OK, you have your topic and some of the basic tools.
Now it’s time to find the content for your soon-to-be incredibly successful travel blog.
But before that, let’s get one thing out of the way: This is not journalism. I think it helps, in some ways, to have no formal training as a journalist.
Not that we trained journalists have hangups (well, you don’t hear any bloggers pompously referring to themselves as part of the “Fourth Estate”). It’s just that there’s a lot more to travel blogging than journalism, at least the way it has traditionally been practiced.
Travel blogging is a lot of things — reporting, commenting, producing, sharing, even innovating — but to just refer to it as another form of journalism would be to sell it short.
Truth is, it is whatever you want it to be. There is no travel blogging stylebook, no trade group for travel bloggers, no guild, no union.
Breathe the free air, my friend.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
Before blogging, you had to jump through hoops to be recognized as a journalist. You had to go to journalism school and get hired at a newspaper or TV station. But today, the barriers to entry haven’t just been lowered. They’re gone. Now, it’s the people – the folks reading your blogs – who determine if you’re legit.
Wow. That’s pretty profound if you think about it. The people say who is a journalist. And because they read blogs, they are in effect saying you, if you have a blog, are a media source.
Alright, let’s review some of the critical ingredients of your amazing new travel blog.
An audience. The best-written travel blog is a waste of cyberspace unless there’s someone to read and interact with it. I could spend several posts about ways to find your audience, but there’s a simple answer to the question of how to connect with your readers. Be interesting. When you’re interested in a topic you like, whether it’s photographing churches or interviewing celebrity chefs, people can tell — and they’ll be interested in following you. If you don’t participate in social networks like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, this might be a good time to sign up. There’s no faster way to find a following.
Sources. If you’re an expert, you’re the source. But you have friends, don’t you? You hear things. Build a network, and reinforce it with a good RSS feed stocked with the top travel blogs. I use Google’s RSS reader, which allows me to quickly check thousands of news sources by scanning headlines. (Nothing teaches you to write a good headline like reading lots of headlines.) Which ones are the top travel blogs, other than yours? Here’s a pretty reliable list.
An editor. Everyone needs an editor – a second set of eyes to read your posts or a producer who can listen to your podcast and make sure it’s engineered right. Show me an exception, and I’ll show you a blog that’s on the fast track to nowhere. But the editor doesn’t have to be there in any official capacity. For example, not every post I publish is edited the way a magazine article is. But commenters jump in to point out typographical errors, headline problems and grammar issues (of which, I can assure you, there ain’t no shortages). This kind of crowdsourcing often works better than having a single editor and best of all, it’s free.
Ideas, ideas, ideas! If you’ve chosen the right topic, you won’t be able to stop writing. Still, at some point in the process, you might say, “That’s it, there’s nothing left to cover.” Oh, but there is. Look inside, and you’ll find there are a thousand different ways of writing about the same topic over and over. That’s when you turn to your own audience again and ask them what they’d like to read about. Polls can be incredibly helpful. The reporting tool you’ll need to pull this off is creativity. Ideas are powerful. Please don’t make me quote the movie Inception. No, I won’t do it.
An almost obsessive drive to be the best travel blogger on the planet. I’m not going to mince words on this final ingredient. If you don’t think you have it in you to become the very best blogger in your category, you may encounter some challenges. Many of the top names in this business really think they are God’s gift to travel blogging. A few of them actually are. (It’s not the ones you think.) But they’re definitely on to something. When you work in a traditional newsroom, as I have, you learn that many of the best reporters — you know, the ones who win Pulitzers — have oversize egos. It’s no different in travel blogging. You have to be convinced of your awesomeness, and that confidence is infectious. Your readers believe you are awesome, too. I may be one of the few exceptions to this rule. I have no ego. I have to write a series of posts on travel blogging to validate myself. Oh, who am I kidding?
Above all, be yourself
If you only remember one thing, it’s this: Be yourself. Be your fabulous self. Every day, I see new reports about the dying media. It saddens me because I was trained as a journalist and hate to see a good thing collapse. But that’s not the case in the travel blogosphere. Here, where the only real rule is “never bore your audience” our best days are still ahead. Our strength is our ability to be ourselves, and our audience loves us for it.
They will love you for it, too.
(Photo: NFSA Australia/Flickr)