As we near the end of the year many us may be taking some time to reflect – looking at the goals we hit, the ones we missed and the ones we came up with at 3am last night when we really needed to be getting some sleep.
Whilst I try to get to grips with what I have (and haven’t) achieved personally in my blogging career this year, I thought I would take some time to look forward too.
The world of travel blogging and social media changes so fast that at times it seems hard to keep up. I wouldn’t dare try to predict the future of this burgeoning industry, it surprises me daily as it is, but I wanted to express my hopes for all travel bloggers in the coming year. I’d be very interested to hear if they resonate with you too.
Less Imitation And More Innovation
I’m conscious that it’s impossible for us all to come up with genuinely original ideas all of the time but it feels that as travel blogging has grown there has simply been a proliferation of the same content over and over again. (In fact, in a Facebook group recently I saw someone report that their content idea had been replicated outright and many people chimed in to say the same thing has happened to them at some point.) I’m all for taking an idea and giving it your own spin – but the spin bit is important! When you are inspired by a type, style or theme of content, add your own voice and perspective, adapt, change and play with the idea, so much so that it becomes your own. Plus make sure you do it bloody well, because there is no point imitating something if you are just a bad copy :s
Less ‘Crowd-Sourced’ And More Collaborative Content
Back in the day I was all for a round-up post that took opinions and quotes from multiple writers/bloggers. The HostelBookers 50 Of The World’s Best Breakfasts piece written by Vicky Flip Flop is one of the best examples I can think of this. It combines 50 different personal perspectives (which Vicky researched and collated herself) to create a unique, authoritative and shareable piece of content. Brilliant.
But like all good ideas this type of content has been copied and replicated (badly) and I have started to see both brands and bloggers/writers reach out to get others to write it for them. I guess what I’m saying is crowd-sourcing content from online resources and linking/crediting the author is genius, but reaching out to them to write the paragraph for you is lazy. Non?
When its well targeted and used sparingly it’s great, but my inbox seems to get filled with requests to provide words and images (free of charge) for other people’s websites and it makes me a little angry. Does anyone else feel like their good nature is being taken advantage of?
Instead it would be great to see more collaboration. Whether blogger with blogger or brand with blogger, perhaps we can put our heads together to create content that benefits all parties as well as exciting the reader. Instead of asking a blogger to complete a lengthy interview or write a paragraph on a random subject, maybe ask them if there is an issue or special project they would like to bring attention to. There’s so many sides to travel blogging that our audiences don’t normally see, this could be a great opportunity to offer a new perspective, instead of a few words about our favourite breakfast. (No offence to Vicky – I’m referring to those who copied you!)
Bloggers Selling Skills Over Advertising
This is something that I am seeing happening quite naturally throughout all niches of blogging. Blogging draws on so many different skills, we’re all learning all the time, and brands have realised (quite rightly) that they too can learn from this experience. Everyone’s site and monetisation strategy is different (and I would never want to tell anyone how they should do it) but in my personal experience I have found selling skills (be that offer consulting, content or collaboration) has been far more lucrative than selling any form of advertising (whether pay per click, banner, or text.) A lot of bloggers seem to do well by offering a combination of the two – you’ll notice I have one spot that I offer at a premium to relevant brands, something I introduced very recently. I guess, ultimately it’s about understanding your value. (More on that later.)
There have been calls for more transparency in travel blogging for the last few years and by and large I think bloggers deal with disclosure brilliantly, in some cases co-branded content is much better labelled on blogs than print publications.
The transparency I am referring to is blogger to blogger. Many of us will be approached by the same brands for the same campaigns. We’re all entitled to work differently and charge what we think we are worth accordingly but I feel more transparency between bloggers will lead to better rates and working relationships for all of us. I have no idea, for example, if I am undercutting other bloggers and getting commissioned for work not for my skills but my cheap prices! I’m not asking people to post their rates online (I’m not stupid) but if anyone ever wants to email me and ask what I’m charging or to brainstorm/discuss starting rates for travel blogging campaigns, I’m all ears!
Less Working For Free
I’ve mentioned selling your skills because what bloggers have learnt through building their own websites and communities, creating products, marketing themselves and constantly producing content are sellable commodities. I’ve also said we are all entitled to value our work differently and be paid accordingly – but the payment part is key!
Generally if a brand approaches you it’s because you have something they need – content, an audience, contacts – why shouldn’t they pay for it? Not every transaction has to be cash based, of course, sometimes something will be offered in return that has greater value than the cash fee I would charge anyway. From past experience I would advise to assess what is being offered in return for your work/time thoroughly though – ask yourself how much you will gain from the ‘exposure’, double-check what is included in the ‘free holiday’ and make sure there are no catches or hidden obligations before entering any type of agreement.
So these are my hopes for the coming year. I don’t pretend to know he we get there but I’m willing to give it a try!
What do you want to see happening for travel bloggers in 2015? Do any of these points strike a chord with you?
17 thoughts on “Hopes For Travel Blogging In 2015”
Jayne, thanks for a very timely article. I agree that travel blogging is an ever evolving industry so it is sometimes difficult to keep up. While we have a lot of disclosure, at the same time we also keep things like pricing at a very individual level, and as you have said we never know if a pitch or proposal is not taken up because another travel blogger is offering an option for free or at a significantly cheaper price.
And proposals to work for free becomes very tiresome after a while, and it feels like we are progressively training industry to better understand that travel bloggers also actually work for a living and expect to be appropriately remunerated for services provided.
The other thing I think would be great would be the development of a clear code of ethics for professional travel bloggers. As a result travel bloggers who comply with that code of ethics would be able to use that as a point of difference to both develop trust with their readers. In addition travel brands would be able to have a clear understanding of the framework that the travel blogger operates within without having to explain it every time.
Thanks for your comments Anne, it is reassuring to know others agree. I also agree with you about how having a clear code of ethics would help add credibility to the industry. I think maybe the PBA were going to set something like this up? I guess the probably is getting am impartial group of people together to set the standard. Perhaps it should be a mix of industry – both travel and media – who come together rather than a group of travel bloggers trying to police ourselves?
I think you raise some really interesting points which are important for all bloggers, irrespective of their niche. It would be great to have more transparency over rates (although I doubt this will happen) and while I do think working for free can be good in the early days to help build relationships with brands, bloggers who work hard to produce content should receive compensation for that.
I also agree with your ideas for collaborative posts – this works much better than crowd-sourced content.
So glad we are on the same page and that I’m not just a ranty mad blogger! I see lots of great, successful blogger to blogger collaborations happening here in Oz so I definitely think there is a future in that. Maybe collaborating with someone in another niche is a great way to reach a new audience? We should brainstorm!
I would totally love that! Feel free to drop me an email any time! x
Yay – let’s chat in 2015 🙂 x
Definitely agree with your point about crowd-sourced and collaborative content. Sometimes this is done so well and it pulls together so many different ideas and resources. But more often than not it’s done because the writer is being lazy or they hope the bloggers will then share the content. I try to contribute to posts whenever I can but I don’t appreciate it when I’m contacted serval times telling me they’ve done me a massive favour and I should be sharing that post on my own blog and social channels.
I’d like to see more people seeing blogging as a career as well as a hobby and I’d like to see more travel vloggers. Beauty and lifestyle vloggers are doing so well but us travellers need to up our game. That’s my aim for 2015!
Agreed re the content. You can definitely tell when it comes from a creative angle versus being a ploy to get bloggers to share links.
And more travel vlogging would be awesome. I watched some of A Brit And A Broads videos the other day and they are doing a great job – it feels like a mini TV series which is def the style I like watching. Maybe I should look into a vlogging course for 2015 – think it requires serious skills to produce good films!
I think a lot of the posts and ideas that worked in the past have just got old now. The post I wrote for HostelBookers was done over two years ago (they must’ve reposted with a 2014 date) and at the time it obviously did well, but now those lists posts are just so overdone. Yet, still compelling if the topic is right.
I agree with you and Monica about the ‘crowdsourced’ content. I’ve been part of a few such ‘initiatives’ where the only work the writer puts in is to send the emails and copy and paste them into an article. I understand that everyone is busy, but as Mon alludes to, when you’re essentially writing the article, providing the images and then sharing on your social media feeds because their feeds aren’t big enough to gain traction, something has gone wrong.
I’d definitely be up for more collaborative ideas next year though!
Agreed! I tend to delete the emails now (prob going to be black-listed for saying that!)
Would love to do a travel blogger brainstorming sess looking at what the future of travel blogging content looks like – wonder if we can arrange that virtually..
Great post! I’m doing a similar one for my writing goals for the year and you’ve made me think of a few.
Great, I look forward to checking that out then 😉
Great post Jane. In the travel blogging world I feel I’m reading the same thing over and over. As a reader I know I’ve stopped reading some blogs because I’m just tired of the lack of originality. I know some bloggers probably feel that if an idea worked for someone else then maybe it will work for them. I’d love to see more writers challenge themselves to provide unique and interesting content instead of just producing posts they think will be a hit on social media etc.
Agreed! Some people have their own style nailed and they should totally stick by that but it feels like there are a lot of copies out there and I would love to read something a bit different.
This is an excellent post. I really find the last two points to be excellent. It is really hard to know how much to charge or whether to work for cash or something material. I may be taking you up on that offer to chat!
Please do 🙂
I enjoy your content as it is well thought out , especially the articles like these.
An attitude I have come across a few times is that because you are a Blogger you should be happy with the exposure. I am learning that sometimes this works and at other times it doesn’t. There are times when I enjoy writing a two thousand word article and would like to see a more interactive cross-over between traditional magazines and online posts and articles.