My friend Ben from One Mile At A Time recently laid out his thoughts on the state of travel and points blogging, seeking to explain the prevalence of clickbait, its audience, and why that plays an increasingly central roll in many independent travel blogs. While there is no denying that clickbait is king, there is nuance to the editorial selection at Live and Let’s Fly that is not driven simply by a desire to generate clicks. I’d like to talk to you about that today.
This blog began in 2009 as something fun I did on the side, not even a side hustle. It was never my primary focus and even today, it is not my primary focus. I believe that produces better content because I’m not in it for the money…I would (and will) continue to post even if revenue dries up (as it did during the pandemic).
Blogging is hard work…just try it if you don’t believe me. It takes discipline to pump out posts on a daily basis, as we have done at Live And Let’s Fly since our relaunch on Boarding Area in 2016.
Ben cites clickbait as geared toward a wider audience than a blog’s normal daily readers and worded in such a way to encourage it to go “viral.” He’s right…to an extent. Many of my stories are geared toward a mass audience, because the number of loyal daily readers is actually fairly small compared to the number of readers who are drawn in via Google searches or social media platforms. It’s why I will also spell out acronyms and generally don’t use airport codes in place of airport names.
He’s also right that a well-worded headline about a disruption onboard along with appropriate picture or video, particularly if involves a pretty face, can really go viral and eclipse the sum of all other posts combined for the entire month (which does provide an incentive to post more of these stories).
Even so, I truly don’t post these stories in a naked effort to generate page views. Granted, I defend any blogger who chooses to do so—capitalizing on unique moments in time is how riches are made. But I write about the latest drunk idiot to slap a flight attendant because I actually enjoy reading those stories. I do…it’s something that I am drawn to click on myself, but I don’t walk away disappointed: for me at least, these displays of human depravity help me better understand the human condition. They are educational and instructive.
On Credit Cards
One thing Ben left out of his analysis was credit cards, which are similar to clickbait in that they represent one business model to independent blogging. Ben pushes a lot of credit cards…all the time. It’s not that blogging is an “either or” with credit cards or clickbait, but with only 24 hours in a day, there is often not time for a dual focus.
I know it brings great praise from my beloved daily readers that I choose not to place a heavy focus on credit cards on this blog. That is indeed to my financial determinant, as even in 2022 it remains lucrative to market cards. Furthermore, I actually believe in credit cards as a pivotal foundation to effectively leveraging miles and points.
Truly, the reason I don’t write more about credit cards is because I don’t enjoy writing about credit cards nearly as much as I enjoy writing about instances of misbehavior onboard.
I’ve never understood why readers whine about clickbait or credit card posts. This content is free: if you don’t want to read a particular post, skip it. Ben, and others, provide excellent analysis on credit cards and pump out so much free content that no one should begrudge them trying to capitalize on that by directing credit card sign-ups to their channels.
On Trip Reports
Do you have any idea how long it takes to write trip reports, particularly flight and hotel reviews? These are time-intensive investments and rarely worth the money…at least on a transactional basis.
Trip reports demonstrate how much I love this blog and how it represents more a labor of love than a simple business aimed at generating revenue. I look back with pride on the library of trip reports I have written over the years, which trace a glorious journey through the world. It is my great joy to write these reports and I write them for an audience of one: me (well, and maybe my children, who I hope will follow in my footsteps).
True, trip reports provide certain intangible benefits like credibility to comment on products and current events in the industry. Flying around the world increases my knowledge base and aids in dispensing advice to my clients at Award Expert, my boutique award consulting firm. It strikes me as problematic that some “travel bloggers” never seem to actually travel.
But trip reports truly demonstrate this is not about the money.
The best blogs, as far as I am concerned, are those that draw out the personality of the author(s). One reason (I’d like to think) Live and Let’s Fly has enjoyed some degree of success over the years is because I tend to be open and transparent in sharing my thoughts on a number of issues. This can be dangerous when I veer into a religious or political direction, but as my worldview solidifies and I gain confidence that some people will always be offended no matter what I write, I hope I can come across in a more humble and genuine way.
I greatly appreciate blogs in which the authors can speak directly rather than through a facade of niceties that fail to deeply engage the reader. I greatly appreciate Gary from View From The Wing and Ben for being long-time mentors.
I love writing for Live and Let’s Fly and I am proud to work with Kyle to bring you fresh content on a daily basis. Oh yes, you’re going to see quite a bit of clickbait here and we invite you to ignore it and any other story which may not appeal you. But I can assure you this: even if no one clicked on my clickbait, I’d still write it. I enjoy it and it seems that despite your protestations to the contrary, many of you enjoy it as well. Thank you for reading.