Right Pants #006: Video report from the Grassy Knoll
The problem I have with that word “content” — whatever that is — can’t be blamed on a dictionary. Because “content” isn’t there, yet. Not the web-version of content anyway. (Look it up, then see 40 tries a blog made to sum it up.)
This is the same “content” famously called “king” back in the winter of ’96, when Bill Gates boiled it down, more or less, to “information and entertainment” consumed online. In order for it to thrive, he said, those who take it in “must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information.”
Got that? “Deep.”
People like to say travel writing is a dream job. I sure like it, though it’s easy to confuse with unemployment on most days. Particularly considering many writers so openly “WILL WORK FOR TRAVEL” — and make no bones about pawning off words for free trips.
Why this matters to me is because I believe — I really do — that only travel knows all.
Traditional journalism is vital, but it tends to chase events. Only “travel” is everywhere, before, during, after a “news event.” Meaning it’s usually travel that knows everyday things first. That, of course, you CAN go to Mexico. That it’s become safe to visit Colombia. That locals in Burma want you there despite a boycott.
Or the looping video of gushing oil offshore on CNN has little to do with what you can expect to find on nearly all Gulf Coast beaches.
This is an important addition travel content offers. Or can offer.
But travel content is increasingly feeling more like clerk than king to me. I find it telling that an accommodation booking site is valued at 1120% the value of the world’s leading travel content provider.
Regardless of what that “value” may mean, or how all this gets paid for, I think there has to be some sort of commitment for travel writers who persist to simply ensure they’re doing three things, none of which excludes working with “partners” of some kind:
1. Add to the existing conversation of a place. That means pre-research Minsk before you go. Know what’s said already. In articles, video, blogs. And simply ADD to that through your experience. Otherwise it’s noise.
2. Don’t lie. If you’re in cahoots with a company, or been hand-delivered a customized itinerary, be open about it. Don’t gush with exclamation points at things you wouldn’t tell to your mom the same way. I mean, if you can’t pass the “mom test” with your writing, you’re probably lying.
3. Keep the marketers away from editorial roles. Marketing and editorial live in a grayer world now, I get it. But there’s no reason why anyone associated with marketing needs to have final say of things. Even what makes a little Top 10 list.
Oh, some fact-checking would be good too.