Bloggers, Travel Companies and Content: Writing for new Platforms

I am a travel journalist of the old school (sort of). A lot of my stuff I write for traditional employers – magazines like National Geographic Traveller or Newspaper like the Sun-Herald in Australia. I also write – traditional – for the web (for pages comparable to MSN Travel) and I do write for my own blog.

No honestly, I don´t have reservations. You pay me decently, I will write for you.

However I am also working for not-so-traditional publishers like Virgin Atlantic’s web offshoot, Vtravelled, and tours and activities reseller Viator. And this point might be of interest for travel companies.

Web or no web the process is usually about the same. I come up with an idea for a story, the editor finds a liking in my proposal, I am commissioned with it, I write it, it´s published and I get paid. So far so good it´s not different from any other writing for any other magazine. It´s just not on paper it´s in the web.

By far the most work I´ve been doing for a non-traditional publisher has been for They successfully operate in the niche of multi-stop flight routes. These flights are next to impossible to plan for the average guy on his own. I do the blogging for their site on various subjects. Talking about destinations their clients fly to, travelling advices or controversial subjects that might raise a discussion.

You are a travel company – why should you invest in a blog?

Yes, naturally I have an interest in travel companies investing in blogs and the like. Do they have to? No, frankly they don´t have to have a blog. If you do publish any content on your website only because the guy next door – your worst competitor – is doing it, then you got the concept all wrong. You can take it for granted that all travel journalist would just love the idea of the whole travel industry starting to blog, lavish us with orders and begging us to write for them. No that´s not the point.

Selling a good product at a reasonable price will surely bring you more clients than trying to get a hold on social media without sense or soul. Online activities – like a blog – are one of many possibilities, not the philospher´s stone. Many competitors have similar products – making a difference to the client by doing the same everyone does won´t work.

What´s the point of investing in web content?

If you are planning to invest in content for your webside, the thing you have to do is ask yourself; why am I doing it, what am I hoping to gain (ultimately of course it´s the filthy lucre but you have to be more specific than that.).

As we live in the Google-era, you are very likely aiming at improving your ranking with search machines – and Google is very clear on this point. The algorithm prefers quality, that is well written, individual and meaningful content. The amount of content is also important, the more you write, the more likely you are to name the right keywords. Also relevant are links from other pages and the notorious shares and likes. All of this improves your overall ranking, bringing more clients to your page.

You will kill more than two birds with a stone with this strategy. First you will lure more people on your page. More visitors mean more sales. It´s more complicated than that – but it still holds true in a crude sort of way. People who wouldn´t know your company from Adam – mixing metaphors, I know – will maybe get interested in an article.

Holding true is also – in a crude sort of way – that the more time spent on a website the higher the chance for an actual booking. At least the visitor will keep your company in mind and maybe return later on.

Employers brand is a buzzword but there is more to it than that. It means setting your company apart from others. Quality texts – written by a journalist – makes it more likely for other journalists to turn to your website – e.g to for flight quotes. It means your company takes its business seriously, positioning itself as having more knowledge than their bigger rivals.

Another point you might think of is added value for your customers. The content might serve as a treat for your customer. Hints from real travelers about which books are really worth reading bevor you start your trip – or tips from an insider about bars and restaurants of – let´s say Bangkog – that are really worth visiting

Who should write what?

So if – IF! – you seriously start thinking about brightening up your website with additional content, you would have to decide first what it is going to be about. Do you want to share practical advice wIth your costumers? Do you want to bring the beauty of the landscape to their fireplace? And who would be the perfect person to write all this? Well, there are three possible ways for you.

The most obvious would be: go use your own staff. You would spare yourself any extra expenses. They however have other things to do and neither writing nor presentation might live up to your expectations.

The second obvious would be the customers. Ask them about their experience, let them write about it. Again, the writing might not live up to your expectation plus you don´t generate any new ideas out of this content. No inspiration comes out of what people already did – no new ideas. Besides it might become a terrible time-consuming routine, customers telling tales of Arabian nights.

The third option is to employ someone to write content for you. Of course you have to pay for it but you will be happy to learn that there are a lots of people out there, willing to write like busy bees for a free trip or the smallest possible fee bearing no resemblance whatsoever to a living wage. They will probably overwhelm you with stories of the popularity of their website. Don´t get fooled. A website might be popular offering but absolutely nothing close to quality. Read and decide for yourself. You find their stories boring uninteresting or sheer balderdash? Why should your clients judge it otherwise? They even might infer from the rubbish that your company is rubbish too. Now, we certaily don´t want this to happen.

The writer who is meant for you

Finding a writer is – as we have seen – not a difficult thing. But what is difficult is finding the right writer. Here I should divulge the story of how me and Roundtheworldflights gig met and knew we were meant for each other. Well, I booked a world trip with them in 2007. A few years passed, I connected with the MD via Twitter and, – yeah well – now I am blogging for them. End of story. I can´t recall any further details.

I however have a feeling that he read my blog quite regularly and probably other stuff I was writing. For that´s the way to find the author congenial to your company. Read guide books, read articles, read printed words and decide who and what will work for you. See who is willing to communicate with you via Twitter. You need someone, who is very well versed in the topics you want to cover, whose voice, views or perspective throw a new light on a destination. One voice doesn´t fit all. Virgin Atlantic is another company than British airways, Ryanair or Thomson Airways. Content and writing will have to reflect the spirit and the soul of your company.

That´s the writing you have to find – or you can spare yourself the trouble. Content rehashed on dozens of websites, writings you couldn´t distinguish even wth a DNA sampling won´t certainly do the trick.

The arrangement

Alright, you successfully dug out the writer or the writers you want to work with. How will your cooperation look like? What do you want them to write? Who is going to promote it? Who is going to put it on the site, who is going to decide what content and when? Who is choosing the photgraphs – or video – to go with it? This point is important, as writers might do an excellent job but really bumble the editing part. But editing will be needed, that´s for sure. This decision should be made by someone in charge in your company, someone willing to get this job done properly. Neglecting this part will definitely mean ending up in an expensive failure. Don´t hide your light under a bushel. Tell people, via facebool and Twitter good content is waiting for them. Interested readers have to be informed about the new content.

And there is a difference between someone writing for your site or writing for your site. A copywriter writes for your company. What ist does, what products it sells – simply promoting your site and your company´s UIP. Or you have the writer who writes about traveling, dos and don’ts and shedding a new light on points of destination. This writer doesn´t campaign for you company. And many writers are reluctant to do just that. They are afraid to loose their independency and be filed away as a biased writer.

Having trust in your writer

My work with Roundtheworldflights might be best described as “spur of the moment” arrangement. If I go to a place clients of Roundtheworldflights also like to go I will suggest a few blog posts. Articles about planning or advices come usually in three or six parts recommended by me or by the company.

Trusting your writer is crucial for the success. We decide the general topic – how to pack or how to be safe on a trip – and then I am free to write whatever I choose to. Same with destination points. I will have to write three blog posts from Florida or six from Hongkong – but then it´s up to me to decide, which content might be interesting, unusual or helpful. Of course I could rehearse old stuff for the umpteenth time. But surely enough I love my freedom of work, I want to make the best out of this beneficial arrangement, I take pride in my work – and I want to write again for Roundtheworldflights.

Someone in charge might consider our approach hazardous but it evidently makes much more sense. I am a writer, I can feel a good story when I see it. I am in the field, not snugly coiled up in the office. Besides, working this way allows me to write original and new content instead of drawing up another bucket list about Paris.

I write the piece, I send it off – and that´s about it. What to do with it is the MD´s part. Editing it, publishing it on the website or in the monthly newspaper, linking it or facebooking it. I will tweet it to show everyone else, how great I am, not because I have to.

What content is good content?

I have made the experience often enough with my own blog: You can´t really tell which post will stay obscure with just a few 100 people reading it and which one will be liked and shared and read over 10, 000 times or more. That applyies to all travel sites – but you have to remember that more readers don´t necessarily mean potential customers staying on your website and remembering your name.

Money and terms

There is no manual with instructions to follow in this field. It´s a business newly opened and no one can tell you the price of your goods. You have to try to come to terms with the other party and both should live happily ever after with the deal.

I never had a written contact with Vtravelled, Viator or I am perfectly happy with this modus oerandi as it leaves me the copyright on everything I write and therefore any option to use it again. I do not offer my material to business rivals and they don´t sell it to a third party. Then of course we would have to throw the gauntlet.

The rate of money per word is variable to say the least. Travel sections of newspapers in the UK range from 20p a word (lower end) to 60p a word (upper end). As a thumb rule – a good writer won´t work for less than 20p a word. If the offer is 5p to 10p a word – be aware.

Of course the rates depend on the amount of work. A single text of about 1,000 words requiring a lot of time-consuming work, including phoning people or emailing. I wouldn´t do for less than £ 250. If I don´t have to do the job I even would spurn it – unless paid considerably more.

A pleasant and easy job I would of course do for less: Twelve blog posts for example, 500 words each with free chice of the topics and destinations I am going to anyway for work? Yes that makes a world of difference. The money is easily earned, I will write while traveling and it won´t take too much time. Especially if I know exactlxy what I am going to write about. Then the price would be okay.

The word rate could be better – sure enough. But with work like that, I can write one after another and that really suits me fine. I make it a standard practice to charge less per word for enjoyable work I love to do compared to assignments for which I don´t care at all.

Of course, that´s how I do it. Every writer has to decide for himself, which work for which price to write,

Who pays what?

You might think “wow that´s really nice money” others will think “you are out of your mind asking so much”. I will see you off with a few numbers.

The Independent – Travel section – full page advert: £ 13,050

The Daily Telegraph – Travel section – full page advert: £ 59,000 (exc VAT)

50,000 words with 20p a word would come up to £ 10,000. Content, carefiully researched, good to read and written exclusively for your company by someone who is very well familiar with his field of work.