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Bloggers or blaggers?

The snowpsorts world is awash with blogs so it seemed a good idea to go to the sessions at the World Travel Market looking at the role of bloggers. There were some pearls of wisdom and some total nonsense. PlanetSKI’s James Cove reports.

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“Look don’t you know who I am? I have come all the way across the Atlantic for this session on blogging and I’m a major blogger in the USA,” the irate and somewhat irritating American said to the door official who was barring his way into an event entitled “How to measure travel blogger ROI”.

The World Travel Market, held this week in London at the ExCel Centre, is exactly as it says.

Thousands and thousands of those in the travel industry come from all corners of the globe to sell their wares, do business and listen. There are a host of seminars and presentations.

The American blogger was trying to get into the session and it was full. There was not even standing room. 

Health & Safety was quoted back at him and the American’s voice grew louder and louder as his route inside remained shut. Like him I was late but I made no fuss and I sneaked quietly down the corridor and ducked in by a side door.  

Sometimes it is better to be unobtrusive.

Bloggers though make a noise and seem to be the flavour of the month. They promise much.

An association for them is about to be launched, the Professional Travel Bloggers Association. It requires people to have 3,000 page views a month to join. If you are unfamiliar with page view figures then 3,000 is not much.

Now I am not knocking bloggers, but some of their offerings are rather dull to read and a few are most definitely blaggers.  Especially in the skiing and snowboarding world. Good ones though offer some of the best writing and insights.

Inside the room was packed.

There is much talk of the rise of the bloggers and many in the travel market seem to be interested. A few are hypnotised.

Both sides though can be deceived as the hype wins through.  Most blogs have a very small readership and rarely is money made by the writing – it is usually a promotion for a service or for some of those bloggers in the travel industry something free while they are on holiday.

If they are very, very lucky they may get a free trip.

Blogs are of interest to family and friends or their boss in the company who has asked them to write it – but can be of little interest elsewhere.

Some baffle people with figures whether it is page views, hits, unique visitors, reach and the rest.

The travel blogger, Gary Arndt, is an exception. He has never been skiing and though he told us that he once went to a bloggers conference in Aspen.

He started his travel blog five years ago and has only just been able to make cash on it. 

“I had a deliberate policy to build an audience first and then look at ways to make money. I now make a six figure sum in dollars but I have costs and overheads, travel is expensive, and now I have staff to pay as I have a business manager and some help,” he said. He is one of the popular ones.

He updates his site on a daily basis, though usually only with a photograph, and writes a couple of stories a week about travel. He claims an audience of 100,000 per month.

The sessions at the Social Travel Market were not just about bloggers there was advice on SEO, digital marketing and how to use Facebook and Twitter to best commercial advantage.

If you want to be a succesful blogger you will need to be an expert in all these areas.

There were some nuggets of useful information.

“Tiger Woods makes money because there are a lot of bad golfers.”

“Build a big enough audience and the money will come to you.”

“If you create quality content you will win.”

“Old media is not to be trusted.”

“It is all about awareness.”

“Ensure people are unable to isolate sales.”

“Tell people what they already know but don’t realise it.”

“Do not over-brand.”

“You can’t abandon the old ways of doing things.”

“It is all about scarcity of attention.”

“Shouting is not sustainable.”

“Don’t do the same thing on Facebook and Twitter.”

“It led to a sales spike with a younger demographic.”

But we were also offered questionable figures on occasion – one claimed their travel videos were going onto a TV channel I had never heard of and it had a reach of 200 million.

It struck me that the claim was about as accurate as me claiming a reach for PlanetSKI of the total global population.

In theory it can be seen by the whole planet (I think) as it is on the internet, but of course it is not. The videos may be able to be seen by 200m but that doesn’t mean they will be.

Then there was another one who made some very spurious claims about his numbers of video hits on You Tube.

Maths obviously wasn’t his strong point.

It reminded me of face cream adverts with fairly meaningless phrases like “helps combat the appearance of ageing.”

Content was rarely mentioned except in the abstract. I asked a few what they actually wrote about and I’m afraid to say I was none the wiser afterwards as they talked about “authentic travel experiences” and giving a “fresh insight into travel”.

“But what do you actually write about – give me an example of a story,” I politely asked. Nothing much came back from the people I spoke to. Perhaps I was just standing in front of the wrong bloggers.

Except the blogger, Kash Bhattachara, who was writing a blog as he travelled around luxury hostels as he wanted to show that hostels were not the flea ridden and dirty options they once were.

He told the audience about what they offered, the people he had met and above all his blog told us something interesting that we didn’t know already. Hostels are hip.

I enquired of a few how they funded their travels and put dinner on the table. Some smoke and mirrors appeared.

Some are rich, a few do it to get a free holiday, most have full time day jobs and others manage it for a while on a dream and then reality kicks in.  Those that do make money seem to be sponsored or partially funded by advertising. They all though believe in the dream and think they will be the lucky one.

The musical analogy was used as people learn an instrument, play in bands and dream of rock and roll stardom. It happens to very, very few.

I remembered the old adage that most of the people who made money in the Californian gold rush sold whiskey and shovels. Those who found large nuggets of gold were few and far between.

Selling a dream can be profitable.

It seems to me that travelling, writing a blog about your personal experiences and then hoping all will be fine is about as far removed from reality as it gets. For most people.

I don’t suppose the bloggers will like me for my thoughts but that is my observation.

Content is of course king but there is now far, far more to blogging and writing than content.

As I sat in one of the sessions I received a tweet saying “Four more years” with a picture of a couple hugging each other. If the same words and picture had come from Joe Bloggs then a few people may have seen it. 

It came from the re-elected President of the United States of America.

It is apparently the most popular tweet ever.

Perhaps it is context that is king.

For the spirit of the mountains

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