Travel blogs are a far more honest and trustworthy source of information than 97.62% of what you read in print magazines or the travel sections of newspapers, the supposed bastions of real travel writing.
Put another way, when was the last time you saw a negative review of a hotel in Travel and Leisure or read an article in Conde Nast Traveler telling you to not go to a place?
There may be odd examples of such critical writing here and there, but generally you never see anything negative in any traditional travel publication.
Why is that the case? Money, of course.
Print publications live and die with advertising (and to a lesser extent actual copies sold) and potential advertisers are obviously companies that want everyone to travel. As as result, the only thing they want to see is unceasingly positive, cheerleading pieces that encourage people to spend money on their products, whether that be airline tickets, hotel rooms, tours or whatever.
There is no financial interest in full and complete honesty in print. Setting aside books for a moment, which don’t exist on the same business model, newspapers and magazines are conduits for advertising dollars. They exist to provide the space to put advertisers together with the people they seek to convince to open their wallets. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this business model.
But given the realities of what ends up getting printed, it is more than a bit misguided to think that travel bloggers are somehow less ethical and more easily bought off than those that get published in print.
Pure and simple B.S.
I have written more than my fair share of critical posts about places, including ones like The Absurdity of Monaco, but I am far from the only blogger who is willing to cast a critical eye at a tour company, or food in a region, or sometimes, just about everything in an entire country…
- Adventurous Kate’s post, about a sponsored trip no less: Adventurous Kate Gets Shipwrecked in Indonesia
- Lauren of Never Ending Footsteps in Why I Hated My Time in China.
- Nomadic Matt takes a stand in Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam.
- Ayngelina Brogan was Underwhelmed by the Food in Argentina.
You may quibble about the writing in any of these posts, but regardless of your opinion about the technical prowess of any of us, there is zero doubt that if anyone made a pitch to one of the many travel print publications with a piece expressing any of these negative viewpoints, the rejection would be quickly forthcoming. And the rejection would be simply based on the fact that the content is less than 100% flattering.
Print magazines and newspapers don’t want readers to consume anything that might, in any small way, make them second guess any possible upcoming travel expenditure. More importantly, the advertisers (the Wizard of Oz characters behind the curtain pulling the levers) really don’t want anything negative printed in any publication they spend their ad dollars in.
The corruption in print isn’t that their writers do or don’t accept press trips (though some do), but that the print editorial bias is so unfailingly positive as to call into question whether you can believe anything that is published there in the first place. That corruption of content is far more pervasive and systematic, because it goes to the entire underlying business model of print.
For me, I’ll take the honesty, openness and forthrightness of a good travel blog any day of the week. At least I know that bloggers are more than willing to talk about both the positives and the negatives of places.
I like that sort of ethics. How about you?