Insights And Revelations From “Travel Bloggers Unite” (TBU) Umbria #TBUMBR

Today marks the end of the Travel Bloggers Unite conference held in Umbria, Italy. For those of you who are not travel bloggers, or who may not be familiar with TBU.. It is essentially a place where travel bloggers and those working in the travel industry come to meet, network, connect, and work out how they can best work together in the future. This year we also got to do this in the beautiful setting of Valle de Assisi, in the Italian countryside of Umbria. Free drinks, 5 star cuisine, and a beautiful setting to do business… It’s a hard life being a travel blogger, huh? ; )

I try my best to limit posts aimed at travel bloggers rather than people just interested in travel, but I think what has gone on at TBU also affects anyone who reads travel blogs. The reason for this is that with the announcement that much of the travel industry is increasing their PR & Marketing budgets by up to 20% to work with travel bloggers, this means that travel bloggers such as myself will be able to dedicate a lot more time in the future to producing amazing travel content for their readers. We will be able to spend more time giving our readership and engaged audience the travel tips, info, insight, and advice that they need to make their travel decisions better.

One of the key things that made my first TBU conference here in Umbria so rewarding was the panel discussions held on both days. It’s amazing what you can do when you get a bunch of creative people together and see what they come up with. It was also refreshing to see travel bloggers and PR/Marketing people working together to come up with solutions to our problems on both sides.

Overall what us travel bloggers were saying to the PR & Marketing folks was that if you want us to work with you, then you need to pay us! We can’t work for free. As much as we’d love to, we just can’t spend time away on press trips that could be spent earning a living on other projects. So if PR & Marketing departments really want our time, dedication, and access to our audiences, then they need to communicate to their clients that they’re going to have to set aside dollars to do so. There are already many case studies that show online publications have much more engagement than ads placed in print media, so if it was me I’d be redirecting that cash into the online world.

Which brings me onto my next point – Travel Bloggers travel blog for the love of travel blogging! When we say to PR companies that you need to pay us to work with you, it’s not for a greed of money. It’s because we literally have bills to pay, and our time spent promoting your projects is time spent away from making money to put a roof over our heads. If all we wanted was money we would not be travel bloggers! We’d be working in investment banking somewhere, or in some other equally soul-sucking profession (No offence to any investment bankers out there! I just know a lot of you guys who hate your jobs! Although if you love it keep doing it!) We also need to communicate better with one another, and be clear with each other what we want, need, and expect from each other too.

There was some fantastic talks at this years TBU. In particular by Jeff Jung and Jodi Ettenberg. Both very inspiring and engaging individuals. The list for what was talked about, discussed, and learned at TBU Umbria however goes on and on, and far outweighs anything I could ever put in one post. I guess if you want to find out more you’ll have to buy a ticket for next year!

From a personal perspective though, TBU Umbria has given me renewed enthusiasm for what can be done in travel blogging and in the travel industry as a whole. It has given me confirmation of a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about of late in regards to the industry, allowed me to network with my peers, and given me new insight to walk away with which I know will only help my blog, and ultimately help me provide a better service to my readers. As that’s what it’s about at the end of the day – the people who read this blog and others like it. Without an engaged community of readers a travel blogger really is nothing. Whether your readership reaches just 1 or 1 million people, it’s all about the people who come onto your blog. They are the reason you keep doing it, and the reason why you’re here.


11 Responses to “Insights And Revelations From “Travel Bloggers Unite” (TBU) Umbria #TBUMBR”

  1. Thanks for this in-sight into what you experienced at TBU Umbria ~
    Sounds really productive – Look forward to now seeing the changes in the future take effect 🙂

  2. Jeremy says:

    Sounds like you had really productive and nice time at the conference, Kudos! I def want to make it to a couple this year.

  3. Jeff says:

    Thank you for the very kind words about my talk. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. Good luck to you. Go get ’em Jane!

  4. Jools Stone says:

    Good round up Jane, food for thought, and there’s always useful stuff learnt at TBU of course, but I’m going to be a (slight) voice of dissent on this one, sorry! Personally, I’m getting a bit bored of all the travel bloggers bleating ‘pay us, we have bills too!’ Anyone who runs a blog as a business has to accept that, just like any other online enterprise, the monetisation challenge lies with the blogger. This means being entreprenuerial and following the examples of many of those who spoke at TBU: chasing advertisers, trying affiliate schemes, developing and selling products, going after brand sponsorship etc etc. It was great to hear Debbie Hindle of Four BGB talking about facilitating commercial connections between their clients and bloggers, great that she’s willing to do that, but that’s not their main role and we shouldn’t start to epect it from other PRs. It’s not like when they meet the editor of NatGeo they’re likely to be talking to them about ad deals,for instance, so why should we expect it to be any different for us? No one wnats to work for free of course, and niavete can sometimes be taken advantage of by unscrupolous operators in the industry, but it could be argued that if we just want a simple paycheck, we can always ‘quit the globetrotting life’ and return to our cubicles! 😉
    Maybe the future lies in bloggers collaborating and setting up small teams together which separate out the two main functions: editorial and sales/mrktng?
    That said, I also felt that there was perhaps a little too much focus on the commercial side of blogging this time. It was beginning to feel a little too ‘corporate’ for my taste, what with all the talk of cosying up to PRs, never saying anything negative and basically being a squeaky clean, shiny happy, cookie-cutter blogger who dutifuly follows some perceived route map to commercial success. Not to mention the bizarre bouts of audience whooping erupting during some of the keynotes! Ahh, where’s me medication gone to now? Nurse, sedate me quick! 😉

    • Jane says:

      Hi Jools, I totally get what you’re saying, but I think you’ve missed my point a wee bit. The only way I’ve been able to earn a full-time income is from ad sales, affiliate links, selling my own products, multiplying the number of websites I have etc. I’m not for one moment suggesting bloggers shouldn’t do that, and I’m not looking for a wage from PR & Marketing folk… However, time away on a press trip means time not spent working on my business and entrepenurial ventures. I therefore ask that I be compensated for that, or I just can’t dedicate the time. I’m also looking for more passive styles of income rather than exchanging hours for dollars (which is another reason why I’m not inclined to go on many press trips of late. However, that’s another story for another day). If PR & Marketing folk decide they can’t pay me for whatever reason that’s totally fine. I understand there are sometimes limitations to what they can do, but I also feel like if they are getting exposure for their region for instance, then it is merited to give something back for that. I feel my blog is worth something back for that in a monetary value.
      Like I said in the article, travel bloggers don’t tend to be in it purely for the monetary value, but the only way for us to be able to focus on travel blogging full-time is to be able to earn a living from it, so money is still important. For those who do travel blogging for the pure love of it and have no intentions of ever making an income from it I have total respect for, but those people will always be forced to do another job somewhere to earn money. A job potentially in a cubicle somewhere that they may not like. I’ve worked in a 9 – 5 job previously, and have no intentions of ever going back. I therefore make it priority to monetize my blogging endevours so that I can keep going with this lifestyle that I love. For me the emphasis on monetization was therefore an important theme for my TBU experience, and it was refreshing to see that the travel industry is beginning to give us the same respect they give travel journalists and other publications, but I appreciate that it’s not everyone’s focus! 🙂

  5. Looks like an excellent place for a conference! I enjoyed my trip to all the little cities around Italy much more than just my time spent in London. Great food, cool architecture, etc 🙂

  6. Turtle says:

    Interesting point made by Jools and equally interesting answer from Jane.
    My view is that the PR/marketing/DMOs peeps shouldn’t be expected to pay you for your time. That is, assuming you are an independent writer.
    When a journalist uses a PR agency to line up a story, they don’t get paid by the PR to go and write about it, they get paid by their publication.
    What Jane is talking about is essentially advertising. Now, if you want your site to be full of advertorials, then fine, that’s a valid business model. But it’s very different to expecting a marketing organisation to pay you to write an editorially-independent piece about a place you’ve visited.
    Blogs are very different from traditional media but there are also similarities. And my view is that one of those similarities is that money should be made from advertising/subscriptions/sponsorships/affiliate sales – not from PR and marketing companies paying for the main content.

  7. Angie Away says:

    Great recap, Jane! I’m awfully impressed you were able to write it so fast!

  8. Forrest says:

    There were also a FEW of us there who just want to find a way to increase our readership for nothing more than EGO. I am one of those. I travel because I love it and I post to my blog to entertain. I am an author and I would not sell space on my blog anymore than I would in my book. Not that there is anything wrong with monetizing your blog, it just seems to turn it into the very business people try to escape by vagabonding.


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