“The Future of the Travel Blog” Presentation, Travel Blog Camp, London 11 November 2008

Introduction

When Darren of Travel Rants asked me to give a presentation at the Travel Blog Camp he was organising in London on the 11 November 2008, I decided to further explore “The Future of the Travel Blog” the theme of a live blog hosted to celebrate the 2nd birthday of the Europe a la Carte Blog in October 2008.

In order to examine the future of the travel blog, it’s important to start with defining what I see as the main categories of travel blog and their aims. Of course this isn’t rigid and there may be some overlap between categories. After explaining the three categories of travel blogs and their aims, I will then examine the future of each category.

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Travel Blog Categories

1 Personal travel diary or travelogues

Personal travel diaries or travelogues, either hosted free on a general blogging platform such as Blogger or as part or a travel social networking or community site such as WAYN or Travelerspoint. The blog author here is not aiming to make any money from their writing but to keep friends and relatives up to date on their travels. If personal travel diaries are part of an community or network then the host is getting a good variety of content, free of charge, which enhances their site and the host may also have advertising alongside the posts.

2 The travel blog as an online interactive travel magazine

The travel blog as an online interactive travel magazine, either as part of a established print media outlet such as The Guardian travel blog or independent self hosted blog such as Travel Rants or my own Europe a la Carte Blog. This type of blog aims to make money from advertising and/or affiliate links on the blog.

3 The travel blog as a marketing tool

The travel blog as a marketing tool of a website which sells travel products or services to the consumer such as Smith Travel Blog part of the Mr and Mrs Smith boutique and luxury hotel specialist site. This type of blog may anticipate making directly attributable income but it adds to the content of the site, increases brand awareness, encourages regular visits to the site and can lead to increased sales and profit. Many aspiring writers also use a blog as part of their portfolio to showcase their work.

What’s the common thread with all types of blog – quality, unique content. This will attract readers, encourage links from other sites and blogs which increases ranking which in turn leads to increased visitor numbers. This then makes for a good platform for advertisers to reach readers interested in travel products and services.

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The Future of the Travel Blog

1 The personal travel diary or travelogue

People will always want to write about their travels and keep family and friends in the loop, as well as have a record of their trip. The individual is probably not thinking of making any income from their writing. although there’s always the chance they could progress to being a paid writer. If an aggregator can amass a steady stream of good content with relevant ads they are onto a good thing on the back of free content. However it could be difficult to ensure that all blogs have quality content.

2 The travel blog as a online interactive travel magazine

Travel blogs which are part of an existing media empire have the advantage of being a known and trusted source of information by readers and a safer bet for advertisers. In theory the revenue from advertising should enable the publisher to pay for well researched and written content but I don’t think this is always the case.

Independent blogs face major hurdles in attracting readers in the crowded market. It’s always said that if you have quality content you will succeed but I don’t think that’s enough for an independent blog. Independent blogs were beginning to make some revenue from paid text links until Google started to downgrade the Page Rank of blog with paid text links. It’s also hard to attract advertisers to an independent niche travel blog which may have a relatively low number of hits.

I see the way forward for independent blogs as working in partnership with other quality travel blogs which inform, inspire and entertain readers who love travel.

Or the collaboration could be taken step further If the content of several travel blogs is aggregated, this should increase the profile and hits of each of the individual blogs. The aggregation then becomes an more attractive option for advertisers and much simpler than seeking and contacting each blog separately. I believe that content should in the aggregation would have to be manually edited to ensure quality and I’m not sure that all content from the participating travel blogs would be included.

3 The Travel Blog as a marketing tool

Travel blogs which are marketing tools will have to evaluated for their effectiveness as maintaining a blog is going to take up a fair bit of time and effort. However they could be a very cost effective way of marketing a travel business, especially for the established travel business where the brand is already know by the consumer or for small businesses to help increase their visibility.

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Conclusion

I see more collaboration between travel blogs within the same, as well as different, categories as the way forward. To illustrate this concept I will use my own vision for the future of Europe a la Carte blog. I envisage some content from the Europe a la Carte blog being included in a platform for great content about travel in Europe. This could have sub divisions such as budget travel, luxury travel and getting off the beaten track.

This aggregated travel content site would include content from personal travel diaries or travelogues written by travellers visiting destinations in Europe, other travel blogs which are online interactive travel magazines both independent and part of a media empire with content about travel in Europe and relevant content from blogs which are marketing tools. However the aggregated travel content site wouldn’t be limited to content from travel blogs, any quality travel content could be included with the publishers permission.

I’m looking at this from the perspective of the consumer. I know as a travel consumer myself you end up looking at so many different sources when researching and planning a trip that I’d find it really useful if there were a lot of relevant, quality information in one place.

To create a resource such as this would require very selective and unbiased editing to ensure the highest quality and relevance of content.

I believe that all sources contributing to this aggregation would benefit by increased readership and revenue.