Loyalty Traveler is ranked #73 in the Top 100 Travel Blogs on Technorati today. Yesterday my blog was #72, so my star is already fading. Like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Jack in the movie “Titanic”, I’ll gloriously ride the waves at the front of the ship as King of the World today before I go under tomorrow. For the time being I’m elated to be listed in Technorati’s top 100 Travel Blogs.
The best aspect of the Technorati recognition is I am staying at my parent’s house in Las Vegas (going home to Monterey today) and I was able to show my mom the Technorati page with the Top 100 Travel icon. My dad asked me again, the fifth time this week, “What is a blog?”
I happened to be reading the State of the Blogosphere 2009 report being posted each day this week on Technorati.
Reading over the SOTB2009 report, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I fit the professional blogger profile. I have a graduate degree (labor studies), work like a dog over 40 hours a week for virtually no pay, I’ve been at this for over two years, and I have launched four or five websites.”
I also fit Stephen Colbert’s moniker of “internet hobo”. I’m a bootstrapper blogger and lifestyle entrepreneur struggling to carve out a living as a travel writer and social media player in a narrow niche of the travel industry before I go bankrupt.
Only 17% of professional bloggers in the SOTB 2009 report their primary income source comes from blogging. I currently fall in the 83% who do not get their primary source of income from my blog, however, I do earn my primary meager income from writing.
After browsing through the SOTB report I read the Penelope Trunk interview and her response to the question, “What’s your advice for aspiring professional bloggers?”
“Professional blogger? Really? Think about your blog as an audience builder for selling something that has a higher margin than advertising.”
Some advertising revenue from my blog sounds rather nice to me at the moment.
Odds are against a self-employed travel writer surviving as a viable business entity. I launched a Hotels-and-Points newsletter two years ago and sold one copy after four monthly issues. Obviously I needed a new business model. Then, I moved into blogging with the basic axiom of “write it, share it with the world for free, and they will come”.
The Loyalty Traveler blog has always been planned as a way to build an audience by sharing travel tips and analysis with others who may not realize the potential of hotel loyalty programs or simply desire more information about hotel loyalty programs. The leisure traveler and/or business traveler has scarce information on the value of hotel loyalty programs validating, analyzing, and critiquing the information provided by the corporate hotel entities aside from the FlyerTalk forums and the blogs on BoardingArea, SmarterTravel, and FrequentFlier.
The developing aspect of my business is Loyalty Traveler’s role as a marketer of California, and more specifically the marketing of my local region in the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco.
“Travel globally, promote locally” is a business objective of Loyalty Traveler.
My aspiration is simple, but difficult to realize. Work independently for myself in collaboration with the travel industry, provide real value to other travelers and the hotel travel industry as a writer and educator, and create a sustainable travel-oriented business that can keep me self-employed for the next 20+ years.
I’m not trying to build an empire, just make a basic living so I can afford to continue my life in Monterey — the environmentally, aesthetically, and culturally cool area of California where I was born and would like to remain. And of course, I desire to continue traveling the world which has been much more difficult since I became entirely self-employed 30 months ago.
Travel loyalty programs have allowed me to travel well on a rather limited travel budget for the past two decades. Some call it gaming the system. I call it travel economics and getting the best value for the money you spend as a smart shopper.
The real point of Loyalty Traveler blog is to build an audience and develop a community of travelers who can help each other travel better wherever our travels take us. I am a facilitator who brings up issues in my blog. I need readers to contribute additional insight to develop and grow the information into the knowledge base we need to travel better. So please leave comments on my blog. I have met some wonderful travelers and travel industry professionals through Loyalty Traveler. It takes a community to be successful in social media.
Honestly, I am not clear how I should develop my relationship with the hotel industry. Affiliate marketing, sponsorships, accept freebies so I can stay in more hotels and have more places to write about?
I’m looking for a win-win relationship where I can market hotels, hotel travel, and the value of loyalty programs while remaining a consumer advocate.
Admittedly I have made some errors in content, made some mis-steps in public relations, and I’ve probably been too critical of some hotels and hotel loyalty programs in public with my blog. But always I have strived to be honest and accurate, and constructive in my criticism. When aspects of my hotel experience suck I think many other frequent guests probably had a similar experience. I try and separate what I believe are one-time circumstances compared to what are likely systemic issues with a hotel or program.
I admit when I’m wrong, apologize when I go over the top (or delete, although nothing can really be deleted once it is published to the web), and I reach out to help others when and where I can. I desire to build a lasting relationship with the hotel industry as a traveler, writer, and consumer advocate. Hey hotel PR people –email me. And don’t be afraid to comment on my blog.
Loyalty Traveler blog needs to improve both technically and stylistically. That is an immediate objective. My writing needs to improve aesthetically. That is a life-long process.
I work to create trust with my readers by providing high value and accurate content. Believe me. I beat myself up whenever I realize I published a content error.
My main goal is to remain true to myself and the community of travelers seeking value for their travel dollars. Sustainable travel should allow travelers to get good value for money spent (i.e. not get ripped off). I will continue to develop Loyalty Traveler with the simple aim of providing a community of travelers informed analysis of hotel value for frequent guests.
And that is all for my self-reflection as Loyalty Traveler blogger and entrepreneur. Anyone with teacher training knows self-reflection is a vital part of professional development.
My next blog post will be back on track with a hotel topic.
Debbie Dubrow – Delicious Baby #1 Travel Blog 10-20-09
Heather Cowper – Heather on her Travels #9 Travel Blog 10-20-09
Gary Leff – View from the Wing #23 Travel Blog 10-20-09
Gary Arndt – Everything, Everywhere #29 Travel Blog 10-20-09
KiwiFlyer – Musings of the Global Traveller #70 Travel Blog 10-20-09
And there are loads of other travel blogs I need to look into from the Top 100 list.