The blogtrip that never was

7 Sep

I get a lot of press releases. I get occasional follow up phone calls from PRs too. Usually I’ve at least scanned the subject line. Usually I’m pretty short with whoever is calling. If I've not responded, that means I'm not interested.

I got a follow up call from Poland a week or so back. Just seeing it was an international call piqued my curiosity so, I answered. A nervous girl asked me if I’d seen their tweets and email about visiting Gdansk. I had. They’d tweeted me and followed up with an email. I’d read the contents, but it talked about watching a video. Bound to be a crap attempt at a ‘viral video’ I thought and ignored it. The girl said they wanted to invite me on a blog trip to Gdansk. I explained that I don’t really blog about travel. ‘Yes, but you’re very active on social media,’ she explained. Fine, I said. Let me take a better look at your email. If what you want is promotion on Twitter and Flickr maybe that would work.

I read the email and watched the video. It was clever. The video was personalised for me. At the start of it there was a message written on a chalk board – “Jeremy Head - Are you ready for an adventure?"

So I replied to say I’d go. In return for the trip I’d tweet and post images whilst there and I’d probably write something about how the trip was organised on my blog – particularly because I thought the video idea was really neat and worth sharing.

Next day I got a follow up email asking for stats about my blog. City Hall at Gdansk wanted to know more. I replied asking what exactly they wanted in terms of stats. This blog is hardly a mega traffic driver. I got a reply explaining that after reviewing my blog maybe the Gdansk blog trip wasn’t so appropriate. Maybe I fancied attending a blogger conference instead – with a link to a website. All in Polish.

So, a blog trip that never happened.

Why recount all the above? I think it shows a few things that are worthy of debate.

Blogtrips are gaining traction as a means for promotion among destination marketing organisations (or tourist boards as we often call them in the UK). Lots of people will testify to this – Keith and Melvin who set up iAmbassador, Steve and Mark who run Travel Perspective. There’s clearly an appetite. So, presumably people think they work.

But what does that mean?

I’m not sure people know what they are looking for. My sample of one certainly suggests that. Gdansk is not the most obvious of tourism destinations and probably not somewhere with buckets of cash to spend on marketing. So why create a personalised video for me when I’m not really the right kind of blogger for them?

Working out what you want from this kind of activity and then working out if you achieved it is complex.

I don’t think anyone has really cracked it yet. I’m reminded of the old maxim from someone famous “I know 50% of my advertising doesn’t work. Just wish I knew which 50%”.

There are some nascent models around. Keith and Melvin have done some interesting work trying to compare the value of online articles and tweets with the traditional PR measure of advertising equivalent rates. But it's quite complex. Typically a PR who sets up a trip for a client and gets coverage in a newspaper on say 2 pages will compare that with the cost of buying advertising on 2 similar pages of the same paper. It has been used by the industry for decades.

I’m not completely sure. Most tour operators who send a journalist on a trip aren’t that bothered about advertising equivalent. For them it’s the far harder very simple metric – did it generate enquiries?

In theory at least the plethora of data available in the digital realm (compared to the print one) ought to make the job of assessing the value of editorial coverage easier. But with no one model that's taken as the standard for all to use, it isn't.

The key to all of this for now?

Work out what you want to achieve first and work out too how you’ll measure that success. That way you’ll have a decent chance of working with the right kind of bloggers in the first place.

Have you worked with bloggers or are you thinking of doing so? How do you think we should measure the value of their activity?

44 Responses to “The blogtrip that never was”

  1. Stuart 07. Sep, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    No-one asked me. Bastards

  2. Steve Keenan 07. Sep, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Hi Jez - thanks for the shout. And sorry about your belated ban from Gdansk. Have always wanted to visit myself so perhaps you could give them a nudge...
    By the way, a lot of what you say makes sense, as ever. But think an issue is still what the bosses want - coverage, prestige, 66m Twitter impressions or an AVE of £1m - rather than the bright sparks who realise that awareness and social media friends count for a lot at this stage. The machine that feeds semantic, quality of followers and engagement into the mix as well as figures is still a year or three away.
    So pack your bags for Gdansk 2016. I'll join you then

  3. Jeremy Head 08. Sep, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Hi Steve
    For me the 'proper' meaningful metric still feels like page views on the blogger's blog and traffic delivered by the blog to the DMO's website.
    The gabillion twitter impressions or whatever are interesting... but it feels a bit like fluff in the wind really without further qualification...
    Can you prove the real value of the twitter chaff?
    Well, using a bit.ly short link is a good way to start - if people tweet using that link you can track the traffic quite easily.
    I've not done heaps of this yet, but so far I haven't found a blogger that delivers really serious numbers of page views and traffic and I've not been able to track what they deliver to see if it actually converts.
    It's easy to use a tool to say they delivered a zillion twitter impressions, but I remain unconvinced that that really means that much. I'm happy to be convinced by the way... just not sure yet.
    Cheers
    Jeremy

    • Gary Arndt 18. Sep, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

      I don't know if I have ever linked to a DMO website.

      I think the goal of a destination should be to promote the destination, not to promote the organization which promotes the destination.

  4. Stuart Mcd 08. Sep, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Twitter "impressions" are utterly meaningless. It's like billing clients for an unlit highway billboard 24 hours a day by the number of people who drove past. AVE hasn't that already been debunked?

    Twitter actions -- be it clicks, or more importantly Rts, that's a different matter.

    Still I don't understand why they made the effort of making you a personalised vid only then top say, sorry you're the wrong kinds guy. Still, you've blogged it now and you didn't even do the trip -- Go Gdansk!

    • Mikeachim 08. Sep, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

      I've heard it argued that impressions are the best engagement metric the industry has, and anything is better than nothing. Which is a pretty depressing argument, right?

      But I actually think they're worse than nothing, because their existence is serving to prevent too many people from looking for a meaningful alternative. This is what worries me about them. They're not harmless.

      • Stuart Mcd 09. Sep, 2013 at 8:45 am #

        Best or biggest?

  5. Jeremy Head 08. Sep, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Hi Stuart
    I don't think twitter impressions are utterly, totally meaningless, but I do think it's easy to be swayed by big sounding numbers that don't mean very much unless you can qualify them further. I like your analogy! Maybe the billboard does light up every now and then tho?
    Go Gdansk indeed. I have a few theories about why they invited me and then changed their minds... I'll let them know about this post once a few people have had chance to comment so they can put the record straight if they want to.
    The video invite is a cool idea... and probably wasn't that expensive to personalise. It's a concept I could see myself adapting in the future!
    J

    • Stuart Mcd 08. Sep, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Yes sure, there's some billboards I pay attention to -- some are lit, but the best ones I'm happy to squint to see.

      Raw numbers **are** totally meaningless. :-)

      See this site here http://www.fastfollowerz.com/ I can buy 100,000 followers for $399 ... sale finishes tomorrow - so be quick ;-).

      Given the above I fail to see how the raw number of followers means anything at all -- I mean sure if you're dealing with someone who has no idea then having x'gazillion Twitter followers probably sounds sexy, but really, it's not.

      Clickthroughs and RTs are the gold as far as I can see.

    • Jodi 08. Sep, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

      Agree with Stu here - I don't understand the use of Twitter impressions as a metric, as it doesn't give any real sense of engagement, purchasing plans or even reactions to a particular tweet. it's merely the aggregate of who could have seen it -- but didn't necessarily look.

      Even Tweetreach's help desk says "Currently, there is no way to know whether or not a particular user has actually read a particular Tweet. When we say "impression", we mean that a Tweet has been delivered to the Twitter stream of a particular account. Not everyone who receives a tweet will read it. [...] Both reach and impressions should be treated as directional metrics to give you an idea of the overall exposure the tracked term received. You should use these metrics to get a sense of the size of your potential audience, and use engagement metrics like retweets, clicks and replies to gain a more complete understanding of your impact."

      I don't understand why it's used as a metric, especially given the lack of measurability, but it does generate bigger numbers than, say, measuring RTs or favourites, both of which require action on behalf of the Twitter user. Hopefully PRs/DMOs will move toward a more action-based measure in the coming years! :)

      Sorry you didn't get your trip, but interesting discussion here, as always!

  6. Darren Cronian 08. Sep, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Hi Jeremy,

    One day spend half an hour looking at a Twitter account with hundreds of thousands of followers - more importantly, look at the people that are following the account and you will see the quality of 'their audience'. I shall not name, names, but, destination marketing agencies need to look into the quality of the followers.

    Bloggers like Keith and a small group of others are building their Twitter audience naturally but many aren't.

    • Jeremy Head 08. Sep, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      Yes, agree Darren. There's one online travel magazine that has over 500k followers. I just can't work that one out. Particularly having followed them and read their tweets for several months.
      I am no fan of Klout but I do think it's fair to say that not all tweets are the same. The vane side of my personality would love to have hundreds of thousands of followers, the pragmatic side says 7000 'real' followers should be 'worth' far more than 100,000 fake ones.

      • Jodi 08. Sep, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

        Couldn't agree more with the quality vs. quantity comment, though optics do seem to matter more than not at the beginning. That is, "I'm sufficiently relevant because I have x as my social media following" does get you far, provided the PR/DMO doesn't investigate re: engagement. There are certainly people who have purchased followings / engaged in interesting practices only to shed them later (or take a more conservative stance w/r/t buying followers), since they are already then established. (Fake it till you make it and all that.) That's not to say it's right / wrong but if brands want true engagement, then they need to look for a true audience, which takes more time and work, which isn't what all everyone wants to invest in to complete a campaign. So it's a long list of things, I'd say, that keep these circles moving the way they do.

        In the end, though, I'm not sure it matters. Consumers/buyers/people reading, even if initially thinking that something is more popular than it truly is, often figure it out in the end. DMOs / PR companies, too, will either decide to keep with the metrics they're using, or dig deeper prior to bringing people on, or change the goals for doing so. If a goal is social amplification, that is often a different type of blogger/writer than if the goal is pure content creation. So for each, different needs. The problems arise when we (or anyone) tries to lump all campaigns into one mould. No one is doing that here -- I just mean in the forum conversations, etc.

        I'd also agree that Klout, while not a great metric, is one of the few that measures influence including engagment/RTs/interaction. While it was a total mess when it first came out, to their credit they have changed up their algorithm to focus more on engagement. Does that mean it's bulletproof? Not at all. But as snapshots of a social sphere, what else is out there other than PeerIndex and Kredly?

        I am curious to see what happens to the landscape as blogging becomes more mainstream, and continues to fold into bigger trade shows like WTM and ITB. Just as success differs for each travel writer or blogger (reputation vs. just funds to travel vs. a book deal vs. a community), so too does it change depending on each brand's needs.

        • Jeremy Head 09. Sep, 2013 at 9:36 am #

          "if brands want true engagement, then they need to look for a true audience, which takes more time and work" - Here, here. Yes - completely agree.

          • Mikeachim 10. Sep, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

            If brands want true engagement, they need to employ people who are creative social media experts. Emphasis on "creative". People who try out ideas new enough to get massive publicity when they go viral.

            For example, maybe what Gdansk needs is some really obnoxious Gdansk-haters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw3zNNO5gX0

      • Darren Cronian 08. Sep, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

        It's late, I should be in bed, but I wanted to leave a comment before I forget. Use a tool called Tweepi and look at the followers of that account. You'll soon notice a common trend. Also, they're tools which allow you to post Tweets throughout the day and night, even when you are not online, i.e. take lots of RSS feeds and tweet the article title and link. It doesn't take long to increase your Klout score when you are using this tool to tweet automatically every 30 minutes or so. I've looked at this type of thing quite closely recently, and there is a lot of gamification in social media.

        • Jeremy Head 09. Sep, 2013 at 9:36 am #

          Hi Darren. Thanks for sharing. Useful stuff. Followerwonk is another tool I've read about and not tried yet that seems interesting. Delighted my blog is keeping you from going to bed by the way! ;-) J

          • Darren Cronian 09. Sep, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

            Hi Jeremy, Followerwonk is great, I use it to find people who I should be following. Great for local, you can search for example, for restaurants in York, look at when they last tweeted, and then follow them. Most of the features you have to pay for, it's part of Moz Tools, but the free feature is useful for me. Another free tool which is used is Pluggio. I'm going to sign up and have a look this week.

            I'm a typical Yorkshireman, only sign up for free tools! ;)

      • nick 09. Sep, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

        500k followers, 499k probably freelance travel journalists hoping to 'engage' with the commissioning editor!

  7. pam 08. Sep, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    It's popular to use Twitter impressions to sell the success of a campaign these days because the numbers are big, and because, I suspect, there's still an insufficient grasp of what web analytics offer by the PR/suits funding such campaigns.

    But it's not that hard to see what those Twitter impressions lead to, it simply requires access to the blogger's analytics. Inbound clicks from Twitter to the blog posts produced. Outbound clicks from the blog to the resources recommended. Twitter>blog>DMO. Not really rocket science.

    It requires the blogger provide access to their analytics. With organizations like iAmabassador who charge for play, it seems a fair request, and then there's data that a)put the Twitter impressions in context and b) provides the truth about the results. You can see the inquiries on inbound traffic to the destination.

    I'm not saying they *don't* offer analytics, I have no idea, perhaps they do. And yes, I realize that analytics are also subject to interpretation, but hey, for every 100 impressions, how many click through? That's an obtainable metric that provided valuable information about the campaign.

    • Jeremy Head 08. Sep, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      I agree Pam. I don't know what the deal is with iAmbassador projects but I recently organised a bunch of blog trips for a DMO (the first I have done) and absolutely, I expected to be given their analytics data. I really like that 'for every 100 impressions X click throughs' idea - it ought to be a fairly easy rule of thumb to establish over the course of a year or so of blogtrips.

  8. Lucy Thorpe 08. Sep, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Hi Jeremy,
    I can see why you liked the personal video invitation, but it worries me a bit. Do interesting travel destinations and great hotels have to go to increasingly bizarre lengths to grab attention? Some love to see the PRs jump and grovel but I would love to let quality speak for itself. That way we can level the playing field and everyone would be in with the same shout. I hate the idea of upping the ante to get attention all the time. What do you reckon?

    • Jeremy Head 08. Sep, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      Hi Lucy
      A bit off topic ;-) but a great point.
      To be honest, as a journo who gets heaps and heaps of releases the PR industry has made its own bed and now has to sleep in it. I get so many 'weekly round up' or 'comments on nothing in particular' releases that are just not of interest that when the 'real' news comes along it can definitely get missed.
      In an ideal world, yes, quality should speak for itself, but just getting through the noise and chaff in an email in tray isn't easy.
      The best way? The old fashioned one I think... make proper contact by phone, get to know a jounro and understand what they want/need. There's a small bunch of PRs that I really rate and now well - if they email me I read their stuff because they've taken the time to get to know me. The rest? It has to happen to be about a destination or topic I'm interested in... or a clever idea. The Gdansk agency first tweeted, then emailed and then called me. That might normally have felt like overkill, but they then followed up with a really smart idea. The approach was actually really good.
      Let down by duff research or possibly a client (the city hall) that changed the goal posts on them?
      What do you think?
      J

      • Susan 26. Sep, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

        Side note: As a communications specialist by day, and fledgling travel blogger/photographer, I am baffled by the fact that the GDansk team tweeted you, emailed you, called you, and then created a customized video without first vetting whether your blog was a fit for them. I am also mortified that after all that, they uninvited you. Incredibly unprofessional.

        • Jeremy Head 26. Sep, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

          Me too. The thing I find even more surprising is I emailed them with a link to this post and said:"Come join the conversation"... and nothing. Nada.

  9. Darren Cronian 08. Sep, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    I wish I could give a thumbs up to Jodi and Pam's comments, both spot on.

    Why don't tourist boards (DMO's or whatever you want to call them) not request access to Google Analytics in conjunction with an NDA, surely this would not be a problem if the stats that are being portrayed are correct? The problem is reports in Google Analytics can be made to give a misrepresentation. I'm going off topic slightly, but, what would you think about that?

  10. nick 09. Sep, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    The debate about social media goes on.

    To earn money, because let's face it being a freelance journalist is no passport to riches these days, I am also a freelance copywriter.

    One of my clients is a big domestic boiler manufacturer and I write facebook and twitter posts for them. Yes, it sounds insane, who the hell would want to like/follow a boiler maker? Who wants to 'engage' with them or hear their 'stories'?

    Well the client was told, not by me but by the agency that employs me, social media was the way to go. And so no doubt baffled by jargon and not wishing to appear dull and boring, they agreed. I do my job, the posts get likes, I get paid (more than I would for a travel piece, if indeed any payment was offered at all), so all is good.

    And so to PRs and travel bloggers. We (us )all suspect that the figures are low on meaning, that bloggers/tweeters mostly follow each other to get their own stats up in a circle jerk, and that the whole thing is just about having a nice young life on press trips while still free and single.

    A few pictures, some 'what we did next' copy, job done and onto the next trip. PRs get their stats, client gets a document to wave about in meetings, everyone's happy.

    I suspect Jeremy you were simply trumped to the trip when they found a young blogger with bigger stats than you! It is about quantity not quality.

    BTW I try not to be short with PRs on the phone. They have a job to do and it's the historical snottiness of print travel journalists, who tend to act in a high handed manner, that has helped make PRs turn toward the more polite (and grateful) bloggers and their delicious stats.

    • Jeremy Head 09. Sep, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      Hi Nick
      I'm not quite as cynical as you these days. I was though. I do think that the right bloggers can deliver 'real' value. It's early days, but I see partcularly in the US and not necessarily in the travel sector either, that bloggers are really having an impact. This is a definite shift in my opinion and I'm happy to say that.
      J

      • nick 09. Sep, 2013 at 10:25 am #

        I don't like to think I am being cynical merely going on my experience and observation.

        Yes of course right blogger/right audience can make a difference and deliver bums on seats. Although as you said earlier I don't quite know how that is measured - okay so hits on the client website went up but did sales? And if sales did go up, was that because of the interest generated by the blogger or because of seasonal factors, a good price, something seen on TV? Marshall McLuhan is still valid.

        I do believe young people are less interested in the opinions of a journalist than they are in the opinions of their peers. They don't like the writing style of classic journalists, they prefer the 'what I did on my holidays' style and they definitely prefer less copy more pictures.

        There is a lot of odd fits though. A 23 year old blogger writing about a luxury holiday is talking to 23 year olds. Not many of them can afford the holiday so why bother targeting them? It makes about as much sense as putting an ad for a Rolls Royce in a magazine dedicated to cyclists.

        In advertising we have things called Media Planners to gain precision with spend, PRs don't seem to look beyond stats. They need to employ people to look beyond the stats and find the real influencers appropriate to the target market. A blogger with ten 'right' followers is better than one with 100,000 wrong ones.

        • pam 09. Sep, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

          Ya know, it occurs to me that PRs used to ask me for a screen shot of my stats. It's been AGES since that's happened -- now they talk to me about my Twitter feed.

          But I've noticed a change in the composition of my followers, too. Increasingly, they're tourism businesses. I'm still picking up followers at a rapid clip, but probably 50% of them are tour operators, hotels, that sort of thing.

          I figure they either want to sell me something or pitch me their products. Does Hotel A care what I tweet about Hotel B, or do they just want to know how they can get me to tweet about them? They're not junk accounts, but why would a small hotel in Croatia follow me on Twitter? For the sheer brilliance of my trademark combination of ukuleles, web cynicism, lefty politics, pictures of cake, and Instagrammed landscapes? Maybe but...

          I feel like this conversation should be happening at PRSA (the US PR conference) or similar venues. Things like Triberr exist, handshake deals on "you share mine, I'll share yours" exist, as Jodi and Stuart mentioned, folks buy followers. I'd guess that the folks organizing pay-for-play blogger trips require amplification from their participants -- send six bloggers to #destination, charge for the coverage, pay the bloggers, require that they tweet each other's stuff REGARDLESS OF HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT THAT WORK, automate a Triberr group for the bloggers, present the numbers. Voila, amplification. Now we have gajillion impressions on #destination. Isn't that neat? Did we offer any value at all? Until we pop the hood on inbound traffic to the client's destination, we don't know.

          What's that saying? (Mostly attributed to Mark Twain, but there's some question.)"There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics." You decide which one Twitter impressions are.

          • Darren Cronian 09. Sep, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

            Interesting you mention who follows you Pam.

            I suspect (and I only know this because my Travel Rants twitter account was like this) that most of the people who follow bloggers are in fact people from within the travel industry. Whereas my local twitter accounts, it is 70% local people. It's weird I find.

  11. Gary Arndt 09. Sep, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Some random thoughts on this subject:

    - As followers go, Twitter might be the worst social platform. Like Pam, I get a lot of tourist industry accounts that follow me. The last time I checked on SocialBro, I had 50,000 followers that were inactive in the past year. Twitter keeps them around, but for all practical purposes, they shouldn't count.

    - Facebook gets ignored, but I get FAR more engagement on Facebook than I do anywhere else. If I post the same thing of Facebook and Twitter, I will generate 10-100x more engagement on Facebook. It isn't even close.

    - I'm not sure Google Analytics are the be all and end all. Robert Scoble is considered one of the biggest influencers in the technology world and he didn't update his blog for a 6 month stretch this year. Everything he did he posted to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Social platforms are where people are, and I'm not sure that should be discounted and I don't think a pageview on a blog is necessarily better.

    - I don't think looking at analytics is going to be of much help if people can't decipher the stats. Raw uniques and pageviews doesn't mean much either if 95% of your traffic comes from searches on an article written years ago about Bangkok prostitution. None of that traffic will ever see anything else you publish.

    - All PR people should care about is how many people will read the NEXT thing you have to say, not how many people are reading stuff you wrote in the past that is winning the SEO game. In that respect, social media metrics are more powerful than raw uniques and pageviews which primarily measure what was done in the past.

    - Why does everyone ignore email and RSS subscribers? That is arguable a more important metric than anything else discussed here.

    - Close circuit to Pam: I haven't been asked for stats in years either. I think the reason is you and I have become established players in the world of travel blogging. There are people who have been around for years who have developed a reputation and probably don't need a media kit anymore. Same is true with established travel writers and photographers who have shown a track record. Most of the PR industry seems to operate on networking and relationships, not data.

    - Any metric can be gamed. The key is to take a balanced approach and look at performance, engagement, and track record over time and on different platforms. It is very difficult to game all metrics.

  12. Joe Jamieson 10. Sep, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Hi all,

    I thought I'd weigh in as a newbie and offer an opinion/ask for some advice.

    Trying to gain traction - especially through twitter - is proving to be a real challenge. There's a viscous ocean of twitter users whose blogs appear to exist solely for financial gain (they're incredibly spammy to boot). Not that there's anything wrong with that per se, but it makes breaking through what Jeremy called the 'noise and chaff', very difficult indeed.

    From the perspective of someone starting out I can understand the attraction of services that allow you to buy followers, regardless of their quality. I would never use such a service myself, but I understand that people, often incorrectly, believe more followers = greater reach. I'm willing to bet that many PRs share a similar belief - it's a numerical pissing contest.

    One of the main reasons for the above is that there's a real tendency in the digital industries to look at numbers rather than making qualitative analyses. I blame this on the fact that reporting to clients is almost exclusively numerical (for good reason).

    Enter Klout.

    Klout is actually an interesting example of the industry trying to find a solution to this disparity and correct itself - albeit rather clumsily. However, as a newbie I'm not sure how much energy to invest in the 'potential' of this sort of metric with a view to use it to my advantage.

    It's all very confusing.

    How does everyone feel about producing high-quality content, getting it in front of a few of the right people and letting the metrics take care of themselves? After all, they're supposed to exist as an indicator or measure of success/influence rather than something to aim for. Too naive perhaps?

    • pam 10. Sep, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      Kinda depends on your goals. Impress PR to score trips? SEO the crap out of everything to game AdSense? Sell context links for beer money? Build a sustainable business based on offering a product/service that people will buy and isn't suspect to the whimsy of Google? Establish yourself as a writer and/or authority in a specific type of travel/region/some third thing?

      If you're playing the long game, then, yeah, work on your content, work on your content, WORK ON YOUR CONTENT.

      • nick 10. Sep, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

        I believe Klout is also easily gamed.

        It would be nice if good content attracted the readership all on its own, but the internet is a vast and infinite sea and if you don't put up some smoke no one will come to your island

        The long game would be good if anyone knew where the game will be in a year's time let alone ten.

        • pam 10. Sep, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

          "A vast an infinite sea." Awesome. I think small scale organic community building is a good place to start. This is old (2008) but I'm naive or optimistic enough to believe that the 1000 true fans theory is still solid.

          http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

          • Joe Jamieson 11. Sep, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

            Thanks for the responses - it's nice being able to engage with the informed few.

            I'm a huge believer in 1000 true fans. I suppose I'd better go and find myself some fanatics.

  13. nick 11. Sep, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    My little epiphany yesterday, and I may be wrong, is that in real life people want travel sections to give them ideas and tips for holidays. They don't have time to do much else. A two week break or a weekend is about all they have. They can't spend a month trekking the Andes or whatever.

    An article about living with the XYZ people and learning their 'time-honoured ways' is not a travel article, it's an article. It can be a very interesting read but it doesn't need to be in the Travel section.

    And to take it one stage further, it really belongs in a book not a newspaper or magazine. I for one buy those kind of books, it's the right home for that kind of writing, not the Sunday XXX's pull out section,

    • Jodi 11. Sep, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      It's true that people don't "need" travel inspiration -- the world is inspiring enough, just by how beautiful it is. (It's also, I think, why travel blogs are far less trafficked than personal fitness or personal finance. We don't provide a service that people genuinely need to make themselves "better".)

      That said, for blogs, readers are following a personality, or they are armchair traveling, or they are being drawn in by a way to see the world that is different than their own. The travel blogs that have lasted longer are, imho, those that embrace this. They stay true to their own interests and put their readers before a quick buck. They are different from the travel section, but should be because if readers wanted the travel section, they'd read the paper (since it's online too)!

      For the paper/magazines (or blogs) -- I don't think these travel pieces belong in books. Unfortunately, while many people won't read books, they might read at a paper or a magazine (online or otherwise), so it remains the more effective way to reach people and hopefully convince them to think about travel a bit differently. By putting it in the travel section, or a travel blog, at least there's more chance people read it :) If the goal is getting people to see the world differently, than that's a great thing.

  14. nick 11. Sep, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    I don't know Jodi, I think most travel blogs read like diaries, they hold no interest for me, but maybe that's an age thing. The writing is gushy and too first person 'So I did this, and then I did this, and it was awesome and here's another photo from an expensive dSLR that is obviously exposed properly and is sharp but shows no 'eye' and no composition'.

    There's a kind of evangelism and naivety too I find, a dewy eyed enthusiasm for 'travel' that works with a young audience but can be exasperating to the older and more experienced reader.

    So I'd rather read a book!

    • Jodi 11. Sep, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      That's fair, and that's personal preference -- can't argue with you there! (FWIW, I don't use an expensive DSLR, though. And at least per the demographics I have access to, most of my readers are between 34-44. But again, to each their own.)

      For non dewey-eyed enthusiasm, see Roads and Kingdoms - great site.

    • Mikeachim 11. Sep, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      I can understand that feeling. Right now I'd rather read a book too. I'm woefully behind with getting through my backlog of Eric Newbys, Colin Thubrons and Jonathan Rabans. But that's due to the writers. If they had blogs, I'd rather read blogs.

      I can understand concluding that travel blogs are a particular style of writing that doesn't suit anyone still in love with the Norman Lewis or Pico Iyer way of looking at the world. But I firmly believe it's all about where you look, and has nothing to do with the medium itself. Paul Theroux is famously grumpy about blogs, all blogs, on the record for saying they're hastily-written rubbish. He has a point that some of them are. But then he makes no attempt to be specific - he just blames "blogs". If someone did the same with "books", he'd lose his wits.

      I'm betting some similar arguments were being thrashed out in coffee shops around Europe when Dickens started distributing a serialized version of 'The Pickwick Papers'. ;)

      • Joe Jamieson 12. Sep, 2013 at 10:15 am #

        Quite.

        I absolutely love the way in which Pico Iyer reflectively and personally conveys his experiences.

        Just yesterday I was watching an interview in which he explained that his editor pushed him to write with 'I' in mind. Pico was asked questions like "Why do *you* identify with this region/culture?" and what is it about this place that makes you identify with your father."

        The editor believed that people wanted intimate details and he was right.

        Though this sort of long-form doesn't always necessarily lend itself to blog writing. I suppose people's preconceptions of what to 'expect' from a blog are different than from a book.

        Though it's worth noting that if you look thoroughly, you can almost always find a blog that has exactly what you're looking for. If you cant, you should set about creating it.