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.

9 thoughts on “I'm launching a new travel blog”

  1. Dear Fiona,

    Like the idea you are trying to achieve "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".

    Looking forward to read your future posts.

    Hotel York House Lisboa

  2. Will be watching with interest Fiona as trying to develop something similar http://www.northwestscenes.co.uk.

    I still believe that it comes down to quality content,yes we have celebs jetting around the UK and the world and yes numerous people put their travel experiences online but it takes a certain skill to convey atmosphere to the reader,to notice the unnoticable and twist the picture around.

    It is only early days for North West scenes at the moment.In the new year,hopefully will have time for more content and a different look at the world up in this part of the country.

    One thing that I have noticed is how little we look at what is in our backyard,there are many places,many stories up here that people are not aware of even though they live within touching distance of them.It is that I feel will draw traffic to the site.

    Nigel Barlow

  3. @Nigel. Thanks for you comment. I think that there is a lot of great local and hyperlocal travel blogging. Congrats on your site – there needs to be good local resources and hopefully inbound tourists can find them.

    For myself, I don't want to cover a particular beat – it's usually too much for one person so you need a lot of UGC or guest bloggers (as I found with What To Wear Where). But I am interested in the nature and form of travel journalism itself and how journalists/bloggers can push its boundaries. That's the plan anyway…

  4. I agree that something has gotta give right now. The weekend papers are thinner than ever, the quality of writing worse than ever and the hit rate for freelancers placing stories at an all-time low. The old model looks dead in the water. Time to move on .. but how?
    Providing professional content for industry websites looks like a new model. After all, I keep hearing that people still want quality writing, not some SEO tag list. But will they put their money where their mouth is? Let's see…

  5. I hope so. And actually I don't see why not because it makes financial sense. Clients hire publishing agencies to produce their editorial or social media content out of their marketing budgets all the time. But travel companies have the connections to hire specialist travel writers/bloggers/journalists/insertnewtitlehere directly, without paying agency fees.

    The main issue of being paid by a client is ethics – although newspapers also have to deal with this whenever a journalist writes about a paid-for trip. Transparency is one solution but I also think the nature of the content is another – I can see a move away from travel narrative and towards more transparent content: news, interviews, audio clips, video, etc, which show the story of the travel product. And there needs to be an editorial push back with the client – for example, if there is an issue with one of their products, then it needs to be reported and they can resolve it publicly in the comments.

    It would be great if a PR agency could send a blogger along as part of a fam/press trip and see what stories they generate as an experiment. Hosting the content on their client's site/blog would also – SEO experts correct me if wrong – offer better SEO value than the individual journalist's blog, because there are likely to be more incoming links. Just need a bold PR agency or tourist board to give it a go… and I suspect the delay is that they are looking for new outlets too and return on blog is not as obvious or measurable as placement in a newspaper.

  6. Hi Fiona
    Well having only just heard about it, I have to say I like the idea of what to wear where, sorry you've decided to wrap it up, but your new venture sounds good too. It's an interesting point about the gulf between privileged travel writers and ordinary customers ranting on UGC sites, especially with all the recent legal furore over TripAdvisor reviews.
    Good luck with tourist v traveller (thorny old debate that eh?) I look forward to checking it out.

  7. Love your idea for a new business model, Fiona – and the rest. It's not easy for serious travel writers these days, also partly because everyone wants to – or thinks they can – do it. And they can, but usually what they offer is only the tip of the iceberg. I've come across so many publications stuck in a rut and not willing to take a chance on something – or someone – new. Instead, they shoehorn basic stuff into the same one size fits all model. It's very frustrating. I agree with you that while print budgets are diminishing, the travel industry has the contacts and the means to set about some changes. Fingers crossed! I'm now off to read your other posts and hope that you might fancy a read of my fledging Best of Scotland blog (bestofscotland.wordpress.com).

    All the best, Lynda

  8. Trouble is, these days with print markets diminishing, travel writers are being forced to prostitute themselves on-line for a pittance (or nothing!) for their stories that once earned lots of money in print. And also to put up with snarky editors who are riding in the coattails of their contributors and are getting all the freebies and glories from it. that's why I started up my own web 'zine TRAVEL THRU HISTORY. It's a bit of a niche subject market for travel but I'm getting really good stories contributed. And although I can't pay much (it's all out of my own pocket), I try at least to pay a small stipend to my writers. I made the decision to do this after being treated really rudely and insultingly by a certain on-line 'zine who paid nothing at all.

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