November 15, 2010 by Jools Stone
A funny thing happened to me on the way back from Travel Blog Camp. No, this is not a humerous travel blogging anecdote, nor is it the ubiquitous ‘I learned something today’ touchy feely type of reflection.
It’s maybe a slightly lamentable lapse into self indulgent naval gazing, but hey…
TBC did what it’s supposed to do and gave me some food for thought…and now I’m having a bit of a wobble as a result. Two of the four talks left an impression on me. Both were later written up for posts which are well worth reading.
Keynote blog chats
Andy Jarosz covered blogging purpose and quality standards, while David Whitley talked about a brave new world of travel blogging monetisation, where hardcore research and reviewing replaces mutual backslapping and the cranking out of cumulative content.
For Andy, 501 Places is a shop window where he showcases his writing style to attract paid work, some travel related, some not. I think of myself in this camp too, but can’t shake this nagging feeling that my blog is less likely to open those doors. I’ve little interest in jumping through the seemingly Kafakaesque hoops required to monetise a travel blog. And that’s just as well, given its traffic and the narrow appeal of my nano-niche.
David Whitley, a full time freelance travel journalist, admitted that his Grumpy Traveller blog – originally set up simply to vent spleen on the travel ground where commissioning editors fear to tread – has brought some nice surprises. Now several savvy travel companies are snapping up his PR-baiting, airline-worrying schtick and who can blame them?
I’m not complaining…
Most of my paid work comes from print journalism and the first 3 months of freelance life have gone very well. The same few editors keep coming back for more, they buy in bulk and I haven’t even needed to venture out of my comfort zone and dust off my pitching mitt yet, even though I know I probably should.
I’m just not sure
So what’s the matter you, hey! Why you looking so sad? Well, I am a very needy blogger. Sometimes I wonder if I should simply rename this blog ‘Pay Attention to Me’ and have done with. I want to be recognised, and not just by other bloggers who are doing their bit to be supportive, lovely though that is.
I worry that this blog will do little to advance this and get me noticed. Why? Because rail is a minority interest which I think will deter many people from reading and thus discovering my obvious all conquering genius.
And hmm, yes, well OK, there are some other niggling little doubts too…
I’m not a trainspotter (honest!)
I worry that the narrow gauge track I’ve decided to strap myself into will be my undoing. For starters I’m not really a trainspotter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I just don’t get that steamed up about shiny engines with all the bells and whistles. People keep sending me all sorts of rail buff stuff on twitter which often leaves me a bit cold. I politely thank them anyway and file it away in a topics folder, which I conveniently forget about.
I’m not that boring, am I?
It was also interesting to see how I’m perceived at the various World Travel Market pow wows. Obviously it was great to meet so many good people I’ve tweeted with over recent months there, but when meeting new ones I swear I could see the eyes glaze over and the business cards retract when answering the inevitable ‘so what’s your blog about then?’
Even the pant-wetting novelty value of my Poken could not distract them from the creeping dread of being locked in a conversational siding with someone ready to whip out a pocketbook of engine numbers.
I’m not a dedicated overlander
Sometimes I fly. So shoot me. The reasons for this are obvious. Like it or not, it’s often more convenient, quicker and most of all cheaper. And that’s a huge barrier for many people, no matter what aspirational stuff you may read to the contrary in the broadsheets, as I’ve posted about before. Of course simply admitting this loses me vital brownie points in the small, but important, pond that is slow and green travel. Not to mention credibility and consistency.
I’m not the Man in Seat Sixty One
Nor will I ever be. One of David Whitley’s top tips was for bloggers to provide exhaustively researched, useful info on their topic. Sound advice no doubt, but it doesn’t work for me. The legendary Mark Smith beat me to the flag years ago. Back when I was canvassing opinion on a blog name, someone suggested the train brain. I quickly ruled it out for these reasons.
Sometimes people ask me for journey advice. I always try to help them out as best I can, mainly by looking on other websites and reporting back. Which makes me a bit like an unpaid travel agent. The oldest profession n all that…
I’m not of much interest to the rail industry
A few stalwart supporters aside (hello Sophie of Quno and Emily of Raileasy) the rail travel social media machine appears resolutely unfussed by my blog so far. And when I read some of the half arsed ‘what I did on my InterRail holidays’ crap that passes for corporate rail blog content, that does add insult to injury. Plus there are very few other sustained, indy train travel bloggers out there anyway. Shouldn’t they be engaging on some level? Should I be getting in their faces more often or what?
I’m not even much of a traveller!
Recently I was asked by a well know travel blogger to write 100 words on what travel has taught me. An easy task surely? Except I’m not sure I feel qualified to comment, flattering though the invitation was. This year I’ve left the country twice. Both times to Paris. RTW Soon? Round the Shops more like.
So where’s this heading?
I’m not saying I’m going to abandon ship, but the more I do this social media stuff the more I realise how much I love it and want it to be a major string to my bow, and the less convinced I become that this particular line of inquiry is moving any faster than the DLR on World Travel Market launch day.
Does this matter to anyone else?
Should I worry about my credentials? After all, I often get paid to write about things I’m considerably less qualified to comment on. DIY, adventure sports and modern day seminaries all spring to mind from recent jobs. This is part and parcel of being a jobbing journo and I rarely give it a second thought. It’s just research.
What makes a blog a blog?
But a blog feels more personal somehow and maybe this is what stops people from pursuing the online guidebook option which David suggests in his post. A pinch of self indulgence comes with the territory and your personal take on things is what stops it being just another anonymous website.
So now that I’ve outlined my myriad defects, I’d love to hear your thoughts about where this blog should be going and whether the journey’s worth it.
And any compliments I accidentally hook will be soundly gutted and tossed back, so don’t even think about it.
Yours, the lonesome lumberjack of Empty Blog Wood
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