Psst! Here’s the secret to a successful travel blog

By | October 1st, 2011

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of my series on becoming a successful travel blogger. Here’s part one, part two, part three, part four and part five. Thanks for reading!

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.

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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.

Century posts

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.

  • Malahob

    I have written a travel blog about Puerto Rico, lots of page views, but few comments.  What does that say about my blog???  I’m going to take your advice.  Thanks.

  • Grant

    Hi Malahob. Here’s a thought… when Car and Driver magazine started up several decades ago, they published fake, snarky, ‘letters to the editor’ to jumpstart their ‘Letters’ section. It worked. Got the readers
    off their hands and contributing BIGtime. A little sneaky, but no harm done, and think of the fun you’ll have ‘writing’ those comments. :-)    

  • Chris,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this series.  If  you were going to do a sixth installment, tips on how to “source” photos for a blog, and how to get interviews and quotes (in person, by phone, by e-mail) would have been good topics to cover.  Perhaps you can do so via a brief comment to this final installment.

  • rayj00

    Thanks for the tips you’ve laid regarding the secrets of a successful travel blog. One thing that matters to me when reading or following a blog is the content of it. If it is informative, gives an overview to the places traveled and can convince me to all do travel to that certain place. I love traveling and with the help of travel sites, I can decide on what place to go next. Thanks to travel sites that are providing readers the right information regarding places around the world.

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