I’m launching a new travel blog

It’s been two years since I started my first travel blog, What To Wear Where, in an effort to answer the niche packing question: ‘What do you wear in trendy Reykjavik in below-freezing December?’ While I still think the idea of packing help for any destination/event still has legs, and the blog still brings in a fairly steady stream of traffic, without a community to fuel the ideas, What To Wear Where sort of got stuck in the doldrums.

So I’m going back to basics. I’ve set up a new blog as a playground for my travel journalism. It’s called Tourist Vs Traveller (not for any deep and meaningful reason but because it was free) and you’ll find it at http://touristvstraveller.wordpress.com/.

Playing with travel journalism…
Playing with travel journalism…

Crowdsourced and client-led content
The first experiment is that I hope the content will be led by others – and my opening post is asking for your input. I’m soliciting views about what kind of content to publish because I don’t want the content solely to be defined by me as a journalist. It could be anything, I am open to suggestions. What I do want to do, though, is use it as a place to experiment with lots of lovely Web tools. With a background in digital client publishing, I’m also interested in travel companies who want me to create online content for their offering – not marketing fluff, but the real stories behind the PR, the kind of content that DOES help people decide to buy your product – or not! Y’know, useful stuff.

The problem with travel writing
So what travel writing is out there right now? On the Web, we have trip blogs, review sites and an avalanche of whinging UGC that is rapidly becoming meaningless as a way to make buying decisions. There are also some nice up and coming blogs from travel journalists and bloggers – I’ll be adding them to the blog roll as time goes by. In print, we have standard travel narratives and a limited number of news items published by newspapers and magazines and written by a rather exclusive club of commissioned travel journalists (or staff writers on a freebie). And on TV, we have an increasing amount of celebrities and comedians being sent off around the globe in the name of entertainment.

What is harder to find is a middle-ground between Jo Bloggs naming and shaming their hotel and the angled/subjective narrative of the commissioned travel writer/presenter.

Finding fresh ways to tell the story
Where I do find decent content, I’ll be linking to it though. I suspect that, for now and for a while, it will be possible to aggregate good examples of experimental travel journalism.

But I think there is also room for journalistic content that goes behind the scenes of a travel product, that tells stories that the newspaper doesn’t have room for, or that revisits classic stories from new angles using audio, video, slideshows, aggregated content and social media. It would be great to break out from the form – after all, traditional travel writing is itself rather stuck in the doldrums, in style and structure, in privileged points of view, and because collapsing print budgets mean fewer outlets and options for travel journalists

And I think that the travel industry could potentially pay for this content now that their outlets for print editorial are shrinking – to explain, here’s my earlier posting on a potential new business model for travel journalists.

So that’s it for now. Please visit the blog and post your comments. I’ve got the first couple of posts up – all about the nonsense of tourism slogans inspired by two days spent at the World Travel Market (WTM) in November.

And especially for Brummies, there’s a winning marketing slogan from St Johns Hotel, Solihull at the end of Around the world in 44 tourism slogans.

SXSWi: Friday the 13th

Austin Convention Center terrace - me @katchooo and Pete @peteashton, part of a contingent from the West Midlands.
Austin Convention Center terrace - me @katchooo and Pete @peteashton, part of a contingent from the West Midlands.

For the next few days this is going to function as my thought download receptable for all things mySXSWi – see post below – with quick summaries of ‘what did I learn, what did I gain’.

Panel: My boss doesn’t get it: championing social media to the man
Details: who & what
Essentially a panel on justification, which I hate doing for sub-editing (hey, spell and fact checking is a basic) but which forms part of the pitch in social media.

The ‘man’: anyone from the budgetarian (if that’s not a word, it should be) to the ‘enemies’ of social media such as the legal department and more nebulous ones such as ‘control’.

The issue: the ROI of social media and what’s in it for the ‘man’.

Some solutions:

• involve your enemy, get old curmudgeons on their grandkid’s Facebook sites
• dispel the myths (there is >some< control when you engage in social media)
• understand the culture and attitudes of your client and meet them where they’re at to help them implement culture change
• failed pitches – sit on it for six months; they may well come back to you presenting it as their innovative new strategy
• culture change starts small: set up small silent swat teams to create small successes to role-model on and also momentum for change but be sure to tie in to business value
• don’t fear failure but see engagement as an ongoing lesson
• play to the psychology of who you are pitching to (what do they want, a promotion? Secretly lobby the individual who can present your ideas as theirs)
• set expectations from the start and be realistic
• define metrics upfront and what you are measuring success by
• If the corporate culture isn’t changing in the time frame you need, move on to somewhere where you can make a difference.

Panel 2: The ecosystem of news
Details: who & what
A bullish talk on the future of news (if not newspapers) with ideas about becoming curators on content and innovation elsewhere. Too much on this one and lots of implications for a journalists so going to post thoughts at my subbing blog instead at some future point. Essentially traditional media is feeling the pain of going from ‘news desert to a lush rainforest’ of news and information but without a timeframe in which to evolve and adapt. The result is fear for both newspapers and the future of news. But history tells us “there will be more content, not less, more analysis, more precision.’ Will traditional media adapt quickly enough, or spend time and resource keeping the old model alive?

Entrepreneur’s Lounge
An Austin interactive showcase, which is running throughout the week. But interested to meet Mason Hale, chief technology officer of One Spot, which provides a curation service for the Wall Street Journal. ‘One Spot leverages the skill of knowing what your audience wants to read. It’s kind of like Stumbleupon but with extra layers of tools to facilitate curation of content.’ He also pointed out the time-saving and efficiency element for a news editor. I’m yet to see how it works in actuality but interesting uses following the panel on news ecosystems.