Travel Writing and Editorial – one print editor’s utopian view of online travel content

Regular readers will know that my professional transition from print guidebook publishing to the web is still very much in its infancy. My experience is rooted in a world of well-established publishing schedules, editorial style guides, procedures and decades of travel writing experience embodied by a community of writers, plus translators, editors, photographers and factcheckers who are posted around the globe. But, rather than fighting against the tide of customer demand for online content, I’ve been taking baby steps beyond the constraints of print production. My personal and professional interest lies in working out where the writing and publishing skills of freelance print contributors and editors fits in amongst the ranks of Bloggers, Tweeters, social media content providers who are filling the web with words for free (or at least for a lot less than the standard fees paid in the print world).

These are early days of baby stepping and every now and again I feel like I’m bumping into chairs, but then somehow managing not to end up on my ass. Am I alone in feeling like that? Maybe many print contributors can empathise with this or maybe not. Anyway, I’ll happily share any enlightened moments that I have with you.

Last week, I decided that to being making sense of this mission I would need to start drafting my own ‘print editor’s utopian view of online travel content.’ Perhaps my grounding in the annual publishing mechanisms of development, renewal and consolidation of travel content has led me to define my hopes for the future of online travel content. I’m happiest when I imagine an editorial utopia where print publishing professionals and online gurus alike are profiting, monetarily, from the ever changing and increasingly liberating publishing medium that is the internet. And most importantly, I hope that the lessons learnt in the print world are transferred to and are respected online.

The utopian bit. A few years from now….




…traditional publishing skills, best practice and experience has retained its worth and is much sought after online
You were very nearly scared off by the bloggers and web consultants who tried to silence you with their confusing discussion of RSS adverts, analytics, SEO and page ranking. But thankfully, web developers still haven’t written a programming language or string of code that can replicate and automate your experience of researching, writing, editing, proof reading and publishing objective travel content. Amongst other things, you found lucrative work consulting for the elite travel websites. They realised that the traditional travel media managed to avoid law suits and reader dissatisfaction by implementing rigorous editorial standards and procedures. Now you help to enhance and solidify their online offering of travel content.

Social media complements and enhances industry media, as they are increasingly displayed side by side
Rightly, publishing barriers crashed down, giving millions of passionate new writers the world over the chance to be heard and share their travel expertise via blogs, forums, social networks and online travel magazines. However, over time, analytics proved that readers gravitated to travel sites that they trusted to inspire and inform them every time they visited. For example, committing to a hotel booking or holiday after scanning through hundreds of hotel reviews no longer appeals to the majority of online readers. They increasingly began to wonder what motivated the reviewers and missed having an objective viewpoint that they could trust.

As a result, more and more sites followed the path of TravelMuse, combining journalist authored articles with the human voices that social networks had facilitated.

Social media and citizen journalism remains at the forefront of real-time travel news, while traditional contributors supply the demand for well-written forward-focused articles.
Online buzz around real-time events continues to enrich the travel media, but sites increasingly want to satisfy readers’ and customers’ needs for travel inspiration and trend spotting. Print contributors and editors, familiar with future-proofing their guidebooks and articles know where to look and who to contact for information on the next big thing. Their travel content is fresh news, rather than the recycled news and reviews that saturates social media.

The ever-expanding spectrum of content delivery methods and diversification of reader demand has provided sufficient opportunities for quality content providers to ply their trade.

Rather than working in-house, focused on just one series of books, for just one travel guide publisher, you are now employed by over 200 travel websites and travel content providers. One day you consult on fact-checking best practice for a highly successful aggregated blog/travel guide platform, the next day you blog for a hotel chain and moderate comments. You write podcast scripts for a successful online magazine, whilst planning and writing a forward list of inspirational travel articles based on your knowledge of what happens when around the world. And you can do all of this from the beach in Fiji if you choose to.

First steps?
– You started your own blog, clearly displaying your print portfolio and experience
– You updated it regularly and milked every single print contact that you have for information for your posts
– You joined Twitter, started to Tweet and built up a group of followers interested in travel and travel content
– You diversified into podcasts and video
– You targeted travel industry contacts that were strengthening their web 2.0 capabilities. You offered consultation services and tailored content from your recent assignments for their specific needs.

These are my first public musings on my version of utopia. What are yours and how are you moving towards making it reality?

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