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SXSWi 2009: Blog Highways: Travel Blogging for the Wanderer

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 8:50 pm

SXSWi 2009: Blog Highways: Travel Blogging for the Wanderer by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Pam Mandel Writer, Nerd’s Eye View

Sheila Scarborough Blogger, BootsnAll Travel Network

Pam Mandel:

Super nervous, so if I run out to throw up, please excuse me.

Wrote some travel guides. Has been blogging about travel for almost ten years.

Sheila Scarborough:

She also likes to write about drag racing. Her mom made sure that they went to all the local sites.

Pam Mandel:

At Blogher, I look at hundreds of travel blogs. I’ve been doing this for three years now. What makes a blog that’s worth your time to read. This is actually true of any type of blog.

I have to be able to read the text. Don’t use tiny fonts or use strange colors on black background. I have to be able to read it. You might be brilliant and I might never see it. I hate the sidebar chiclets. I don’t want flashy things. Don’t clutter your blog with buttons, links or awards. Everything on the sidebar should be valuable to your reader.

I don’t want to read your itinerary. I want the details of what you saw there. What did the waiter smell like? Draw a picture of the place. Describe the experience. I don’t want a list.

I want to know what you look like. Sometimes I’m surprised by what the people look like. It helps to give a more complete picture of the person.

I want to see a few pictures. They are fun to look at.

I never look at LiveJournal or MySpace. If you’re on one of those networks, then they are invisible to Google. They are stand alone blogs that are more findable on the search engines.

Negativity. When you have a bad travel experience, write about it very carefully. I want to hear about the specific story of how a local ripped you off, but I don’t want to hear generalizations. I want detailed stories. I don’t want any imperialism. No talking about weird food without examples.

Introspection drives me crazy. I don’t care about the internal experience. Tell me about WHERE you are. Focus.

Details Details Details There are stick in my head when I travel. I love to read about the little things.

Take me with you. I want to go! I love the idea of feeling like you’re on the adventure with them. That is the ultimate with really good blogging.

Sheila Scarborough:

I’m so glad that Pam talked about details. That is the difference between mediocre and great writing. You need to notice those details. Sometimes you end up getting shoved into the 10 secret places to shop in Paris. Write what won’t get into a print deadline. You have the ability to take that small obscure thing and shed light on it. You’ll get the long tail effect.

You never notice where your audience is going to come from.

You need to think like a blogger. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do any business on Twitter.

Some are your best posts happen with what you are doing right then. Shoot a video really quickly. Two blog posts from a sandwich and a bookstore. Take pictures wherever you are. EVERYTHING can be a travel blog post.

Pull out your cell phone and make an audio post to take notes quickly. Focus on the small details. The smallest things make good blog posts. Bring life to it through photos, videos and audios.

Pam Mandel:

How to tell which bloggers are worth reaching out too. People are interested in pagerank and high stats. These are hard ones because ROI is a hard thing to measure. They are looking for influential bloggers. Those things are very difficult to measure.

Sheila Scarborough:

Look at how many comments that they have. Hey, PR people. Google the name of the blog author. Does that person also show up in discussions, do they have a Flickr page? See where else they show up. Don’t look at how many followers they have, but that is such a crude measure.

Pam Mandel:

My inbox fills up with PR people. Talk to the blogger and read their blog.

Sheila Scarborough:

I write from a budget point of view, so don’t PR send me luxury stuff.

I had no idea who was reading my blog in the beginning. When you illicit those comments, you’ll find out who is reading your stuff. Your inbox is a good place to find out who is reading your blog. If someone is willing to send an email, then you’ll get a better idea of who they are.

Pam Mandel:

I don’t do much with video. I’m a still photographer at heart. I attended a talk about consulting. If you’re going to do video, you have to do it well or people will not pay attention to it.

Sheila Scarborough:

I don’t do very much video. I didn’t want to shoot video because I couldn’t get it perfect. I got a Flip Camera and I discovered that I could narrate what I was watching and use Microsoft Moviemaker. I wanted to learn to think visually. You may not be a video person, but your readers might be.

Hallmark Bow Making machine. This video was so visual that it worked so much better with a video than trying to describe it. People LOVED that video. Shoot some video to learn how to think visually. Those who do prefer visual will look at that.

Tell people how long your video is going to be. Make it short 45 seconds. Stick to one style.

Pam Mandel:

I would much rather a credible human than mob rule. Yelp might be snarky, but I believe a real person more.

Sheila Scarborough:

I will look at Trip Advisor, but a blogger who is talking about it is much more important to me.

Community is huge. There is so much conversation on Twitter about travel. You can get to know folks through comments on other people’s blogs.

Make your avatar consistent so people will recognize you.

Pam Mandel:

Sponsorship How do you get it?

Lonely Planet Guy: He gets 100 requests for sponsorship every day. I will give you stuff that we make. Guide books, help, and authors in the area. People are willing to give stuff. Have you been published? Who’s following you on Twitter?

Pam Mandel:

I said no to some advertising because I didn’t want to associate myself with their brand. Do I want this company to own my brand? I want to be known independently.

Pam Mandel:

The Hawaii tourism board is AWESOME. They communicate with me. They are on Twitter. They are actual people. They are paying attention. They are people who are there.

The Seattle tourism people are not even on line.

Sheila Scarborough:

It’s widely divergent between the tourism boards. They are so unwilling to do a little bit of less brochures and put a college intern on Twitter. There are people who are living in their cell phone. You need to be findable to those people.

Most tourism boards have been a great resource, but they stop at the keyboard. They are all redoing their websites.

Pam Mandel:

Geo blogging makes me a little nervous because of the stalking aspect.

Sheila Scarborough:

I’m wary of broadcasting that I’m away from my home.

Pam Mandel:

If photos are well done, then I’m all over it.

Pam Mandel and Sheila Scarborough:

Disclose Disclose Disclose If you’re writing for a tourism board, disclose it. Make sure that you’re are completely honest.


1 Comment »

  1. Hi Laura,

    Sorry I didn’t drop by sooner to say thanks very much for your post.

    Pam and I really enjoyed speaking at SXSWi and hearing all the questions and comments from a room full of wanderers. I hope everyone in the room, watching on Twitter and seeing the livestreaming video all found it helpful.

    Comment by Sheila Scarborough — 3/18/2009 @ 5:02 pm

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