You Are Not a Travel Blogger

 

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This weekend Matt Kepnes, otherwise known as Nomadic Matt, wrote a post that was a bit of a wake-up call. I told him I was proud of him. Matt has a caveat in his post that if your blog is your hobby that his post was not meant for you. The same applies here. If you are blogging for your own personal enjoyment, good for you. This post really isn’t for you. Have fun blogging and enjoy it.

If you ever ask for free stuff or try to sell something on your blog, then this post is for you.

I have been saying for years bloggers are like rock stars, and professional bloggers really are. Many people who think they are professional bloggers are really more like amateur wanna-be rock stars. They love the idea of fame and fortune and the rock star lifestyle, but have no clue how to achieve that goal – or they lack any work ethic to make it possible. This isn’t unique to travel blogging. It spans the entire blogosphere.

creative commons photo by Hervegirod via Wikimedia Commons

creative commons photo by Hervegirod via Wikimedia Commons

Even more lack the actual talent needed to deserve that success. I call it “American Idol Syndrome.” If you have ever seen the show, you know what I mean. Some people are completely delusional about their abilities. This isn’t unique to blogging. Music has always been this way. Most people who try to play the guitar suck, don’t they?

The difference is most sucky guitar players don’t go around calling themselves musicians. Although there are a lot more of them out there now with the advent of the internet.

Bloggers writing about their drunken escapades? Sounds just like wanna-be flash-in-the-pan rock stars – only these people are so dumb that they publicize their own bad behavior. At least rock stars try to hide it from the paparazzi.

Matt talks about bloggers having a menu of what they offer, like restaurants do. I would love to hear him expand more on this. What kind of menu? What kind of products and services should a blogger offer?

Again the music analogy applies. Did you ever notice all the merchandise Lady Gaga and other rock stars sell? They definitely have a menu. They sell their content to start with. They sell all sorts of products and services, and they definitely sell the equivalent of sponsored posts – they are called product endorsements. The smart ones, the good business-minded rock stars, sell sponsored posts that reflect their brand, that their fans can relate to and that don’t violate their fans’ trust.

Here is a reality check:
If you think travel blogging is about getting free trips and getting drunk and stupid, then YOU ARE NOT A TRAVEL BLOGGER.

You are a wanna-be. You are a poser. You give people who do want to be or who are travel bloggers a bad name. Either wake up and shape up, or do us all a favor and stop calling yourself a travel blogger.

If you don’t have a business plan (like Matt suggests), if you are not a talented story teller (regardless of whether your stories are told via print, audio, or video), if you are not constantly trying to improve your craft and provide value to your sponsors and readers, then you are not a professional. Again, if you are a hobbyist there is nothing wrong with that. Have fun. Just don’t represent yourself as a professional. In fact, you can be a hobbyist and accept a press trip, a comp, or a sweet deal, but you need to know that the moment you accept any form of compensation you have entered an agreement. That agreement includes the expectation that you will act like a professional for the duration of that relationship. If you think anyone is giving you a comp just because they like you, you are wrong.  These companies are in business to make money, and they expect you to help them reach more customers and do more business.

Professionals have talent. Professionals work hard to constantly improve that talent. Professionals also work on all the mundane things that separate them from amateurs. They learn about SEO and other technology that impacts their reach. They create a business plan and a marketing plan. Then they execute and measure the progress of those plans and adapt them when necessary to bring them closer to success. They act like professionals when they meet with potential sponsors and clients. Professionals disclose it to their readers when they have received compensation that may affect their opinion on a story. They disclose when links they provide are paid for or when a post is sponsored. They look for mentors and teachers from whom they can learn. They network with their peers, copy their successes, and try to avoid others’ mistakes.

So you should ask yourself – do you really want to be a travel blogger?

If the answer is yes, then start honing your craft and doing the things a successful professional does. I hope one of those things is attending an upcoming TBEX or other events that are geared toward professional development. Start taking a creative writing or journalism course, or start learning how the internet, SEO, keywords, and the technology you use every day works.

Do you call yourself a travel blogger? Do you disagree with this post?

Author Rick Calvert is the CEO of TBEX and CEO & Co-founder of BlogWorld & New Media Expo

Comments

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mention this applies to any blogging niche, a false sense of entitlement is not exclusive to the travel blogging community. Un-professional behavior be it on a press trip, or at a conference or any event for that matter, gives us all a bad name. In any business, those with a strong work ethic and a sound business plan will rise to the top. Those who aren’t taking it seriously will fade away. I am a writer. I am a blogger. I am a digital entrepreneur, I was doing ‘social’ before the term was even coined. I have a strong work ethic and very much take the ‘business of blogging’ quite seriously. I haven’t had a chance to attend TBEX yet, but it’s on my agenda for 2014! I am a lifestyle blogger and would love to pursue more travel blogging as I have very much enjoyed each press junket I’ve taken to date.

  2. “Professionals have talent. Professionals work hard to constantly improve that talent. ”
    Professionals or those who want to be prossional work very hard to daily improve their work. Totally agree with this. If they don’t, in the long term, they simply lost their readers and bloggers without readers are nothing.

  3. Will be interesting to see what the future of travel blogging holds – it’s still in it’s infancy! I think there is a lot more evolution to come!

  4. Danielle says:

    I think this is a great addition to the article that Matt Kepnes wrote. I guess you could say I’m an aspiring travel blogger and I’ve kept putting it off thinking there’s way too many travel bloggers already out there (because everyone claims to be one). I absolutely agree with developing a business plan for any blog, or any entrepreneurial effort that is intended to go beyond a hobby.

    I’ve taken away some great points between both your article and Matt’s that will hopefully keep me on track and in accordance with my plan so far. Thanks for presenting your stance on the topic!

  5. @mrsoaroundworld says:

    What a great and refreshing change of tone. I have been talking about this for a while now and no one seemed to care. This will be a wake up call to many!

  6. At first, I thought I was going to hate this article. My first thought was “who tf are you to tell me I am not a travel blogger?”
    Then I realized I am not. I am a travel journalist (part-time – I wish to become full-time and that’s part of the essence of my travel blog). I write for guidebooks and magazines. In doing this, I learned people can be very scummy in their treatment of hotels/restaurants. Demanding comps or “else I’ll write a sh!tty review on my blog!” It is truly bad behavior and you can read some Trip Adviser reviews when you can tell all they want is a discount. SIGH.
    I am currently between trips, but writing is my passion and I have been doing it professionally for years. I wish all the people out there calling themselves writers and bloggers, the ones laughably in it for the money would stop. You’re devaluing what the rest of us spend hours upon hours practicing. (I am not talking about hobbyists).

    • You nailed it Anglo. There are lots of bad actors out there passing themselves off as travel bloggers and it is up to our community to let all of our potential sponsors know that this is not acceptable behavior and is not representative of the travel blogging community at large.

  7. There are so many valid points in this post. Having written a fashion blog for several years and got used to the ‘American Idol’ attitude of fashion bloggers, I recently started up a travel blog alongside it and was pleased to see how much more authentic travel bloggers tend to be – they want to help you, they aren’t just networking (and they’re genuinely lovely to have a beer with!). However, as travel blogging rapidly expands and the really successful bloggers get even bigger, there will be a tendency for people to join in and expect press trips at the drop of a hat. I’ve seen it with fashion and I’m beginning to see it with travel, too.

    As someone who also works in travel, I can safely say that there are not enough press trips to go round and they don’t just get handed out to anyone. You definitely need to have a niche, be up for guest blogging on other sites and building relationships beyond your own blog, and you also need to be keen to constantly improve your writing – don’t assume companies will send you away on the basis of a great social following if you can’t write compelling content. Most importantly, you do need to act like a professional – have a professional-sounding email, prove your worth and give a great media pack.

    Here’s to the travel bloggers who aren’t just in it for the fame and freebies!

    • Thank you Polly for adding another very important requirement to list of those who want to be professional. Create a media kit!

  8. This is so timely! I just saw a travel blog contest that listed any number of categories of entries, but none for content, photo quality or factual/informative worthiness. It seems the ‘plums’ out there are for those who can Tweet and Tumble their words the furthest, whether they have any substance behind them.

  9. Well Said, we were surprised after talking with some of our guesthouses in South America at the awful rep travel bloggers had. Multiple complained of wanting to work with blogs online, inviting travel bloggers to stay for free to experience their rooms and never heard from them after they left. They mentioned the bloggers didn’t hold up any of their deal and it soured them to future possibilites!

    We were in disbelief and so mad that people were out there treating this job as a joke!

    • Thank you for the comment Caroline. Every single company I talked to at ITB last week had at least one blogger horror story to tell.

  10. Thank you Tracy, Piotr, Anglo, Polly and Jackie for the kind words. It is up to each of us to raise the bar in this amazing industry we all belong to.

  11. Though, if your target audience is about drunken debauched travel then you should be writing about it from a first person point of view……!

    But seriously, I agree that the future of “travel blogging” is going to be the following:
    (1) Personal travel journals, where the main audience is you, your friends and family mostly. You will get some extra traffic. You can make some nice $$ along the way with paid links and sponsored posts if you want as those placing them just want links and do not care about the writing, audience connection etc. Most blogs will fall into this camp as they are temporary hobbies and something to help pay the way on the road a bit. Most will have short shelf lives.

    (2) Travel Writing alliances and aggregators around niches. I do believe that we will see either aggregator sites or alliances of niche blogs that are in for the long haul, have detailed and consistent editorial approaches, business plans and need to be very professional and organized to survive. As businesses many may charge to go on trips and write about them as content creators (writing, video, photography). Alliances around a niche will mean a brand can get the reach they need through one point of contact to get the numbers and coverage they want across a series of like minded blogs

  12. Some really great points in this Rick, good for someone to finally come out and say them. There are a couple of issues that I have with the travel blogging industry:

    So many of the companies that give away trips/free stuff clearly have no idea what they’re doing. This leads to so many of the ‘blaggers’ managing to get all these trips when there are some really talented bloggers sat at home or spending all of their own money on the trips that others get for free, because they lie about the numbers on their blogs.

    There is another kind of blogger that you have missed out and I think, for me, these are sometimes the biggest problems. These are the full time bloggers, calling themselves professionals, who are anything but. Those travelling and living on daddy’s money. Saying they are ‘working’. Again, brands, travel companies, reward these with all the trips. So many of the great bloggers out there, and I mean the best all-rounders, SEO, design and of course writing, miss out because blogging for 99% of people is NOT A FULL TIME JOB, these people work hard, very hard, in their day jobs, and then have to spend all of their time as well as pretty miserable holiday allowance on trips because all of the press ones go to the blaggers or the ‘professionals’.

    Please don’t take this as a stab at bloggers in general, as with any industry or field, I love the industry, travel, and blogging in general. But while you’re at ITB, have a look at all of the bloggers there, and ask how many of the best ones are stuck at home, working to earn money so they can travel, and blog.

  13. This really comes down to what bloggers hope to achieve with their blogs, doesn’t it? As said at the beginning, hats off to those who are really just pursuing a hobby. For those who want to make a business out of their blog a friendly and professional attitude will open many doors.

  14. It’s interesting to see this sentiment begin to emerge in such a relatively new industry. I agree there are many garbage blogs out there, and even more people that give themselves the “travel blogger” title before they have earned it.
    One also had to accept the fact that, just like the musicians you mentioned, everyone starts at the bottom in this business. It’s up to the professionals to differentiate themselves and rise to the top. I agree that there are many people out there that want to “just travel” and don’t understand that one has to spend significant time on professional development as well. What I’ve seen that is very frustrating, (in my relatively short period of time in this biz) is many bloggers that come to the table with a sense of entitlement. This is true of the entire blogging space, as well as many traditional workplaces these days. They feel as if they have given themselves a title and created a blog, therefore the comps, traffic, and income should just come rolling in. Starting a successful travel blog is just as difficult (if not more difficult in some senses) as starting your own brick and mortar business. The good new is that over time the amateurs eventually fail to achieve the success they are seeking. Once that happens they drift off into other industries very much like that old high school garage band that never cut a demo.

  15. You know me. (I mean, literally, you know me.) I’m pleased to see anyone raising the bar on writing. But with raising the bar on content comes hair-splitting on words. Anyone with a blog about travel is a travel blogger, Sloppy drinker on the take or no. Furthermore, I’ve heard very “popular” and “professional” bloggers dismiss their own work as “good enough.” (Yes, I can name names and no, I’m not going to.) If your sole motivation is free booze and free trips, yeah, get off the stage. But to me the distinction is around who’s genuinely striving to continually make better work. The hobby/pro line moves around a lot, but the I want to make better work vs the I’m in it for the stuff line? Not so much so. The irony, the delicious irony, is that if you focus on making good work, you will be presented with more stuff than you can say yes to.

    Hairsplitting. And also, some of this: What you said, Rick.

    And sidebar: It took me years to call myself a musician. YEARS. And thanks to the skill of the guys I play with, some days I’m STILL not totally at home with that idea.

  16. Adam @ SitDownDisco says:

    I think it’s a bit rich to judge others in that way. If people have an angle which is to party across the world and try and get free stuff from companies, good on them. I’m sure there is a big market there especially when you consider companies like Contiki specifically appeal to the drunken party types.

    And the word “professional” — isn’t it just a way to say I’m superior to you?

    • I have no problem with people accepting compensation in the form of freebies. And as you say if your niche is to write about partying your way around the world, there is nothing wrong with that either.

      The only thing I take issue is people who accept compensation and fail to deliver the product or service they were compensated for.

      No the word professional isn’t a way to say you are superior, it simply means you get paid for what you do. If you get paid, you have a moral, ethical and in most cases a legal obligation to provide those services.

  17. I agree with everything you’ve said here, Rick! You have to be professional and treat all this as work, not just get free stuff and do nothing in return.

  18. Wow – I think the comments are as good as the article. So glad to hear so much talk about professionalism. Sad to have the hard work of many negated by the antics of the people just searching out freebies. The businesses being conned – are they doing their homework or are they just accepting social media numbers and getting scammed? As someone who has been working at my travel blog for nearly 2 years, I would consider myself a hybrid….working very hard at improving on the craft, but not yet in the realm of the “real” travel bloggers. I still pay for 99% of my experiences and spend probably more time than I should on each post. I am slowly starting to work with industry, but am often turned away as my numbers are too small. They are growing, and recent work I did with a Tourism Board was very well received. I hope the professionalism that I am trying to emulate from the bloggers I have followed and respected was evident with the tourism board and the industry people that I worked with. It saddens me, as I try to transition into travel blogging full time, that people are taking advantage and not delivering on the promises made for their exchange, giving those with integrity a bad name!
    I hope, as the evolution of blogging continues to develop, more ethical guidelines and groupings will develop. Vendors and tourism boards, like employers, will need to be diligent in their “reference checks” as well. There is so much talent out there…I am sure it will shine through.

  19. There’s a lot I could say to this, but I feel it is inappropriate of me to do so because none of it is positive; if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all. Instead I will simply state that I am offended by the discouraging tone. As a result, I’m reconsidering attending this year’s TBEX event in Toronto. If I choose to do so, can someone please tell me how I can sell my ticket? Thank you.

    • I am sorry to hear that Jason. I have a much longer reply coming Kay’s comment below, but won’t be able to post it until I am back stateside tomorrow. My reply may or may not change your opinion. I hope you can wait until reading it before making your decision but if you decide not to come, you can email directly rick@blogworldexpo.com and we will refund your ticket in full.

      • I slept on this, thinking maybe I’d change my mind. I feel no differently. And I really don’t see how any reply you have to offer to another person’s comment can change my mind. I have emailed you and your community manager with my issues – yes, there are several – regarding your post. I also requested a refund. While I’d certainly appreciate my money back, I’m at the point of not caring. I’m walking away from TBEX. Because of your words, it is no longer worth my time, effort, or interest. Good luck to you in your future endeavors.

        • I was really looking forward to seeing you again in Toronto, Jason! I have changed my mind about attending TBEX Toronto as well, but that is because I’ve decided to focus on TBEX Dublin. I hope that our paths cross elsewhere sometime soon!

          • I would have liked to have seen you, too, Jenn, but what Rick wrote is unacceptable, and I have no desire to pay to support such viewpoints. I also hope our paths cross again. Feel free to email me anytime, especially if you’re heading toward Denver. I likely won’t be checking back here again to see any notes you may leave. I was stopping in now to see if Rick responded to another commenter, as he said he would within a day, but I see there’s nothing there, just as there is no response to my email.

          • Sorry Jason,

            I was on a plane for two days and had a bad internet connection during my layover. Your email reply and response to Kay’s comment is coming today.

  20. Nice link bait! 🙂

  21. Although you made many valid observations, I did not like your condescending tone. I’d like to see it rewritten with a positive slant, instead of a negative one.

  22. There are many valid points but it feels like a lecture with all of the caps and bold letters. Doesn’t TBEX ask for freebies from the tourism boards? And does TBEX first vet that all of the attendees to the events meet the criteria for acceptable travel bloggers listed here? Um, no, because I went when I’d been blogging for two weeks. If you want to rant it might be wise not to do so to people you’re not also counting on to buy your product. There was a lot of talk about everyone drinking at TBEX in Girona as a humorous aside. I didn’t do any of that and thought that mentioning it seemed sophomoric. But to now deride hard-drinking amateur bloggers seems a little hypocritical if you’re selling to those same people. Implement standards for attendees – that would be valid. But don’t both pander and admonish, that’s offensive.

    • Thank you for the thoughtful reply Kay. First let me address the caps and bold letters. They weren’t meant to effect the tone of the post, but more as sub headlines to draw attention to interesting points within the post. This is a pretty standard practice in magazines. A lot of blogs emulate this style.

      No we don’t ask for freebies. Tourist boards who host TBEX invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event. We ask other DMO’s and travel industry companies who sponsor and exhibit for cold hard cash.

      No TBEX does not vet their attendees. That is not our role. We provide beginners as well as seasoned professionals a marketplace where travel bloggers can learn, network with each other and meet with potential sponsors. We provide the travel industry with education, an opportunity to network with their peers and to meet with travel bloggers they are interested in doing business with.

      We don’t encourage and we certainly do not force anyone to get drunk and act like an idiot. They do that on their own. It happens at TBEX just as it did at ITB last week and every other professional conference and trade show I have ever organized, attended or exhibited at. The great majority of attendees are able to have fun while working and still conduct themselves appropriately.

      I wasn’t trying to rant and I certainly wasn’t angry when I wrote the post. This was meant to be the beginning of a series of posts discussing very important topics to the travel blogging community. My main goal was to get people’s attention and begin that conversation.

      Providing a variety of opportunities for attendees to network with each other including entertaining evening events is not pandering. It is what professional event organizers are expected to do.

  23. I have mixed feelings about this post. Although I would be considered a hobby travel blogger by the pros, as a seasoned advertising salesperson, who attended TBEX (and will again in Toronto), and was the Editor-in-Chief of the independent student newspaper at one of America’s leading Communications schools in her sophomore year, I’m not so sure we can easily be pigeonholed.

    Did some blogger get drunk on a recent press trip, prompting this?

    This commentary puzzling, especially in the months leading up to TBEX. Is the goal is to sell tickets? My flight is booked – maybe as a hobby blogger I should just sightsee for the weekend in Toronto, grab some free stuff, and attend the evening events?

    Hoping to see a great line-up of speakers.

  24. So many true points in this post…but…we shouldn’t admonish ourselves too severely. Think Hunter Thompson…utter debauchery and pandemonium making the story….irreverently immersed in different cultural situations can get pretty interesting. So for me, honest professionalism is a given but to get to the beyond and tell fascinating stories, it naturally helps if you are a little off the wall 🙂

  25. Like Anglo, I was thinking I might hate this post, but it was really good. It gave me hope. As a hobby blogger working to someday be a professional, I sometimes wonder if quality, insight and authenticity have any place in the market. I know from some of the amazing blogs out there (and from TBEX last year) that it does, but there is a lot of really depressing stuff out there – a lot of it marketing itself loudly. This was a nice reminder that there is a place for quality and professionalism in the world. Thanks for the post. See you in Toronto!

  26. Thank you for the comment Eva. We/ I certainly do not look down on hobbyists. Hearing your background I doubt you are in the group of folks this post was directed at. Again my coming reply to Kay may clarify a bit of what I meant and who this post was directed at.

  27. Your post— on the home page of the TBEX site and in a key communication to registrants— doesn’t do much to further the reputation of blogging as a profession. It sounds as though the problem of drunken bloggers looking for freebies is rampant. Maybe it is, but including a TBEX session on ethics would have been more useful than this post. Your admonishment that ” companies are in business to make money, and they expect you to help them reach more customers and do more business” overlooks the important issue of journalistic integrity. Virtually every professional journalism association has standards of good practice that address the principles of accountability, accuracy and honesty. Such standards go a long way in terms of building credibility and are more positive than scolding.

    • So true. I would love to attend a session on ethics and standards of good practice at TBEX.

    • Thank you for the comment Michelle. I’m not sure I would characterize the problem as being “rampant” but it is a large enough problem that it needs to be addressed by the travel blogging community. Several people recently told me “TBEX is in the unique position of helping define what it means to be a professional travelblogger.” or some variation of that.

      They are right. We have a unique responsibility to point out unethical and unprofessional behavior in our community and make it clear that we do not condone it or encourage it. Kay stated above that we pander to these bad actors. Let me state as clearly as possible that I deny her accusation as strongly as possible. I cannot speak for anything that happened at TBEX before March of 2012 since I didn’t attend and we didn’t have any responsibilty for organizing the event, but that has not happened and will not happen at TBEX as long as we are responsible for the content.

      My point in the post had nothing to do with journalistic ethics and that is an entirely different discussion but I am glad you brought it up.

      Here is a brief excerpt from the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics: “The SPJ states that writers should “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment…,” so as not to “compromise journalistic integrity.” Journalist’s only obligation should be to the “public’s right to know.”

      If am read that correctly, the moment you have accepted a free trip, hotel stay, air fare etc you have violated that code.

      I am not saying I agree. In fact I think its complete BS. I am certainly not a journalist but it seems to me it is an outdated model. In today’s world everyone knows bloggers accept free trips as do many if not most in the main stream press. I personally do not see anything wrong with that, but it is a valid discussion. The reason for the (in my opinion) outdated code of ethics is to give readers the belief that they can trust what they are reading. I think a far better way to do this is to disclose whatever free products, services and other compensation you receive to your readers and let them make up their own minds about your veracity. The truth is most consumers trust bloggers more than mainstream outlets.

      Numerous if not all mainstream travel media outlets state their writers cannot accept free trips, but It is a pretty well known fact that they all have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.

      Make no mistake about it, any business that offers you something for free expects something in return. To believe otherwise is completely naive. That doesn’t mean you should abandon your objectivity but you should have a very clear discussion with that business about what they expect and what you are willing to give back in return.

      To take that one step further, even if you write a completely objective article about a destination you visited on a free trip, the destination has still bought coverage from you that they may not have otherwise received. I am not passing a judgement, just stating a fact.

      My only other disagreement with you Michelle is that I believe TBEX should have more than one session on ethics, standards and professional conduct in addition to this blog post and many others on those topics.

  28. That second last paragraph about professionals and amateurs is great.
    Thanks for sharing Rick!

  29. I think a point a lot of people miss is that blogging means writing. You must be willing to do the work of writing and learn a little (or a lot) about the craft. If you just want to travel, and aren’t much interested in writing, there are many other jobs out there that involve a lot of company-paid travel and a bigger paycheque.
    As for ‘companies in business to make money’, there is much more to the travel industry than that. As a former hotel worker and art gallery guide, I have a personal interest in the hospitality and cultural sectors and the people they employ. ‘Doing more business’ means employing more people and supporting the museums and other institutions that guard the world’s cultural patrimony.

  30. Here here Lesley! The writing comes first. You also make a very good point that the business of travel employes people, supports art, culture and has several other positive benefits.

  31. If you write regularly, working to improve your craft, you are a writer. Whether or not you make money from it.
    If you play music regularly, working to improve your craft, you may call yourself a musician (but not a rock star!). Whether or not you make money from it.
    If you blog about travel, whether or not you have a “business plan” that includes accepting freebies and even if it’s just for your own enjoyment, you are a travel blogger.
    Certainly more and more travel bloggers posting pretty average (or should I say “sucky”) photos on their site and on instagram feel free to describe themselves in their bios as “photographers”. What do you have to say about that?
    And holy cow — this is probably the worst advertisement for a TBEX conference one might ever see. Who would want to be trapped in a room with a pile of people who oozing this much arrogance? Or who applaud it?

    • I have answered similar comments above Gina. I think you missed the point of the post entirely. You weren’t alone so it is most likely my fault for not making my point my clearly.

  32. Great article and I agree with the point. I am an aspiring travel blogger and I wouldnt dream of calling myself a professional yet (hopefully some day) but as is mentioned above you need to put in hard work first. Like most things in life, if it was easy then everybody would be doing it.

  33. Interesting post and comments thread.. Travel blogging is so saturated that it is hard for people to become ‘big’ without extra skills. When you look at most of the #ballers in the travel blog industry they will have great videos or photography skills.

  34. I think that this article is interesting. I am not now, nor have I ever, tried to pass myself off as a travel blogger. I don’t mince words with those who are wannabe poseurs who hide behind the guise or a so called “travel bloggers” who are only interested in showing what they do when they’re drunk and out having a good time.
    If I want to see that then I’ll go out bar hopping.

  35. Mark Anthony says:

    Interesting article. Actually it was a great article about a topic that needs to be openly aired and discussed. What was interesting is the number of people responding with thin skin. Did Rick hit a nerve? Did he maybe hold the mirror too close to you??

    Because of one article about a problem that plagues your industry, you want to cancel your attendance to a conference? Really? Because Rick wants to talk about the 800 pound elephant standing in the room and you don’t, you’re going to not come to the party where you can meet and network with others who are just like you and can help you build your business, your career? All becasue of one post??

    This is your industry, your business and for many of you, it could be your paycheck and you want the low life’s to set the standard you will be judged by??

    Maybe this post was good. it brought out your true colors and what this all really means to you…. Maybe Rick did point the mirror too close to you.. Too bad you just don’t want to see it and fix…

  36. When I first read this title I was intrigued to click it on my phone. After I fully read the post and all the comments I knew I would have to go to my laptop to chime in. I realize this post is very old but I wanted to have a say in the conversation.

    I too could see how others could be offended by the tone of this article. Having attended many conventions in the corporate world I have done my best to stay away from TBEX so far. I have also steered clear from buying those course that promise “you will make money and travel” like Travel Blog Success. Anything I could learn in those courses I learned in the first couple weeks by doing research and reading and digesting information.

    The very statement that someone is or is not a travel blogger is loaded like a gun waiting to go off. Indeed the definition of a travel blogger is in its purest form someone who journeys to places (travel) and then writes about those experiences (blogger). My aunt went on a cruise to the Bahamas (that I gave her) and she wrote about it on her Facebook. My aunt is a travel blogger! This post also talks about all “those who ruin it for the professionals” and goes into detail about the people who accept free trips and go around drunk at parties all over the world. The issue here is some of the “professional” bloggers I have met had more of a stick up their @$$ then any of the people who are just starting out. They were catapulted to rock star fame as it were and could care less about the ones rising under them. The funny thing is it’s those “professionals” that could take time to share their experiences and knowledge with others to avoid “wannabes” entering the field. I can count on one hand how many of them are actually willing to give back and talk to the small time startup bloggers. One such place is called Travel Blog Breakthrough; this site is jammed packed with honest, free, and sensible information about the ins and outs on a travel blogger. I myself offer bloggers interviews for a chance for them to tell their story and to increase exposure. I do this for free. The majority of the “big time” bloggers I contact either want $50.00 an hour to talk with me, or they do not even have the courtesy to even respond to my query at all. In any industry one of the most disrespectful things one professional can do to another is ignore them. I talk with bloggers who are just starting out mostly, and I love to hear the thrill and excitement in their voices. They know the road ahead will not be easy, but they are willing to put their all into it. Do some of them party and drink, absolutely. One of my interviewees was even intoxicated when he did his interview, but that made it all the more fun. His blog is focused entirely around partying and lifestyle events and he has more traffic than some of the uptight professionals!

    I sat down after I read this and tried to decide what category my blog fell into. It has good traffic despite being only 6 months old, it’s professionally designed, and I spend lots of time trying to improve on it all the time. I have sponsors/partners that have either given me free stuff in exchange for a review, or have given me stuff for exposure of their products. I blog about different things and the tone can change widely. I have a decent social media following and I have a professional media kit and letter to potential sponsors. I am always trying to network with potential partners for reviews or destination posts. I spend countless hours learning and digesting new tactics and strategy’s to improve my craft. I guest post on other blog sites, and I take other posts from bloggers to post on my site as well. You know the funny thing about all this; I still have yet to get on a plane after my trip has been delayed 4 times now due to circumstances beyond my control. So I sit here and type these articles and use the gear in a limited capacity, does that make me a wannabe?

    The term travel blogger can be as selective as the industry that is fast being built up around it. I have contacted people who wanted me to come to their destinations to review them, only to never hear anything back. Is that professional; is that a way to run a business? I get so excited when a potential partner starts talking to me about how we can work together, and then I am often left with silence and I have to revisit my emails to see if I did/said anything that put them off. In the end people are just people, and even when they are sitting in a public relations chair or at the head of marketing they are still going to act like #$%^^& sometimes, you just have to be ready to deal with it.

    Another interesting point is what a “wannabe” is. When I worked for the press I would often respond to fire scenes and take the photographs, either on assignment or as a freelancer. When I was at the scenes we would often see people with tiny cameras doing the same thing. They would have no media badges on their neck like we did no signs on their vehicles and no heavy equipment. Often their photos would end up on the news because they either got there before us or had a better shot. Are they “wannabes” or freelancers in the media industry? I will tell you from experience the authorities on a scene did not treat them with much privilege. They never got to go under a police line like we did, and rarely were they able to interview victims. Now this has all changed and anyone with a camera and a mic can get where he wants to be simply by saying he is “free press”. The term “wannabe” is held as loosely as a professional. I spent years as a professional photographer and there were days when I did not think my photos were good enough. People bought my work and published it so I guess that made me a pro, at least in their eyes.

    The truth is as long as there are free endorsements and goodies for people and all they have to do is claim to be something, then they will do so. Just think how many people use handicap placards that have no business doing so!

    One thing I cannot stand and am absolutely in agreement with is the issue with someone taking something and not giving back what they agreed upon. When I worked for the media we would often get free stuff to give a business exposure. A free ski ticket, parking, backstage passes, balloon rides, and you name it. We were always expected and bound to give something back for that access. I once covered a balloon festival for three straight 12 hour days on site and we were featured in a magazine. We were also expected to give a copy of our footage to the organizers of the festival for their use in promotion.

    If someone says I will give you something if you give me something in return then you best follow through with it. I do not know specific circumstances where this has been an issue but I am also new to the industry as it were.

    I tell people upfront what they are going to get in exchange for their agreement, we both know ahead of time what is to be expected. I feel it is the mark of the professional that has this already in order. If someone says “I will come stay for free at your hotel and in exchange I will take some pictures” then an agreement can be made. It does not have to be complex but above all it must be honored.

    I am in a way almost wanting to not call myself a travel blogger. The reason I choose to think this way is during all my delays my trip has morphed so many times it is almost unrecognizable as to what it originally stood for. In the beginning I was going to backpack across Central America and that was it. Now I have a sponsored bike, and loads of gear that I will take with me along with a camera crew that will turn the entire trip into a TV series by a major USA network. Is it a travel blogger that goes to villages and films for a few days with the local people and shares it with the world? If so then I guess I am one of those people.

    The summary is this, if more “pros” in this industry opened up their hands to the people coming up behind them, the chances of problems would be lots less. A wannabe is only a wannabe until he learns to become a professional. The people best suited for this are the people who succeeded before them. I fully intend if I survive this trip to go to some island in the pacific and invite every single person I have interviewed to stay with me for a week and work with them on networking to become better and more precise. I will share my experiences free of charge to anyone who wishes to learn from them.

    The mark of a true professional is someone who holds themselves to a set of standards, even if those standards may have to be incredibly flexible. Also it is someone who is continuously learning and willing to share what they have learned with others like them. If someone reaches out to me and asks me a question I will make sure to do my best to answer it in the hopes my information will help them become better at their craft.

    Whatever you are from a guy with a camera traveling on daddy’s money (As was so offensively termed in this article) or a “professional” hunkered down with your backpack and your gear looking for your next press trip, make sure that you are willing to carry the name of your title with pride, respect to others and above all truth to yourselves.

    I wish everyone out there safe travels.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Example: On our TBEX (travel exchange) blog, our CEO Rick wrote “You Are Not a Travel Blogger” about some of the bad behavior he sees in this niche and how some people who call them […]

  2. […] Rick Calvert’s Article he refers to in the podcast “You are not a travel blogger“ […]

  3. […] need to be doing to be better bloggers – a discussion that is very topical as it builds on Rick’s provocative analysis of the state of travel blogging that had just been posted the day before the […]

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