We’re not that easy to measure, we’re not that into you and we know our value

Thanks very much to marketing expert Simon Salt for some dynamite thoughts in his 3 Myths of Social Media Influence.   The title I’ve given this post pretty much sums up the myths. You should take a sec and click through to read his work….

Simon nails the current “land run” about chasing influential people in social media, and it will get the attention it deserves because if someone like me had written it rather than a marketer, I’d be accused of being “naive” or some such silliness.

I did thoroughly enjoy writing this comment in response:

“Number Three [changes to the mythology that working with influencers is free and so can be counted as earned media] is happening with lightning speed. Many, many of my fellow travel bloggers are well aware of their value to the tourism industry, for example, and a freebie press trip to write a bunch of free coverage for someone else will not cut the mustard much longer, because it does not pay the light bill or put food on the table (emphasis mine.)

Pam Mandel and Gary Arndt, for example, have entered into contractual arrangements with two different tour companies; they’ll be paid to provide content, in addition to having their travel expenses covered (on tour company trips.) I expect to see more and more of this as we go from being seen as “bloggers” (wooo, scary) to being seen as “online publishers” (like that crazy Tina Brown, who went off to launch The Daily Beast and now pwns Newsweek.)

[Note to CVBs, DMOs, Tourist Boards and other tourism organizations: you really ought to be considering this with some of your best local bloggers and online champions.]

To be brutally honest, most mainstream entities wouldn’t give bloggers the time of day when I started [my BootsnAll Family Travel blog] in early 2006. Now, we’re the Flavor of the Month because of all the hard work we did to create content and build online networks. Those who want access to what we’ve worked so hard to build can darn well pay to do so.

And yeah, sorry, but the fact is, you’re late. You could have joined me in my sweatpants and T-shirt at 2 am about five years ago, busting tail to figure this stuff out. Your search for shortcuts to get yourself or your company to where I am now is your problem, not mine.

Do the work. Put in the time. Learn the craft and the space. Build the relationships.”

Some tourism folks need to hear such blunt talk.  I tell you as a blogger because as an educator and consultant, I want you to succeed!

Yes, the possibilities for connecting with us are almost endless. On Tourism Currents we advise you to find and connect with those online who know and love your destination. But, from me in my blogger hat, you must understand why many of us may not exactly fall all over ourselves in response to any mass blogger outreach or other quickie stuff.

One at a time. Person to person.  We’re mostly on your side, really, but we have bills to pay.

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9 Responses to We’re not that easy to measure, we’re not that into you and we know our value

  1. There’s that firecracker Sheila at it again! 🙂

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  3. katherine hoppe says:

    Normally I agree with much of what you write about but I’m having a hard time wrapping my arms around this one.
    First let me say I’m a believer, I know the value of bloggers and as such, I treat them the same as traditional writers when it comes to covering expenses while visiting. With that, I also fully understand that I have no control over what’s being written, and I’m okay with that. I have a great respect for editorial integrity and I have to trust that my product can stand up to scrutiny. If something negative is written, it’s disappointing but ultimately I know it means I have to step up my game and improve my offering. When something positive is written, its joyful because I know the credibility that writer carries with his/her audience.
    But I don’t provide a paycheck to the traditional writers who visit.
    I also have someone that I contract to write our area blog, and with that person, I have a different perception of what her role is. Since they are paid by my organization, it’s a given that the blog posts will be positive. There’s still honesty in the mix because I think that’s very important, I don’t expect her to write about anything she doesn’t believe in, but in the end, I have final control just like I do with my website developer or copywriters. The reader also understands that our blog belongs to our VCB so like a website, has a biased point of view and therefore it probably doesn’t carry the same weight that a travel blog would.
    I can’t help but think it’s a pretty tall order to have it both ways. If you want to be paid by the people/places you are writing about instead of by a media source, what are your expectations of editorial control? And if you want bloggers to be given the same credibility as a traditional writer, is it really reasonable to expect to be paid by those that you are writing about?

  4. pam says:

    Gary’s deal and mine are quite different. I think of the arrangement with GAP as being mutual promotion between entities involved — from what I understand, there’s no pay. Better to get the exact details from one of their travelers.

    I was hired as a writer, and will be paid for most, but not ALL of the material I produce. We have an agreement that I won’t be paid for what amounts to trip dispatches when my travel is on their nickel. Or, more accurately, many, many nickels. Dude, it’s freakin’ Antarctica. Do they even have a CVB? 🙂

    And thing the second: There’s a BIG difference in being on a hosted trip and being hired by a travel organization to write material for their site. While my partner certainly hopes I’ll write about my trip on my own blog, I’m being paid to produce stories for their site. As such, they own editorial control of materials for THEIR site.

    Anything I produce for myself or sell to other publications is outside their purview. I could, conceivably, write something they reject and run it on my own blog.
    pam´s last [post] ..Local Transit

  5. Gary Arndt says:

    I have to add, I really don’t expect to be paid by destinations if they are sending me there. Some destinations can spend well into 5 figures in travel, lodging and dining for me to visit a place, and I think that is pretty fair. They are sponsoring my ability to generate content for my website and in turn I’ll be writing and taking photos of their destination.

    The deal with Gap is different. While I will do an occasional guest post for them, that really isn’t the core of the arrangement. I (and the others in the program) aren’t being hired as copywriters. What Gap has done is brought on board up a bunch of influential travel bloggers so they are talking about their brand and using their company for tours. This means at least one all expense paid trip a year (including destinations such as Antarctica) and the possibility of joining any other trips around the world.

    Will money exchange hands? Yes, but not for performing writing services. The tours we “lead” we will get paid for that service. They will also be running ads on our sites and there are other opportunities for money.

    I should also note that Gap has over 100,000 customers a year and sends out over 1m catalogs a year. That is a promotional opportunity that would cost a ridiculous amount of money for me.

    I should also note that making a profit includes revenue and costs. Everyone is obsessing about revenues because they have little in the way of costs. For most travel writers, they don’t get a refund on their rent/mortgage when they are out traveling. For me, because I travel all the time, any money I make would just be spent on accommodations, food and transportation anyhow. I from September to November this year without having to spend very much money.

    I’m not even sure I’d want to be paid by CVB’s to write about them. There are too many strings attached and I prefer the independence to write what I want.
    Gary Arndt´s last [post] ..Daily Travel Photo – Joggins- Nova Scotia

  6. Hi katherine – Thanks very much for your input. The main points I wanted to get across were that “free travel” comes with a price, and imaginative business relationships should be considered more often. I’m glad you used the word “copywriter” because I think that is one of the directions we’re moving; and again, “hiring a copywriter who understands the web and can market the material they create online” has less of a freak-out factor for some than “hiring a blogger.” Obviously, if you hire, then you have control, so then does such an arrangement cause the blogger’s content to have less credibility with the audience?

    I don’t know the answer to all of this yet; all I want is dialog, and we’re getting a lot of that. The thing that ticks me off is the assumption that bloggers are so desperate for material that they are an easy mark for marketers. Clearly you are not one of the people who think that, and kudos for hiring a blogger to help tell your destination’s stories in a way that works for the web.

  7. Hi Pam and Gary,

    I really appreciate you dropping by to fill in some of the blanks. We are all breaking new publishing ground, and trying to come up with business arrangements that work for everyone.

    Pam, your sentence struck me: “I could, conceivably, write something they reject and run it on my own blog.” This encapsulates where we are in terms of who controls what. Used to be, if a print writer’s stuff was rejected, they could maybe re-pitch it to another publication, but they didn’t have a personal publishing platform of their own to also take it to and post for the world to see. Now, they do. I am fascinated by the whole thing, and look forward to your Penguin Dispatches. 🙂

    Gary, sorry I misspoke on the terms of your compensation, and thanks for bringing the details to us. I very much appreciate your candor about a private business arrangement. This sentence is the money quote: “They are sponsoring my ability to generate content for my website….” Exactly.

    By “old media” standards this breaches the sacred journalistic firewall, but I think the firewall was perhaps more porous than many have ever been willing to admit (advertiser throw-weight has an editorial impact, for one thing.)

    Again, I sure don’t have a complete answer for any of this, by any means, including how to make money from my own multimedia online publishing, but I’d rather be figuring this stuff out here, independently, than waiting for the axe to fall on me while I’m buried somewhere in Corporate Publishing Land.

  8. George says:

    Hey, really great blog post… I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy.

    I actually work for the CheapOair travel blog. If you’re interested, we would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail: gchristodoulou(at)cheapoair(dot)com, and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.
    George´s last [post] ..My first encounter with the Aboriginal Australians

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