I had an interesting evening at the British Guild of Travel Writers monthly get together last night. I was speaking with Alastair McKenzie and Simon Ward Wanderlust's web editor about all things web 2.0.
We were preaching to a quite sceptical audience. And I can see why. There remains little money to be made for pro travel writers in writing for web... and next to nothing from blogging or tweeting.
So why bother?
Well, one thing we all agreed on was that it's getting ever harder to make a proper living writing about travel and the net is very much to blame. Falling ad revenues for print media are directly related to reduced reader numbers - because people are reading stuff on-line for free and not bothering to buy magazines and newspapers in the ways they would have done before the net existed. The future looks pretty bleak for old school freelance travel writers.
Some key points I tried to make about why being part of the on-line world matters (and I hope I succeeded)
- Blogging allows you to publish whatever you want (within legal bounds) - and that's immensely satisfying - indeed liberating. No need to worry about the whims of an editor.
- Being active online - blogging, tweeting and more - also establishes your profile. People use Google to research all kinds of stuff these days. If they're looking for a travel writer chances are that's the phrase they will Google and if you aren't there, they won't find you.
- Most editors are now experimenting with social media - and if you're present in the online environment you stand out immediately as plugged in, in touch... ahead of the game... smart.
- Most writers love to get feedback - and in print it's a real rarity. Editors don't have time to let you know they liked something, reader letters to the publication often don't get forwarded on to the writer. On-line it's a whole different world - people can react, respond, comment right there. It's fascinating... and for me anyway, it's why I write at all - having a sense of an audience of people who (at least to some degree) value my opinion.
- Developing a readership - as I seem to be doing - means that suddenly your voice matters. Today I got offered a Press Trip to Sydney (yep, Australia) as a blogger - on the understanding I'd blog about the experience. That's a seriously big deal. More on this and what it means in another post
None of these will make anyone any better off as a writer and if I were freelance right now I wouldn't spend more than an hour or so a day doing it... but that hour will be time well spent.
Of that I have no doubt. (And actually it might be quite fun too.)