Liz Strauss’ comment from her BlogWorld keynote on community-building summarizes what is happening lately across a variety of events, including London’s World Travel Market; more travel bloggers and tourism/PR organizations are noticing each other, and hammering out the details of a working relationship.
This month’s BlogWorld and New Media Expo West in Los Angeles, California featured a combined Travel and Tourism track. The Tourism track was covered here yesterday by Lara Dickson. Travel sessions were organized by Mary Jo Manzanares; although the presentations shared a room with tourism-related sessions, there was little overlap.
Key insights from the first panel, on going from hobbyist to professional:
* Ross Borden (@rossborden) from the Matador Network pulled no punches about how hard it is to make real money from a travel site.
“Traffic does not equal revenue….people don’t come to content sites to click ads. If you’re only doing CPM’s, it’ll be an uphill battle.”
The creation of Matador U online classes was a game-changer; Borden likes non-advertising revenue sources like courses and ebooks.
“You need something to sell outside the eyeballs of your audience….Even traffic ‘explosions’ [with popular posts] do not mean more money….You’re only as good as your last advertising deal, so instead build something that can be a solid revenue stream.”
* Kara Williams (@karasw) – “Put your best writing on the blog; that’s how people find us [she's co-founder of The Vacation Gals and The Spa Gals.] Our blog is a professional résumé for us.” Williams recommends a detailed Media Kit with info about the blogger and his/her blog, plus readership stats (put it on the About page and make it easy to find.)
* Chris Gray Faust (@CAroundTheWorld) from Chris Around the World – Recognize yourself as an online publisher: “I’m a media outlet, too,” she says. Faust took two years to get her blog established, and had to write it on a commuter bus going to/from a full-time job at Microsoft. “Success may not be linear….reality is always different from the dream….opportunities will come to you from sideways, so don’t be afraid to tweak your business plan.”
* Podcaster Chris Christensen (@AmateurTraveler) from The Amateur Traveler – “Being a business person means picking up the phone and doing the thing you don’t want to do.” He’s a fan of the niche: “Specificity is a competitive advantage.” If you want to work with tourism organizations (on press trips, for example) then he recommends starting with your local CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau.)
From the blogging business models panel:
* Gary Arndt (@EverywhereTrip), Everything Everywhere – “There’s more than one way to be successful….you don’t monetize a blog, you monetize an audience….build an audience first, THEN worry about monetizing….Don’t just plan on advertising. That’s a path to failure.”
* Michael Tieso (@artofbackpackin), The Art of Backpacking – From a discussion of contextual paid links: “I’m totally okay with it, but the link must be relevant and useful….definitely, it’s a risk….I’m not going to lose my audience for a casino link…it’s a short-term strategy.” On press trips: “They are WORK because the host will want you to experience a lot of their destination. Remember to disclose in your tweets, too.”
* Janice Waugh (@solotraveler), Solo Traveler – [To PR and marketing people who contact her] “Talk to me as a blogger, not just about my blog….I am more than my blog. I can be a spokesperson, and I have lots of resources.” On press trips: she self-finances at least 1 per year so she can “do her thing” independently. On blogging: “If you aren’t passionate about it, don’t even bother. You almost have to be obsessive.”
Part Two of this report is coming soon, covering panels on collaboration and pitching PR.
Image: Becky McCray