The ‘Art’ of Blogging: A Commentary
Once in awhile I notice someone doing a particular task and wonder, “Why are they doing such a thing? Is it for monetary gain, self-fulfillment or something completely different?” These questions kept popping up prior to and following the TBEX ’11 conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) this past summer.
For those of you not familiar with TBEX and their conferences – it is the Travel Blog Exchange and their conferences bring travel-related bloggers, writers and media professionals together – explaining how everyone can ‘up their game’.
For those of you not familiar with TBEX and their conferences – it is the Travel Blog Exchange and their conferences bring travel-related bloggers, writers and media professionals together – explaining how everyone can ‘up their game’. There is a wealth of information to be gained during the sessions, but it’s not always everyone’s cup of tea. Now that the 2011 conference is over, it is remembered through scribbled notes on a pad, a multitude of ‘highlight’ blog entries written by attendees, some misplaced photographs or lost cellphone, and the odd drink coaster glued in one’s scrapbook. Oops, forgot to mention all the swag too.
Because of TBEX ’11, those simple questions mentioned above kept seeping in about travel bloggers. I wanted answers. But more than that, I wanted to know the motivation that drives the activity of blogging itself. A person will sit down and write volumes about their experiences to basically share with the whole world. There appears to be no profit earned from such an endeavor yet they continue churning out content day after day or week after week. Travellerspoint is a good example of such behavior with ~34,000 blogs onsite currently – few (if any) authors earn money let alone make a living through this outlet.
In order to explore (as it were) this section of the blogosphere, it’s important to reflect on it’s past. There was a time when blogging was a bright and shiny new outlet where people would voice their personal opinions on any topic that caught their attention. In a proverbial blink of an eye, blogs became ‘tailored’ to fit particular demographics – politics, travel, etc. Eventually someone had an epiphany moment. “We can charge our viewers real money to read our stuff!” With charging came marketing and link exchanges and affiliate programs and a plethora of other incoming-earning opportunities (if you’ve figured out how to tap into them). The ever-growing want to make a blog profitable turned into a snowball rolling down the hill with no end in sight. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – it’s simply reality.
So, with all these monetary avenues presenting themselves, why would someone not jump on the bandwagon? Michael Robert Powell (the candy trail…) stated: “Being an extreme global nomad – since 1988, I feel a need to make sense of my vast travel experience; blogging files my memories and brings order to the clutter in my head.” and “I don’t envisage “the candy trail …” being a commercially-viable blog. My crazy travel stories, raw expression and off-beat travels mean that I’m too far removed from the mainstream (however, my travel photography & art site, rather than my blog, is a possibility).” For another take on it Dave (The Longest Way Home) wrote: “I don’t actually consider it blogging. I write my travel journal about my search for a place to live. It started off as just a personal one then people started to read it. And so it developed. I write about my journey, I don’t churn out made for consumer efforts.” Two pretty good reasons considering the work involved in creating a ‘business’ around a blog.
Then come the respondents who never really intended to start a blog/site. They did have aspirations of becoming ‘writers’ but not ‘bloggers’. As fate would have it – as it so often does – these people either fell into it or were guided down the path to a new horizon.
Then come the respondents who never really intended to start a blog/site. They did have aspirations of becoming ‘writers’ but not ‘bloggers’. As fate would have it – as it so often does – these people either fell into it or were guided down the path to a new horizon. Vicki Hatfield (Come With Me…) fell into blogging by posting on travel forums. She said: “I found that sharing something I love with others who love it just as much was incredibly rewarding. That’s when I started the travel blog. I do it for the simple joy of creativity and the incredible sense of satisfaction that comes from having something I create enjoyed by others. Why don’t I try to make money from it? Because it then becomes a job. A duty. An obligation. It is no longer simply a living, breathing creative thing that I do simply because I love it.” Meg Pier (View from the Pier) was led down the path by her husband. Following four cancer scares within two year’s time, Meg quit the corporate world of investment managment and tried her hand at being a travel writer. She has seen some success writing travel articles for the Boston Globe and through her five self-published photography/quotation books through Amazon and carried by a dozen New England based books stores. But, as she explained “Some of the joy began to be sucked out of my carefully-crafted and heartfelt Love Letters to the destinations that had so moved me. I started to question if my ‘voice’ was one anyone wanted to hear. Meg’s inspiration to begin a blog/site was fueled by: “My husband, God love him, suggested I create a website, a somewhat laughable endeavor for someone as non-technical as me, yet I was desperate to pour out my pent-up creativity and so was open to the idea.” She adds: “I soon realized I had a forum where I could write the way I wanted to write, and not have to fit into anyone’s formula of what constituted travel writing.” Regardless of how they arrived on the scene, these two women embraced the creativity blogging brought into their lives more than any monetary gains. A creative outlet was of greater importance to them.
Carrying on with that ‘writers’ theme, Greg Wesson (Greg Wesson’s Esoteric Globe) commented: “I spent about 2 years in my 20s trying to write a great novel. It was going to be my opus! The “Great Canadian Novel”, about life as a 20-something software engineer in a world overrun with baby-boomers. Everything I produced sucked.” Okay, not everything, but enough that Greg quit writing altogether – until he began traveling. E-mails to friends/family turned into a blog to be shared around the world. He ended with: “I’m not sure that my blog constitutes great literature, but at least I think it entertains a few and keeps the frustrated writer in me satisfied.”
When trying to generate income from a blog, certain sacrifices to its integrity tend to take place. They may or may not be intentional but they do happen. Some changes are definitely positive while others do not do justice to the author’s work. Because of the integrity aspects, this slightly different twist comes from Mary Anne Oxendale (A Totally Impractical Guide to Living in Shanghai) who is teaching abroad. She reasons: “[But] I don’t feel comfortable with selling. I have no desire to sell anything. I don’t want to change the tone and content of my writing to make a buck – and my tone tends to be too dry, dark and frank to make good ad copy. Like I’ve said before: teaching pays the bills so I can do what I really love without tainting it with the scramble to make money.” As stated earlier, turning a blog/site into a profitable entity is a business – one which requires time, dedication and ‘selling’ yourself to your readers.
Ultimately, there are scores and scores of travel bloggers who have willingly dedicated themselves to the ‘bloggers business plan’ and have seen rewards – large and small. (There wouldn’t be TBEX conferences if they hadn’t.) But, this article was to take a quick glimpse at the other side of the coin, per se.
Ultimately, there are scores and scores of travel bloggers who have willingly dedicated themselves to the ‘bloggers business plan’ and have seen rewards – large and small. (There wouldn’t be TBEX conferences if they hadn’t.) But, this article was to take a quick glimpse at the other side of the coin, per se. As you have seen, this is a very small group of participants. But, each has given their own individual explanation on why they do not blog for financial compensation. Blogging has become their creative outlet for self-expression and personal satisfaction – nothing more. Well, besides the sharing part with family, friends, followers and subscribers, which is part of the self-satisfaction thing too. It just helps to illustrate that not everything has to come with a price tag. So, in closing, Kris Kalav (The Beerman Chronicles) replied: “Quite honestly, blogging about my travels is a catharsis for me. It allows me to re-live the memories of what I’ve done, where I’ve been and gives my friends and family a chance to be completely bored for 10 minutes.” Sometimes people do things just because they can.
Thank you all for your answers. Once again, it has been a pleasure.
To read all of the participant’s responses in their entirety, please check out the The ‘Art’ of Blogging: A Panel Discussion.