Thursday, April 23, 2015

Brave New Worlds await traditional writers, bloggers alike

Getting ready for the editors' panel.
Even those who don't spend much time online or persuing the various forms of traditional or social media are probably aware of the revolution that's been taking place in the publishing industry for the last decade or two.

First came the internet, and with it, websites, e-zines or online zines and web-logs, a.k.a. "blogs."

Then came the era of social media: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest - the list is a l-o-n-g one.

It's an era we're still in, barely into, really - and it's still evolving. However, although social media has certainly grabbed a large portion of the media landscape, traditional media is not dead yet, despite rumours to the contrary.

In fact, to paraphrase the immortal words of Mark Twain, "Rumours of its demise are greatly exaggerated."

That became very apparent at the 2015 B.C. Assocation of Travel Writers symposium that took place in Vancouver's Century Plaza Hotel, on April 18, 2015.

The theme of the event was "Ecotourism: Tread Softly, Write with Impact."

It could just have easily been "Traditional Meets New Age Travel Media."

That's because the symposium organizers did a very good job of blending elements of the old with elements of the new in putting together the day's program.

Photographer David Smith provided great ideas
to help us improve our travel photography.
Nowhere was this more evident than on the editorial panel. The panel featured two editors from the more traditional elements of published travel writing - Allen Cox from Northwest Travel and Life and Kirsten Rodenhizer from Westworld Alberta magazines - and a third from the online travel website, Matador in the person of Jett Britnell.

The keynote speaker, Vancouver author Jack Christie, provided a very informative and entertaining address.

He also provided living proof that you can still write books about travel - and write them very successfully.

So as you can see, there are still many ways to be published in hard-copy, although online publishing does offer a nice alternative.

Now, before you start to think this is just an old-school guy, extolling the virtues of an older type of travel publishing...

The organizers also incorporated a Twitter contest into the day's events, so people were tweeting away furiously on smartphones and laptops about what they were hearing from the presenters. At the end of the day, the top three tweeters were presented with prizes.

(I'm not modest, so I have no trouble telling you I placed second, and won a great prize from Cycle City Tours - their Grand Tour - which I look forward to enjoying later this summer).

As always at these events, there was a 
simple but sumptuous luncheon prepared.

The organization is also holding a contest for bloggers who attended the event, one that involves writing a post about the event.

Of much greater note, however, is the fact that the BCATW recently made a huge move in terms of its membership criteria.

The event also offered a chance to connect
with friends met through social media...
It became the second Canadian-based travel media organization to open up membership to bloggers in the past year (the Travel Media Association of Canada, a national organization, also recently opened that up for membership).

While some bloggers may feel this is long overdue by such associations, and others may feel, "Meh? What's the big deal?" in the big picture, it is huge, and should not be dismissed lightly.

We really are at a crossroads in terms of media and how it is published and how it is used. Magazines that would never have thought of publishing online versions of articles already published in hard copy are now routine doing that. They are also finding new ways to include online articles into the mix that would perhaps not have made it into the hard-copy magazines.

For writers, while this is great news for those publications that do this, it can still be a bit of a Catch-22. Not many travel magazines offer this alternative of hard-copy vs. web. And while this atmosphere certainly provides more opportunities to be published, most of the straight online sites do not pay anywhere near as well as most of even the lower-paying hard-copy publications. well as a chance to make new connections.

In terms of monetization, the blogging model for travel writers is completely different from that of the traditional freelance travel writing model. While writers don't have to wait for an editor to purchase a story, it can take a long time and require much patience - and often, more than a little luck - to earn much from a blog, whether you're writing about paddling in Ecuador, diving in Maui, parrot-watching in the Caribbean or just camping in B.C.

So the challenges are there, as they always have been for those of us who earn a living as self-employed writers, photographers, and more recently, videographers.

It really is a Brave New World of travel publishing. Foward-thinking organizations - like the BCATW - that want to grow and thrive realize this, and we saw this in action, Saturday.

Really, the only action for all of us travel writers who value what we do, is to recognize the obstacles, embrace the challenge, and plow on, furiously typing, snapping and posting to bring the world out there back to our readers.


  1. Thank you, John for posting this. As someone who was unable to be there d/t a health challenge, any information to help me stay current is invaluable. I would like to know more about monetizing my travelog....

    1. Thanks for your comments, Julie. There was nothing specifically about blogging at this event. The panels/presentations focussed mainly on working with industry, editors in an increasingly challenging environment, and improving photography. I have been to a few local blogging events/workshops, but it seems they are aimed mainly at people who view blogs as a marketing tool to drive traffic to their business, rather than as a real source of income. Very few writers seem to attend them. I think monetization comes with high numbers - if you get enough subscribers, advertisers will want to pay to be on your blog.

  2. Thanks for this great post John. I wasn´t able to make the symposium this year as I am in Spain. This post made me feel like I was there. It sounds like it was a fabulous event. All the best! Darlene