It’s not a lecture. It’s a debate.
That, in a nutshell, is the secret to a successful travel blog.
It’s not about you. It’s about your audience.
This represents a profound shift in the way media is consumed, so I’ll say it again: It’s not about you.
Wait a sec. In the previous sections, didn’t I emphasize being yourself, putting 110 percent of you into the travel blog and writing about your passion? Sure. You’re still the author, and your individuality and enthusiasm will attract readers.
But at the end of the day, you have to understand that true ownership of the blog is with the people who visit it every day.
What does that mean?
• Unlike traditional media, which is driven by an editor or writer who dictates the content, your audience tells you what to cover.
• Your photos, videos and posts are just the beginning of a conversation. Your commenters complete the post with their feedback and analysis.
• You’re accountable to your audience. That means when you screw up, you don’t answer to some “standards” editor who should have retired in the last century; you’re explaining yourself to your audience.
This is a difficult concept for older journalists (um, like me) to wrap their traditional heads around. They are used to lecturing. They tell me, with a completely straight face, that as long as the content is good, it will work online as well as it did offline.
I wish it were so. But as we’re all discovering, a travel blog isn’t an online newspaper or magazine. It’s not even in the same universe. You can be an award-winning journalist in traditional media — and fail miserably in new media.
I always get excited when the number of comments on a post hits 100. I call them “century” posts. For me, it means the story was successful, because it drew 100+ comments from my audience; they had more to say about the post than I did. I think that’s the way it should be.
I believe that when you think about your audience first, good things will happen to your travel blog. If you think you’re smarter than your readers (newsflash: you aren’t — the hive mind can always outthink you.) then you can’t succeed at travel blogging. (Remember, it’s not a lecture — it’s a debate!)
In a way, knowing that the blog isn’t really yours is a huge relief. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t need to be an authority on your subject — just be curious. And be yourself.
Take a hard look around and you’ll see that the most successful travel blogs put their readers first. The author gives them a lot of freedom and responds to questions, but most important, there are lots of good, insightful comments. You can also find a lot of travel blogs where there are few comments or where the author has just turned them off. There, you will find failure.