2010 will I think be a pretty interesting year for travel writers. Printed travel media continues to decline but, slowly,the web is taking up some of the slack. A trend that has really struck me here in the UK is that major travel brands are finally getting serious about social media. (US readers we're most definitely behind you guys - some of this may seem a bit *obvious* - does it?)

I can't name names, but I've seen a really definite shift - from travel companies just talking about social media to actively looking to spend serious money doing it. And I mean big players - not small niche operators. These travel companies see an opportunity in social media to participate in
the holiday-purchasing process far earlier than in the past and as a result to sell more holidays. Some of them have a far better handle on what they need to do than others - but that's a discussion I'll leave for another time.

What I wanted to highlight is that I think this is offering up opportunities for travel writers to carve themselves niches and maybe earn proper cash online(at last).

The problems for brands

1) Social media spaces are not big-brand friendly
Major travel brands might be looking to start really engaging with customers on a more personal level online, but customers for the most part won't relate to them in this way. People relate best to people (no real surprise there). What some brands are doing - with definite positive results - is allowing the people that work for them to step out from behind their corporate brand-speak and be real. To talk in their own voices. This has seen serious success for say Jetblue in the USA and easyJet in the UK who both use Twitter really effectively to help customers in far more personal and useful ways than of old.

2) Customers are looking for credible, trustworthy, unbaissed information
But worse still for brands, people want to deal with other people that they feel they
can trust. In a direct customer services environment - like the twitter examples above - then direct contact with someone clearly working for the company works just fine. But for finding holiday ideas, getting inspiration for trips, any message that has a brand associated with it will tend to
come across as a hardcore sales message. People will smell an ulterior motive and will lose

3) Brands are now publishers - but they don't know how to do it
Back in the old off-line era, travel companies might have published the odd customer magazine or whatever, but this kind of stuff was all very promotional. Generally people working in marketing departments don't really 'get' unbiassed content. Their job is to sell more product - so the messages they create usually feel very sales-like. Nowadays on the web - particularly the social web - people are looking for unbiassed, credible information to help them choose their holidays. And believe me they sure aren't finding much that's of any real use. Some commentators have gone so far to suggest that 'search is broken'.

A solution

It's obvious really. Why not use credible, experienced writers to write content for you for anything related to the inspiration phase of holiday booking? In particular content that sits in a more social media style environment? Using an expert travel writer offers the following advantages:

1) Credibility
If I'm reading stuff on a blog hosted by a travel company about say, great ideas for family holidays in Spain I'm highly unlikely to take much notice of recommendations that seem to come directly from the company itself - these messages will feel like someone is trying to sell me something. If however there's a family travel expert offering ideas and advice - with a profile that I can read and links to other stuff they have written about family travel elsewhere - then the content immediately feels more genuine. And by association the company wins too. They've taken the trouble to pay for someone who really knows their stuff to write about it to help me choose the right holiday for me.

2) Personality
People relate to people - I'm far more likely to engage with content (and potentially go on and make a purchase at some point) if I can get a feel for a real person writing it. Someone a bit like me; someone who clearly understands my needs and concerns

3) Great ideas
It's a bit of a scary uncharted place for marketers this online publishing world. But for journalists, it's home. A great travel writer can work with a marketer to come up with great ideas that will really work for their users. Great ideas that are developed primarily with the user in mind rather than a sales target.

Want to see an example of this in practice? Have a look at the way VisitFlorida uses expert writers. I love it! http://www.visitflorida.com/all_experts

How do travel writers make the best of these new opportunities? (I have a few ideas of my own which I will share in a follow-up post.)

28 thoughts on “A new breed of travel writer?

  1. Great post Jeremy. I have noticed a growing number of travel companies use travel experts/writers to create content; it's a good idea because like you have said, as a consumer it reads less like marketing material, and to some point you can relate to the writer because you've read their guides or articles in other places.

    I do believe that everyone has to think outside of the box in 2010, and look at different ways you can generate revenue.

  2. Darren, I agree that we all have to look at new ways to generate revenue. I see that husband and wife team, Terry Carter and Lara Dunston will be spending this year in 2 week stays at 26 different holiday rental homes writing about their experiences for HomeAway Holiday Rentals.

  3. It's definitely happening. The HomeAway/ Gran Tourismo initiative is a classic example. Roundtheworldflights.com is doing it too - http://bit.ly/6mmDS0 - as is Viator (http://bit.ly/58WfJm).

    I know other companies are planning similar projects (forgive me if I'm a little cagey as to which here...) and I can only see the trend continuing.

    Travel companies have long underused their websites, and it seems as though they're just realising the value of good content, a unique voice and a knowledgeable, trustworthy presence.

  4. I'm just taking my first shaky steps towards learning how social media can affect the travel busines - as is the company I work for, The Travel Authority. I hadn't really thought about the fact that, even though the blog is definitely coming from me, the Facebook site doesn't sound like it is from an individual at all - even though it is also me! I'm really interested to learn more about how companies are effectively using social media and welcome reading comments and conversations about this topic.

  5. It's a bit of a scary uncharted place for marketers this online publishing world. But for journalists, it's home

    I agree with most of what you're saying here Jeremy and travel editorial meets marketing and brands is providing some very interesting writing territory. But I'm not so sure online publishing IS home for journalists - and I think travel companies should be wary of hiring travel writers with litle online engagement beyond a Facebook page.

    It's 'home' for bloggers and people of the interwebs, and of course some journos have made the transition, but there are some very fundamental differences for print media travel writers who want to go online. It can be a very scary place for them too, expecially when they're not used to readers taking personal issue with their recommendations or their facts or their write-ups. Or when they get caught up in social media flare-ups and bad PR, such as the Twitter #followmeatsea cruise last year. They need to know how to handle those problems, or to spot potential problems before they happen, or know how to deal with the personal attacks. And maybe they need good public liability insurance if they're employed by a brand.

    Brands should employ and commission good writers. But in the online world, you need more than good research skills, writing ability and contacts. You need digital skills, brand awareness and to be willing to get to know the lay of a very chaotic landscape. It's not easy but it's great fun not having to chisel your copy into a travel editor's tiny print space.

  6. Another great post, Jeremy!

    As Karen and David said, we're partnering with HomeAway Holiday-Rentals http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/ (a big player obviously, being the largest holiday rental co) on 'Grantourismo'. See http://grantourismotravels.com/ & http://twitter.com/gran_tourismo

    I say 'partnering' or 'collaborating', because while HomeAway are essentially hiring us to travel the world, stay in their holiday homes for a year, and blog and write about the experience, Grantourismo (a sort of contemporary grand tour promoting slow travel, experiential travel, living like locals and voluntourism) was a project we'd been planning for a couple of years. We just weren't sure the best way to do it and HomeAway had a similar idea, so it was all quite serendipitous.

    It will be interesting to see how our experience goes, and if it goes well, it will be a great model for writers for the reasons you outline above.

    What I think is important for established travel writers/bloggers (we do both) venturing into similar territory is to ensure a couple of things:

    1) that you maintain editorial control over the content you're going to produce - obviously we had discussions about this with HomeAway, as for them it's a marketing exercise after all. For the project to have credibility, however, this was something we insisted upon, and they appreciated our reasons. If a kitchen in a house we're staying at is going to be too small for a big family, we're going to say it is.

    2) write about the experience surrounding the product, not just the product itself, as that is going to make for more engaging content, not bore the audience to tears, and it's still going to help them market their product without the writer losing credibility. Fortunately for us, HomeAway wanted to do this from the start. Out of around 14 categories of posts we're going to cycle through with each stay, only two are going to directly relate to the property.

    Another couple of points that you might find interesting is:

    * we have a 12 month contract (with monthly payments), a kind of security few freelance writers have these days, even with guidebook projects, and

    * HomeAway have primarily hired us to blog, although they're also offering us bonuses for other printed articles we can get published - so print is certainly not dead! (After years of having done a mix of guidebook, print and digital work, most of our commissions actually came from print in 2009.)

    We're really excited and looking forward to this new and more focused way of working in 2010, and as I said on the blog, we're hoping you'll all come along for the ride!

  7. Jeremy, sorry for the novel! Every time I leave a comment on your blog, I find myself apologizing for the length - I blame it on bad habits formed from guidebook writing! :(

  8. Great post (as always), Jeremy - and interesting stuff from Lara & Terry.

    I have a couple of issues, though. First is although I'd LIKE to believe that "I'm far more likely to engage with content if I can get a feel for a real person writing it" - I don't think it's the case. The multitude of Ten Best, Five Top, 100 Things To Do - which are all, effectively, anonymous space-fillers yet which consistently draw highest traffic - shouts that few people give a monkeys who the writer is. Other writers do, obviously, and industry types will notice, but do Joe & Jane Public? Unless it's that bloke off the telly, I seriously doubt it.

    Second is, well, I think this is all a bit of a cop-out. Instead of giving up on journalism, I think we should be actively finding ways to make journalism work. I'm old-fashioned enough to think that journalism which is independent and free of commercial input genuinely and seriously matters in our societies. It's a quality thing. With every respect to present company and without wanting to besmirch anybody's good name, for travel writers to back out and write branded content - effectively allowing commercial vested interests to set the rules in an even more overt and entrenched way than they already do - is a damaging step, however good and/or measured that content is. It will further muddy the waters between editorial and advertorial - which, with ever more subtle product placement in film & TV, sponsored publishing, etc, are already muddy.

    For sanity's sake we need parts of our lives that are free of brands and commercial messages - or, rather, we need to be able to draw clear lines between the commercial sphere and the non-commercial sphere. Business has its own reasons to start exploiting social media more effectively - we, as writers and individuals, don't have to buy into them. In fact, I think we should recognise our own reasons for, to some degree, resisting them.

    Traditional media (by which I mean newspapers and magazines, both print and online) need to find new models. Personally I'm rather hoping those models will involve less advertising and less commercial influence. Travel writers can in some small way help. We should not be walking out.

  9. Going off topic a bit... (Or taking something unimportant and running with it!)

    "The multitude of Ten Best, Five Top, 100 Things To Do - which are all, effectively, anonymous space-fillers yet which consistently draw highest traffic - shouts that few people give a monkeys who the writer is."

    I don't see why they have to be 'anonymous space-fillers', Matthew. The success/prevalence of online list-style articles doesn't necessarily show that users aren't interested in who's behind it; or that the knowledge, and to a certain extent, the craft, that an expert writer might bring to their 'X highlights in [Destination]' isn't valued. Merely that they're more interested in the information - provided as concisely as possible.

    The fact that the format consistently draws the highest traffic is obviously just a reflection of the way we approach reading differently online to in print. It's because a site/editor asks a writer to really consider the question: "What might the user be looking for from this piece?" And a variation on the list format is often the best answer. But it's my feeling that users will still always err towards content that comes from a respected, objective expert source than that it comes from a faceless website or another user WITHOUT* the ability to engagingly convey the required information. (*And possibly only if they don't have the ability...)

    By extension, users asking themselves 'what's in it for me?' when reading an article online will continue to kill off the time-honoured 'What we did on our holidays' or 'My thoughts on a place I know next to nothing about' piece (unless it's written on the back of a napkin by a celebrity...)

    Since 'it's the information, stupid' that time-pressed users are looking for, then they'll be looking to get it from the most reliable, expert and, frequently, local source. If it's a named travel writer bringing real experience/knowledge to bear on the piece, then great - it will continue to be valued by users; if it's someone simply waffling on about their reactions to a 'strange' new place, then the velure of expertise that might make their piece stand out above good UGC falls away, as does the point of publishing - or reading - a piece by a named writer.

    That's it. Apologies for honing in (at such length!) on something so peripheral. Otherwise, as you were.

  10. Hi Fiona... glad my stuff gives you food for thought! Makes me happy! :-)
    Yes... absolutely... when I talk of the web being 'home' I mean for those travel writers who 'get' web... who have a profile and credibility in the online space the company hopes to play in. More on that in my next post!

  11. Hi Lara... hey no problem about the length of that comment... it makes for very interesting reading! I really like the strategy you have here. I think it could work really well for both you and holiday rentals. If you aren't blogging about the experience of doing this project I'd love to have you guest post here from time to time... Let me know what you think... Will be following your progress with great interest!

  12. Quite agree that there's more credibility to a blogger raving about some quirky hidden gem of a B & B but the credibility might start to crumble when you review an anonymous resort with equal enthusiasm (unless you're working hard to find some unusual angle).

    I've still had a few responses from PR agencies that they'd only consider me if I had a commission from an A-list print publication, but hopefully those die-hards will be fewer in the next decade & us bloggers will get a good chance - all's an open playing field in the online world!

  13. Great comment Matthew. I completely agree that 'serious journalism' matters a great deal. More than ever. See my previous post about the age of truthification which is an interesting counterpoint to this post now I re-read it (http://travelblather.com/2009/05/the-net-is-killing-journalism.html)
    No reason why we shouldn't go for both models at the same time. Right now though I personally see no alternative - you mention 'new models' that you hope will have less commerical influence and less advertising... Nice idea... but I just don't see them. Then again I am loving the way Rupert Murdoch is playing right now (and I NEVER imagined I'd say that!) by looking to charge people for content and refusing to let google rank pages in his titles. But I'm not at all sure it will work. More on this here: http://travelblather.com/2009/09/free_content_anderson_murdoch.html

  14. Matthew above nails it: "Business has its own reasons to start exploiting social media more effectively - we, as writers and individuals, don't have to buy into them."

    Don't kid yourself....what the Florida and HomeAway bloggers are doing is writing advertorials. It's simply copywriting on a blog.

    Sure, their work has a chummy, casual, bloggy slant, but always follow the money and see who signs an author's paycheck (or direct deposits into their bank accounts, one hopes in the modern world of today.) Who pays is who controls the content. Period.

    I have NO problem with this, honestly, as long as everyone understands what the game is. As my friend David Bullock once told an audience of bloggers: "Make no mistake; businesses want what you have in your DNA....this ability to connect, to communicate online. Make those businesses PAY you for that knowledge."

    Writers have done a mix of commercial/advertorial/write-my-brochure plus noncommercial work for years - this is nothing new. Many found that the relatively fat paychecks from copywriting could help support what they really wanted to do, which was (uncomped, unsponsored) travel writing (or poetry, or whatever else they love but the pay sucks.)

    I see the same model continuing today: do the well-paid sponsored stuff so you can keep writing the yummy things for "National Geographic Traveler" et al.

    What concerns me is when we don't call things for what they are. I've written about experiences on press trips, and while the experiences could be called "authentic" (I authentically enjoyed shave ice in Honolulu even though it was the Hawaii Tourism Authority that brought me to the city) I do not consider that work journalism.

    When I go to a destination anonymously, pay out of my own pocket and write what the hell I want, that is independent journalism. It is not perfect. It is not even necessarily "unbiased." But for me, that is closer to journalism than sponsored blog posts.

    Would I agree to such sponsored gigs for myself? Possibly, with plenty of disclosure, relative freedom to write my opinions, a sponsor who isn't a pain in the butt AND a decent paycheck. But, I would never tell myself or anyone else that such work is journalism. I would do it so that I could continue to afford to do other writing; the kind I really like but that it's so hard to find anymore.

    Am I "using" my sponsor by doing this? Yes, and they are "using" me.

    By all means, let's continue to explore imaginative ways to make a living. All I ask is that we are honest about who signs the paycheck.

  15. While I agree with much of your underlying premise, Sheila, by your definition the only true journalism would be that for which there is no pay whatsoever.

    There is always a money trail. A staff reporter at a newspaper answers to his/her editor who answers to the editorial board who answer to the community and/or advertisers. I don't think that makes them any less a journalist. And bloggers who accept any time of sponsorship, freebie, reduced rate, advertising on their site or free product for review, would also be excluded from your definition because there is money involved.

    I don't believe money is the root of all evil in journalism, and I don't think that getting money (in any form) means someone is not a journalist. Money is what most journalists and bloggers need to pay the bills and support their other passions.

    Journalism, by definition, is commercial writing, and journalists are those who write it. I hate seeing the term journalist turn into only applying to those who write historical, investigative, or other cultural significant features. There is a reason why the journalism is considered part of the mass media -- it's written for the masses, rather than for the select literary few.

  16. Many travel writers (myself included) have written both advertising or marketing copy (print and/or online -- I've done both) for travel companies, and travel journalism. Many authors of destination guidebooks, for example, also work as tour guides or for tour operators in those destinations, and write brochure copy and/or resource and background literature distributed to tour participants. And airline "in-flight magazines" -- magazine format print infomercials which are under the total editorial control of the airline, but which often publish articles written by freelancers who also write for journalistic outlets -- provide a clear model for similar online infomercials for travel companies.

    I think there are serious questions as to what it means, or would mean, to promise or claim "editorial independence" in such circumstances.

    What is most important, I think, is that readers be aware of the relationship between the writer(s) and the sponsor(s), so that they can distinguish the credibility and weight they may give what a writer says about their employer, in a marketing blog *or* elsewhere, from the weight they would give to what that same writer says about an entity with which they have no financial relationship, in a journalistic publication. My own disclosures, for example, are linked from every page of my blog:


    If part of the audience of the publication, or the customers of the sponsor, are in the USA, that disclosure is mandated by USA law, as recently clarified by the Federal Trade Commission. Writers, publishers, travel companies, bloggers, etc. in the USA are all grappling with the implications of this, both in general and in specific relationship to travel publishing:


  17. Plenty of pros and cons here - Agree with both sides of the argument but surely we can make this work for us?

    Over the last year, the commissions have dried up so dramatically I naturally veered towards more copywriting stuff - marketing or corporate - whatever you want to call it - I am told what the content should be to a certain extent and make it interesting/relevant/snazzy enough to sell whatever it is. No shame in that. Something has to pay the bills, right?

    My reconversion is in full swing, and I only actually have one travel-related gig as it were for now - and although I'm lucky enough to control editorial the strategy and grand plan does come from those who pay the bill... Fair enough. The challenge is making them happy while still being able to put your name down at the bottom of the 'virtual' page - it's tricky stuff. I have been agonizing over the ethics of it all these last couple of weeks. Good to see I'm not alone.

    Anyway, my first job was at a newspaper. They wouldn't let me write so off I went to work online. Then I got 'dotcommed' so I moved back into print... now I'm back online it seems. Looks like you have to go with the flow to keep afloat! I think we should be grateful there are still opportunities out there for us hungry freelancers and let's just hope the print budgets resurface in 2010 so we can have the best of both worlds.

    One last thing - the Granturismo idea is fantastic. Why didnt' I think of it?

  18. Yep, you're right, Mary Jo, of course. Print journalists who don't think that their editor or publisher controls their voice and content to some degree are also kidding themselves.

    I am, in fact, a major tight-ass about all this. For me, the purest form of writing would to publish what I want on my own blog and not even have to worry how I'd get paid for it.

    But, duh, "pure" ain't paying the bills, is it?

    So, we all compromise (after we buy our own domain name so when we hit the lottery, we can boss the world from our site.)

    I'm cool with compromise, I really am, but I want to look that sucker right in the eye when I make trade-offs.

    Thanks for your response!

  19. Fiona, thanks for the interesting links. Such is the tiny little world of bloggerdom (noun?) that I wasn't even dialled into this tempest in a teacup, but reading through that link you provided about personal attacks reveals the usual culprits spouting their "my way or the highway" version of what's PC about eco-travel, namely Christine Gilbert, Gary Arndt and Kim Mance. All individuals with very self-serving agendas to defend or propagate as the case may be across the virtual world. Jeanne Dee has for some time been the object of a protracted hate campaign from people in the travel blog industry who are clearly networking against her on several fronts as various issues emerge related to travel writing and the ethics around it. They are the ones who wish to (a) define travel writing, and where it belongs, (b) who controls the discussion about travel writing or blogging, either through social media or real-world events that focus on that, and (c) eliminate anyone from the network of the travel blogosphere by discrediting, disparaging, and usually accusing others such as Jeanne of using "tactics" which they themselves employ on a far more regular basis than anyone else. If you look at the relationships, Jeanne is being pretty much blackballed inside the "family travel" segment by certain people; one such blackballer, for instance, who collaborates on another such family blog raced to shut down Jeanne's thread on another board back in 2007. Believe me, the toxicity has gone for some time -- and the source of it isn't coming from those who genuinely care about eco-travel like Jeanne Dee but those who want to cover up their carbon footprint at any cost while also using holier-than-thou tactics to not only control the conversation but silence the opposition whatever it takes.

  20. I replied to this comment yesterday, but my reply never showed up on this blog post, so my apologies if it shows up twice.

    Sheila, while I appreciate your concerns I must say that I believe your comment about the VISITFLORIDA.com bloggers is not an accurate representation of what they do. I can't speak for HomeAway bloggers.

    You stated: "Don't kid yourself....what the Florida and HomeAway bloggers are doing is writing advertorials. It's simply copywriting on a blog. Sure, their work has a chummy, casual, bloggy slant, but always follow the money and see who signs an author's paycheck ... Who pays is who controls the content. Period."

    As the VISITFLORIDA.com beach and surf expert from June 2007 through July 2009, I can tell you that no one told me what to blog about, how to answer questions from the public, what videos to produce, or what subjects to cover in my articles. Sure, editors had the final say, and they helped me come up with ideas for videos and articles, but they kept a hands-off approach, especially when it came to my blog and Q&A.

    I was specifically told up front that I was not required to write about VISITFLORIDA advertisers. They wanted my writing to be authentic, and it was.

    I can't speak for every other expert on VISITFLORIDA.com (now called "insiders") but the ones I know personally had no interest in writing advertorials. They all write from authentic experience. I haven't followed the content on the site since I left in July, but I doubt that much has changed in that respect.

    My blogging, etc can be seen here: http://visitflorida.com/experts/beach_and_surf/

    I had a travel budget and paid for most of my travel expenses, including hotels, meals, and attractions. Sure, we got a freebie here and there, but we made it clear up front that getting the freebie did not guarantee a mention.

    After saying all that, it is true that in my videos and articles I was not supposed to discuss sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, hurricanes, etc. But I could do so in my Q&A section in answer to specific questions.

    I don't think it is fair or accurate to characterize my content creation for VISITFLORIDA as "advertorial."

  21. Hi Hal, To be honest, I was deeply mired in WTM stuff at the time so the #followmeatsea mud-slinging only registered on my radar in a pretty superficial way, but I guess it had gone viral at that point since UK travel journalists were joking about it at WTM (although interestingly the cruise panel I attended hadn't clocked it at all).

    I suppose one point we can take from it is that it only takes a few highly motivated people to stir up a global 'tempest in a teacup' - but that is the nature of the internet (cf Clay Shirky).

    Journalists entering into online content should be aware of how their point of view can be completely and publicly decimated, and how to deal with that. Of course, some journos love nothing more than to stir up debate (Paul Carr, for example) but for others, it can be a sleep-depriving experience!

  22. Hi Fiona, well it didn't register on my radar at all, and frankly I think the word "viral" has become kind of hypberbolic on this occasion unless you're very plugged into the cruise world or were waiting with bated breath to hear about some four people's press trip in real time. Which obviously you weren't and neither was I, sorry I couldn't contribute as another bored onlooker to their 15 minutes of twitter infamy that's since been touted by some of them as "harrassment". Please. Your last paragraph sounds a bit cryptic (which I enjoy) but wise nonetheless, and so I'll heed it:)

  23. Jeremy,

    Thanks for your comments on VISIT FLORIDA's Insiders. Your points are spot on with regards to their appeal among consumers. We're indeed already seeing success from this new breed of travel writer.

    What's interesting, we've found that they also appeal to other journalists who are looking to get content/quotes for travel-related stories in various publications. As official VISIT FLORIDA Insiders, they have the dual advantage of being both credible (backed by the state's official source for travel planning) and genuine (not the voice of the marketing department, with stories based on real experiences).

    David McRee, the former VISIT FLORIDA Beach & Surf Expert who is a great example of this new travel writer breed, describes well the non-intrusive relationship between VISIT FLORIDA and its Insiders. They have a lot of freedom to write what they see as beneficial to their readers. I would also note that each of the Insiders is also on Facebook and Twitter. In the age of social media, they have done a great job adapting to new media and technologies that help them better connect with their fans. We'll continue to see this relationship evolve and will strive to find the best ways to connect with consumers.

    Glad to have found your blog, Jeremy. I'm looking forward to future posts!

    Best regards,

    Nate Long

  24. Hi Nate
    Thanks for your comments... interesting that the Insiders also act as reference points for the travel trade as well as for consumers. I use Visit Florida as an exemplar in lots of presentations to clients we work with at iCrossing. I think you are really onto something. I'm also really pleased that we got the full lowdown on how the relationship works in practice. Very interesting.
    Best wishes

  25. As one of the HomeAway bloggers, I'll respond to Sheila's statement: "Don't kid yourself....what the Florida and HomeAway bloggers are doing is writing advertorials. It's simply copywriting on a blog."

    This is not advertorial for a number of reasons I'll outline below.

    Firstly, we're travel writers, not copywriters, never have been, and have no desire to be. We would not have partnered with HomeAway if they only wanted advertorial. I was about to return to an academic job this year and complete my PhD when this opportunity arose. No offense intended to copywriters, but personally it doesn't interest me and I'd rather return to filmmaking/academia than write copy.

    * who pays is not always who controls the content - sure with large guidebook publishers like Lonely Planet for example authors have little control over what editors do to their text, and critical text is often 'softened'. However, we're currently working on a book for Hedonist's Guides and we're in control of our content. Indeed, the publisher wants authors to put their stamp on it and he has published provocative manuscripts such as their new New York guide which contains opinionated writing that many other publishers wouldn't allow. Greater freedom for writers and opinionated writing is what sets many of these niche guides apart from mass-appeal publishers such as LP, RG and DK and is what will ensure them greater success in the future.

    * we have editorial control (not HomeAway) - we would not have agreed to the project without it. We've compromised enough writing for guidebook publishers such as LP and have no interest in writing for publishers who edit out criticism. See my blog for many examples of this which I've whined about before. We've got to the point where we'd rather do something else for a living.

    * we are applying the same critical skills and the same tell-it-like-it-is writing style that we've employed on every one of the guidebooks/stories/personal blog posts we've published - our writing and attitude to travel writing won't change just because we're going to be blogging for a client. If anything, you'll see more of that (if it's warranted) because we're editing.

    * our main focus is exploring the travel trends of slow travel, experiential travel, living like locals & voluntourism, and writing about the experiences that can be had from staying in holiday rentals. Our writing is not writing on the properties themselves. Read my blog http://cooltravelguide.blogspot.com/ and you'll see my interests are in why people travel, how they travel, what motivates people to travel and so on. This experiment is an extension of those interests.

    * the only time we'll write specifically about the properties is when we move in/settle in or do something at the place, like cook in the kitchen, for example - this will be no different to how we've written about properties we've rented before on our personal travel blogs: mine (link above) and my husband's http://blog.terencecarterphotography.com/
    * Grantourismo is a project we're undertaking 'in partnership with' HomeAway - the idea came to us long ago, following research I was doing on The Grand Tour for my PhD, and for years we've been exploring ways to fund it. It was serendipitous that HomeAway had a similar idea and it worked out.

    Both in my comments above and on our blog we're very direct about what the project is and how it's being supported.

    Sheila, by the way, National Geographic Traveler pay far more per word than this project and most other publishers pay, but as I said, we're not in it for the money.

    Rowena, thanks for your comments!

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