 1st year they also trying to better embrace bloggers, so interesting to see how that shows up and works
Sounds good, we’ll see you there! It’s a pretty intense experience in a very big space. Best to have a plan of attack if you have particular tourist boards or companies you want to speak to.
STM is also happening (with input from TBU i hear). Talks for bloggers, I believe Nomadic Matt is speaking. Will be interesting to see if anything other than more semi-pro “hope” is talked about. 🙂
Wrong days boys! Social Travel Market runs Weds and Thurs with 13 seminars on different aspects of social and digital media – blogging crops up in five or six, in different angles. TBU are also running two or three seminars separately. All the STM sessions here – bit.ly/socialtrav – no need to register
Oops yes, you are right. Most of the sessions are on Wed that want to go to. Have registered.
I totally agree. I recently attended TBEX girona and it was my first – and likely last – travel blog conference. I was really surprised how much of the focus was on getting free trips vs creating good content. I went in thinking “getting a free trip here or there would be cool” but I came out with a bad taste in my mouth about it – particularly from the bloggers who make everything about the sponsored trips. To me they don’t have travel blogs, they have marketing blogs where they are only promoting people who give them free stuff. It is kind of gross to me.
Anyway, I have been highly unmotivated to post to my blog since the conference as the mentality out there just bugs me and I don’t want to be a sell out working only for advertising.
I will just go back to having my blog be a way for my friends and family to know what I am up to and if no one else reads/finds it, that’s all good with me.
Sorry to hear your were so put off. Shows how much things need to change. But keep following your passion is always the best rule to follow though!
hm, that is really a shame when it is so clear that nearly everyone is only looking for freebies.
Even though I am often invited for my trips, I am a journalist. If I write online or offline, no one can change my mind, my criticism and my will to be free in mind and speech. I am a real Berliner and people say about us in Berlin that the best comment we have to give is “Ick kann nich’ meckern” – “I have nothing to complain”. So, yes, I agree to look for “the hair in the soup” and always also try to say what I don’t like. Just the level on what we complain in a 5 star hotel is somehow different …
So, please keep on blogging! And perhaps we meet at the ITB in Berlin next march.
for a long time I’m following you and your podcasts and blogs already. Now, as I haven’t been at these blogger conferences I am very much interested in your opinion.
The last 5 or 6 years I have been attending the PhocusWright Blogger Meeting at the ITB in Berlin, I have been on german/austrian Barcamps such as Tourismuscamp in Eichstätt/Bavaria and Castlecamp at Castle Kaprun/Austria.
The people I met at the ITB are just like the same you probably met at TBEX etc. It’s all about blogs, social media tools like facebook, twitter etc., SEO and so on.
On the other hand, the people at the other barcamps are also from the tourism industry like destination managers, hotel managers and online travel agencies, So there I have the opportunity to learn about their business model, their point of view and what they expect from blogging and from travel bloggers. There it is more a give-and-get and a win-win-situation for both sides.
But yes, I totaly agree with you: we should focus more on the tourist, the traveller, the client, the one we should originally write for. – On the other hand: when you look at some data and statistics and you realize that most of the people are searching for cheap holidays, it would end that we all are writing about cheap flights, tickets, hostels… – hm, I prefer my niche to write about gourmandise and culinary travel on Le Gourmand http://www.legourmand.de . I only ask myself if I should write in english too, to have a larger audience. But I don’t feel that my english is so good to be published in large articles…
Thanks for your extremely good work and keep on blogging!
Gotz. Thanks so much for reading the article (and for following my podcasts and blog even more!). I think you make some key points: To stand out from the mass you need to have write about an area of focus and expertise, as this will mean you have something new and different that the mass sites cannot do as well; there is an opportunity to focus on writing in languages other than english as that will also mean your advice and content will more likely resonate and dominate with real travelers who will likely prefer material in their home language and also that more actual travel companies and brands should be integrated and part of conferences and events to ensure that bloggers understand better what they need and are looking for. Plus they will have the insights about real travelers!
I agree with your points about travel blogs seeming to be focused on other travel bloggers rather than regular travelers that let’s say only get to makes trip once or twice a year. I find it hard to relate to some of the folks that are just constantly on the road and constantly going on sponsored tours and trips. Especially with some – the sponsorship is a little overwhelming and it feels like I’m reading a pitch for a tour rather than a travel experience.
Adina. I think, as you say, that the key is for bloggers to understand the real traveler and target. How do they approach travel. They certainly are not interested in an account of a freebie trip!
Thank you for your wise, well-written insights, Gary. As a survivor of the dinosaur age when writing was something you did on actual paper, I have always made my living as a writer of one kind or another: for nonprofits, radio stations, small businesses and educational organizations. After my layoff two years ago from a position as a communications director for an environmental organization, I began searching for a similar position. I kept getting interviews but no job offers–probably because I was always leaving for or returning from somewhere else. I resisted blogging because I had a policy of never writing for free. I launched my website and blog to promote my consulting and workshop business (which is slowly evolving), become an ad affiliate and produce merchandise. I believe blogging should never be an end in itself. If you want to write for pay for a major publication like the New York Times, you can’t accept junkets ever. But you can write off trips and expenses if you blog for business and your business earns money. If bloggers who travel took time to offer more unique insights on their journeys (as writers like Rolf Potts and Pico Iyer do) and less time worrying about keeping up with the travel-blogging Joneses, the next stunt, conference or meet up, the world would be richer. Most people respond well when you provide meaningful content and solid information in an inspiring or thought-provoking way. If I see a quote or a photo of an inspiring place, I want facts to go with it. If you quote, provide attribution; if you use a photo, give credit; and if you write something, write it well and edit it carefully. Also, if you share a photo of a storm or castle on a rock that looks too amazing to be real, it was probably photoshopped. Check before posting! Add insights, philosophy, humor and anything that moves you and you’ll be a writer with a blog that every traveler wants to read, no “ten awesome tips” about it.
Ellen. Thanks for reading and all your comments and thoughts. It is really important to focus on the way and what one is doing, and what ones values are too…….. Gary
Though I am networking by leaving a comment…I’ll still go for it. I TOTALLY AGREE! I am kinda new to blogging and…you seem spot on.
Rebecca. Thanks! Glad to hear that sounds like a lot of people agree. I was not sure if it was just me being pessimistic when first started to put out the ideas. Happy blogging. I think that still has to be the main thing, enjoy what we do… Gary
I totally agree with the clique thing – I’ve never been to one of these conferences or even a meet up but it seems like the same people go on all the press trips. And never a bad word either – do they feel like their praise has been bought?
And the competition between everyone – well there’s definitely a heap of blogger politics at play under the surface!
I’m content traveling around and making a bit of money on the side through my blog. Yes I get some freebies but it’s all sorted off my own back, not some PR event.
I’d much rather loose some traffic, skip a post or go offline for a few days and enjoy where I’m at.
Chris. Thanks for taking time to read the post and add your thoughts. I think I am more in your camp. I enjoy meeting people and learning more about the technical side of blogging, wordpress etc – but am lousy at playing the clique game. Probably am not a socialable enough type. I also like to use my time on what want when travelling and some of the trips sounds like a route march, so not sure how would get on with that either…….G
The cliques are bad, definitely. At TBEX I pretty much talked only to newbies as the established bloggers who had gone to several conferences were really just doing their own thing together. I only talked to two ‘big name’ bloggers (aside from a couple who presented) and that was only by accident.
What I find funny is the celebrity associated with some of the bloggers. They’re just people who market themselves well but I met many people who were nervous to meet the big name people. Lol! personally, I don’t really read travel blogs unless I am researching a destination or an article is brought to my attention (like this one) so I had very little idea about who anyone was (except for presenters, who I checked out in advance).
Very interesting post.Thank you for sharing the insights. We are yet to attend a travel blogging conference. But I attend blogging conferences here Down Under which are not niche specific.
We were just at Darren Rowse’s Problogger last month. I absolutely loved hearing from a variety of speakers who are doing interesting things in their own niche. I learned so much quality information about blogging and got ideas on new things to do.
The aim of our blog has always been to inspire and inform. We spent 15 years living and travelling around the world and felt we were doing nothing with it. We had so much information to share to help others who wanted to travel either for real or through us.
Our focus has always been about our readers. We do go on press trips, but more ones that are brand driven rather than DMO’s. This is because we feel it suits our audience and because it is part of our long term goals, which is working for us. We are now pulling away from press trips. We don’t feel it has affected our readership or what we offer. We travelled for 15 years before taking any “free” travel so it’s not like we haven’t been authentic travellers before that.
The majority of our readers are travellers. We have done our research and homework to figure this out. WE love the travel blogging community and will do anything to help anyone. Yes, travel bloggers are travellers as well so they are an important part of your reaadership and should not be ignored. But you cannot be writing purely for them, nor participating in just those circles as you will be chasing your tail.
I did a webinar on the ins and outs of press trips last week for Travel Blog Success. My biggest emphasis was that having a blog was not for the sole purpose of getting free travel and that it wasn’t free travel anyway as you work your butt off.
I made it so clear that it is the WORST form of travel and if you are doing blogging just for that then you are MAD.
I couldn’t ever imagine starting my first experience travelling on a once in a lifetime journey and having a blog to take care of or worse gaining those experiences via a press trip. I am so glad I was fortunate to travel for so long first and start the blog later in my life when I am ready to do something for myself and share to help others.
I agree that it is extremely difficult to make money off your travel blog. Many people start a blog and then start holding out their hand for the money and the free stuff. You have to earn it first by creating valuable content and building a community. It takes years. We have been going for 2.5 years and are only just starting to see the rewards and we work at least 10 hours a day on it. Seriously anyone who wants to do this for free travel is CRAZY!
My husband and I work full time on our blogging business now. That money does not all come from our blog, (little actually) but because of it. In the way of freelance writing, freelance content creation for brands/DMO’s, my personal blog that I have and now we are starting to create our own products and move into consulting and public speaking (which again takes awhile before you get paid for that!!)
Great post Gary!
I don’t know if you’re being facetious in a clever way to maybe just perform exactly what you claim to criticize, namely “travel bloggers writing mainly just for other travel bloggers”? I mean, look at just some of the names of those that rush to respond, and you see those who attend said conferences that preach exactly that formula under the guise of “community”, i.e., TBEX, blogworld, etc. Now, I might have known what page you truly are on, if you had gone the necessary distance and cited examples and individuals who are at the center of perpetrating that type of malarkey. But would you? I doubt it.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, clearly this article is for other travel bloggers and does / did prove the point that if you want to drive traffic and get comments and reactions, you will get that to a dramatically greater degree if you write to or about something that other travel bloggers will want to hear about. This is the case with this article as did exactly the point that I made, and it got much much more traffic and engagement than any article about travel advice or review etc for travelers ever does. It does reinforce the point that we all, as bloggers, need to really think about who the real target is. Maybe it needs to be other bloggers as they are the ones that actually want to read other blogs…. and also like posts that are more provocative and are trying to force a reaction and discussion. Some bloggers are very overt about doing just that. I am not sure I fully understood your last point though, you mean about calling out specific bloggers?
I was going to parse sentence by sentence of what you just stated and point out where I disagree but what it comes down to is this: you already asserted that you’re not caring to engage with ordinary readers online because “..it got much much more traffic and engagement than any article about travel advice or review etc. for traveler ever does” thereby dismissing that audience as anything worthwhile because only traffic matters, and then on top of that, that “Maybe it needs to be other bloggers has they are the one that actually want to read other blogs”. In other words, you’re just already asserting the value of doing exactly what you’re not really critiquing at all. I do feel sorry for people in this thread like Vagabondette Mandy or Chris who make an actual valid point, they’re not the typical audience that I write for myself, but I hear them and where they’re coming from on this, I definitely do not generalize about the demographics of people who attend these types of events just the one-size-fits-all brigade who have been so strident at their events about “community” meaning how to be “successful” in blogging. They are the new conformity, and I’ve found over the past few years not to be crossed, so again “provocative” is something they certainly never wish to hear and well I know it.
Enjoyed reading your post and the thought-provoking points you make. I attended TBEx Vancouver 2011 out of curiosity. I thoroughly enjoyed the people I met and the seminars, but as a professional writer, was surprised on many levels, including the numerous freebies.
I’ve attended numerous writing conferences where craftsmanship and workmanship is the focus; how to deliver work that readers want. As well, nothing is ever given out for free, nor will most pro writers accept press trips or free trips, or other fun things.
I realize we are talking about two different things here (blogging vs. professional writing), but if you know someone has had a trip given to them for free, would you trust what they are writing or blogging about as trustworthy and credible? Are they pandering to their sponsor or delivering reliable info to their reader? That’s a tough balancing act for anyone to achieve.
There are publications with wide readership that won’t consider your work if you’ve ever accepted a free trip, or anything free for that matter.
But in the blogging world, it’s a free-for-all, the Wild West so to speak, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. There are a small group of bloggers, it seems, who are earning a living, but some of them have side-line products they are selling, like e-books, etc.
I think anyone who delivers quality that their readers can use will do ok and maybe survive the onslaught of people jumping into this niche.
Its interesting to read people’s grievances with bloggers and blogging. For some reason people try and compare it traditional print journalism and writing. Blogging is and never has been anything to do with either of these things. Blogging is content produced exclusively online, it’s quality is totally subjective, its ability to make money for the owner is varied and absolutely nothing like traditional media.
Owners of blogs can write what they like, in whatever style they like, on any subject they like. Their professionalism and quality of writing is not related to how many visitors they have, how many loyal subscribers they get or how successful they become. Whether you accept sponsored trips or not is up to you, 99.99% of your readers wont care. This is a fact, whether you think they’re good at blogging or not is subjective. Of course you’re entirely to your opinion.
Which is why the current conferences need to acknowledge this and move away from the repetitive “better writing” workshops. Good writing is great but if blogging is your business then its YOUR business. Share experiences, knowledge, contacts, but lets all grow up and realise if you want to make blogging your career then realise its a business, it can be a great business, with great people doing amazing things. All worth writing about 🙂
By “you” I of course mean all of us.
I think, as you say, the key is for people to define WHAT and WHY they are blogging – and then be true to that. I think there is an emphasis at conferences to focus on being fabulous writers, which maybe is about trying to legitimize and make bloggers seem more professional etc. But maybe more time should be spent on helping people to really define what and why they are blogging – and then be true to that. I still meet at the various events (which I really enjoy going to and are meeting some really great people and learning a lot so not knocking them), mostly people focused on how to get free and subsidized travel. This being their main driver and motivation. During WTM events this week, many of the bloggers I met and chatted to at events were talking about how they were trying to get holidays for them and their partner/ family and other free trips. It was less about generating content for travellers as such. But I think that is fine if that is what they want, and the boards and comapnies want as theyw ant links, content and bizz about their destination.
Maybe conferences should spend more time on helping to define the types of blogging and motivations and helping to segment and form alliance around that. Some people want to be writers and learn how to write better and tell better stories, some people want to know how to fund a travel lifestyle they cannot do otherwise, some want to become a “name” so they can earn a living consulting on blogging, blogger outreach and use of social media etc, others want to generate guides and content for tourist boards as content developers etc etc Maybe being more overt and segmenting may be interesting for everyone….
Blogging is blogging I guess is your point. It is more about what the blogger wants to achieve… and then helping them to maximise that?
Thats definitely my point. Its not like anything else, especially when you’re talking about it as a business and an industry. If you’re just blogging for the fun of it you don’t need conferences. They should be there to support the industry and especially those who are professional or seek professionalism. I agree theres a certain amount that everyone should do to make sure the industry is seen as professional, at present it certainly doesn’t have that.
And you see that written where and when exactly? I’d be interested to see where anyone mentioned any comparison between either print or other media and blogging. Furthermore, the way you attempt to mystify blogging is kind of old at this point in conversations on this topic, not to mention the fact that like most people who become knee-jerk defensive on that Sacred Topic, you refute yourself by adding in your warning that “…if blogging is your business then its YOUR business”, i.e…it’s no one else’s business but your own. Then again, if that is true, then by the same token why would anyone even bother attending any kind of conference or meeting except for the most basic technical skills or discussion.
By the way, when you state on your blog in 2010 that Maren Hogan is the “founder” of TBEX I think that’s incorrect also, since afaik that’s always been Kim Mance who’s taken full [sic] credit everywhere any anywhere for that. I won’t compare print or other media business practices with blogging, but it is noteworthy that the terms of the recent TBEX sale between Mance – Calvert are all cloaked under some “non-disclosure” agreement. Hilarious coming from bloggers who love to preach “transparency” and “openness” as being such key distinct characteristics of blogging as opposed to older media, but apparently easier to preach than to ever actually practice.