The Death of Travel Blogging; Where Has All The Content Gone?

by wired2theworld on March 23, 2011

I’ve been writing about travel online since 1998.
Since before it was called blogging.
Before “blogs” even existed

I started writing about travel because in 1998 my husband and I took a year off to travel around the world. Just about that time a little thing called the internet took off. Suddenly people had web sites called travelogues; I knew I had to do the same.

It was the dark ages of wired travel, well before wi-fi and Facebook. Sometimes that meant accessing a dial-up connection from a hotel room, or pulling the phone wires out the wall to jack in to the phone line. Once or twice we even used an acoustic coupler (look it up if you were born after 1985). We were noticed by the New York Times and featured in an article about “techo-nomads” who were traveling around the world (12 years later, our site is the only one still active).

Thankfully, technology has improved over time; I still travel with all the latest gadgets, our web site has evolved into a blog, and I’ve jumped into social media with both feet.

But while I embrace the evolution of travel blogging, there are other changes which bother me enough to say something; where has all the content gone?

It seems to me many popular travel blogs now are not filled with actual personal experiences, but by what will appeal to the masses; top 10 lists, generic travel tips, and mere “snapshots” of travel experiences. One high traffic travel blogger now has trips sponsored by tourism boards and unfortunately, the posts read like copy out of a travel brochure.

What has disappeared is the personal experience; the specifics around the actual things people do while traveling, the people they meet, special places to eat and sleep.  The avid planner in me is disappointed in the changes. I still read people’s blogs searching for that nugget of information which might enhance to my own personal experience when I go to that destination.

Are we all so jaded now that we simply rely on Trip Advisor to pick our hotels/hostels and Yelp for dining recommendations? Are we so easily bored that our attention span has shortened to the point where we cannot write, let alone read, someone else’s work of more than three paragraphs?

In this age of Twitter, Facebook, Four Square, Tumbler and all the other social media sites, are we so addicted to instant information that we are no longer interested in the details?

Writing styles change with the times, but it’s this lowest-common-denominator method which bothers me. It dominates our culture now, not just in travel writing, but in politics, food, television, news, everything. I don’t want all my TV to be reality, I don’t need all my food to be easy and fast, and frankly, I want my President to be smarter than the “average guy.” And I want my travel bloggers to write about real travel.

Unfortunately, people have found that formulaic writing drives traffic and in the blog world Traffic Is King. But isn’t it just plain lazy to rehash the same information that anyone can get via Google?

While the short-attention-span lifestyle may be the culprit, it’s not just with the 20-something generation. Truth be told, when we started our website, one of our very good friends admitted he was not going to read it because there “were too many words.” Isn’t sad that I’m concerned this post is too long and people won’t read it all the way to end because there are no photos?

I know by writing this, I may alienate some of my travel blogging friends. Certainly not all travel bloggers are like this, many are not. There are still travelers out there with beautiful photos and good stories to tell. But the trend toward easy, fast and popular is there and growing in my opinion.

I’m really interested in knowing what people think. Have you noticed a change? If so, do you think it’s for the better or worse? Do you like the direction travel blogging is headed?

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Caanan March 23, 2011 at 7:15 am

Great points. It’s a vicious cycle. So many bloggers spend time chasing what readers want to see as opposed to writing about what they (the blogger) have actual knowledge about and/or an authentic passion for.

I recently saw an intriguing – but not quite complete – post on how to score tough-to-get tickets for a popular event in a particular city. My interest peaked, I shot off an e-mail to the blogger for more details. Turns out, the writer (having not even been there) was not writing from personal experience but, rather, because it’s a “popular topic” that produces “search hits.” Sad but not surprising.
Caanan recently posted..Travelogue – on a mission in Washington DC

Reply

2 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 7:23 am

Caanan-Thanks. Yes, that fits with my point exactly. I see the same thing happening in other areas of the blogging world. My other passion, food blogging, is going down a slippery slope too, with many people writing sponsored posts which are in essence “advertorial” content.

Reply

3 Lori Carlson March 23, 2011 at 7:46 am

This annoys me to no end and it’s the reason I read very few blogs. A blog should be written like a journal and if someone reads it, it’s like that someone just accidentally stumbled upon and read surreptitiously. The blog should be for the writer, really, not the reader. I want the writer to process what they learned while traveling. It should not be written like a Frommer’s Top 10 List. I don’t care about lists. Anyone can sit in their Lazyboy without ever leaving home and make a damn list.

I want to know how the blogger’s trip SHIFTED them, whether that’s from the dysentery they got or the obscure people they met, the stories they heard, or the way they dealt with the weather/bad cab driver/corrupt policeman/beggars, etc…. I want to hear about their ability to shift into plan b when plan a isn’t working out too well. I want to know the name of the boat driver that sunk their boat on the mekong. I want to know how it felt when they experienced poverty up close and personal for the first time or how it was to eat lunch with a man who lost his arms in a land mine explosion. I can find out in about 5 seconds what hotel to stay in. This other stuff intrigues me. We travel not only to discover the world, but to discover ourselves in the process and hopefully understand better our connections to each other. A person’s blog needs to take the reader on THAT trip.

You keep going K. It’s not about the traffic. :)

Reply

4 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 7:49 am

Ah Lori, this is why I think you are so amazing.

Reply

5 Johanna March 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

When I was reading this, I was thinking of all the things I wanted to say in reply. I had everything worded in my head and then scrolled down to comments, and Lori Carlson already said it. So I’ll just say ditto to what she wrote. They are my feelings exactly, and the reason I have weeded down the blogs I read to just a few, yours being one of the few. I will add that I see more of a problem with the cooking blogs. There are soooooo many of them out there these days that they all seem to be the same blog.

Johanna

Reply

6 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

Johanna-Yes, Lori said it quite well. I’ve done the same. There are still a select few I follow and read, but most of my travel research comes from elsewhere now.

Reply

7 Sharon Miro March 23, 2011 at 9:05 am

I couldn’t agree with Lori -and you-more. It’s not even about where you went that day and what you ate (although I like that too!) it’s about what you saw and how that experience changed you, or didn’t, if that is the case. It’s about what happened to you, and then thru you, to your readers.

I want to see the emotion, the heart of the journey, in someone’s blog.

I also realize that can’t happen with every post-and some will be better than others, but really tired of the regurgitation of the same stuff.

Reply

8 Erika March 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

I completely agree – one of the reasons I subscribe to your blog is because I love to have the immersive experience of going where you go! If I need a quick overview of hotel location, etc. I’ll use travel sites, but if I want to know what it actually feels like to visit there, I’ll read a travel blog – a REAL one!

Reply

9 Jim Twyford March 23, 2011 at 9:25 am

As usual, your powers of observation and articulation make for interesting reading. I only look at a few blogs on a regular basis, and yours is the only travel related one. I used to write in detail about my travels and other experiences, I have now devolved into a captioner. I take photos and videos and write brief comments about them. I have seen the enemy and he is us!

And also as usual, Lori’s insights are spot on and unvarnished.

Thanks to the two of you for keeping at it when most of us are too lazy.
Jim Twyford recently posted..Travel Videos

Reply

10 Noelle March 23, 2011 at 9:41 am

Agreed. I started my travel blog (that is no longer up, sad face) in 2004, to keep my family and friends apprised of my whereabouts in an open-ended trip. I feel I did a pretty good job of telling how the trip changed me, and gave hints as to good places to go, or things to do.

I don’t really read any blogs much any more (with a few exceptions – duh), and I think that it’s funny that I know SOOOOO many food bloggers – and I really don’t read their blogs. Oops.

I do read yours, though. So, there’s a hit for you. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Reply

11 Tris Beezley March 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

Kristina, you are da bomb! I love your site because it’s so “meaty” – exactly what you are talking about. Sincere “below the surface” Information, so helpful to someone who may be going to that destination. And what an honor to get to travel with you! Ø
-Tris

Reply

12 Karen @offthemeathook) March 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I agree with you, but I also think it depends on why people have a blog. I have a blog that I use more as a journal and a repository to remember all the things I like, do, recommend, etc. (re: food and travel) but I’m not trying to make money off of it or anything, so it’s easier to remain “pure”. A lot of folks are trying to use their blog as a business, which is why the content gets so dumbed down and “advertorial” (I like that word!) I guess it’s just a matter of seeking out the people who are aligned to your way of thinking!

Reply

13 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm

True, but then I wish those people would not call themselves travel bloggers. And ultimately, what bothers me is not that they are doing it as much as the fact that people lap it up like cotton candy. As I said my post, it’s just like what’s happening in TV and politics today; the lowest common denominator way of thinking.

Reply

14 Cheri Lucas March 23, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Hi there–
I, too, am drawn to the personal, narrative/scene-driven, and less-formulaic pieces. I’ll admit I switch between different writing modes on my blog and write more accessible posts, too (“Places for cocktails in Waikiki” is a recent one), but I use this type of format because it makes the most sense for the subject (or perhaps I’m not as emotionally connected to the topic, yet still want to share it, you know?).

But yes, as Lori commented, I am interested in the shift in perspective during/after a travel experience, as well as the characters — however minor or random they may be — that one meets along the way.

That said, even if you feel travel blogging is headed in a certain direction, for every Top 10 list there IS a thoughtful piece out there — I come upon such writing on Matador and World Hum regularly, in addition to the blogs of friends and others on Twitter that consistently wow me with their work, which is personal and intimate yet also offers a universal truth (not sure if that’s the right word) or glimpse into human nature.

Cheers,
Cheri
Cheri Lucas recently posted..Jarring &amp Juxtaposed- Digesting the Twitter Stream

Reply

15 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Cheri-
There’s nothing wrong with “accessible” posts and I’m sure yours provide a fair amount of useful information. What makes me crazy is the rehashing of information which is at bare minimum the writer’s equivalent to junk food with no nutritional value. At least tell me something new and useful.

I agree with you 100% that there are thoughful pieces out there and when I find them I make sure to share them. I just want to encourage other bloggers not to take the easy way out all the time.

Reply

16 Robyn March 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Right on. And yes, our attention spans have become miniscule. I know that just from the number of comments on my posts that indicate the commenter hasn’t even read the whole piece. I know that I lose folks after 2 graphs. I know many don’t read at all (I blame my photographer for that.)
I think what really drove the shift is that people can now make money from blogging. Or achieve some sort of “superstardom”, however you want to define that. You see it in food blogs as well. So much sponsored content. So little soul. And so folks go into it with those goals in mind, and post accordingly (to drive traffic). Many others might start out blogging driven by passion and the urge to write, but go down that “Top 10″ and “Panorama Shot” road when they become popular. I guess once you start to see the big numbers you just want more and more. Also, managing a hugely popular blog become a time-suck. When you’re spending so much time planning posts, promoting on Twitter and FB, wooing advertisers, etc., it leaves little time for, um, writing.
Do I think I’m a “better” blogger because I see my blog as a creative space first, and a “platform” second (or third or fourth; I haven’t put a lot of time into self-promotion more on account of laziness and disorganization than anything I suppose). No. But I know that the other blogs I read are written and photographed by folks with the same orientation. The rest are dross as far as I’m concerned. But dross sells, so there you go.
Robyn recently posted..Famous Beans

Reply

17 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Robyn- I debated whether or not to share at the bottom of my post some of the blogs I thought got it right. Yours was on my short list. I decided not to because I didn’t want to make the post about anyone specific, good or bad (in my eyes).

My blog has always been a labor of love to me. That’s why it takes me so long to write about each trip. I don’t want to toss it out there just to adhere to any blogging schedule. I want it to be as perfect as I can make it, for me first. If any one else reads it and enjoys it, then that is pure bonus. Do I look at my stats and comments? Sure. I’m human and validation is nice. But regardless of the page views, I keep plugging because most of all, this is my record of my experiences and I cherish it for that reason alone.

Reply

18 GotPassport March 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm

There’s an unhealthy amount of discussions about traffic, analytics and a few other terms out there. I’ll say this: I’m glad I discovered this blog and read this LONG post!

Reply

19 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Thank you so much! So glad you took the time to read the post! :-)

Reply

20 Vivian March 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Yes, and it is such a sad thing to see. I love reading about what you and others experience on your journeys. I have never been one to do the touristy things and love going “off the beaten path”, and the blogs that just post lists of things you can do, lack a sense of adventure. I love hearing about all the things that you do on your travels. They also lack the type of information I usually seek for a great cultural experience. You connect with people and learn something of their culture. You have given me many great ideas for places I want to visit on future trips, not because of a non-descript representation, but because of what you relayed from your experiences.
Vivian recently posted..Tsunami – Japan &amp a Plea for Help

Reply

21 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Thanks Vivian! Glad to know you are enjoying it and if I can encourage people to go to my favorite places like Cambodia when they may have never considered it before, so much the better!

Reply

22 Shawn Kielty March 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm

I think this is an interesting article. I wonder if expectations about readership of informative and experiential travel writing my be distorted by the internet boom, the blogging boom, and now a social media “boom,” if I dare call it that. The move of internet users to social media may actually represent a death to blogging, primarily because the internet user has moved from a model of knowledgable provider and learning reader to a model of some friends sharing.

I read travel writing, especially if it’s good. But people today tend to just post a picture of themselves and their friends half way up the wall in Yosemite, or half a wold away halfway up the Great Wall with the caption, “Hey … I am in freaking China !Yay!” I don’t think it’s that thier attention spans are dwindling as much as the instantaneous quality of communication means I can give you 37 instance of my 10 days in China in real time, which is (possibly) more interesting and easier than writing (or reading) a long story about it with a bunch of travel details.

The transfer of internet readers (consumers) to bloggers (providers) to social media (sharing) represents and demonstrates a tremendous shift — actually two — in the participation of the people using the web.

Twittering is a sentence or less where “@ the freaking movies” might be all I have to say on the subject of my life at the moment. I think that for many people — this is unsuccessful. Not enough value.

I am not going to advocate for facebook here, but it is simple. I put stuff out and it shows up for others. If a person is interested in me — they friend me … they see my dialog, my pictures, my posts, my notes. They can block me if I eat out too often for them. I can quickly and effectively *push* information out for my friends to see.

Blogging is hard work as a healthy participant. If I write a blog and I want readers I have to read other peoples blogs, cite them in my own blog, blogroll people, and there’s all this maintenance and care — and reading all those blogs. Getting my actual friends to go to my blog is always there — me telling them to go look. And them maybe getting to it.

Writing was always hard, the blogging “boom” gave us generous and willing readers driving traffic to the own blog by reading ours; a bunch of that traffic has moved off to reading social media and playing farmville.

As for whether people want that kind of information — I mean quality I’ve been there , this is what to do information. I usually want enough information to tell me how not to get into trouble, but not enough to actually keep me from gettig into it. I buy an international data plan for my phone and get a visa and read an occasional post about what to do and count on my gps to work and try to make a local contact, and read a book like “Undress me in the Temple of Heaven” (which has not so much to do with actual travel) and step onto a plane to China. Granted It’s good to know that I should probably take some anti-malarials or get vaccinated for typhoid, but …

I don’t want my discovery being spoiled by knowing too many details.

When my plan fails, and suddenly I don’t know where I am … or what to do, or I get stuck somewhere … my life gets better, and my story gets better. I start to have a rich story to tell.

Expecting a lot of people to want to hear that story … might be a lot to ask.

Reply

23 wired2theworld March 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Shawn- Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful post. I agree that Facebook has taken the place of a lot of travel blogging. And while I also agree that it’s fun, it’s just not the same thing as writing about the whole experience. First, if I’m not FB friends with that person, I can’t see or hear about the experience. Second, blogging about travel experiences reaches a wider and largely unknown audience. They are two different groups. Twitter is a third group altogether.

My issue is not with people using Twitter and FB instead of writing lengthy blog posts. My problem with with people who call themselves travel bloggers (or writers) and then are too lazy to actually write about their travels, instead rehashing old information into a “Top 10 Best” whatever post time after time. Who learns anything from that? Not the writer and certainly not the reader.

As for planning or not before you go, well, everyone deals with that differently don’t they? I like to plan. It’s part of the process for me. If things don’t go as expected, that’s ok too, but I feel better prepared to handle what ever comes my way if I do a little research in advance. Then I like to share that research with my readers (you should see how much I already have on Japan). I also like to share cool places I find when I travel. Having the blog lets me keep that all in once place in a nice package. If I only put it on Facebook, it disappears as soon as the next friend posts about what they ate for lunch. ;-)

Reply

24 Joy March 24, 2011 at 12:51 am

Kristina, I have such respect for your writing and the information and experience you share. They are rare these days, but are the ones that I trust. It is as if I’ve traveled with you and been moved by what you experienced.

I would agree that the reader’s attention spans have all been minimized to bullet points and being told what to do and what not to do, but as there are many kinds of readers, so there are different kinds of travelers. There are those who travel to add to their badges of honor (I went there, I did this, I ate that!) and just following what others are doing and just reinforce to what’s already been said. Then there are the few who let the place tell them where to go and what to do, learn about the people, reflect upon their lives and the life in this foreign place. And then, there are those who, because of the boom of social media, are paid or sponsored to travel to different places and are just paying lip service to the companies that bring them there.

I value my time and want real content, and this is why I read you. Yes, not all the time, but when I do, your travel stories are the ones I pore over and remember. I hope travel (and food) magazines will take notice of you because you are a rare find indeed. I so wish Saveur and Conde Naste Traveler would snag you! Or even National Geographic, which I also read. :)

Anyway, I am starting to not make sense anymore at this hour and after multiple course dinner, but I hope you got what I mean. :)
Joy recently posted..Danish Water Kringle A Game in Wrestling with the M-Word

Reply

25 wired2theworld March 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Joy- You are so sweet! Thank you for all the nice things you wrote. I very much agree that “as there are many kinds of readers, so there are different kinds of travelers.” I could do another rant post some day on the “different kinds of travelers” but I think I’ll leave that alone for now. :-)

Reply

26 Christopher Hopgood March 24, 2011 at 6:27 am

Thanks Kristina. You made a passionate point and I completely support you in this topic. I’m so glad that I read it.

Chriso

Reply

27 Myra March 24, 2011 at 7:16 am

I agree with what you’ve said, and I especially liked Lori’s comment.

Top ten lists have their place, but I’d prefer to get lost in a writer’s personal story. I’m new to the world of travel writing. Yes, I’d like more traffic on my blog, and will admit to sometimes obsessing about my numbers on Google Analytics. Thankfully, you’ve reminded me many times – ignore the statistics, and write for myself. I’ve always valued that advice, because I’m drawn to writers to have the same goal: to create, for the sake of creating.
Myra recently posted..Navigating Nudity- Kids at the Pompidou Center

Reply

28 wired2theworld March 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Myra-I agree that top 10 lists have their place, but on personal blogs I think the proliferation has gotten out of control. If people want to do it, that’s fine, just make it unique and interesting and not every other post. Otherwise, I’ll start to think they don’t actually travel anywhere, LOL.

Reply

29 Julie March 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

What an interesting topic. As an avid traveler and one who also enjoys living vicariously through the travels of others, I actively read 10-15 ‘travelogues’ and travel blogs. Sometimes, great photos or top 10 lists are just easy enough and quick enough to read to satiate me for the afternoon.

But (and this is a big BUT), when I’m actually planning to travel to a place, there are only a few very reliable blogs I can visit to get specific information. Where, exactly, did you stay that was so great/terrible/interesting? What is the name and location of the restaurant that made the dish you now refer to as your favorite of all time?

I find that in order for these gem-like websites not to get lost in the clutter of my Google Reader, I actually save them as favorites in a reference folder. And yes, this site is in the folder, not my reader, along with less than five others. Kristina, please keep up the thoughtful and detailed-ridden posts. I’m looking forward to your upcoming trip to Japan and can’t wait to hear about all the juicy details!

(P.S. I just got back from my first trip to Cambodia and your frequent travels there helped me so much with my planning…I think I went to all your favorite restaurants in Siem Reap!)
Julie recently posted..10 Read the best books ever written

Reply

30 wired2theworld March 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Julie- Thank you so much for your nice comments! I’m always thrilled to hear when I’ve helped people in their planning. It makes it all worthwhile.

Reply

31 Akila March 25, 2011 at 11:27 am

First off, this is a fantastic post —- one of your best, Kristina, and you know I love your blog. Incredibly thought provoking and heart wrenching.

This is what I have come to think about travel blogging and food blogging . . . . different people want different things. For me, it is important to describe both the “how tos” as well as the raw impassioned soul-searching parts of traveling. I don’t do top 10 lists because I find them entirely meaningless in my own travel planning and travel searching. At the same time, I like reading posts about how to do a particular thing or a particular task . . . how do you plan a trip to X place or visit X city. Those sort of posts help me in my travel planning and I believe help others, as well.

I don’t know that travel blogging has changed per se, but I think that it has broadened its field in the way that, at some point, novelists broadened their field. Not all of us can be Dostoevsky’s or even Tolkien’s but some of us aspire to such grandeur. Others of us prefer to be the Dan Browns or the Stephanie Meyers of the travel blogging world. I’m not saying that one is bad while the other is good but I think we end up appealing to different crowds. Are you on the Facebook Travel Bloggers forum? I hope you are though I haven’t seen you on there. If not, friend me on FB and I’ll add you to the list (or are we already friends?). Anyhow, on the Travel Bloggers forum, there was a huge discussion about the “purpose” of travel blogging. I and Erik Gauger (from Notes on the Road) and a few others believed that travel blogging is, first and foremost, a creative exercise. Others argued that it was a means to make a buck and others said that it is less creative and more a way of gaining popularity.

The answer: I don’t know. It’s something I struggle with all the time. As our blog gains in popularity, I find myself consistently rejecting advertising offers and wonder if I’m doing the right thing. There are people whose blogs are making thousands of dollars a month and we make barely enough to cover a nice dinner. Should money outweigh our own creative sentiments?

Argh. Sorry. I ended up not answering any of the questions you wrote and instead blathering on with my own random thoughts. Either way, this is a fantastic post and definitely made me think quite a bit.

Reply

32 wired2theworld March 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Akila-
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I struggle with many of the same issues you outline, especially on my food blog, which is way more popular (in terms of traffic) than this site. I think your point about how the field has broadened is valid. When we started in 1998 the field was TINY and everyone was doing much the same thing; writing about where they went and what they did. I guess it’s a natural expansion, but I can’t help but be disappointed in some of the changes of direction.

I don’t think I know about the Travel Bloggers Forum on FB. I will check it out.

Reply

33 Patrick Goff March 26, 2011 at 2:18 am

I travel but write about design of hotels. I spent 25 years designing hotels but trained as an artist so I’m am interested in the culture of design as well as its nuts and bolts. I have stuck to my format for over eight years now. I recently did a comparison of an article I wrote with a mainlline newspaper from someone who was with me on the same visit. I can ony say my writing is much desnser – but the columnist has to produce soemthing two tor three times a day whereas I do about one piece a week – maybe a little more, but I give myself time to think, to make judgements against my standards.

I don’t doubt that if I went fast and shallow I could get through much more but I value the time to do the photography, to write thoughtfully and edit. I see my site building as a kind of history of hotel design. I think you must have integrity in what you do if it is to have any value to yourself, never mind your readers.

You write with integrity. You care, beacuse you are still doing it after 12 years or more. It looks as if you started with a sense of mission. Others may come in and deal with parts of your field but does it change your mission?

In my case the answer is not. I set out to explain, explore and influence. My audience is tiny but I am in a specialist area so it is to be expected. Despite the superficiality of so much other writing about hotels and travel my audience continues to grow. I think the froth you complain about comes with the sea being deeper than it was in 1999. The audience has become broader and the multiplicity of writers each choose their segment.

It doesn’t change yours or mean that you need to change, any more than I think I do. So keep on keeping on.

There is nothing else

Reply

34 Dave from The Longest Way Home March 26, 2011 at 2:38 am

I’ve been shouting about this for the past 2 years as I watched the decline in good online, enjoyable, travel content. It’s one of my best uses for Twitter :)

Sadly you are correct. About 3 years ago I was reading a lot of travel blogs. People talking about their journeys, how they got to places, and all the adventures in between.

It seems when all this whole “make money from your travel blog” kicked off, the decline started. Today I can sadly count on one hand how many travel sites I read. In truth, I have many fingers to spare.

Perhaps the even sadder thing still, is many of these “travel bloggers” don’t even get it. They think they are producing good content. After all, the stats tell them so. Not to mention their niche comment buddies.

Listening to some write about a new theme here, plugin there, SEO title tags, adsense and keywords only to two minutes later rebuke any knowledge in any of this is … well … lackluster to say the least.

Generic fodder that mainly only they themselves read, and try to out do.

Meanwhile, I do find that several subdomain blogs, such as wordpress.com or those on travellerspoint can provide a more genuine reading experince. That said, there’s a lot of “hey mom, I’m in Peru” type stuff there too. But once in a while, I do stumble onto someone’s travel ventures and stick with them. This is reminiscent of the good old days, all of 3 years ago.

I myself, stick to my own travel journal every week. While it’s not to everyone’s taste in terms of slick marketing, public relations or targeted keywords, I do find it hits the spot in terms of good content :)
Dave from The Longest Way Home recently posted..Food from Singapore- Beef ball noodle soup

Reply

35 Jamie March 26, 2011 at 2:46 am

“travel blogs now are not filled with actual personal experiences, but by what will appeal to the masses; top 10 lists, generic travel tips, and mere “snapshots” of travel experiences.”

Thanks for this article – I am glad to hear other people have the same idea. Encourages me to keep at it!

Can be frustrating if you are hoping to make a little money from a travel blog.. if you keep it too personal you probably don’t get the traffic, so I can see why you get so much “filler” and I do have a few posts like that on my own blogs, but on the whole try to keep a personal feel, write about what I and my family do, rather than writing generic pages. Been blogging about Phuket for 5 years now, and still encouraged by comments / emails from people who have read it and have thus gained a different experience than they might have had by following the crowd.
Jamie recently posted..Patong Beach Hotels

Reply

36 Michael Hodson March 26, 2011 at 2:50 am

With the vast proliferation of blogs, you of course are going to get a lot of bad, but there is also a lot of good out there. I’d posit there are dozens and dozens, if not hundreds and hundreds, more excellent blogs out there than there were 2 or 5 or certainly 10 years ago. If one is willing to rummage through the scores of them, I think you are going to find there are scads of excellent ones, with wonderful writing and breathtaking photography, out there today. I don’t see today as some sort of down point in travel blogging — on the contrary, I think its better and more vibrant today than it ever has been and is likely to be better a year from now and 5 years down the road also, as many more people enter the field.
Michael Hodson recently posted..The Hostel Owners’ Guide- The How-to’s… Please!

Reply

37 Brian @ Wanderings March 26, 2011 at 5:29 am

When everyone is chasing the same dollar, they all gravitate to the formula that worked for the last guy. Content is driven by what drives search engine results so it tends to all sound the same, and boring.

My solution is to not bother trying to make a buck from my blog. I don’t have any ads, I don’t sell anything, I don’t expect to. I’m blogging to tell my travel stories, the way I want to tell them. If I don’t like a place, I say so. I don’t have a single list post. The one that I have planned (‘X things I learned from a year on the road’) I’m doing because I think I have something to say that is different from what you typically read.

None of this drives traffic, but then I don’t really care.

Happy travels,
Brian
Brian @ Wanderings recently posted..An Everglades Alternative

Reply

38 Dave March 26, 2011 at 7:37 am

I started GoBackpacking.com in late 1998 after my first backpacking trip to Europe. I taught myself HTML so I could transcribe my 50-day travel journal online. It was a tedious process, but the independent travel experience was so amazing, I had to share (and put off getting a job of course).

At that time, as I’m sure you can recall, there were very few people doing this, and if they were doing it, they were hard for other people to find without social media, and the less advanced search engines. Here’s an archived view if you want a good laugh! (http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20000422011558/http://www.geocities.com/~longestline/europe.html)

I was surprised when people began reading the whole thing. Literally the words torn out of my personal journal — raw and uncensored (well, except for a few things). I’m sure that same style would have an audience today, but I’m happy with the progression that has occurred on my travel blog. Truthfully, I’ve been blogging almost daily for 4+ years about travel, and I’m still searching for the right approach to producing content.

“What has disappeared is the personal experience; the specifics around the actual things people do while traveling, the people they meet, special places to eat and sleep. ”

I think this is an overgeneralization. I don’t read as many travel blogs as I use to, but there are loads of up-and-comers who are sharing very personal stories and experiences. I think that’s easier when you’re new, just getting started, and you’re less driven by how many people are reading then those who’ve been at it a few years or are trying to make a living from their blog(s).

Dave recently posted..Top 9 Ways to Avoid Looking Like a Gringo in Latin America

Reply

39 Erin D. March 26, 2011 at 8:48 am

Wow…I actually found this post through tweets and sadly, I was not following your blog or Twitter– just did now! :-) You said what a lot of us are probably afraid to say. Kudos.

Right now, we just have our culinary travel blog active (and I have a Disney travel niche one) and those take considerable amounts of time. I take a lot of photos and when I’m writing up a ten course dinner w/wine pairings, it can easily take me a day (or more) to write, edit photos, and upload everything. Even though we may not get may views, I know the people who finally do find us want to know everything about the dinner and each course — not a minute snapshot. Because I take so much time, I can’t post everyday, plus manage tons of social media like some of the more well-known bloggers do. And I try to be true to myself — I use my own photos, which means I write only about places we’ve been. We strayed from that slightly this last week in support of the Blog4NZ event, but I wrote about the history of certain NZ foods, etc. I save the press release type stuff for the online sties I freelance for, not my blog(s).

I know culinary travel is not everyone’s cup of tea and we aren’t backpackers so we don’t appeal to many of the masses out there on social media. I admit it, we sometimes spend more on one meal than some people are spending on a month of travel. But, there are other people like me out there who are looking for reviews (not Yelp or TripAdvisor) on what a certain Michelin-star restaurant is like. I take the time to write up all the courses, the cost, and whatever else might be important to someone — whether it’s a night market or $300 dinner. Not everyone fits in the same travel blogging box — I think some of the blogs are almost becoming cookie-cutter clones, because so many people are on the same backpacking routes (or they cross paths). I love the bloggers who are different and have something unique to offer.

When I read someone’s travel blog, I want to know the personal details, their feelings, their journey — not their bid for a press trip from a tourism board. I like what Gary (Everything Everywhere) did. He did round up posts for his 4th anniversary — all based on his travels to date. His favorite historic sites, his favorite dive sites….not the “best” or the “must-visit”, but reflecting on his travels and why those places found a special place in his heart. That is much more meaningful versus a post by someone who’s obviously pitching for a press trip.

BTW, I am excited to see so many wordy comments here…I am usually the one who leaves a novel comment as you can probably tell, which is why I don’t often comment. LOL
Erin D. recently posted..Photo of the Week- Napa Valley Grapes at Harvest Time

Reply

40 wired2theworld March 26, 2011 at 10:10 am

Erin- I love the wordy comments too. It tells me people are thinking. Keep ‘em coming! As for culinary travel, if you are new to our blog you might want to take a look around. Much of my travel focuses on food because I am a former chef. I also have a food blog, which focuses a little on travel at http://www.formerchef.com
I for one am glad to see someone who takes the time to write up all the courses of a meal or what ever the focus of their blog post is about. Keep it up!

Reply

41 Ayngelina March 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

Wow this post really saddened me because there are some amazing sites out there.

There is no one right way to write a blog or to document your travels. Mine is very much different than many others that I read. But that is the beauty of the Internet, there is room for everyone.

Sure there´s a lot of crap out there but I don´t read it.
Ayngelina recently posted..Embarrassed to be Canadian

Reply

42 wired2theworld March 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

Ayngelina- I’m sorry the post saddend you. Your blog is one of the many I still enjoy reading out there. I agree there is no right or wrong way to write a blog, but I do feel very strongly about what I wrote and the general shift I’ve seen in blogging trands. Strongly enough that I felt I had to say something. Yes, that is the beauty of the internet.

Reply

43 ayngelina March 28, 2011 at 7:28 am

Thanks so much. Yes it’s true there’s so much crap but I do believe so much quality out there.

Michael (Go See Write) would kill me for this but even I am guilty of once writing a Top 10 post :)
ayngelina recently posted..Embarrassed to be Canadian

Reply

44 inka March 26, 2011 at 9:33 am

I applaud you. My feelings exactly. I find myself reading less and less of fellow travel bloggers posts because I’m sick and tired of the endless repetitions of what to pack, list 1 – 30 of this that and the other, the cheapesthere and there, and, everybody and their dog is suddenly an expert on…nothing. But, I enjoy those who write a blog which is about TRAVEL, experiences, adventures and beautiful pictures.

Reply

45 Dheza- The Weekend Traveller March 26, 2011 at 9:36 am

I share your sentiments Kristina. When I finally decided to put up my travel blog, I wondered if people will actually read my posts. They are usually long and very personal, something that most travel blogging how to’s does not recommend (long posts). Sometimes I am discouraged and un-inspired because I don’t see the point anymore of writing for a market that seemed to have lost interest in real stories.

But I keep on doing what I love, travelling and writing about them. In addition to my friends and family, Im sure there are those who are actually craving for real travel stories and not packaged travel articles. Even if their number will not gain me popularity in the blogging world.

I followed your twitter and this blog. I am very happy that there are still people who writes about travel as they experience it.

Best to you,
Dheza Marie Aguilar
The Weekend Traveller
Dheza- The Weekend Traveller recently posted..Heavenly Boracay sans the crowd

Reply

46 Keryn March 30, 2011 at 10:00 pm

It’s really funny because I had been thinking about this issue all day and then came home and saw your tweet linking to this article. I have recently entered the blogging world. I started mostly because I needed a creative outlet and distraction as I made some tough decisions about my job, but I found that I really loved to write down my travel memories. No one but friends and family are reading it right now, but that’s OK.

As I researched what others were doing, I was excited to see many similar blogs that covered topics like mine. When I first had my son I couldn’t find anything about traveling with kids. Now there are tons. But the more I dug in, the more I saw that the most popular blogs did not post very often and when they did, they weren’t actually telling me about their travels. I don’t use packing lists. I tend to scramble the night before a trip and stick post-its on my front door so I don’t forget to turn down the heat and grab toothbrushes as we head to the airport.

What is happening in travel blogging reminds me of of how a magazine is run. I used to work for a city magazine and all content was based on how many ad pages we sold. If we didn’t sell well that month, well sorry, your article gets cut or pushed back a few months. Amazing images got cut to make more room for other things. Many blogs are looking like front and back of the book material (short bits of info with big numbers and giveaways) instead of the feature length articles many of us love.

I admit, I am drawn to the idea that my blog could one day make money, but do I really want to sacrifice what I really love and enjoy about blogging in order to get some cash? I don’t think I am. Honestly I still feel like I am bumbling in the dark most of the time as I figure out exactly what I want my blog to be. It goes in a different direction every day, but that’s OK. I’m having fun and the few readers I have seem to be enjoying it. I have a back log of post ideas that still need to be developed, so I can get into the nitty gritty of my trips and travel experiences.

I am happy to hear that others are also looking for and creating genuine content and want to know about actual places instead of giveaways and lists. It’s why I started reading travel memoirs years ago and now travel blogs. We all want to be transported into a world that we have not been to or see the same place through someone else’s eyes.

Sorry to ramble. All this is to say Thank You! For this newbie blogger, you (and many who posted comments) are an inspiration to those of us just starting out. It is nice to hear someone say it’s not all about money. Content does matter and it’s OK to post long travel tales that transport us to a far off place.
Keryn recently posted..Dad’s in Charge While Mom’s Away

Reply

47 wired2theworld March 30, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Hi Keryn- Yes, I agree that the trend in blogging is very much like what has happened in magazines. And it’s not just travel blogs.
Keep writing because yes, “Content does matter and it’s OK to post long travel tales that transport us to a far off place.” Trust me, even if no one else ever reads it (and I’m sure they do) you will have an invaluable record to share with your family.

Reply

48 Keryn March 31, 2011 at 9:40 am

Thanks so much for the encouragement. I am horrible about keeping a hand written journal and you are right, this is a fabulous record of the adventures I took with my family. One day he may turn to me and say “you never take me anywhere” (hopefully not though!) and I can say “wait a minute! You walked along the Great Wall of China, slept through the forbidden city and tried to eat the bushes in Kowloon park in Hong Kong.” In the end, I travel for us and the experiences we have, not for other people.
Keryn recently posted..Dad’s in Charge While Mom’s Away

Reply

49 cathy April 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I have done a lot of travel articles for AOL Travel News and Gadling. Now, those two sites often like the “personal” experience type of article but sometimes they want something in the third person and they already have an SEO picked topic etc. Since I need to make money doing this I sometimes have to fall in line with whatever they want. I only pick topics I am very familiar with and write on places I have been but it is hard for me to keep the “me” out of travel articles.
cathy recently posted..Donald Trump To Join Fox &amp Friends News Chatter

Reply

50 Angela April 14, 2011 at 12:13 am

Interesting points, you touched a topic that scares me quite a lot: how we need always shorter information. What quality can we find in 140 characters? Don’t get me wrong, I use Twitter, but it seems like we go always less in-depth on the topic we see introduced in a small tweet. I think this is scary, it looks like the progress in technology is making our minds lazy.
I agree with you that the content of travel writing is becoming very little interesting, to be honest here I refer more to mainstream media rather than travel blogs, because I think bloggers report more authentic experiences, while media most of the times are plain advertising and poorly researched.
I like to read personal experiences, but I also like well-researched pieces that add some knowledge about the place. There are great blogs out there, but I think travel bloggers and writers can make some more effort on it :)
Angela recently posted..Taj Mahal- the ultimate monument to love

Reply

51 Becky April 15, 2011 at 10:19 am

I really liked this post. For many of the reasons you mentioned (cliché topics, shallow content, etc.), I find myself avoiding travel blogs in which people travel full-time, and instead gravitate towards those in which the blogger either lives somewhere I like travelling to and/or travels to interesting places.

On an unrelated note, I found your blog on Fodor’s, via one of your trip reports, and really like how you travel “purposefully” (i.e. your fund-raising efforts for Cambodia).
Becky recently posted..A room with a view- a terrace set for battle

Reply

52 Emily April 18, 2011 at 9:15 am

This was a very thoughtful post, and I agree with SO much of what you have said. But I did want to point out that sometimes those more generic informational pieces are needed between travels for some of us. I know there are so many travel bloggers on RTW trips or bloggers who are able to travel constantly, and thus blog about personal experiences 100% of the time if they want to. I absolutely love to travel and do it as often as I can, which is why I run a travel blog, but I’m limited in how frequently I can travel due to my day job (interestingly in the travel industry). So I write about personal experiences whenever possible, but to keep my blog looking alive in between, I also do posts where I interview travel experts, provide tips (like things to know before flying with easyJet), write feature-type pieces like how to treat and prevent travel diarrhea, some reviews, etc. I wish I was able to post only about personal experiences, but for some of us, it isn’t totally realistic. I hate the idea of my blog looking dead for three months in between trips. But I do completely agree that blogging for many has become more about SEO and traffic than about high-quality writing, and that’s definitely a shame.
Emily recently posted..Photo Essay- The Blue Mosque in Istanbul- Turkey

Reply

53 wired2theworld April 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Thanks Emily, your point is valid and I struggle with that dilemma as well. But my biggest peeve are the people who are traveling, but not writing anything but fluff about it.

Reply

54 vicki July 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm

“Trust me, even if no one else ever reads it (and I’m sure they do) you will have an invaluable record to share with your family.”–This statement of yours is exactly why I blog, aside from the fact that my iPhoto is bursting at the seams as I take tons of photos all the time. For me it’s like creating a photo album for the family, although much more enjoyable and swifter, although it still takes me a number of hours to create even one post because I constantly have a nagging thought “what do I want to say” or “what’s my point?”

I too was saddened when I realized a lot of blogs out there are just going for the “hits” (a late realization–boy, was I naive!). When I research for a trip, I stumble upon many of them with exactly the same content, eegads, word for word! I know there are fabulous travel blogs out there, it just takes longer to find that’s why on my blogroll of travel blogs, I only have a couple of blogs, yours included.

But thanks to this post of yours, looks like so many interesting travel bloggers have surfaced for me and I can’t wait to settle down on my comfy lounge chair tonight, clicking on the sites of your commenters.
vicki recently posted..Design Details at Fuchun Resort, Hangzhou

Reply

55 walkingontravels July 18, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Vicki- I am now settled into my comfy bed working on a post, but distracted by the gorgeous photos on your blog! I’ve gotten to go to China twice for work, so I am excited to dive in and check out more of your amazing photos and postings. Thanks!
walkingontravels recently posted..The Gates of Fushimi

Reply

56 Jade Johnston July 23, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Hey! I can understand what you are saying about content being replaced by photos, short descriptions, and top 10 lists but in a way I can also see why it is happening. There are so many blogs to chose from and most people dont have the time or patience to read in depth accounts of other people’s experiences unless they feel some sort of affinity with that person. I will read the incredibly long travel rants and stories of my good friend – but I probably wouldn’t for a stranger.

I have just started up my blog with my partner and we are starting to switch from stories to lists – and we have noticed an increase in traffic – especially from search engines. I think our plan is to focus on lists and “easy to read” articles until we can build up some sort of base readership. Once those people feel a connection to us, then I hope they will take the time to read our more reflective posts.

I guess its all about balance.

Jade Johnston | http://www.ouroyster.com
Jade Johnston recently posted..Eat Your Way Around Thailand – 10 Best Foods To Try

Reply

57 wired2theworld July 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Jade- yes, it’s all about balance. It’s interesting to me that you said “I will read the incredibly long travel rants and stories of my good friend – but I probably wouldn’t for a stranger” yet you don’t know me and you read mine. ;-)
I wonder how you will “build a connection” with your readers based on list posts? What kind of connection is there and why would you expect those people who like easy to read articles to take the time to read your “more reflective” posts later? Don’t underestimate the power of first impression. For example, if I go to a site filled with top 10 posts I am unlikely to ever return because they rarely hold my interest ot tell me anything useful/new.
I guess it all depends on what your goals are for your blog. What does an increase “traffic” get you? Traffic does not (always) equal money, at the very least it may only indicate “popular” and that’s only if people stay on your site and choose to engage.

Reply

58 Robyn July 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

My comment to Jade: people who are only interested in reading lists will never be interested in a long-read post with depth. And people who want depth won’t return to a blog that is just lists. More lists don’t make list-loving readers care enough about you to stay onboard for meatier posts. And they turn people who prefer meatier posts off.
I’m not saying one is better than the other. Just saying you are talking about two different types of readers — the one doesn’t “become” the other. If what you really want to write is posts with substance, then forget about stats and just do it now. If your posts are good and thoughtful the readership will come. It is possible to have a travel blog consisting of non-listy posts that has great stats. But blogs like that didn’t start out with lists, they were just consistently great reads from the beginning.

Reply

59 Jade Johnston July 25, 2011 at 2:14 am

i can see where you are both coming from and I do agree – but I prefer to have a balance on my own blog. I have some posts about experiences, some posts about general history, and some lists.

I guess its because I personally like to read list posts just as much as experience/ reflective posts. And I want to make sure that I offer a wide variety of options for my potential readers. I have a great time reliving some of my best travel experiences and lessons and I hope that my readers will enjoy them too – but on the other hand – the three list posts I have (two about NZ, and one about thai food) are all in the top 5 most viewed posts for my site.

I like list posts because they are easy to read and I like to see how many times I am in agreement with the author. But I can see why some people are turned off by them – they DO lack substance – but sometimes that is all i feel like reading.

I think its important to not just have a blog that is entirely lists – but I still think I will include the occasional top 10 post anyway. I hope that with time, as I write more blog posts – that I will have enough decent content for all types of readers to enjoy – those who like lists and those you dont.

Well. I hope my occasional list writing wont turn you guys off from checking out my blog :P
Jade Johnston recently posted..Eat Your Way Around Thailand – 10 Best Foods To Try

Reply

60 Nick the Travel Editor May 22, 2012 at 10:15 am

Looks like I’ve stumbled into the party fashionably late, but I agree. Why would I want to read something when I can get even more information from a 5 second Google search?

I’ve seen so many “Junk” posts – and many of them get lots of praise (most likely because everyone hopes that they can siphon off some of the traffic by commenting)

Quite often the little blurbs that the guilty parties write are also factually inaccurate. If you’ve never been to the place you’re “writing” about and don’t bother to verify the facts you found on the internet, the chances are high that the information is wrong. I’ve even seen lots of misattributed photos accompanying these junk posts. “Top ten destinations in Africa”….and the first photo will be of a desert in Asia. :facepalm:

Well, here’s to quality travel writing! It still exists, it’s just a little harder to find sometimes.
Nick the Travel Editor recently posted..Beyond Corbet’s Couloir

Reply

61 30Traveler November 12, 2012 at 7:07 am

I think there are lots of good personal perspectives blogs around. I’m almost always as interested in the traveler as in the travel.
30Traveler recently posted..5 Reasons I Love Americans

Reply

Leave a Comment

Like this post? Make my day, say something...

CommentLuv badge

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: