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Why the World Travel Market changed my opinion about blogging

14 Nov Posted by in Blogging | 96 comments
Why the World Travel Market changed my opinion about blogging
 

After reading Heather’s round-up up of the World Travel Market last week, I figured I would add my ‘less experienced/beginners’ thoughts on how I felt it went. Read Heather’s article from her experienced point of view and then read mine from a ‘blogging beginner’ – it will make more sense.

The World Travel Market was an eye-opener of surgical proportion when I attended last week particularly as it was the first time I had ever been to anything like it and certainly anything on its grandiose scale.

I’m still sitting on the fence as to whether or not I can say that I ‘enjoyed’ myself.

From the moment I pegged my ‘press pass’ badge onto my top I felt like a fraud. I have less than a thousand Twitter followers, 100+ Facebook ‘fans’ and traffic too small to be worth a mention. There is nothing ‘press related’ about me as far as I can see and yet, here I was, stood at the entrance of this world event not believing I should even be there, never mind where to start. To say that my audacity to be there outweighed the substance of my blog would be an understatement.

World Travel Market

I’d been watching the tweets throughout the conference from ‘the floor’ and talks people were attending, feeling increasingly naive about what I was letting myself in for. I’m not a business girl. I am, like many, just someone that started a blog that happened to get a few followers and comments etc. Yes I want to make it successful (a relevant term) and sure, I’d like to make it a full-time job eventually but what I wasn’t aware of before the world travel market was JUST how serious some bloggers take it.

There has been a lot of talk in the travel community of late about ethics on our websites etc but the saddest part of the fall-out was, from my point of view, that a lot of people were forgetting why they started their blogs in the first place: a passion to travel.

And THAT’S why my opinion changed during the World Travel Market. I realised that in some people attempting to be serious about their blog they didn’t seem, simultaneously, to allow it to be fun anymore and that realisation scared me because I don’t want to be like that. It felt as though the business, rather than travel, side of things had become the priority for them and I don’t want to aspire to that. Of course I would like to make my living from my passion but I worry, at one point, one outweighs the other; surely it doesn’t have to?

I happened to bump into a couple of ‘Twitter celebrities’ whilst walking around and you know what? They were a complete letdown. They were nothing like their blogs suggested. They weren’t funny or open. They were too busy glued to their phones or ‘in the zone’ to barely notice I was even there, never mind talk to me and as a reader of their websites, I was disappointed. It was as though I was a 7 year old asking a celebrity for an autograph only to be pushed away by their bodyguards. Yes, at an event like this, you have to wear your professional hat but you should have a smiley face badge on it too because there are people like me that aspire to be like you and if the ‘little people’ meet you and are disappointed that doesn’t leave us a lot to aim for; it definitely changed my opinion of a couple of them. I’m not saying everyone is like this, I’ve met ‘big’ Twitter people that were LOVELY but unfortunately, it seems that during the travel market, I met the minority of the group.

I’d like to think that when people meet me they would say that I was very much like my ‘online persona’ – sarcastic, honest and funny (I won’t list all my negative points) not cold with an ego. The other bloggers I met that day were EXACTLY like they were online and I loved that because that was exactly the reason that I read their websites and followed them on twitter.

Hearing how serious some people took their blogs pushed me into asking myself a tough question: Am I really cut-out to make my website successful? Would I turn into someone who chases success rather than travel? I have to admit that it worried me. Does success mean always chasing a press trip even if I don’t have much interest in the particular country or being unapproachable to my readers? I sincerely hope not.

When it comes to most aspects of blogging I am naive. I have very little knowledge of SEO, can’t do code without having a nervous breakdown and talk about sex instead of temples; I’m just a writer. I’ve always been a writer. It’s what I believe I was born to do in some capacity. Everything else is, quite frankly, congestion I have to get through. And maybe that’s why I came to the realisation that I might not be able to ‘cut it’ in the business side of things after all, especially if it means turning myself into someone that chases my success instead of passion. Besides which, as I’ve explained to you before, what if my writing is deemed too unprofessional to even be a professional?!

So will I be going back to the World Travel Market next year? Yes. Whether I ‘enjoyed’ it or not it was a learning curve and if I’m going to make this website a success (in whatever capacity that might be) then I need to learn to steer myself around the corners whether I can see what’s coming or not.

For now I’ll just keep writing and see where it leads…

  1. Scott11-14-11

    I’m pretty sure Julia & I would have had a very similar reaction. It is so obvious that some people have totally forgotten why they started traveling and blogging in the first place(you know, to like actually tell interesting and entertaining stories about your own adventures). Blogging about how great a place is just because you got a free trip is not travel writing, and it sadly shows.

  2. Simon11-14-11

    I truly appreciated your frankness, Toni, and I believe that you raised many important points we should all think about.

    On the other hand, I am ‘old’ enough to know that in every field there are people firstly driven by passion, and others mostly focused on business and success. Don’t let yourself being discouraged. Follow your passion. That’s the best treat you can do to yourself and your readers.

    I’m sorry that between the huge amount of people that attended the WTM2011 we did not have the chance to meet and talk (or did we? I’m so bad at recognizing people…). Hopefully there will be another opportunity soon. :-)

  3. Jack11-14-11

    “I’m just a writer. I’ve always been a writer. It’s what I believe I was born to do in some capacity.”

    A love of travel and new experiences and a passion for writing – surely the key motivating factors for producing a good travel blog? Those qualities are why you really shouldn’t feel like a fraud when attending events like the WTM

    A very honest, thought provoking and interesting read.

  4. Ross Corbett11-14-11

    A very interesting prospective. When I first starting travel blogging (and I have had many:)all I wanted to do was to share my passion with people and I was not even that bothered if many people visited my blog but then I saw people making money from it and decided I was going to become a pro travel blogger. What a life that must be?

    So I started taking it more seriously, pro design, learned SEO etc etc and then it nearly destroyed my passion for travel. I spent far more time at my desk than actually outdoors. I made money but I was dying inside.

    Solution.

    I have now turned my attention to writing online travel guides and other off line projects which brings in far more money than any travel blogger could make and my blogging is back to being fun again :)

    No pressure.

    If there is one thing I have learnt over the years it is not to take your blog to seriously, be creative and enjoy it :)

  5. Kelsey11-14-11

    I often find that the more popular a blog becomes, the less interesting the writing becomes. I really love the smaller, more personal blogs like yours because I actually feel like I’m reading about someone’s life. Many of the blogs that I used to enjoy for the same reasons have since become mostly travel news and press trips, neither of which I really care about.

  6. Kerri11-14-11

    I agree with Scott… Getting a free trip and blogging about it does often show in the piece and in the person, you want to feel the excitement of the traveller when they visit a brand new place, not feel like it’s yet another thing to tick off the To Do list.
    Awesome post sweetie, couldn’t of put it better myself :) Well done x

  7. Abi11-14-11

    I’m sorry to hear about your bad experiences…And reading posts like this always make me a little nervous. I hate the description you give of the “big” people on twitter and I’d hate to be like that. But then I look at the stats you present and think “Argh! Maybe I AM one of the people you’re talking about!” Then I look at the stats that other people have and think “No, you can’t mean me – but now I sound just as arrogant if not worse for leaving a comment like this…” Hey ho.

    Enjoy the fact that you don’t need to take it so seriously because it isn’t your full-time job – and remember that “big” people get busy, stressed and shy too. No-one’s really all that different from anyone else…

  8. Linda11-14-11

    Very interesting. I’m small fry too, and I wondered how I would feel if I went. I’m pretty sure my reaction would have been very similar to yours. I often say that it’s all about the writing for me, and yet that implies that I want to be read too, so there is a need to promote (which I’ve barely done as yet).

  9. Jen11-14-11

    This is such an good post babe, so many people feel like you, myself included!! Everyone secretly or not so secretly wants their blog to be a success, but some are more happy to let their ethics and writing pay for that privilege. As a PR girl in my day job I’d like to think I’m knowledgeable about SEO, and how SOME PR people view blogs with a surgical knife, just looking at the traffic without a second thought to the content. Some. But most look at the potential of the blog, how the writer relates to their readers, how they can continually build a following with interesting content. How they can write a post advertising their company by making it personal and unique, rather than generic, boring and clearly a shamelessly paid plu. And your has that potential, and a hard fanbase already. Just keep doing what your doing!

    That said, even with the knowledge of the other side I’m totally with you in the confusion of how the fuck to make my own blog work, at least we’re in this together lol! xxxx

  10. Monica11-14-11

    Awesome post Toni. I think it’s important to strike a happy balance between doing this for the love of travel but also taking it seriously and having a business head on.

    And you’re not ‘just a writer’. You’re a fricking amazing writer hunny and don’t forget that. Good writing, passion and a fab personality will get you a long way :)

  11. Aisleen11-14-11

    Hey, really interesting post – was a bit apprehensive of reading it when I saw the title but I love the fact that you’re so frank and have probably said a lot of things that many other people are afraid of saying! This year was our first WTM too and we were also slightly disappointed at the attitude of some of the people we met. A few didn’t turn out to be anything like their online personas which I found very strange! I thought this was what blogs were all about – a chance to put your personality into something you love with no restrictions from editors as to the correct ‘tone’ etc.

    There was a fair amount of superiority complex floating around too!

    Just keep doing what you’re doing hun – stay passionate and you’ll soon find out that that’s what people love the most anyway and that’s why you’ll gain more readers!:-)

  12. Kieron11-14-11

    We attended WTM for the first time this year and certainly felt like small fry compared to some of the other established bloggers there despite having some decent numbers.

    Our primary reason for being at World Travel Market was _because_ of our passion for travel – and a desire to continue our travels into 2012 which wouldn’t be possible without working with tourism boards, hotels and other providers. I like to believe that our writing still reflects the passion we have for travel and adventure despite the fact that some of it is occasionally comped or discounted.

    In regards to WTM, we ONLY approached tourism boards that we had a direct interest in visiting in 2012 and that fit our audience – it may have meant missing out on opportunities for press trips to exotic destinations, but we’re comfortable with that.

    One lesson we took out of Janice and Keith’s talk on Tuesday was that travel bloggers are multi-taskers – we’re writers, photographers, editors and much, much more. Being professional, a business person, a webmaster – it’s all just part of the mix if you want to be successful in this industry.

    Keep on writing but keep on promoting yourself, networking, etc and you never know where it might take you in the next 12 months.

  13. Justin Morris11-14-11

    Hey Toni, I really enjoyed reading your honest account of WTM. I know what you mean about taking things way too seriously and not getting back to why we all got into this originally. I know the lure of making uber cash from advertising and getting on that luxurious press trip can sometimes overshadow the basic excitement of going some place you’re keen on and then writing about it afterwards. Good on you for grounding yourself and encouraging myself and others to as well.

  14. Caz Makepeace11-14-11

    Hi Toni,

    I’m so sorry you had this experience. I think you need to just focus on what you want to get out of your travel blogging experience.

    Travel is and always will be our passion.Even when we travel and blog about it, bringing our work into travel (press trips included) we absolutely love it and spend every day in gratitude.

    We want to make this a business for ourselves, not because of money or fame, but because we can’t live any other kind of life. We tried and failed miserably, which is not good for ourselves or our children.

    We know that we often have to make choices, like promoting ourselves or taking press trips in order to create this life we so dream. To compensate for that we try to always think of how we can give back to our community and make it a fun place that inspires others to get out and live their own dreams. I just hope that we do a good job of this. The minute I stop doing that than it becomes the moment I have lost my way.

    I do worry about the press trips and the effect it may have on some readers. And as some commenters have mentioned above they no longer are interested in reading those blogs.

    Its a tricky situation. The press trips for me is not about a freebie, it is about travel and providing value. And I have to reconcile myself to the fact that some people might not like that and so leave. But I can’t worry about that. I have to worry about my happiness, my children, my dreams and of course how I can help others, which I think you can absolutely do.

    There is no reason why any blogger can’t take a press trip or earn money from their blog and still provide value.

    you can definitely do both. You can make it about the writing, the travel and the passion and make money, you just have to think about how you can best do that.

    We are working on soem things at the moment, and our plans include “how can we give to our community.”

    I think its sad that some bloggers acted in this way towards you. I know I have had interactions with bloggers who I loved that made me recoil as they were so not like I thought they were. They lost me as readers because of that.

    Having said that we all make mistakes though. We made one on our blog and a reader continues to dislike us (vocally as well) because of it, even though we apologized,owned up to our mistake and have definitely learned from it.

    It is a learning process and part of that is figuring out your part in it. Just be true to you and do what makes your heart sing, and as hard as it is, don’t compare youself to others. You will never feel good about yourself if you do. Just compare yourself to how you were yesterday.

    Did I improve? Am I doing my best to serve?

    That is where you will find your comfort and no which path to take today.

    Keep doing what you do Toni, you are doing a great job!

  15. Julia11-14-11

    I don’t want to reiterate Scott’s point above, but I couldn’t agree more about the whole “blogging for business” thing. I like to write about things that I enjoy and hope that people appreciate that and in turn I like to read the same on other peoples’ blogs. I don’t want to see links scattered everywhere throughout the text, flashing ads in the sidebar or to sign up to a newsletter which tells me all about a free press trip someone took that was “awesome” but which displays no personality whatsoever. That is not what blogging is about IMO and I think some people forget that.

  16. Julie11-14-11

    ” I’m just a writer. I’ve always been a writer. It’s what I believe I was born to do in some capacity. ”

    Loved that, as well as your honesty, which the travel blogging community could use more of.

  17. The World of Deej11-14-11

    Great post, and it really made me look at myself also. Like you, I feel out of place at times, that I’m just “little old me,” but when I start focusing on that is usually when I realize I’m off track with my blog. Every so often I need something to snap me back into remembering why I blog…because I love to write and travel. So long as that is the focus, then the rest of it will work itself out…

  18. Fidel11-14-11

    Love this post. With the number of times I saw it retweeted on Twitter tonight, I can tell that I’m not the only one.
    Keep writing, keep traveling and your audience will grow. Just do like you stated, and never lose sight of why you travel and why you started your blog. That’s the motto I keep.

  19. Toni11-14-11

    Scott – I think that’s the problem Scott…a lot of people write about a destination as though they’re attempting to write a guide. I don’t want that. I want the guide but written in the style of the writer; splash some personality on that puppy to make it different. I’ve got no problems with press trips but write it in YOUR style, not the expected style of the toursim board.

  20. Toni11-14-11

    Simon – haha don’t panic; we didn’t meet though I can imagine it’s exceptionally hard to match people with their Twitter avatars ;) I think the WTM simply highlighted to myself that whilst yes, I would like to make my site successful and profitable but that it has to come secondary to my passion for writing and travel. Thank you for your words of advice!

  21. Toni11-14-11

    Jack – thank you very much for your compliments! The WTM, for me, just highlighted how easy it was to ‘go to the darkside’ and talk business instead of passion but you’re right, as long as I have a good base and don’t lose who I am, I should continue to do what I love to do :)

  22. Toni11-14-11

    Ross – GREAT perspective and fascinating to hear that you realised how much you felt you were losing in making money through your blog…definitely food for thought! I have no problem dedicating the time and effort into my blog, I’m happy to do that, just not to do it for the monetary values but more importantly, self-values of writing and travel. Thanks for the reassurance that I’m doing the right thing and I’m glad to hear that you feel so much happier after taking a different route to achieve your goal!

  23. Toni11-14-11

    Kelsey – I think the problem in the travel community now is that there are simply too many generic blogs writing as guides. We can all buy our own guide, it’s the personal experience and honesty of the writer that I want so I can understand why you would ‘switch off’ when some appeared to lose the endearing qualities you had treasured before! I have nothing wrong with press trips so long as the writer doesn’t lose their transparency and personality…you can be successful but remain approachable I feel.

  24. Toni11-14-11

    Kerri – I would love to do a press trip, I’m not against them at all, I just think that sometimes you end up writing in the style that the tourist board wants you to and you begin to lose yourself and that’s what I worry about. Sure, if I got a trip to Croatia or somewhere I would love to go to then I would take it but with the ‘absolute must’ that I don’t change my style and remain to tell it like it is. And thank you for the compliments lovely :)

  25. Toni11-14-11

    Abi – you are a ‘big’ person on Twitter but I can’t imagine you’re one of the people I’d be talking about. You have been nothing but sincere to me online and I can only picture you being like that offline too. Afterall, it would take too much effort to fake being nice 24/7 ;) I have no problem in taking my blog seriously, it’s what I’m working towards after all, I just mean that some people don’t appear to have their passion for travel any longer, it’s more about the business side of things.

    I’m willing to put in the long hours and dedication necessary, I’m just not willing to sacrifice my values. Thank you for your honest comment Abi and I hope to meet you one day to prove that you’re lovely :D

  26. Toni11-14-11

    Linda – I think EVERYONE in the world wants their ‘work’ to be read and appreciated whether you’re a 5 year old writing your first card to someone or a million-dollar author; we all seek reassurance and praise in life, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. The WTM was scary but I’d definitely go back when I have a clearer idea of what I expect/want to get out of it!

  27. Paul Corbett11-14-11

    Hi Toni,

    Can’t believe we missed each other!

    It was also my first experience of WTM and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went with an idea of visiting a few stands of places I intend to visit next year but never got round to doing it.

    I got so caught up with the sheer scale I ended up following others around and was impressed by how they approach tourist boards.

    A few months ago I was like you in terms of followers/readers and thinking that there are so many better bloggers out there because they have more followers and page views.

    However when you get to know the “big” people you realise that they are really nice people who share the passion I do – the only difference is they have to make money out of blogging because it’s their living.

    Most important lesson I’ve learned so far is don’t try to be someone else – write how you want to write and you’ll find people who like what you do whether you have 100 followers or 1000 followers

  28. Vegemitevix11-14-11

    Thank you for such an honest post. I completely get you when you lament the lack of personal attention paid to the Small Fry by the Big Fry. You know what? I’ve seen it in mummy blogging circles also and think that it is part and parcel of the push and pull of success. The only way to avoid it is to keep yourself centred on your blog’s raison d’etre. It sounds as if you have your head screwed on and I very much doubt you will fall into this celebrity trap. Like you I blog about travel, but I consider myself a writer first so I blog about my kids, my dreams, my down days and my expat experiences too. Some of the hardest posts to get engagement with are those that feature my travel so I try to find stories, rather than sights, and experiences rather than events to blog about. I hope it keeps me grounded and reminds me that I write to entertain my readers, not to get passes on bloggy trips.

  29. the Outage11-14-11

    Does a growing blog risk losing its soul?

    What I mean is this: maybe it gets harder and harder to produce quality content when your attention is divided. As a site grows, the blogger juggles more responsibilities: recruiting readers, courting advertisers, coordinating website upgrades, etc. Good writing, careful research, and creative presentation all-too-easily go by the wayside.

    This is conjecture, though. I can’t speak from experience. Anyone want to weigh in?

  30. Melvin11-14-11

    Nice post! But let me try to explain how it is if you try to run a website proffessional. Maybe that helps to understand the people you think they lost the fun about travel. I’m sure & hope that most haven’t. ;-)

    There are 3-4 big events in a year, where it is just about business. That’s the reason why you go to a trade fair. I went there this year mainly to socialize, but have I succeeded? I wanted to have fun and have great talks and do some business in between. I did the business in between & it was worth going just for that. Socializing was tough! With each more year, you know more people and you would like to talk to them all. There are people you’ve met in person & really liked, which you would love to talk to. But then there are also people you just met online & finally have the chance to talk to in person. But I was just there for 3 full days & felt quite sick one of them. It is really tough to find a good mix of quick chats and longer discussions.

    But still… I had fun! Lots of fun!

    If you are not interested in the business part, then I would recommend every blogger to meet the people at the evening events. That’s where it’s still easiest to socialize.

    Just a tip… If you consider of running your blog full time and make a living out of it, then you should care about SEO. And not just about that, also about many other things. At that moment you just have to see it also as a business, which means you become more of a publisher, than a blogger. But that doesn’t change anything of the fact, that you should have a lot of fun! ;-)

    That’s why we have started our sites and that shouldn’t change!

  31. Dan Collins11-14-11

    FANTASTIC post, Toni. I know what you mean on a lot of the aspects… when I feel the blog is taking control over my life I tend to take a break from it for a while and let the fun slowly creep back in. Great post though!

  32. Toni11-14-11

    Jen – Thanks for your comment hun; it’s nice to get a view from the ‘other side’ as it were and thank you for believing that I have the potential, that means a lot! And amen to doing this together…at least we’re in the same boat :D It’s good to know that a lot of PR people still care about content rather than traffic!

  33. Toni11-14-11

    Monica – Exactly hun; it’s all about balance. There are a great many people I follow that make money from their blogs and take it seriously but still come across as personal and fun blogs to read! And thank you for the compliments lovely lady, you’re making me blush! :D Right back at you!

  34. Toni11-14-11

    Aisleen – You have, in one paragraph, just summed up the exact point I was making…I too believe that the whole point of a blog, surely, is to be an extension of your personality using whatever topic you wish to talk about. I felt as though the bloggers had been ‘lying’ to me since I thought they were amazing online and yet offline completely different…surely it’s exhausting having to be someone you’re not 24/7?

    I have agree with you on the ego front too. We all like to think we’re something special in some aspect of life but humility takes you a lot further in life!

    I’ll stay passionate if you will ;)

  35. Toni11-14-11

    Julia – I know what you mean about people losing their personalities. There is nothing wrong with taking press trips (I think we all aspire to get to that level) but don’t sacrifice your personality and your style of writing because of it. Everyone can have text links etc but I think it’s all about maintaining a balance so yes, include them in your text but make sure they’re relevant and don’t put too many in. I think, as long as you write/set your page out to the level that you would expect to get from other blogs, you can’t go too far wrong. I definitely think that some people are forgetting this balance these days, you’re right!

  36. Toni11-14-11

    Julie – thank you for your lovely compliment! I’m actually shocked by how many people have said recently that they love my honesty, surely that should be a common theme throughout the travel community?! But if it isn’t, I’m glad to be at the ‘ambassador’ for now :D

  37. Toni11-14-11

    Caz – thank you so much for writing such a detailed and thought-provoking comment, I really appreciate it! I don’t think you have anything to worry about because I believe you’re definitely in the bracket of ‘blogs that have the balance’. Your blog is one of my favourite in the travel community because you’re honest and you don’t lose your personality/style of writing even when you do go on press trips etc which is why it doesn’t bother me when do you get them!

    I think the problem is, however, that for a lot of people when they go on press trips, they change their writing i.e. from ‘diarised’ form to ‘guidebook’; it becomes all about fact instead of personal experience and that’s what I was saying I was afraid of…if you and Craig manage to keep the balance then why can’t others?! I, too, want to make my site successful for myself not just to please others (though that’s always a bonus), I think if you have that personal passion and drive then you can make it a success!

    I really don’t know what else to say other than, THANK YOU, I agree with EVERYTHING YOU’VE JUST SAID and KEEP YOUR BALANCE; you’re doing brilliantly!

  38. Toni11-14-11

    Justin – Thank you, I’m really glad that you enjoyed it! I was so nervous putting it out there; I was quite expecting a rather big backlash :s

    I have no problem with people taking their blogs seriously (after all, you should take business seriously) but just remember that it started as a passion and you shouldn’t change just to grab success because you end up losing yourself in the process and I think that’s very sad. You have no problem, you and Jayne are already grounded…there is a balance to be find in ‘blogging for business’ which is, granted, hard but doable. Thank you for your compliments too! :)

  39. Toni11-14-11

    Kieron – You have a good balance on your blog…you and Amy don’t lose your style of writing/personality when you do get things discounted etc and that’s the point I’m making…you shouldn’t have to sell yourself out.

    You’ve just hit the nail on the head “we only approached tourism boards that we had a direct interest in visiting” – that’s precisely my point! You should go for the press trips that you would be excited about going, not just grab any that are going which is what I think I saw some of at the WTM therefore leading me to the point of chasing success rather than value.

    I think you can be everything Janice and Keith said, we have to be if we want to be successful, I just don’t think (like any business in life) you should have to compromise your values to such a degree which you’re not…that’s the balance people need to aim for!

  40. Toni11-14-11

    Paul – it sounds like a lot of people missed each other with the craziness! I couldn’t believe the size of the place either; I’d never seen anything like it!

    I admit that, probably, a lot of my doubt over blogging might have come from the fact that I just didn’t know how to approach the tourist boards or what to tell them etc so I stumbled through not feeling very comfortable. I have no doubt that the ‘big’ people are lovely…there are certainly many on Twitter that give me nothing but time and I’d love to meet them one day…it was sad I had to meet the minority but at least they gave me an experience!

    As you say, I’ll keep writing no matter how many people are reading…hopefully my passion will get me somewhere :)

  41. Toni11-14-11

    Vegemitevix – I think there are a lot of Big Fry willing to help and listen to the Small Fry; I just didn’t meet them on the day sadly! Thank you for the belief…I really hope I don’t fall into the ‘chasing success’ trap. I think, from what I’m hearing lately, people want to read about experiences more and facts less so you’re on the right line if you’re writing about things you want to; after all, if we’re not passionate about what we write, why should we expect anyone else to?! Lovely comment!

  42. Toni11-14-11

    Outage – I love that question “Does a growing blog risk losing its soul”; brilliant! I think, personally, as long as you’re aware of your end goal and keep yourself in check, it doesn’t have to.

    I can see what you’re saying and I understand the point you’re trying to make but surely, ‘quality content’ is the one thing you can’t afford to lose and would want to keep hold of? I think that’s the problem with some blogs but I also know that a lot, these days, are striking a good balance. Fingers crossed I manage to strike my own balance :)

  43. Toni11-14-11

    Melvin – maybe I couldn’t appreciate the WTM so much because I felt out of my depth as a ‘new blogger’. It sounds like you had a very busy and tiring 3 days but that you enjoyed yourself whilst meeting friends and making travel connections. I think, perhaps, to get the most of the WTM you need to have a good sense of what you aim to achieve and how to achieve it which I didn’t.

    I understand what it takes to be serious about a blog with SEO and all the other aspects you mention, I just don’t think that you have to lose your personality to do that…you personally have thousands of followers on Twitter and yet you are nothing but kind, generous and fun…all of which I hear that you are in the ‘real world’ too; that’s my point. Just because you run a business (in whatever you do in your life) and that you remain professional, it doesn’t mean that you have to have to stop being yourself to do that.

    Thank you for your informative, honest and fun comment, I really appreciate you taking the time out to write it :)

  44. Toni11-14-11

    Dan – Glad you liked the post :) I like that you realise when it stops becoming fun, take and break and then come back to it when you’ve found your ‘passion’ again; well said!!

  45. Mary11-14-11

    Hey Toni,

    My advice – for what it is worth as a travel writing newbie – is while you’re doing it and loving it then keep it up!

    When you feel it just isn’t that fun anymore then look for new pathways – WTM taught me that you can travel in many different ways.
    (I’m resisting the urge to throw ‘follow your heart’ and ‘life is short’ sayings at you!)

    I’m hoping to write my thoughts up on the WTM
    (before it gets completely out of date)

    Thanks for writing this – it has generated some through=provoking comments.
    It has certainly reminded me of the reasons why I want to blog.

    M x
    @Hosterio

  46. Jeremy Branham11-14-11

    Obviously, I didn’t go to WTM and have been so busy I haven’t had a chance to really read about all the things that happened. Seems with each of these travel conferences, there are pros and cons. When I went to TBEX this year, I felt a bit overwhelmed at times.

    Quite honestly, I like connecting with people but I don’t like marketing myself. Sometimes I just liked hanging out with certain people and needed a little time for myself. However, there is a business side of this that requires a focus on stats, marketing, SEO, advertising, and other things.

    For a long time, I’ve been obsessed with stats and numbers. It’s not just a blog thing – it’s my personality. I like the details, got my degree in Accounting, and love my budget spreadsheets. However, numbers can be so…well…business like. And it’s been a distraction from writing.

    Lately, I’ve been traveling more with a new project and researching. I have had a lot of fun and it’s made travel and writing fun again. I want people to read but I am not as focused about the numbers, the money, advertisers, or press trips any more. I need to do this the way I want and make this fun for me. Maybe the rest of it will fall into place but I think I need to start focusing on what is important again. If it starts to be a business and you lose some of the fun, then it’s not worth it any more.

  47. Kailos11-14-11

    Such an interesting post.

    I go to 3 tourism fairs per year (WTM, FITUR and ITB) since 2009 when I started my project and do things is not easy in this kind of events.

    As Melvin says the best part of it is socializing during the fair and meeting people which maybe you can do things in the future.

    In my case when I am not travelling I live in the canary islands so this events give me the chance to meet the right people in that time, I have to admit that first year on my first fair I was lost, but after a few years it´s a like pilgrimage to me.

    I love what I do and I am the same person when I meet a friend that when I have a meeting with a VP of a big company, maybe because I created a brand being myself…

    Travel blogging is not a easy way to do money, drug dealing it is.

  48. Toni11-14-11

    Fidel – Thank you! I’m glad that you enjoyed it and I’m quite surprised at just how many people appeared to appreciate it on Twitter as well :) Thank you for the reassurance that I’m taking the right path in my writing…your motto is definitely one to follow!

  49. The World of Deej11-14-11

    It is rare that I visit a post in the morning and think to myself “I want to come back here after work.” This post was one of them…

    I’ve always imagined the travel blog world as this vast ocean, and the writers I follow only a small drop. And while I know there are thousands of people like me (us) it is great to see so many familiar faces in one place. Sort of makes me feel that maybe I’m a small fish in a lake, and not an ocean:)

  50. Durant Imboden11-14-11

    Interesting post.

    Two things to keep in mind, though:

    By nature, a trade show like the World Travel Market is going to attract people who have at least a passing interest in the travel industry and not just in traveling. And it isn’t unreasonable for attendees at a trade show (whether they’re exhibitors or bloggers) to be thinking about business and networking while they’re in the convention hall.

    The bloggers who seemed concerned about success and press trips haven’t necessarily lost their “passion to travel,” any more than successful writers like Arthur Frommer and Rick Steves have lost their passion for travel.

  51. Erik11-15-11

    Toni- Great article. I have already signed up for my first conference next year (TBEX ’12) but haven’t decided if I will really go. I have a feeling I will come away feeling empty much like you did.

    If I do go, I’m going to go into it trying to constantly remind myself that I blog for myself more than anyone else. I’m not looking for press trips or freebies and I don’t ever intend to try and make a living off of this. I have already been the subject of snooty comments from some of the ‘superstars’ in the field. I’m going to go out of my way next year to avoid those bloggers I know will just piss me off with their arrogance. I’m afraid I’ll get hammered and start shouting at them “YOU ARE JUST A TRAVEL BLOGGER.” Truth is, I’m so painfully shy, I’m more likely to not meet anyone unless they talk to me. It seems like a waste of money right now, and unless I develop some confidence, I doubt I’ll go.
    I love your blog because you are an honest person, and I have little doubt that the personality we read on here is the real you. Looking at all the comments above, you have done really well for yourself. You should be really proud of this post, it’s honest and you drew the attention of some really great bloggers.

    Keep up the good work, kid, and don’t lie to yourself- traffic or not, you have a fantastic blog.

  52. Andrea Guthmann11-15-11

    Thanks for sharing your insights about WTM as a “newbie” blogger. WTM seems to be the mother of all travel conferences, so I understand that big time bloggers are trying to come out of it with new business partnerships. I can hope these bloggers got into this for the same reason you did— love of their chosen blog topic.

  53. Alouise11-15-11

    Thanks for such a great candid post. I actually sorta felt the same way after TBEX 2011. Not that I was let down by any bloggers, but I kinda questioned why I was there. How important (as a business) is blogging to me? When I started my blog I debated about just writing about travel, but I also wanted to write about others things. As much I love travel writing I also just love writing in general. I haven’t committed to my blog as a business yet, but if/when that happens I want it to be because I have a story to share, not just because I have an obligation to sell something. If travel blogging is doing something you love then keep at it, whether you make a million dollars (ok slightly unrealistic) or zero. In my opinion loving what you do, and feeling great about yourself and your decisions is more important than any press trip.

  54. Gerard ~ GQ trippin11-15-11

    Great post. This was the kind of insight I wanted to get into the WTM because my GF & I recently started our blog too. So we’d another small fry to say the least. It’s tough being new and having to compare yourself to more established travel blogs. But like you said, just remember why you started this in the first place and followers will come. I heard they had great food there! =)

  55. Jeremy Head11-15-11

    Great post Toni!
    At the session I was speaking at the blurb – not written by me – in the intro was “Is just blogging about travel enough. It’s not…. etc etc”
    A key point I wanted to make was actually no, just blogging about travel absolutely IS enough.
    If you’re writing great stuff and improving your writing along the way and it’s a source of satisfaction and fun – just keep on keeping on. And see how your audience grows.
    Worry about monetization at a later date.
    Cheers… you’re obviously doing lots right given the number of comments on here!
    J

  56. Toni11-15-11

    Mary – I’m so glad that I got to meet you at WTM and that we had a chance to discover it on a ‘new blogger’ level; it was certainly an eye opener wasn’t it?! I’m glad that this point and the comments have helped remind you why you blog :)

  57. Toni11-15-11

    Jeremy – thank you for your honest comment. It’s interesting to hear that you felt yourself heading to the business side but pulled yourself back when you realised that it wasn’t, necessarily, becoming fun for you anymore. You’re very spot on when you say that you ‘need to do this the way I want and make this fun for me’; we all have a common goal in mind (i.e. travelling) but there are many ways to achieve this and I’m glad that you’re finding your own way.

  58. Toni11-15-11

    Kailos – I’m glad to hear that you’re still the same person when you meet with a friend or a VP of a company…whilst I appreciate that certain things have to change depending on who you are speaking to, I don’t feel that your personality is what you should sacrifice and it’s a breath of fresh air to hear that you don’t. And I LOVE your ‘travel blogging is not an easy way to do money, drug dealing is’ – so very true!

  59. Toni11-15-11

    Deej – I’m so glad that you felt you wanted to come back to this post and see how far the discussion had continued; I’m honoured! I definitely feel that sometimes, a post like this, can bring a lot of the travel community together and that’s a very good thing!

  60. Toni11-15-11

    Durant – thank you very much for your input. I’m not suggesting that bloggers who go on press trips have lost their passion to travel (otherwise, they would just say no), I’m simply suggesting that for some bloggers, the business side of it has taken over and they lose their personal style of writing to fit in with the tourist board etc.

    Regards meeting people at the convention, I have no doubt that many people will have business on the brain but a smile and ‘I’m sorry, I’m too busy to talk right now’ goes a long way.

  61. Chris11-15-11

    i give it 6 months and Toni will on an all inclusive press trip to some hoffically bland country and saying it’s epic!hahaha!

    …only joking – i’m glad there’s heaps of people who have had the same experience :P

    x

  62. Toni11-15-11

    Erik – I definitely think you should go to TBEX; it’s a learning curve to attend these kind of things because whilst you may not enjoy it (like I didn’t so much) but you will still come away with something! I came away knowing what I DIDN’T want to become and that’s just as valuable as knowing what I do want to become. I’m not going to lie, I can imagine TBEX would be hard going, especially if you’re shy but there is nothing wrong with walking around, taking it all in and making your own conclusions.
    Thank you for the heartfelt compliments Erik – I really do appreciate them. I never thought the post would create so much attention. I honestly thought a couple of people may comment and half expected those comments to be negative so I am truly surprised by the huge positive reaction. It just goes to show that people really are craving honesty =D

  63. Toni11-15-11

    Andrea – It certainly was interesting to view it from a ‘new blogger’ perspective….I’m looking forward to going back next year to see how my view point has changed (if at all); a lot can happen in 365 days! :)

  64. Toni11-15-11

    Alouise – ‘I want it to be because I have a story to share, not just because I have an obligation to sell something’ – well said! You’re allowing yourself time to think things over and decide how important the ‘business’ part of blogging should be which is exactly what, I guess, you should do; decide if your passion can fuel your business. Good luck with your journey!

  65. Toni11-15-11

    Gerard – I think the key thing is NOT to compare yourself to others. Sure, in terms of business numbers and gaining a fan base then yet, it’s difficult when your numbers stall and you wonder what you’re doing wrong but when it comes to writing, you just keep writing the way you want to because if YOU love what you’re writing, it will be reflected in your words! And you’re right – the food was pretty good for freebies ;)

  66. Toni11-15-11

    Jeremy – Thank you! You’ve just confirmed that writing SHOULD be a bloggers first priority because as you say, without content, there isn’t much else left. I am honestly stunned by the response I’ve received on this post; I never could have imagined that I would have ‘touched something’ so strong within the travel community – makes me a little proud :)

  67. Toni11-15-11

    Chris – Cheeky thing! It appears that there are a lot of us ‘newbies’ out there; glad I managed to find some of them! :)

  68. Amanda11-16-11

    Good post, Toni! It’s nice to hear about WTM from a slightly different perspective. I couldn’t go (being in grad school in America makes it a bit tough to fly to London for the week!), but I’m not sure I would have been prepared for it even if I had been able to attend. While I am very proud of how far my blog has come in the past year, I have no idea how to “market” myself. I wouldn’t know where to start!

    I understand your concern with not wanting to give up your personality in order to turn your blog into a business. I don’t think you necessarily have to, though. If you build your blog around your personality, then it won’t matter what or where you write about. People will want to read it because it’s YOU. Just keep doing what you love, and everything else will fall into place. At least, that’s the business plan I’m working off of right now!

  69. Colleen11-16-11

    I think in the end, all that really matters is that YOU enjoy what you are doing. That YOU enjoy writing your blog and traveling. :)
    I, for one enjoy reading your blog and would would love to meet you one day!!!!

  70. Sebastian11-16-11

    Great Post! I really enjoyed reading it! I wasn’t sure if I should attend and at the end haven’t had the time for it. It gave me a little insight of what is going on there. I’ve followed it closely on Twitter and I look forward to attend next year!!

  71. Toni11-17-11

    Amanda – I’m glad you appreciated the perspective. To be honest, I think even if you had been prepared you would have struggled…you really do need Business Mind 101 to get you going. It will be interesting to see how my views/perspective changes when I go next year.

    I love that you don’t think you have to give up your personality! I would consider you a ‘bigger blogger’ in terms of traffic, RTs and followers etc (and one that I often read!) and it’s nice to hear that you don’t believe you have to change to make it a success. Puts my mind at ease! Thank you :)

  72. Toni11-17-11

    Colleen – You’re right. If I don’t love what I’m doing, no one else will right?! When I win the lottery I’m going to come and meet all of you for a catch up and a coffee (well, hot chocolate anyway haha) :)

  73. Toni11-17-11

    Sebastian – thank you for your lovely comments, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. I definitely think you should attend; even if you don’t know what you’re doing it is certainly an eye-opener!

  74. Jenna11-17-11

    Thanks for your candor! I haven’t attempted industry shows yet, but now I’ll have some balanced expectations when I do.

    My scale is still small, like you, but my biggest fear isn’t that I’ll lose my love of travel … it’s that, if I’m not careful, I’ll lose my ability to travel! I mean, with constant site updates, articles to read, people to follow … what’s a girl to do? I really admire people who maintain a good balance (or have found a high school intern/slave anxious to build their resume!).

  75. Runaway Brit11-17-11

    Great post! I am small-fry too and although I don’t have ambitions to run my blog as a business, I would love to have a bigger readership as I really enjoy the interaction that you see on FB and Twitter amongst the big names.

    I have reached a bottleneck now though, I can’t seem to push 1000 Twitter followers and my monthly readers on my blog has been the same for about 6 months.

    I get disheartened when I spend time commenting on posts by the Travel Blog ‘Celebrities’ or write to them on Twitter and get no reply. These are the people that inspired me to write my blog in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of big names who do respond but there are also a few who never have.

    I think you are right, I should get back to doing what I actually enjoy: the travelling, and stop worrying about the business side of things.

    Thanks :-)

  76. Toni11-17-11

    Jenna – I can understand your fear of losing the ability to travel. I think that there *can* (though it be a difficult struggle) to create a balance of work versus play but it’s a difficult thing to find but worth searching for. After all, if you’re too busy on Twitter etc how are you supposed to notice the world currently surrounding you?! The best thing you can do? As you said – find a slave :D

  77. Toni11-17-11

    Runaway – I, too, have reached a bottleneck in followers/readers/fans and wondered what I was doing wrong etc and then I realised that it doesn’t truthfully matter. Over time people will discover you and realise that you’re worth reading and will share your stories.
    Sadly, like anywhere in life, there are people with egos and I’m sorry that you’ve managed to find them online especially because they inspire you. That’s why I felt so disheartened when I met the people who had inspired me and they were a complete let down :(
    Personally, I think that if you enjoy travel and writing first, everything else becomes a bonus when it happens =)

  78. Linda11-17-11

    Fascinating the way reaction has developed since I first read your post! It occurs to me that my view of blogging is being passionate about two things, the travel and the writing (and perhaps the photography as a third). You don’t have to be a great writer, though I infinitely prefer to read well-written blogs personally. I came to reading and writing blogs through reading travel books. There are tons of bloggers who would benefit from reading Tony Horwitz, Rolf Potts or Pico Iyer to see how it SHOULD be. That said, that’s my view.

    It seems to me that there is another view, and it’s this: blogging is a way to make money > so we create a site; ok, let’s make it a travel site because folk will always read about travel even if they don’t have the money to do it > let’s optimize all the ways we can make money out of it, and screw the content (these people could be writing about the price of eggs and it would be just as “interesting”). Now, despite current problems, we live in a capitalist society and making money is considered to be a good thing, and I most definitely don’t begrudge anyone making a living these days. But, personally, I don’t choose to read them. It’s taken me over a year to work out all of this!

    It may be naive to think that passion is more important (unless, of course, you count passion for making money, which some certainly have!) yet all those obits for Steve Jobs? They all talked about his passion for what he did!

  79. Heather Cowper11-17-11

    Thanks for the mention Toni – this was my 3rd year at WTM but the first years I was a little lost like you and didn’t know what I was there for. There were so many great places to visit but it was all too overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. I think that when you’re getting to be a bit more serious about your blog and making some money in return for all the time you put into it, you can lose sight of the fun part, but then you have to pull back and try and remember why you got into it in the first place. When it’s late and I’m trying to just get that next blog post published I have to remind myself to get a life outside blogging.

  80. Toni11-18-11

    Heather – you’re welcome…your post was a great insight and had some good tips for ‘newbies’ like myself. It’s nice to hear you say that you have to remember why you got into it in the first place. Yes, if you want to make your blog successful you have to put time and effort into it but you shouldn’t lose your sense of fun with it either. There is a hard balance to find between blogging for business/having a social life etc and not losing your personality because it’s a business but I think it’s a balance that can be achieved. Thank you for your insight!

  81. Dave from The Longest Way Home11-18-11

    The 7th Paragraph is absolute gold!

    As someone who’s been around for a while I’ve seen the changes occur. From people writing journals of their travels, to people trying to write personal how to guide to help others.

    Then came the bigger blog efforts of creating something new and unique, the writers travel blog.

    Then came the money travel bloggers. And that’s when I stopped reading most travel blogs. Every other one these days is a rendition of commercial copy.

    And yes, a similar experience happened to me when I met “travel bloggers”. SEO, Google, and whole lot of talk about others.

    Sorry, it doesn’t interest me. Tell me a story about your journey, or tell me how to get from A to B and you got me. Better yet, if you’re good at writing too :)

    Enjoyed reading your experience, better luck at the next conference!

  82. Toni11-23-11

    Dave – Thank you for your honesty, it’s appreciated and good to know that even someone with big following like yourself can still feel the same as new people like myself. I have no problem with blogs trying to make money through links etc, just make sure they’re relevant, be honest that you’re using them and don’t over-use them. I recently saw a ‘big’ blogger say that the place she was staying at was ‘great for wedding venues’ (which had a link to a wedding company) – I didn’t even finish reading the article.

    I’ll make sure that I keep telling my stories and write tips…hopefully my writing isn’t half bad either ;)

  83. Toni11-23-11

    Linda – lovely to know that you came back to see the response that my post produced…something I wasn’t expecting in the lease! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making money through a blog, I just don’t think it needs to be so covert and over-used. I don’t know, maybe that’s a very naive view of me to have but surely it’s better to get by, as you say, with good writing and a passion for it together with a love of the travel itself and maybe the photography. I have accepted adverts on my site and I will continue to do so in the future but I will keep them subtle, I will be HONEST that I’m using them and I’m not going to have adverts that aren’t well related to what I’m talking about. I also won’t be allowing them to dictate what I write about or how I write about it.

    You’re not naive Linda…yes, you have to have a business mind too but as you said, Steve Jobs had an IMMENSE amount of passion for what he did and I think that’s a great starting point for anyone! :)

  84. Cailin11-30-11

    I see that a million other people have commented and realize that they probably have all said what I am about to say but I still want to say it.
    WTM is a professional event for business that is its sole purpose and with 180+ countries and then all of the other companies and all of the reps for hotels and everything that is a lot of people to try to talk to in just a few days. I’m not sure how many “after hour” events that you were able to attend in the evenings but I will let you know that any of those “big” twitter personalities that you might of seen in business mode in the day were far from it and were very much themselves and how they are perceived online later that night.
    Some of them may have been there just to get trips to where ever they could, heck I was open to anyone who would talk to me and just because I might of never thought about going to some of those places before doesn’t mean that I cant find an interest for them. Many bloggers had business appointments made and are trying to make their blogs a business and truly live off them. Hopefully you will give them and WTM another chance maybe I will meet you there next year? Or try coming to another conference that is not so huge and crazy like TBU or TBEX :)

  85. Will - Gap Daemon12-11-11

    I’m a bit late to the party on this post but having attended many other small scale travel meetups I can tell you that feeling you had is something I too experienced! It put me off for awhile and I even stopped attending as a result.

    I think it’s just one of those things. The more you go, the more you will get out of it. I imagine that fish-out-of-water feeling would diminish also. That’s what I’m hoping anyway!

  86. Victoria Philpott04-04-12

    Hmmm, interesting. I’m hoping to go this year, but from what I’ve read on a lot of blogs it’s quiet overwhelming and you need to be there on a mission – you’re not there to enjoy yourself! Insightful read – thanks…

  87. Toni04-10-12

    Vicky – you’re right; you have to go there on a mission and have the stats etc to back up what you want…even with a goal in mind, it can still be incredibly daunting but you have to go and experience it for yourself; there are no words haha Hope to see you there this year!

  88. Lily05-29-12

    I just started reading your blog and love your writing! Refreshingly honest. I loved this piece too – and wonder the same about folks selling their “travel soul” so to speak. I’m attending TBEX next month for the first time and was debating also whether to consider WTM. Thanks for sharing! Oh, love your new site design!

  89. Nailah05-30-12

    (just lost my wifi connection so apologize if this gets posted twice).
    Lily (from the comment above) shared your link with me and I’m so glad she did. You did a great write up here and I swear you’ve read my mind and put my thoughts here on your blog! I know just how you felt. I have not been to a conference like TBEX yet, but any time I do go to an event that’s related to my travel blog, I feel like i am way out of my league. Thanks for writing this and letting me know I’m not alone. I am traveling for a few months, so I will not be able to attend TBEX this year, but hope to make it to this or similar events in the future. If so, I hope to be able to meet you in person one day!

  90. Toni05-30-12

    Lily – thank you for your compliments :) I’d be really interested to see how TBEX goes and how your feelings changes from start to finish; I imagine it will be an eye-opener! Glad you like the site design and WELCOME :)

  91. Toni05-30-12

    Nailah – Oh you’re definitely not alone let me reassure you on that one! There are far more people that feel like a ‘fraud’ thank you think; I think a lot of it, however, is being able to look confident on the outside and a bag of nerves on the inside haha. It would be lovely to meet you at some point too…the more the merrier in life I say! Welcome to my blog and thank you for taking the time to comment Nailah :)

  92. Michel06-23-12

    I was there last year and it was plain and simple boring. Skipped this year because of it.

  93. Toni06-26-12

    Michel – it certainly tests how you feel about blogging!

  94. Roy Marvelous08-07-12

    Interesting read, Toni. I keep thinking I’m missing out as I haven’t been to any travel conferences and don’t use social media as much as other travel bloggers. But at the same time, I’m passionate about travel and I think if did things different, I would lose my “voice”

  95. Toni08-08-12

    Roy – I think you ‘miss’ out in the sense that you don’t get to meet other bloggers face to face (though that isn’t always a good thing) but I can understand about the fear of losing your ‘voice’. I see, keep doing what you love to do and your readers will appreciate it :)

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