There was quite a bit of noise last week about a survey conducted by the Press Gazette to name the UK's Top 50 Travel Writers. The list was put together by surveying several hundred journalists and editors working in the field of travel who were asked to name their top ten travel writers. Points were allocated with ten points for first choices and one point for tenth ones. More than 80 journalists responded to the survey representing a good spread of broadcast, B2B, consumer and online.

Obviously I was really keen to see if I'd made the list but Press Gazette only published the Top 10 on their website. The rest of the list was locked behind their paywall and in the print edition.

I stuck out a tweet and within about 15 minutes two different people had emailed me the full list which had been emailed to them by the editor of Press Gazette with the request that they should not reproduce the list in full.

I was tempted to just publish it. But it felt a bit unethical to publish without permission. So I emailed Dominic the Press Gazette's editor, told him I had the list and suggested I publish it with several links back to the Press Gazette site.

The response was 'Sorry that information is for subscribers only.' I was disappointed. It felt very short-sighted and it got me thinking again about paywalls.

A few thoughts:

1) A bit naive to email someone a complete list and expect them to abide by the request not to publish. I wondered if in fact there was the tacit assumption that they probably would?

2) You could really drive some traffic your way and maybe even pick up a few new subscribers by judiciously leaking the odd juicy piece of info like this. If I was considering social media strategy for Press Gazette and other paywalled media outlets like the Times I'd do just that. Develop a network of influential bloggers and from time to time leak stories to them with the proviso that they have to link back to the publication.

3) You could gain some great links by publishing the whole list too. Top 10 is all well and good, but publish the whole list and you'll get lots of people bookmarking, sharing and tweeting links to that page.

4) The list was sponsored by Royal Caribbean International (RCI). I wonder what they feel they got out of it? Again, it feels like the print editon was all that they thought about. There's no link to the RCI website from the story on the Press Gazette. An opportunity missed. If Iwere them, I'd have insisted the list be published in its complete form online as part of the deal, that there be a link to the RCI site and even that I could publish the list there on the RCI site too.

5) Who cares about the list anyway? It's hardly super-important news. So why not publish it all? But then where do you draw the line? How do you decide what to stick behind the paywall and what to leave for anyone to read. This question fasinates me and there could be all sorts of interesting guidelines and principles a paywall publisher could create around this problem. You have to publish some stuff online otherwise you'll never get any new subscribers, but publish too much and no one will bother to subscribe at all.

So... is Press Gazette operating like most old-school media owners when it comes to web? Basically they don't really 'get' what web is all about, it's just a space to shove stuff online? OR are they and others like them (in particular the News International stable of titles) protecting their business's income by making people pay to read all their content, even the stuff that's not that important/significant?

I decided to publish the list but:

- T0 wait 10 days so that the print edition of Press Gazette would be out and thus subscribers would have the complete list anyway.

- I added links to the writers' websites or other spaces online if websites were not available. This took me a good hour or so. The list in Press Gazette literally has a name and then a job title. Not very useful at all.

- I (obviously) had comments open so people could discuss the merits of the list and whether it felt fully representative. Oddly the interesting stream of comments under the original piece on the Press Gazette's website discussing how the survey had been done and questioning why some writers were included and others were not has been deleted. Which again suggests to me that the approach there is rather old-media.

I still feel that in publishing the list, I was providing a nice bubble of publicity and attention for Press Gazette and their sponsor Royal Caribbean Cruises. Unfortunately they didn't see it that way and asked me to take the post down or they'd seek legal advice on the issue as they were sure I had broken copyright.

To be fair we had quite a useful exchange of emails, Dominic the editor saying that as the Press Gazette the last thing they'd want to do would be to sue a journalist and also saying that he was happy for me to post something about the experience and even to quote several bits from the list as long as I didn't publish it in full. Fair dues.

So I will be posting a separate post called the Top 50 Travel Writers in the UK - which won't be quite true, for now. It will detail some, but not all of the list. If people who are on the list want to fill in the blanks and let me know by commenting that would be an interesting exercise in collaboration.

What do you think? Should I have kept the list up? How do you decide what to keep behind a paywall and what to allow all to see - it's a very difficult question.

(* The first 8 comments here relate to the original post. I've retained them as there's some interesting stuff in there.)

18 thoughts on “Not the Top 50 Travel Writers

  1. Mmmm,

    What interest might a Caribbean holiday company have in sponsoring a Press Gazette list of top travel writers?

    I can feel a Google search for Caribbean cruises 'and' Press Gazette going in.

    And as for paywall snobbery, it's not always true that you get what you pay for, but perhaps the results of the search will prove me wrong...


    1. Hi Mark
      This email just arrived in my in box: I think it answers your question!
      Dear Jeremy

      Press Gazette is hosting a drinks reception for journalists working in the travel sector at our offices off Fleet Street on Wednesday, 13 October, from 6-8pm.

      The address is 7 Carmelite Street, London EC4Y 0AN.

      As one of those named in our top-50 list of UK travel journalists we'd be delighted if you could attend. The evening should be a great networking opportunity and is being generously sponsored by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

      Guest of honour will be The Independent's senior travel editor Simon Calder who was a very popular choice as number one travel journalist in the UK, following our survey of journalists working in the sector and the general public. We will be using the event to make a presentation in his honour.

      Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will be inviting all of the journalists on Press Gazette's top-50 list who attend the event, to the launch of their newest ship, Allure of the Seas, in Miami on 22 November and to join them for its four-day maiden voyage (22-26 November) on an all-expenses-paid trip.


  2. Thanks for putting this out for us to see. I got it via Twitter and as someone very new to the world of travel writing, I was very interested to read your comments about the process of getting this list. So many newspaper and magazine writers AND so many men ...

    During and excellent Travel Writing Workshop run by Dea Birkett & Rory MacLean, I had to pitch an article to Frank Barratt of The Mail on Sunday. HIs feedback was very helpful, especially re the use of celebrities in papers to increase readership and the challenges of getting any travel article in print in these days of reduced advertising revenue and increased readership on the internet.

    Next week I am going to a course on writing Travel Guides, Books and articles organised by Travellers Tales with Hilary Bradt & Kate Simon - should be informative and helpful, given the current climate. So much to learn - love listening to world-class exponenents of their craft.

    Interesting times and your article raises some fascinating questions... Thank you.

  3. would you have made such a fuss about the list if you weren't on it?
    after being so cruelly ignored by fellow professionals i'm more likely to dismiss the whole thing as a load of bollocks in which 'top' is a strange mix of 'famous', 'important' and 'often published in print'. there's a very dismal showing for online specialists and none for authors or broadcasters.
    so i'll file it away in the same place as the Guild's self-congratulatory annual awards and any award (of which i've won some) given by a specific travel organisation to drum up articles and PR for themselves.

  4. Hi Simon
    Yes. You are quite right. One of the main reasons I was interested in it was because I was on it. Very fair point.
    I was struck too by the odd mix of people here and I was particularly interested by the huge disparity regarding online presence. Some of the more well-known high-profile names have virtually no online presence at all except for web-versions of their features. A dying breed I'd suggest.
    I'd love to know why I made it onto the list and stacks of other excellent and experienced travel writers (like yourself!) did not. It's about being front of mind and maybe this blog has helped me stay front of mind with more people.
    There was some interesting debate about this very topic on the Press Gazette piece about the Top 50. Dominic Ponsford the editor went into some detail about how they carried out the survey. The approach was I think quite robust (as I outline in my post) but clearly you could do it any number of ways and it's all quite arbitrary. Interestingly all that quite heated but very interesting debate in the comments on that Press Gazette piece has now been deleted which I think underlines their lack of interest in the more convesational, social elements of web.
    Yes, at the end of the day it IS mainly about PR and waffle, but that's the media landscape now isn't it? Sad, but true. Or, if you can't beat em...?
    Thanks as always for saying exactly what you think... I love the way people feel free to do so here and it's what makes it such good fun to write!

    1. Jeremy - I'm going to have to take some legal advice on this. But if you knew the first thing about media law, I think you would realise that what you have done is breach of copyright - pure and simple.

  5. I often think these sorts of things are only of any real interest when they're published online with links, and even then it's only really of any benefit to those who are listed (useless if you have no web presence).

    I think your version Jeremy is probably the list in its most useful form.

  6. The complete list was emailed to a very few people on the express understanding that they didn't publish it.
    That was made clear in any emails I sent.

    This is a clear abd flagrant breach of copyright. I asked you not to publish the list and you have done so anyway.

    You have simply stolen our work and stolen the web traffic that we would have derived from it had we put the list up ourselves.

    We made a commercial decision that these lists were a way to drive paid subscribers to the mag. This is theft.

    1. Hi Dominic
      I hope you are now OK with the way I've approached this. Please feel free to add clarification or comment.
      Best wishes

  7. Hi Jeremy,

    I consulted a lawyer friend who confirms that publishing the full list would be a clear breach of copyright. But I can say that I was pleasantly surprised when I scanned down the list and reached number 32.

  8. I'd say, whether you agree with Press Gazette's reasoning or not, you were right to take it down. It was breach of copyright, even if you think it's odd that they wouldn't want the extra publicity.

    Think about it another way. If another site lifted one of your travel articles/ massive excerpts from your guidebooks, even with a credit to you, would you be happy?

  9. I'm going to agree with David on this one. I've been reading your blog for a while, and was a bit surprised you chose to publish this. Issues on copyright are rather important for all writers, after all, and no matter what we think of it, Press Gazette still has the right to decide how the list is to be used.

    You've also mentioned writing for free on a number of occasions, and isn't this an extension of the same argument? Reproducing something on the grounds that it is good publicity, without paying for it, isn't so very far from asking someone to produce free content on the same basis.

    I love your blog, though, and greatly enjoy reading the ensuing debates!

    1. Hi Beate
      Yes. I agree with you. To be honest I published it because
      1) a lot of writers who read this blog wanted to know if they were on the list.
      2) I wanted to see what reaction I'd get from the Press Gazette.
      3) I guess I was also disappointed that they didn't give me permission to publish when I asked.
      But, in the final analysis, what you say is completely right.
      Glad you enjoy reading!

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