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?