The Wheat from the Chaff

Blurry Lights of Times Square
Blurry Lights of Times Square, Photo by Greg Wesson

The Travel Blog Exchange 2010 Conference (TBEX10) may have come and gone (in a blur), but it surely has not been forgotten. By deliberately waiting two weeks before sending out this discussion question, it gave everyone’s mind time to separate the “wheat from the chaff”. Though only three replies were received, they are definitely well worth the sharing.

Each of you contributes to the travel blog industry (if I may label it as such) from different aspects and different points of view. Given that, what was the biggest “nugget” of information you brought away with you? (Sorry, can’t include your own responses during the panels for those of you who were part of said panels.)

Gary Arndt

Everything Everywhere

The one thing I took away is that we are still in the second inning of how this is all going to turn out.

The one thing I took away is that we are still in the second inning of how this is all going to turn out. Old institutions are dying faster than new ones are being created. Advertisers still are clueless and unsure of how to advertise online. Most PR people still don’t know how and why they should work with bloggers. Traditional writers are trying to figure out how to use social media. Bloggers are still figuring out what works in terms of business models.

Anyone who says they have the answers is lying. I’m guessing this might all look different when we meet again in Vancouver…. And, totally different again the year after that.

Pam Mandel

Nerd’s Eye View

I was completely taken with Don George’s “five senses” approach to writing. I loved thinking about this as I walked back from TBEX in the sweltering New York heat. In the morning, when I left our short-term digs and stood on the street corner, I noticed how it smelled just a little bit fishy and then. I looked up at the sushi bar across the street. Of course back home, I’ve been hyper-aware of sound, identifying an early morning annoying bird as a Goldfinch and noticing how, when the house painters next door rattle their ladders, it makes almost exactly the same noise our mailbox makes when the postman delivers the mail. This reminder of the sensory was like finding something lost that I loved.

“Oh, my trip is so damn special!” and really, it is, but if, as writers, we can’t make it special for our readers, we’re not doing our job.

I also thought Spud Hilton’s remark about how the story should not be about YOUR trip, it should be about your READER’S trip was an excellent way of keeping our vanity in check. It’s easy to think “Oh, my trip is so damn special!” and really, it is, but if, as writers, we can’t make it special for our readers, we’re not doing our job. There’s a reason vanity is one of those deadly sins and I fear, at times, that bloggers can get bogged down in it. Spud’s simple statement — make it be about your reader! — is a compact and unforgettable directive that I can take to the keyboard every time.

Barbara Weibel

Hole In The Donut

I’m actually glad you waited two weeks to ask these questions, because I also needed some time for things to “crystallize.” So here goes:

At first I was tempted to say that interacting with my “tribe” face-to-face was the most valuable aspect of the conference…

It is difficult to distill TBEX down into a single best nugget of information. At first I was tempted to say that interacting with my “tribe” face-to-face was the most valuable aspect of the conference, but there was one other bit of information that had a big impact on me. I vividly recall being told last year by people at TBEX that it was very hard to be successful in the personal travel narrative genre. I considered changing the direction of at or writing SEO maximized articles, but in the end just decided to stick with my intensely personal travel narrative style and continue to focus on quality writing. This year, the message was completely different. Time and again I heard from panelists that readers seem to be shifting away from consumer-type travel writing and seeking more personal travel narrative. So, in addition to leaving TBEX this year with a wealth of smaller tips that will make my blog even better, I also now feel comfortable that I am (finally) doing a lot of things right.

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Discussion »

  • #1Barbara Weibel

    Thanks so much for asking for my thoughts and publishing my comment. I found it very interesting that Gary’s take-away was one of evolution, and mine was the experience of evolution. As he says, more will definitely be revealed.

  • #2Dan

    I agree with @Barbara’s comments. As an avid reader of travel blogs, I prefer a personal narrative rather than a generalized approach to writing. Readers will always gravitate towards quality. From a marketing perspective, I think a few well-optimized articles every now and then wouldn’t hurt either. Sorry for butting in to what seems like an industry discussion, but you guys have the best jobs in the world. Cheers!

  • #3Mike

    I completely agree, the more personal a blog is the better. I was following this one travel blog regularly. This guy is basically a comedien who traveled around the world. I think the main purpose of any travel blog should be to tell it how it really is, but in a way that entertains. So many blogs focus on just the positive, when in reality, often backpacking tales have a lot of hard times that are worth mentioning too!

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