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Travel Blogging vs Travel Writing

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I’m in Vegas for Blog World Expo this week, so I’ll be devoting some time to talking about blogging and the travel industry. Here is my first installment.

The impetus for this post came from an off hand comment made by Jen Leo before one of our podcasts a few weeks ago. I mentioned that I was going to a trip sponsored by Princess Cruise Lines in November. Jen is an experienced travel writer who has worked in the publishing industry and currently works for the LA Times. She commented that I can’t take those trips if I want to write for the New York Times or the LA Times, because they don’t allow writers to take comped tours. What struck me about the statement wasn’t the ethics of taking a comped tour, it was that at no point in my life had I ever considered writing for the New York Times. Despite all the traveling and writing I’ve done, it never dawned on me that it is something that could do or that I’d even want to do. Writing for a major newspaper was something that just wasn’t in my universe.

This got me thinking about the differences between the established world of travel writing and the emerging world of travel blogging. The differences aren’t always clear cut. Bloggers obviously write and most writers have a blog. Some writers write for a blog. Nonetheless I think there is a clear distinction between the two if you consider it as a career path, rather than as an end product. Much of what I”ll be outlining here will have exceptions to it. Some people like Chris Elliott are excellent bloggers and writers. I’m also writing this to start a discussion with people in the travel writing/blogging world about where things are going. This is also not intended to be a “which is better” discussion, as the question itself is sort of meaningless. It will hopefully clarify things for those who want to try to pursue a career in travel writing/blogging.

Income

The biggest difference between a travel writer and a travel blogger is where your money comes from. Writers, as I am defining it, work for someone else, either on staff or on a freelance basis. Bloggers work for themselves and they are responsible for their own income. Writing is a much more stable career if you can get a job. The barrier to entry is higher than blogging, but if you can land a gig(s) you can get cash money for your efforts. The barrier to entry in blogging is very, very low. It is very difficult to stand out from the rest of the crowd enough to make any money from it, let alone trying to make a living. Many people start blogging with the goal of getting writing gigs, not becoming a full time blogger. I think the theoretical income potential from blogging is greater than freelance writing, but it is much more difficult to do and takes time.

Audience

When I have this discussion with people there is a question I love to ask: “Name anyone who has ever written an article for National Geographic?” Most people come up blank and if they can name someone they are usually an editor or writer. Most people never pay attention to who writes the articles they read in newspapers and magazines. Editors and other writers may know who’s who, but to the general public they are interchangeable. When you read National Geographic, you are not reading it because of any particular person, you are reading it because of the brand they have established over one-hundred years. Unless you are a really good writer or have developed a good relationship, you probably don’t have a lot of leverage in negotiating with editors because you can easily be replaced by someone else who is more than willing to do the job. The only time a writer might develop a personal following is if they are publishing books under their own name. Bill Bryson comes to mind as a good example of someone in this category.

Bloggers are all about personality. Almost every successful blog I can think of in any niche has a name and a personality behind it. If you are reading this, you probably know my first name and at least the one sentence summary of what I’m about. If you don’t, you can figure that out in single mouse click. The whole point of a blog is to stamp it with your personality, whereas a writer will often write an article in a detached, third person point of view. If a blogger writes a guest article somewhere else, they might draw some of their audience to the other site to read it. There are few people who will follow a freelance writer like they will follow the Grateful Dead.

A writer will probably have a much larger audience for their work than a blogger, but that is due to the circulation of the magazine/newspaper not because of anything to do with the writer. If a writer is fired from a publication, their audience will probably not follow them somewhere else because they were never following them in the first place…and probably will have no idea they were even fired.

Accessibility

In the world of print there is no opportunity to respond to a writer other than through a letter to the editor. Even writers who work for online publications probably don’t have the same level of accessibility as bloggers do. I get emails every day from people who like my site or are starting their own trip. I meet with readers in most large cities I visit. Since my blog is so intimately tied to me, meeting people is an integral part of the business. Bloggers also tend to be much more active in social media because they have a much greater incentive to do so. Their target audience isn’t editors and publishers, it is readers.

Ownership

While contracts can very from person to person, most writers who are writing for hire usually do not own the copyright to what they produce. It is owned by the publication which paid for it to get written. Once they finish a project they move on to the next one. If you are doing freelance work for several years, at the end of that time you might not have the rights to anything you’ve done. As a blogger I own everything. Everything I produce will keep brining in readers for years via search engines. I don’t have to worry about non-compete contracts and can work with whoever I want.

Quality

Many people think that professional writers are better writers. I think there is a great deal of truth to that. Focusing on a single thing, not having to worry about other aspects of running the publication, longer lead times, and having an editor will improve quality. I’m writing this in a Las Vegas McDonald’s and this will probably be online within an hour of having written it. I have no editors and rely on friends and readers to point out glaring grammatical and spelling errors. Give me a full week to rewrite and an editor and I’m sure the quality will improve.

Responsibilities

A professional writer needs to network with editors and keep their resume unto date. Other than that, their primary job is writing. A blogger will often spend the majority of their time doing stuff other than writing. I do most of the technical work on my site, search engine optimization, promotion, spend time on Twitter and Facebook, and I do it all mostly out of hotel rooms without help from anyone else. Being a blogger means having to wear many hats and have several different skill sets beyond just writing. I think most people would rather just travel to exotic locations, write about it and get a check. Blogging and running your own show is a much larger commitment with many more responsibilities.

Future

This part is all speculation.
Returning to the comment which spurred this post, I asked myself why I’d want to write for the New York Times and if I would do it if given the chance. The answer is yes, I would do it, but the motivation for doing it would be different from a writer. While any money gained would be nice, I’d do it for free if that was an option. I’d do it to help build an audience for my blog which is my end game. I’d exchange my talent and time for a sliver of access to the New York Times audience and a link. I think in the future you will see more types of these arrangements between old and new media. There will still be editors and staff writers, but it will be easier and cheaper to do these sorts of exchanges for freelance staff than will be to pay them a normal full fee. Instead of making $2,000, you might get $1,000 and a link.

This means that more writers will have to become bloggers. I don’t see any way around this. They will have to rely less and less on checks from media companies and more and more on their own wits. They will also have to take a greater role in building their brand and reputation with the greater internet audience.

Economics will eventually force media companies to stop looking down at bloggers and work with them. This could take several forms from the modified freelance system I mentioned above to full blown staff bloggers like what the Atlantic Monthly did with big time politics bloggers. They might use travel blogs as a sort of farm system for content.

As of today professional travel writers and bloggers are still in two different worlds, but I think that is slowly changing. Only in the last year or two has travel started to reach the levels in terms of traffic and readers that niches like technology and politics reached several years before. I’m glad to have a front row see to see how it all pans out in the next several years.

My name is Gary Arndt and I’m a travel blogger.

  • 43 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Zoe Dawes says:

    Hi Gary – found your article in my Google search – it summed up so much of what I wanted to say in my recent blog post – so simply linked back here! http://www.thequirkytraveller.com/2011/09/the-difference-between-a-travel-writer-and-a-travel-blogger-is/
    I had been struggling with calling myself a blogger – by the end of the article it was resolved!

  2. Michael says:

    So.. I used to think a travel writer was just someone who traveled and then wrote about it. I didn’t realize such a divide existed based on the medium in which one would share.

    I do agree with a lot of points on each side. One I understand very well is what Gary is saying and I echo his sentiments. I am web designer, seo expert, social networking butterfly, self promoter, marketing coordinator and writer. I’m also crazy on some days.

    I’m not great at any of these and each time I fuel my efforts into one, the others suffer. This is especially true when trying to chase after an elusive web presence on a medium that’s constantly changing.

    It’s “do this” and you will get 100 followers. I get 2. Then it’s do this and you will be king and then Google slaps you for trying to hard. I hope the 3 years is right because I’m about there.

    I also see how a blogger can develop a biased opinion based on the publisher advertiser relationship. I don’t have any experience with free trips but I have been sent hundred dollar products to review for free. How do you form a unbiased opinion on that. I usually disclose this in my review as I thank the company but still.

    Either way, it’s the nature of the game your playing and each work and appeal to a very real legitimate audience.

    If you are a print journalist I know you worked hard to get there and you deserve respect.

    If you are a travel blogger I know you worked hard too. Sure it might be easy to break into travel blogging and say “here’s my blog, here’s my travels, here’s my writing….see, I’m a travel writer” but try finding someone who will listen.

  3. Bob Berwyn says:

    Yaaaawwwwnnnn! When in doubt, write (another!) story about travel writing v. travel blogging. Talk about a dead horse … I say travel more and write good stories, who cares if they’re in a magazine, newspaper or blog! If they’re good, I’ll read ‘em!

    • Gary says:

      Except people aren’t reading magazines and newspapers as much as they were before and that is causing massive changes in the business.

      • Bob Berwyn says:

        Magazines and newspapers will survive in some form. Many, if not most, “writers” and “bloggers” straddle both sides of the fence. I do. I freelance for newspapers, publish a local news blog … It just seems this debate is getting old and tiresome and that it’s time to move on. Most importantly, I don’t think readers care that much. It’s navel-gazing among insiders.

  4. MadelineJ says:

    Gary, great post! I’m a blogger and hadn’t thought about this difference with so much depth. AND I was at TBEX and heard the panel with Jen Leo (which is actually what sparked my interest in this topic and led me to read your take on it.). So thanks.

  5. Doreal says:

    The first time reading your post and I believe it! You have good argue and I think people just look around on income but can’t keep the quality of blog. Writing as a hobby but not for money blogging.

  6. Aaron says:

    Great post Gary! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head and the tides are changing, I think the travel blogger is an infinitely more reliable and trustworthy source of travel info and will go from strength to strength in the years to come… Keep it up

  7. Cate says:

    I really like the way you ended your post. I differ – my name is Cate and although I have a small fun travel blog, I’m not a travel blogger. You raise very good points about the way travel writing and blogging is going or may go. Unlike you I blog to practice my writing and share some of my stories, I don’t view my blog as growing to enormous proportions and I don’t want it to because this takes me away from what I love doing – writing. I want to use my blog as a stepping stone to future writing gigs and by this I’m not just meaning travel writing.
    I’ve always liked your blog because you don’t do hotel reviews, you don’t navel gaze and you don’t do those tiresome top ten lists (when will these fall out of vogue?).
    Your post is timely – instead of writers talking about blogging it’s good to read a well thought out opinion by a blogger on writing.

  8. Nisha says:

    Great post ! I am new to blogging but very much share your sentiments and views.
    Though most of us would want to become more visible, writing for self satisfaction is much more than writing for others even if they are attractive in terms of monetary benefits.

  9. Lanora says:

    <blockquote cite="For the record, if you bothered to read my about page, I do travel off my savings and am independently wealthy."

    Touche, Gary.

    I came back to your post looking for hate mail from "professional" writers about bloggers (by definition, well-written hate mail), and all I found were statements such as this one: "Everything you say about so-called ‘professional writers’ is simply ignorant."

    Tut, tut. Good writing is good writing, no matter who does it or on what platform it appears.

    Mastering the economics of finding and keeping an audience for one's writing (or photography or other communicaition product) requires an additional set of skills.

    Established travel bloggers, It seems to me, distinguish themselves from "traditional" travel writers in that they were not afraid to learn the skills and take the risks required to find their own audiences online.

  10. Trisha says:

    Gary I think you’re right on in your assessment and opinions – great article and discussion.

    I do see slowly-but-steadily increasing numbers of traditional travel writers making the shift to travel blogging as print opportunities are drying up and/or just paying less. There aren’t many other options. The ones who will be able to stay in the game are those who realize that, yes, there is much more work involved and yes, writing to attract an online audience is different, but who are willing to make the leap and learn as much as they can from the more experienced bloggers.

    The ones who will eventually be left in the dust are those who continue to singularly chase after the staid print publications like the NTY or LAT as the penultimate achievement, and continue to look down their noses at the bloggers.

    While there is still prestige to be earned in those markets – and I do encourage travel bloggers to pursue publication in such outlets – there is little future, so I advise all writers to be prepared by building an online portfolio and writing for as many online markets as they can.

  11. Steve says:

    Let’s face it, you don’t have a clue about writing outside of blogging, and you’re talking apples and oranges. The post you just wrote is whatever it is, but it sure ain’t a well crafted narrative. You say it all when you write, “Unless you’re a really good writer….” Well, don’t you aspire to be a really good writer (maybe you don’t)? That’s what it’s all about: being the best, rising to the top, establishing your byline as a brand in itself, one that magazines even put as taglines on the cover. The whole ‘travel blogging’ industry is mostly about free fam trips and not genuine reporting or writing. You’re saying what you say because you’re not a writer; would you actually trade what you do for getting $10,000 assignments, plus expenses, to write long feature pieces for a magazine, free from all industry shilling? You no more work for yourself than any freelancer, unless you’re independently wealthy – your revenue comes from advertisers to your site, which makes you a hell of a lot more beholden than any independent freelancer on assignment for, say, National Geographic Traveler, who’s beholden to nobody but his editor. I don’t care how ‘independent’ you say you are, if you’re writing about a trip on a Princess Cruise vessel that was paid for by Princess Cruises, you’re gonna be hard pressed to convince me that your voice in unbiased. Do you say in every post that involves a comped tour that it was comped? Everything you say about so-called ‘professional writers’ is simply ignorant. All they have to do is keep their resume up to date? Huh? Let’s try this: where’s your income from? Every penny. Spell it out for us here on your blog. Can you raise a family on it? You might exchange your income for a link in the Times, but the Times doesn’t want what you do, because it’s not high quality enough and it’s all compromised. Blech.

    • Gary says:

      I’m not a writer. I never claimed to be. I have no background in writing or journalism. I don’t do well crafted narrative and I’m not really sure what that even means in the context of writing about the industry of travel blogging.

      Your question about where my income is from was intended to be rhetorical, but I’ll go you one better and tell you where every penny of my income is from:

      In September I received $19.31 from Google Adsense. Since I’ve started my site I’ve received a total $192.32 from Adsense.

      In the almost 900 days I’ve been traveling I’ve received a total of 3 nights comped because I was a blogger: 1 at the Sheridan in Petlauma California, one by a hotel in Europe and one at a hostel in New York. If you search my site you will not find any reviews or mentions of those facilities of those places, because I don’t do hotel reviews.

      I’d like to point out this sentence you wrote “You no more work for yourself than any freelancer, unless you’re independently wealthy – your revenue comes from advertisers to your site, which makes you a hell of a lot more beholden than any independent freelancer on assignment for, say, National Geographic Traveler, who’s beholden to nobody but his editor.”

      For the record, if you bothered to read my about page, I do travel off my savings and am independently wealthy.

      • So THERE!
        You Go Gary! Man, some people just want to be negative. This debate is interesting to me as a writer because i want to be authentic and real but at the end of the day my time is money at some level. And if i’m writing and not getting paid for it, yet spending 40 hours a week doing it, how do i make money? So if I “sell out” and get sponsorship then my content is suddenly vomit. At the same time, sponsors are desperate for new ways to reach readers as digital media is evolving and consumers are paying less attention to traditional media outlets – and as you know the banner CTRs are under .05%. Interesting times! I wish i had a crystal ball! Thanks for the commentary.

        • Kara says:

          Gary –

          You forgot to mention 7 nights on the Princess Cruise — plus drinks/food/tours — comped because you are a blogger. Oh wait, that was because you were a Tweeter — so maybe that doesn’t count in your tally above!

          And since you brought it up, did you pay for your stay at the Aria? Just asking, since I’m guessing it’s pricey, and I recall you hunting for budget lodging in NYC for TBEX.

          If this is none of my business, feel free to tell me, “This is none of your business.

          Kara

  12. Completely agree with what you have written, I would also like to add that being a blogger is also about being an entrepreneur, which is rarely the case with writers.

    At the end of the day, while both may produce content which is consumed by their respective audience, they can never be compared.

  13. Eva says:

    Interesting and very well written. I have to agree with you. I’ve just started to set up my own website with travel blogs (in Dutch though) and I am very curious myself about all this myself. I think the line will become thinner. Or at least I hope ;-). Thanks for your blog!

  14. charmine says:

    Gary,I find this very fascinating.Never gave it much thought myself,never compared the two.

    But I’m with you on this.I think blogging hone’s our skills in editing,writing,and content creation,which may be put to greater use later.Hope you get to write for the NYTimes/LATimes.

  15. Alexandra says:

    VERY interesting, Gary (yup, i know your name) and well structured, as Christine points out. This may be a great structure for a blog article, and less used by AP journalists, but I”ll tell you this – it is also a good structure for academic grant proposal applications and short articles! Hooray for clarity.

    It’s a fine line between blogger and professional writer and it’s getting finer every time the NYT starts up another blog on their site. Meanwhile Blogs go mainstream and become reliable news sources.

    If the NYT paid 2000$ for an article i’d take it – but i’d also want a backlink to my blog. Unfortunately, i’m quite sure that they do not pay anything near that.

  16. Matt_Parsons says:

    Nice post. I like the way you make blogging sound like ‘Terminator: rise of the bloggers’! At the moment, from a UK point of view at least, it seems like blogging is stuck in a rut. Most posts involve lists of bloggers repeating what other bloggers have said on Twitter (I’m guilty of this too). Bloggers have also forgetten about crafting their blog – they post something banal yet controversial, to start a usually irrelevant debate. The internet is primarily something people see as a resource, and bloggers are going to have to start becoming useful, and perhaps more elegant, not just naval gazing…

  17. Spud Hilton says:

    Well presented, but a little too much generalization and speculation about mags & newspapers that does not apply to my situation, as well as to a few others I know. (Especially the part about writing in 3rd person without personality.) Probably the most important distinction for me is storytelling. A good writer (probably not writing for the next day from the Vegas Micky-D’s) recounts a trip, using personal experiences to illustrate something about a place, and does it within a structure that makes it a fun or compelling read. My experience with most travel blogs is that they tend to be not so much storytelling as what Tim Cahill calls “rehashing of your diary.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just an important distinction.

    • Gary says:

      A good writer, as you define it, is getting paid to have the luxury of being a good writer. They can take a trip, have someone else pay for it and wrap everything up into a single article and not have to worry about the travel section getting advertising or the web servers going down.

      Take that same writer make him earn his money, not from a publisher, but directly from his audience. Suddenly everything changes. You’ll find him writing in the Vegas McDonald’s, and sending out tweets as he walks down the street to keep his audience engaged.

      The thing with most writers is that they try to compare their craft to bloggers with no sense of the economics which allows them write the way they do. It is all done in a bubble where advertising, writing and circulation are segmented. Make a writer responsible for all the parts of running a publication that they were insulated from and certainly something will suffer. If not the writing, then something else.

      • Spud Hilton says:

        Wow. All I said was “storytelling is an important distinction” and I got a lesson in economics. If you’d like a lengthy list of good writers (freelance) who are painfully aware of the economics, I’m happy to oblige. Most of them try to write more about the place than about themselves, tho, so I guess it is tough to keep the audience engaged. Guess that’s why it’s called travel writing.

        • Gary says:

          Economics underlies everything.

          I know that freelance writers are very aware of the business part of writing. However, the business of being a freelance writer is very different than the business of being a blogger. That is really the point I’m trying to make. Work for hire is fundamentally different from blogging where no one guarantees your salary.

          Keeping the audience engaged in a world with social media isn’t just a matter of writing a good article. There are tons of little things between the articles you have to do to keep people’s attention.

          • Spud Hilton says:

            I guess my problem is that in the social media world I’m seeing the tons of the little things between the good articles, I’m just not seeing the good articles themselves. Again, a distinction I find important.

            • Gary says:

              You are looking at things through the lens of a writer. I’ve noticed that many writers tend to evaluate writing for writings sake. The bigger question is if the audience really cares. As I noted before, most writers are totally unknown. People don’t follow writers, they follow brands. There are a few exceptions, but they are exceptions.

              Long form narrative is a tool which can be used to engage people but it is only one tool. Photography and video I would assert are more powerful in the 21st Century than the written word. Most travel magazines probably sell more due to the images on the cover than the articles inside. Not too different from Playboy :)

              I’ve heard many writers complain about bloggers, and the biggest complaint is that they are not like them. That is correct, they’re not. It is more than just writing.

  18. Arun says:

    That’s very well thought out story, Gary. Looking back at 3 years of travel blogging (which subsequently got me writing assignments in print) and writing for print, I know that I very much like to see my name of print and enjoy the brand building it brings to my blog. But if I ever had to choose one of the two, I know it is necessarily the blog. If I write for print, it last for a day, week or a month and eventually gets trashed. But what I write on my blog stays on forever and will have readers coming to me as long as the blog exists. 80% of my readers come to read the archives and many people return. The choice is simple.

  19. Eva says:

    Thoughtful post, Gary, and lots to chew over here. I do think, though, that under “Responsibilities” you’re underestimating the number of hats freelance writers (who these days surely outnumber staffers) have to wear. I’d bet many freelancers spend more time researching markets and pitching editors than actually getting down to the nuts and bolts of writing, not to mention all the other business-type aspects of being self-employed. That includes Twitter, Facebook, personal website maintenance, etc – with the difference being the end goal of landing print gigs. The work variety is still the same, though.

    • Gary says:

      You are correct. The distinctions I’m making aren’t black and white. A freelance writer will be farther down the continuum than a staff writer. Nonetheless, many of the things I pointed out are still true: ownership of content, who are marketing towards (end users or editors), and the fact that you rely on someone else for payment.

  20. Interesting and thought provoking post, Gary. I love your Grateful Dead comment.

    As a professional newspaper and magazine journalist, as well as an on-line blogger for three years, I straddle both sides of the media fence.

    Your comment of writing for the NY Times for free did make me cringe. I’ve never been paid $2,000 for an article. In fact, my print editorial outlets are paying less and less.

    I hope our newspapers don’t turn to “citizen journalism” for entire content, yet “will write for free” does sound appealing to many editors in our current economy.

    Thanks for writing this post, as it is an evolving topic. I look forward to reading your coverage of Blog World. Have fun and say hello to the Travel Blogging gang for me.

    • Gary says:

      I don’t think they will turn to citizen journalist as random people off the street. I’m thinking people who are successful bloggers who have a following of their own.

      As a thought experiment, how would the quality of the now defunct Gourmet magazine suffer if they hand picked food bloggers to write articles? Even if you accept that the quality would decrease, I don’t think it would decrease so much that readers would revolt, and the magazine might still be in business.

      If traditional media wants to stay in business, they have to be creative. If they stick their noses up at bloggers who are capable of producing good content, they do so at their own peril. If you can’t beat em, join em.

  21. pam says:

    Awesome link baiting, Gary. Jeez. A few things, in no real order.

    Daisan McClain. Boyd Matson. I read NG Traveler because I love to read those writers. I would follow them were they to go elsewhere.

    Why do you think photographers don’t distinguish the work they do by photoblogging and photography? What’s the difference there? Why do writers insist on making this distinction.

    There’s loads of crappy writing in print. In novels. In magazines. All over the place. And some might remarkable writing on blogs.

    Some publications return rights to the writers after X amount of time. So ownership is sometimes a transient thing.

    Some blogs do exercise editorial control of a most exacting variety. When I blogged for World Hum, all my work went through their editorial pass. Some blog publish any old crap, the writer just hits publish and whoosh, it’s live. Offering editorial control isn’t a blog driven thing, it’s an aesthetic/publication/management driven thing.

    You’ve got some points that I can’t disagree with, but I’d still say that they’re all WRITERS, it’s just a question of medium and what that medium allows.

    • Andy says:

      Being a travel blogger is being an entrepreneur in the most terrifying sense of the word. But its probably also part of the larger trend of creative types connecting directly to their audience (e.g. through self-publishing). I believe this trend is a bonanza for the audience because it results in so many previously untold stories finally seeing the light of day.
      Congrats on writing a great post that stimulated such lively commentary.

    • Gary says:

      Pam,

      1) You are sort of proving my point. You are are a writer and you know who the writers are. Most people don’t.

      2) I think you could replace “writer” with “photographer” and most everything I said would still be true. In fact most people could name more writers than photographers. If anything, photographers are in more danger because anyone with a camera can put stuff up on Flickr. I talk about writers only because there are a lot more blogs with writing than there are photo blogs.

      3) You are focused more on the craft of writing. You are correct that there are great bloggers and crappy writers. The written word is the written word. I use “writer” because I don’t know of any better word to use. To you, what you did for World Hum is no different than what you do for your own blog. Writing is writing. From a business and career standpoint, it can make a big difference. That is the point I’m trying to make.

      • I do not think that this analogy holds true for good photographers, who make their mark by creating work of art. Though it certainly does for run of the middle staff and freelance photographers.

  22. Carlo says:

    Nice, well thought out piece. Very true about the National Geographic bit.

  23. Dave says:

    I agree with so much of what you’ve written, I’m only going to pull out a few of my favorite quotes to highlight.

    “If a writer is fired from a publication, their audience will probably not follow them somewhere else because they were never following them in the first place…and probably will have no idea they were even fired.”

    I never thought about this until now, however when I reflect on all the National Geographic Adventure and Men’s Health magazines I’ve read, you’re spot-on. Unless I’m reading a feature by an author at the level of John Krakauer or Sebastian Junger, I wouldn’t take notice, let alone remember, the author’s name.

    “I’m writing this in a Las Vegas McDonald’s and this will probably be online within an hour of having written it.”

    Since wrapping up a 20-month trip around the world, where I posted an average of 6 days a week from 22 different countries, I’ve been reflecting on how much easier it is to spend more time brainstorming post ideas, writing them, and updating my blog’s design now that I’m stationary, with fast, free and reliable internet access.

    I also feel like I have the time, if I want to invest it, in drafting formal pitches to print publications. My motivation would be driven by an interest in building authority and my online audience, rather than earning income directly from the publisher (though being paid directly to travel is still my goal). It would also be a chance to prove myself to the “establishment” of professional writers.

    As you mentioned, this would play towards the endgame of building a bigger, better blog.

    PS – I love the fact that we wear so many hats as bloggers. If I don’t feel like writing one day, I can try to improve my blog’s usability or functionality. Maybe come up with ideas for an ebook I will self-publish, or learn the latest strategies for leveraging social media.

    And almost 3 years later, it’s all still fun!

    • Gary says:

      I think the “3 years later” part is key. Because the barrier to entry is so low in blogging, it really requires time and effort to make yourself stand out. It wont happen in months or weeks. It takes years.

      I can think of a group of under 10 people who all started travel blogs about 2-3 years ago. It isn’t easy. Most people who try blogging don’t try very hard and give up after a few months.

      • Priyank says:

        I echo that thought about “3 years.” I’ve been around for about 4 years and blogging about travel stories still excites me because it feels like writing in my personal journal. I am sure there are many more (like me) who don’t walk the extra kilometer to promote their blogs, and (hence) are not quite known in the blogging circle. :) Thanks for the article Gary!

  24. Great post Gary!

    For the most part this falls to print vs online, because even Jen’s LA Times travel blog is written very differently than a full blown travel article that would be seen in the print version of the same paper.

    The other big difference I see, and part of the reason why traditional print writers have a hard time writing for online, is that the format is so different. Look at how you set up your post… you used short paragraphs, clearly outlined your points, used bolded subheadings– all these things help an online reader digest the information more quickly.

    Traditional writers come online and write these 4,000 word posts that are gloriously written, but an absolute slog to read online. I’ve seen lots of writers complain about not wanting to write “hack” work in order to be successful online.

    To me, it’s more about fitting with the format… you wouldn’t write like a novelist if you wrote an article for the NY Times (complete with your internal monologue), nor would you want to read a novel written completely like an AP reporter– they’d tell you the ending first, the give you the rest of the information in order of most important, with the ending being the least relevant info.

    I think you’re right, the line will continue to blur. We’re certainly influenced by what we read and even print will become influenced by the web.

  25. Craig says:

    Yes, good call and well thought out. I wonder what will happen to introverts like me that struggle to create the “cult of Craig” as you’ve done so well here.

    Undoubtably good blogs turn around big personalities and I’m keen to see how we (travel bloggers and writers) can work together more in multi-author blogs while keeping the personality aspect strong.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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