This month, TBEX is hosting a travel blogger conference in Jerusalem, Israel, and million eyez is joining in on the fun! The travel blogging community is one of the biggest and most exciting communities in the blogging world. And for these travel bloggers and digital nomads, TBEX is THE conference to go to.
Our Chief Blogger, Yonit Tzuk, enjoyed a chat with the the TBEX Jerusalem Conference keynote speaker, Chris Christensen.
Chris is the creator of the award-winning blog and podcast, Amateur Traveler, and we are excited to hear what he has to say about the world of blogging, and travel blogs in particular…
How did you become a blogger?
I started first as a travel podcaster. When podcasting came out around 2005, I started listening to different shows and really enjoyed it. I decided to start my own show. I thought about doing a tech show, or even a religious show, but then I had a bunch of friends over at the end of May for a Memorial Day holiday BBQ. As we talked, all the best stories were travel stories, so the idea for AmateurTraveler.com was born then and the site when live July 2, 2005.
I later expanded the site into blogging, photography, and video. I did that in part because Google doesn’t value audio content as high, so blog posts helped me find more audience through SEO.
Why a Travel blogger? What is so special in this niche?
I love travel. In part, I love travel because I love to learn new things. So, standing in front of a subway ticket machine in Prague when you don’t speak the language is a puzzle to solve.
Besides, it has led to some very interesting trips and adventures.
What is the value of blogger conferences to bloggers ?
For the blogger, it is a chance to :
1) See that you are not alone. There are a lot of other like minded people doing this. Personally I find that they are pretty nice people usually.So we have fun.
2) You can learn from other bloggers and you can teach other bloggers. There is always something new in the travel space, or the blogging and social media space.
3) You get a chance to meet sponsors. It is not likely you will sign a deal during an 8 minute speed networking session, but it can lead to something later on. Many of my opportunities for trips or sponsorships started with that 8 minutes or with a casual conversation at a conference party.
How do you see the evolution of the blog through the years?
Of my personal blog? Wow, how much time do you have.
But more importantly, it takes a while to find out what content you can create best. Amateur Traveler started as a show about my travels, which did not make any sense because I had a full time job. So I traveled 4 weeks a year and did a podcast 48 weeks a year. That math wasn’t going to work. I found through trial and error that adding interviews not only made the show more interesting for listeners, but it made it more interesting for me.
I am an engineer, so my travel writing has certainly improved in 12 years. I have taken classes to learn to be a better writer and I have seen which pieces get better responses from my audience. You can always improve your skills.
What are the difficulties for bloggers this day and what are the steps that they can take to overcome those obstacles?
There are more than 1 million travel bloggers according to some estimates. Some of these are active and some are not. Some of these are professional and some are not. Some of these are worth your time and some are not. But there are a lot of people trying to get the attention or your readers. That is not even counting TripAdvisor, Expedia.com, Booking.com and the other travel companies who make a living turning traffic into trips. It is not easy to stand out.
I was a travel podcaster and blogger for 5 years before anyone offered me any sort of trips. That can happen sooner now, but basically you need to earn it. And it takes work. A lot of work.
I know a number of travel bloggers who make a living at it, but the best way to become a rich and famous travel blogger is still to become rich and famous and then start a travel blog. I still make a living as a software engineer with BloggerBridge.com which is my site and with part-time. software consulting.
What is a good blogger?
It would be easy to say that a successful travel blogger gets more than a thousand page views a days, but you asked what a good blogger is. In my opinion a good blogger is someone who is making the space better.
- They create valuable content for their audience
- They create value for any sponsors they have
- You are glad to hear when they will be on a trip with you because you know not only will they be fun, but they will be professional. They know that no trip is every a “free trip”
How does a multi languages conference affect its participants?
The presentation for TBEX will be in English so some English is needed to take advantage of the networking and the content, but that doesn’t mean that all the people who come to TBEX blog in English. In particular, some sponsors are usually present who are looking for bloggers in languages other than English.
You are also talking about a set of people who travel. They understand that people speak a variety of languages and they think accents are cool.:-)
How does the traveling industry feel about travel bloggers? How should it respond to them?
That has changed and has changed significantly. In the USA for instance, there are fewer full time travel journalists employed than there were when I started. There are less than a handful of newspapers that still have a travel editor. So companies in many cases have had to turn to freelancers and bloggers. In addition, we as travel bloggers have gotten better. Many of the speakers at the upcoming TBEX, myself included, have won awards from the travel journalist associates and from well known travel companies. For example, Gary Arndt who is giving a keynote at TBEX in Jerusalem (and with whom I also create the This Week in Travel podcast) and I were both named the “Best Independent Travel Journalist” by Travel+Leisure in their SMITTY (Social Media in Travel) awards in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
On the other hand, there are definitely some bloggers who have convinced companies not to work with bloggers. They have gotten drunk. They have failed to show up and they have failed to produce. I know of one blogger who recently was sued by a company for breach of contract for screwing up so bad.
What are your expectations from Jerusalem and the Israeli bloggers?
I would love to meet local bloggers to hear about how travel blogging is different in Israel or in Hebrew. I’ll bet we can teach each other something.
Of course, I would not mind a few pointers on Israel either.
What is your vision for the travel bloggers industry?
One of the reason I created BloggerBridge.com is that I want to see it grow in quality and professionalism but also in opportunities… for those that earn it.
What’s the value of a good photo to blog?
Wow, a lot. The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. That conversation rate may fluctuate, but in the travel space, people crave photos. Words alone just don’t cut it. But on the other hand, photos without words are also not as valuable.