Recently a good friend of mine read the original version of this post and sent me a message that said “Sean, this post makes me sad. This is exactly what’s wrong with the travel industry, and more importantly, I know this post isn’t reflective of who you are.”
I went back and read the post.
Now, I’ve never taken a post down or done much heavy editing, but the bottom line, the original version of this post was completely inappropriate and wasn’t reflective of how I actually feel about the concept of “free stuff.”
The original post made me seem like, for lack of a better term, a complete douchebag who was only blogging for the free stuff. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and that’s why it upset me enough to edit the post and share how I really feel about the concept.
Fundamental Flaw of the Travel Blogging Industry
Now, I’m not a travel blogger, but I do write a fair amount about travel on the site.
One thing I’ve always noticed about many travel bloggers is the fact they are only doing it to get free travel. It’s not necessarily about their readers, and it certainly isn’t about the organization or tourism board that’s providing the opportunity.
These are bloggers who often don’t have much traffic, and lack the motivation to go above and beyond to create something amazing for their audience.
It’s for this reason I have so much respect for some of my more successful travel blogging friends who turn down free stuff all the time, because it isn’t a good fit, or they know they won’t be able to portray a destination, product, or service in the way they need to be able to in order to provide value to their readers.
Because that’s what this is all about, creating something that’s going to entertain the casual reader, inspire the more dedicated person to visit or buy something, and gain recognition and ultimately customers, for the people providing everything.
The original version of this post, didn’t illustrate this. In fact, it made it sound like I don’t care about others at all.
It’s posts like this, and people like me who are killing something that has the potential to be a win/win/win all the way around.
And so I wanted to take this opportunity to set things right, as best I can at least.
How I Personally Feel About Free Stuff and Comps
Recently I started a golf website, and my biggest motivation for doing so is because I’ve seen very few websites out there that talk about golf courses in a way that’s interesting to the reader.
For many of the best courses in the world, there’s less than half a dozen in depth blog posts online about what it’s like to play a round there. I’m talking photos of every hole, commentary, interesting stories etc.
I couldn’t believe this. I’ve spent hours searching for good sites that that do this, and remarkably, there are very few.
It’s too bad, because for most golf lovers, you’re lucky to play a handful of these courses in your lifetime, so being able to read, view, and live vicariously through someone else doing it is a pretty special thing.
I wanted to create a website where I could do that. Where I could use my love of travel, photography, and golf to present courses in an interesting and positive light to anyone who’s interested in visiting or just looking for a break from work.
I’ve spent over 10 hours crafting some of these articles and editing photos. In a few instances the rounds of golf were free. I’d happily pay even if they weren’t, but hey, why not create that win/win scenario?
This is my reasoning behind getting free stuff. To have an opportunity you might not have had otherwise to provide the reader with something interesting, give more exposure to the organization that’s looking for it, and create a great experience for yourself.
I went to Jordan on a sponsored trip last year. I was over-the-moon excited about this trip. At the same time, one of the things that excited me most was to be able to share a place I knew very little about with an audience that loves the idea of travel – even if they can’t take off as often as they like.
This is how I view the idea of free stuff. But with the original version of this post, that was lost, which is really unfortunate.
Want to Know the Real Secret to Free Stuff?
Don’t care about it…because that’s not the point.
The point is to provide value to your readers in the best way you can. If you’re presented an opportunity to 1) delight your readers, and 2) help spread the word about an awesome place or product, and you get a cool experience in the process, great. But you, as a blogger or writer, are not the most important, or even second most important part of this puzzle.
You owe it to your community to put your readers first.
When I originally wrote this post, I was trying to do that, put my readers first, and help them create more win/win scenarios. However, this isn’t what came across, and I really missed an opportunity to put a positive spin on something that has plagued certain blogging circles.
Recently I wrote about mistakes I’ve made in my business. We can add “not thinking before publishing” to that list.
Do I think there’s anything wrong with getting free stuff? No, I think it can be a great thing. But only when the motivations and intentions around it is based on something other than yourself.