Monday, 18 September 2006
The power of travel blogs
Using Technology: Blogs About Business Travel Begin to Feel the Power (by Christopher Elliott, New York Times, 18 September 2006):
But business-travel bloggers are still a long way from wielding the power of political bloggers. Edward Hasbrouck, who writes The Practical Nomad blog (hasbrouck.org/blog), says that policy changes that result from blog posts are rare. "I recently posted a horror story about the Transportation Security Administration," he said. "The agency basically blew me off."
The theme of the story is what power business travel bloggers do (or don't) have, and how that is changing. In the case mentioned in the Times, I did get an individual response from the head of the TSA Privacy Office, which I probably wouldn't have gotten if I hadn't blogged about what had happened to me. But they didn't answer my follow-up questions about the omissions and contradictions in their story, and I didn't get any change in the policies that caused the incident -- despite my blog post being widely read, linked to, and favorably commented on.
I think both aspects of this are symbolic of the status of travel bloggers right now: We are seen as squeaky wheels to be greased, but that typically means appeasing the individual, or a public relations response, not policy change. As exemplified in the different responses to me of travel companies like the Sabre computerized reservation system (which has made changes in their privacy practices as a result of dialogue flowing from articles I've written) and the TSA, I think the travel industry has been ahead of governments in recognizing and granting a role to travel bloggers.
As is also, I think, typical right now (although I expect it will eventually change), I don't think I got a response from the TSA solely because I'm a blogger, but also because I have other credentials as a book author and expert, and my blog has a demonstrated readership. Offhand, I don't know of any travel blogger who is influential primarily because of their blog, without also having a basis for credibility in other work or writing (books, magazine or newspapaer articles, online columns, etc.). That's different from political bloggers, some of the most influential of whom are little known other than through their blogs.
One of the other people quoted today in the Times says that, "One reason bloggers have relatively little influence is that there are relatively few who specialize in corporate travel". It's true that, like most people who blog about travel, I don't focus on "corporate travel". But I don't think that has much to do with how much influence I have, or don't have: Many of the same airlines (the core of my beat) and other travel businesses serve both business, leisure, and visiting friends and relatives (VFR) travellers.
Thanks to Chistopher Elliott for pointing Times readers this way. Make yourself welcome! There's more here than just my blog: Check out the rest of my web site for additional travel tips, advice, and consumer advocacy.Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 18 September 2006, 09:31 ( 9:31 AM) | TrackBack (0)