Should I join the BoardingArea blog network?

I have a decision to make and I need your help.

Last week, I received an unexpected call from Randy Petersen, an old friend who runs one of the most successful travel blog networks. He asked if I would be interested in joining him.

The network, called BoardingArea, handles advertising sales and offers technical and marketing support for its bloggers. It does not exercise any editorial control.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines. The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

If I joined BoardingArea, the only visible changes to this site would be that my ads would be served by the network and a footer that points back to BoardingArea. Everything else would stay exactly the same.

The benefits:

✓ BoardingArea seems to understand how to monetize electronic content. That could allow me to stop worrying about ad sales and focus on assisting consumers. (This site makes almost no money from ads; I practically give my inventory to AdSense.)

✓ The technical support would help me ward off any future denial-of-service attacks or hacks and potentially bring in additional visits.

✓ I could reach a new audience that probably really needs to hear my message of fairness and respect for all consumers.

The drawbacks:

✓ BoardingArea is associated with some of the most rabid pro-mileage rhetoric on the Internet. I’m America’s number-one loyalty program critic. Can you say “culture clash”?

✓ There might be a perception — however untrue — that I’ve sold out to the other side, even though the network can’t dictate what I write.

✓ BoardingArea is so closely tied to air travel and loyalty programs that it might hurt my efforts to expand my advocacy practice into non-travel cases.

On a personal note, it’s no secret that I’ve had my differences with several bloggers associated with BoardingArea in the past. I was heartened when several bloggers reached out to me last week to say my voice would be welcome on the network.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’m closing this poll after 24 hours (10 a.m. Monday) and I’m making the decision by noon.

Should I join the BoardingArea blog network?

  • Yes (54%, 201 Votes)
  • No (48%, 179 Votes)

Total Voters: 374

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Update: (10 a.m.) After 24 hours, the “ayes” have it with 54 percent of the vote. I’m joining.

61 thoughts on “Should I join the BoardingArea blog network?

  1. A contrary voice should always be welcomed in such a setting. Followers should be able to see multiple sides represented. The drawbacks can be overcome by continuing to do what you do. Good writers/advocates should be free to write and advocate and not worry about ad sales.

    1. I agree 100%–the “cons” are not really cons, when you look at them this way. Just make sure you retain the right to walk away if any of the “pros” change in the future.

  2. To your possible critics you have valid responses: you were invited (with full knowledge of your advocacy positions), you gain technical support, you can focus more on the issues. Very good.

    What concerns me, on your behalf, is that you will spend an inordinate amount of time responding to bloggers / convincing its bloggers about your stance. To be successful on their site, I would think you would need to abandon your campaign against loyalty programs (only on their site) and focus on the other tangibles you bring to their table. If not, you will become frustrated and your critical work here may suffer.

    Just my thoughts. Best to you in whatever you decide …

        1. Yes I did because I got advance notice of this and started thinking early. And, I could not find any real PROs. If Chris thinks credit card adverts add value to his site then that will be the day. There are many other blogs not associated with BA that seem to run well, so I don’t think BA has the monopoly on blogging tech expertise.
          Rene, you and I both know the type of audience MP and FT have and I suppose they are also the readers in BA blogs. I find it very difficult to believe MRunners, MSpenders and hackers will come to Chris for help.
          I have read many comments in BA blogs that are not very nice to Chris.
          Why should Chris think he will convert them?
          IMO, their respective audiences are in different poles of the Earth.
          Chris might be going through some depressive moods lately, but that is reflective of the overall situation. Economy Travel quality sucks. I can’t see how the folks on the other side can be so happy with Delta and United Spending Requirements plus devaluations. No way Chris can help them there.

          1. Oh I forgot ….

            In the interest of Full Disclosure, I believe DeltaPoints is one of the blogs in Boarding Area (BA).
            And I am a moderator in one of the blog’s forum associated with BA.

            I am a regular reader of both BA blogs and Elliott’s blog.
            The big difference is Chris is a consumer advocate and not just travel blogger. I believe a consumer advocate has to be quite independent.

          2. This morning, I would have agreed with you TonyA; however, if he has control of the type of ads (which he will), and there are no card ads, I believe this could be good.

          3. What other ads do they have? The main idea is to accumulate as much miles as possible for the lowest perceived cost. If you can make 50k miles applying for a new credit card and making the spend requirement without having to fly a mile, what do you think most people will do?

          4. I don’t think Chris joining has anything to do with converting them or them converting him.

            Chris’ posts about the haves vs the have nots is only one element of his advocacy/stance. Maybe with all the changes in elite status some of the MRs and MSs will spend more time in coach and start to see Chris’ point…

  3. I’d say that you really should think about joining something similar to this network, but this network feels wrong. You would be the odd sheep in the bunch and I can’t see the benefit of that. I fully understand why you’d want the plus side, but it should be possible to get that elsewhere.

  4. Absolutely join! Too often the BoardingArea bloggers write about their experiences as top-tier members of airline and hotel loyalty programs. That’s great for the travelers like them who have status, but for the rest of us, the information is rarely applicable. Your site fights for folks on Main Street and exposes how the travel industry rips us off every chance they get. For every happy guest who gets upgraded for free to the presidential suite, there are a dozen of us who get ripped off with hidden add-on charges and repulsive customer service. Put the other bloggers in their place and start cleaning house.

  5. I read The Friendly Atheist site, which went through a similar move a few years ago. What Hemant Meta did was get assurances that, if his move to Patheos didn’t go well, he could always pull out and return to hosting his own site.

    I would say the move was pretty successful. His site took off, he can pay guest bloggers and he doesn’t have to worry about the things you listed above.

    Today, Friendly Atheist redirects to his patheos site, so you could probably do something similar. If you could get a guarantee to retain your work in case you want to pull out, why not try it?

  6. If you join up, I’ll turn off ad blocking on you site. Right now I block due to the excess number of ads and the effect on my computer if it tries to load them. And they often are offensive.

  7. Chris. you think your problem of monetization will be solved by putting lots of credit card adverts like those that appear in BA blogs??? Really? Wonder what happens when you bite the hands of those that feed you? The real problem is that those who ask you for help and advice are cheapskates. Maybe they just want to use you for free.

    I wonder how Arthur Frommer’s site funds itself compared to yours.
    I see Visit Florida. momondo, booking dot com, travelzoo, etc.
    Big difference compared to almost 100% credit card ads.

  8. Yes! Having a dissenting opinion in that group would be welcome. Of course there is a culture clash you would need to be comfortable with. However, I think the pros you mention are real benefits to you (if not directly to your readers) on a day-to-day basis. Also, a lot of the bloggers at BA have connections in the travel industry, and that might assist with your efforts as it could offer new network channels. I wouldn’t view you joining as selling out.

    Plus, as an added bonus, I’ll promise to apply for my 6th Citibank American Airlines Mastercard through a link on your site

    1. I doubt any of the BA bloggers would be interested in using their industry contacts to help him since he often bashes those companies and the BA guys have good working arrangements with their contacts.

    2. Thanks. I think this is an opportunity to show some of the bloggers on the network that there is room for a healthy and civil dialogue.

      I have real mixed feelings and deep misgivings about the credit card affiliate links (not to be confused with simple display ads). On the one hand, a blog devoted entirely to shilling for credit cards doesn’t really provide much of a service, except to help its author make lots of money. On the other hand, if you are going to apply for a card, then shouldn’t you be supporting a cause you believe in?

      1. On the credit card links (not ads), I agree – I don’t mind using an affiliate link for a blog that provides quality content. This seems to be very controversial, however, with a lot of people worried that the credit card issuers either directly or indirectly influence content.

        I’m also not sure about this, but I don’t think all BA bloggers use affiliate links. This might be something to check. Some obviously do, and use them too much IMHO.

        I’d also say that Boarding Area doesn’t seem to lose a lot of bloggers, so perhaps there is something too that. I only read a few of the blogs regularly, and they have long tenure with the site.

  9. I don’t know these sites. Having said that, I think its a good thing to have dissenting opinions. Dissenting opinions makes people think, rather than remain in the morass of uncritical thinking.

    Mere disagreement is a poor reason to avoid joining. Being a loyalty program critic is neither here not there. 100% agreement works for cultist and other people who don’t think for themselves.

    The real question is, do you respect these sites? Do you find the work that they do to be abhorrent and reprehensible, or merely people with whom you have a good faith disagreement with?

    1. I agree with the above… To me, so long as everyone who participates (the bloggers in this case) can be respectful of others opinions (agreed upon or not) then I think it’s only a positive to add a differing point of view.. However, if it descends into outright name calling, negative “labeling’ of others viewpoint or position, then that to me is detrimental to the overall mission purpose and degrades everyone credibility.
      Some of my best friends are people with whom I have the most passionate and heated debates with- however, we’re able to keep it civil, respectful and on-topic.

    2. I agree. Do they respect a dissenting opinion or barely tolerate it? Most critical thinkers enjoy the dissenting opinion because it forces them to examine their own beliefs. If they only want to give the appearance of balance by having a token dissenting opinion it could be disasterous. How often would you have to interact with the other bloggers? Is most of your interaction with the editor? Will the editor have your back if you take a dissenting opinion and the other bloggers put pressure on him to remove you? Those are the things to consider.

  10. Will you keep the independent domain for the whole site? Or will be an If it’s the latter you lose brand identity and definitely wouldn’t do it.

    It’s a Star Trek convention crowd there.

  11. All of your ads and disads have one huge caveat, in that they are subject to change. You could at some point run into the situation that they start pressuring you to change content. Lets be honest your not just an informative blogger, pushing information your an adversarial blogger who gets very powerful companies to do things differently.

    Your biggest advantage seems to be how to monetize the content,espresso doesn’t come cheap. The other two I get the feeling were issue you put on the list so that your advantages list was more than one item/issue.

    In regard to your disads:

    1) Whatever the culture clash is, it’s your culture clash, you’re not going to change the opposition, so the question is can YOU deal with it?

    2) Things could change, but as of now if they can’t/won’t exercise editorial or content control, who cares what other people think or perceive, you’ve established yourself as someone who can be trusted, that’s not going to go away because you partner with other content writers. There are readers out there who think your just a sock puppet for a secret division of some companies customer service department.

    3) You tell us, can you advocate cases outside the travel industry from within a travel oriented network? No ones going to come physically pounding on your “office” door yelling “Chris, what’s with this washing machine article, we do travel here.” The other side of that is would non travel advocacy get lost in the seas of travel related information, whether it does or not is something you control and influence, so only you can answer that question.

  12. Let me jump in so readers can be clear what the ad BA uses will be (I know as I run a blog at BA). They are much like what NOW uses but just pay much more due to power of BA to sell space at higher rates.
    BA has NO control over ANYTHING anyone says on any of our blogs. The ads are just display ads. No one has to click them. However, as others have said, using an ad blocker could have an impact on how much CE makes via what is called “impressions”.
    The bottom line is CE joining BA will provide more income, better tech support and if you don’t like to support CE or the ads block them with an ad blocker and nothing changes!

      1. Adblock works just fine with BA blogs.
        If this is as transparent as Rene says it would be then why did Chris bother to ask everyone. I guess we would not have noticed if he did not tell us.
        But maybe something else will be different, like he will be called a Boarding Area blogger 🙂

        1. Thought I’d throw it out there that I don’t have to turn off AdBlocker (thank you for telling me about it, Tony!) in order to support CE.

          Ads really, really distract me (squirrel!) and the mobile version of the site is lousy with ads, to the point I can’t read it on my phone. Now I need someone to suggest a good mobile app to block ads!

          1. One thing adblock did not block was the ridiculous number of BA blogs that had the same headline – earn 70, 000 points with Chase link UR card 🙂

  13. If you are under no obligation to change the way you do things then why not?

    It seems that you can do what you want and still receive the benefits of this network.

  14. I voted no. I do not think that your stance on loyalty clubs would be compatible or welcome in that network. You would either have to stop your constant critique of the programs or spend all of your time defending your position.

    1. I’ve been invited precisely because I’m America’s number-one loyalty program critic. They want the debate on the network. I’m happy to bring it to them.

      If you must know, I think most loyalty programs are habit-forming, customer-hostile schemes and ought to be regulated by the government as if they were controlled substances. No amount of ad revenue, affiliate link income or nasty tweets from program apologists will change my opinion.

      I believe what I believe because I care about you, my friends and readers. I don’t want you throwing your hard-earned money at a program that takes you for granted and forces you to spend more to get less and less.

      1. Is that the real reason why ?
        Why debate it now when it is fading already?
        For those who do not know what is happening read Josh Barro’s excellent piece on NYT.
        Looks like there will be little to debate especially if American follows Delta and United’s lead.
        Maybe BA is going to need different content to regain lost eyeballs and you will walk in to provide it.
        That begs me to ask the question, if you can’t monetize your blog enough today when you already syndicated with articles in both USA Today and Wapo, then how will you monetize it more by just changing homes? You tried it in linkedin and what happened? Seriously, if the content is the same then would the hosting or syndication change matter? Maybe they should invite Suze Orman to write about credit card churning. That will also be an interesting twist.

        1. I’ve covered the changes to mileage programs in numerous commentaries and columns on this site and elsewhere. My position is well known. The story you linked to reads more like a “me too” effort by someone who occasionally dabbles in travel issues. Beyond that, it’s my policy not to comment on a colleague’s work.

          I think you’re confused about the way syndication and the LinkedIn influencer program works. That’s another debate to be had, but let’s just say I won’t be writing about credit card churning any time soon. BA will not exercise any influence on the content here. Think of it as a hosting platform that negotiates ads on your behalf — nothing more. (And if it ever becomes more, I’m out the door.)

        2. First, you’re confusing mileage runs and loyalty programs in general. Loyalty programs are phenomenally profitable enterprises. Just because two more airlines went revenue-based doesn’t mean that loyalty programs are “fading”. They are not going anywhere.

          Second, Barro reads too much into it. Mileage run is (was) a marginalized practice that very few individuals were involved in — well, on a great scheme of things. It had nothing or very little do to with their decision.

          1. Oh Andy, I don’t think I am confused about EQMs and RDMs, credit card schemes and Manufactured Spending, awards and hacking including fuel dumps. I find all of the above easy to understand especially after reading the blogs in BA 🙂 Of course I agree that airline miles is a phenomenal money-making endeavor or else why would financial institutions buy them? I might be confused about how CE monetizes his work, I agree.

            Sure the article has a lot missing in it (for an advanced Miles guy like you), but I still liked reading it. I agree with the theme of his article. You are gonna have to spend more to earn miles and to maintain status and doing the cheap MRs ain’t cutting it for DL and UA anymore. In that respect the FFPs are fading.

          2. Tony, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any disrespect. I gotta stop presuming that other people know less than me, while the opposite is the case so often. 🙂 It’s just that I’ve been doing this thing for quite a while without any mileage runs which have never appealed to me anyway (well, OK, did it twice as the part of mini-vacations). So to me, MRs are a very small part of what FFPs are about.

          3. Yes Andy I agree and I am sorry if I rubbed you the wrong way.
            I think you will find that you and I are in the same camp most of the time 🙂 But we need to respect those still willing to fly those less than 4 cpm runs in very tight spaces. My heart goes out to them since this is their last hurrah unless they all move in droves to AA.

            I suspect many will simply resort to earning miles by spending (MS) rather than flying. After all that is what the credit card ads are for. I suppose the next move will be to punish churning by limiting the times you can earn the bonus in a year (like AMEX does already I believe). Of course if you don’t have to pay for tickets from your own ticket then the party continues. But for the rest of us, it’s more standing and waiting at Walmart 🙂

            Cheers Andy.

      2. I hope everything works out for you. If you think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks then you do not need our input. I will be happy as long as you stay online.

  15. A sometimes opposing view would be welcome on Boarding Area. Yes, they are pro-loyalty programs but another opinion would be welcome as evidenced by their reaching out to you.

    As to “expand[ing] my advocacy practice into non-travel cases” I would assume you could always split your blogging and keep this one for non-travel. Nothing wrong with two blogs for different subjects.

  16. Have a lawyer look at the agreement/contract and go for it. What is the worst that could happen? You decide you can’t be a part of BA, you make sure you have the right to pull out.

    It sounds like most of us wouldn’t have noticed the change (I said most, not all – relax folks).

    You will still be part of my morning reading no matter where you get your income.

  17. Go for it, so long as you don’t have to censor content to fit “guidelines” dictated by the sponsors. Nothing wrong with a debate between mileage mavens and those of us who are more skeptical about loyalty programs, either.

    The one editorial change you would probably have to make is to eliminate the non-travel topics. Other bloggers already cover these extensively.

  18. I think it really comes down to what you want… I once had a boss that gave me a speech about forming a team and ultimately, if you had things you hated doing, you should hire someone else to do it if it wasn’t a key component of your job.

    My impression is that running has always been a means to an end. You don’t run it because you love running a website but to get your message out. If BA helps you do that and monetize that better… Go for it…

    Simple question on your cons… Would you quit USA Today because they hired one of these other bloggers to write for them? If not, then I really don’t see the difference. They’re just publishers.

  19. This note may be too late for the decision process but possibly still useful: Who’s to say you can’t eventually split in two? That is, have a blog on BoardingArea where all of your travel-related posts/cases go, and your own separately hosted site covering non-travel issues, with a separate blog identity? More work, but potentially more rewarding as well.

  20. I just recently discovered Boarding Area and have been looking at the emails, not sure yet what I think about it. Can you extricate yourself if things don’t go well?

    1. Yes, I can. I think for the first few months, everyone will have their finger on the “escape” button. I hope I don’t have to push it. I’ve received several very warm welcomes from their other bloggers — they really seem interested in having me over there.

  21. I’ve been following you for years and I have no doubt that whether you have your own site or are on BA you will do the work that you want to do. And it’s a good sign if several of the BA bloggers have reached out to you.

    I run a couple blogs and know what a pain it is to deal with ads and make money. And while I don’t think that that should be a leading factor in your decision, I think that taking away the work that goes into all of that will allow you to do the consumer advocacy that is at the heart of what you want to do. If the ad and website stuff isn’t your main interest and isn’t making you much money, than this is a big factor.

    I think the other question is what is the mission of BA? They do have a variety of bloggers there all doing slightly different things. With a large base of followers you’ll have the opportunity to be introduced to new potential readers. I read your blog and I read a lot of BA and BA types of blogs, I can see both sides of the debate, and think both have valid points. In the end, even if the methods are different, the ultimate goal is the same, both just have different methods and a slightly different audience. As long as the mission of BA isn’t opposed to your mission, than I don’t think it matters.

    In the end, I see this as no different than a doctor deciding to have a private practice vs a group practice. While your methods, or styles are not always the same, a good travel consumer experience is the goal of everyone, even if the approach is different. Some people want to find a way into First Class, but no one wants to be outright scammed by anyone – and that is where the common ground is.

  22. With all due respect, I hope the decision was made not by poll results (which can be manipulated and are votes by people without skin in the game) but by your independent evaluation of the pros and the cons of doing so, taking into account the substantive comments of interested persons and your research and insights.

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