Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Future of News bootcamp: make money in travel journalism

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 29, 2010

It’s a journalists dream: getting paid good money to travel the world or live abroad. Travel Journalism still remains one of the more glamorous genres inside the trade and with good reason. But it’s been hit hard by the changes as much as anywhere else; is there still a good business in it?

The answer from the seven journalists who attended the second Future of News Business Bootcamp this week was a wholehearted ‘yes!…but you have to be clever about it.’

If you’re not familiar with how the bootcamps work then check out the explanation here; but essentially they work on the premise that smaller numbers, an informal location and some bottles of wine equals good ideas and creativity.

Joining the bootcamp this week were Sarah Warwick, Rosamund Hutt, Will Peach, Patrick Smith, Lexi Mills, Tony Fernandes and James Carr; all of them have done the travel journalism thing and want to keep doing it. So how did we do?

The right questions

We frame the bootcamps by asking a series of business orientated questions, applying them to a specific area of journalism.

What’s the value? The team suggested things like inspiration & escape as well as basic language and currency information. Patrick Smith made the very good point that the real financial value in travel journalism is the fact it is actionable: people will buy holidays, for example, off the back of an article.

What are the target markets? We broke into two groups to come up with creative and unusual niche markets for travel journalism. Very popular was the expat market inside a given country (a model proved successful for hard news reporting by; business travellers; the PAs of business travellers; the children of diplomats and even servicemen & women looking for things to do in their various locations.

Where’s the pain? This final question is the basis for many of the most successful businesses of the last century. What pain can you solve with your idea? For us, we’re looking for pains which can be solved by a travel journalist’s information, writing or multimedia. Some great ideas emerged, including products for old people who want to do adventure holidays, a way to help people avoid getting ripped off at the airport and even for people who are ‘bored & abroad’.

It’s not the journalism, stupid

I think the greatest realisation at the end of the evening though was agreeing on what makes money on a website or mobile device. Now, this might seem shocking or controversial to some of you; I suspect others realised this long ago. But collectively we pretty much agreed that on any “news” product, the journalism itself doesn’t make any money. It never will. It never has. It never should.

Instead it facilities a wide variety of other products which do make money; a subscription service, a shop, a sponsored mailing list, events etc. They cannot make money without the journalism, but the journalism cannot exist without them making money.

It’s an interesting symbiotic relationship which I think would form the base of any future news business in the online world. What do you think?

Either way, most of our bootcampers left with new ideas and optimism, so that’s mission complete! We’ll be doing one more in August, before the public meetups return in September.

Thanks very much to Patrick, Lexi, Tony, James, Sarah, Will and Rosamund for taking part in the experiment!


16 Responses

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  1. ChrisG said, on July 29, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Of course. food and travel go well together, so if anyone is on their HOLS, or is writing and wants to kill two birds with one stone, then why not contribute to a great website citizen food journalism, which brings ‘global foodies’ together under one roof…

  2. […] and his Future of News meet-ups. Our mini-conference on the future of travel writing was most enlightening and I look forward to more of the same in the future, having put my fears of u-bends at bay for, […]

  3. Will Peach said, on July 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Adam, it was great being part of the discussion and you give a very succinct overview of the evening’s proceedings.

    The idea that it’s “not the journalism” and that it instead “facilitates a wide variety of other products which do make money” is so crucial yet so often overlooked by fledgling (and even experienced) journalists.

    Although we didn’t strike on an exact model or idea, we certainly succeeded in seeing the bigger picture of what its all about. Hopefully now I can get started on an entrepreneurial model that I can lend to another country!

    For those in attendance who want to see some good models relative to Vietnam, be sure to check out the following:

    AnyArena ( combines fashion and culture magazine with listings and events
    Out In Saigon ( listing and events site with occasional dabblings in feature pieces
    The Word ( features and news magazine geared at expats
    AsiaLife ( another features and news magazine geared at expats

  4. pcbritz said, on July 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Hey there, it’s me: Stupid!

    I’m not “shocked” by what you consider your take-away from this bootcamp, I am more shocked that you so easily settle with it.

    After all, (safe for the subscription) aren’t those connections getting dangerously close to tying your work to a brand (you’d call that PR) or to a “symbiosis” with advertisement like the one that has so sucessfully prevented American newspapers from dying. Excuse the cynicism…

    Maybe I didn’t get your idea right, but I’m wondering: Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to produce content people actually need and are interested in? And then pay for it (cf. for example?)?

    I don’t have the answer, but I don’t feel we can be “done” with this question after a single boot camp night, althought I can understand that exchanging ideas in this manner can create a great feeling of achievement.

    pc britz

  5. Mr Dollar said, on July 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Yes I Like Will peach commen on this post ….

  6. Adam Westbrook said, on July 31, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    @pcbritz who said anything about being “done” with this question? And the bootcamps never claimed to solve the ‘future of journalism’ in a single night anyway. They are what is sorely needed though – a thorough targeted and regular attempt at trying to come up with answers.

    Take a look at, or VII Photos or MedCityNews – all news businesses who are being more creative at finding new revenue streams. As nice as it would be ‘producing content people actually need and are interested in?’ we’ve all seen that is rarely possible, in the age of the free internet.

  7. Prime said, on August 1, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Travel journalism is one of the most difficult career to get into because there’s just too much competition (it’s a dream job for most people – getting paid to trave. well it’s definitely MY dream job). that said, it’s also one journ sector which is ideal for entrepreneurial journos. I think the key is to find a niche in travel journ, establish yourself as an expert, and “sell” ad space, products (e-books?), guided tours, workshops (writing/photo workshops), etc..

  8. popodepok said, on August 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    good and clean blog, im still learning on improving my blog. you gives me idea

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  10. walcott said, on August 15, 2010 at 5:01 am

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  11. Jen said, on August 29, 2010 at 2:26 am

    good post..great share, great to read it

  12. […] models we kept coming up with had multiple revenue streams, including advertising, subscriptions, affiliate links, sponsorships – even an online store: […]

  13. […] summer it certainly had a few of us stumped. I held a Future of News bootcamp on travel journalism back in July 2010, where we tried to come up with new approaches to the idea. We came close to […]

  14. Vishal said, on July 5, 2011 at 7:25 am

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  15. DaMaus Marketing and Advertising said, on October 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm

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  16. […] 10 ideas, whittle down to the top three, and then pick the best. I used a similar idea with the Future of News mini-meetups in 2010, where I got people to brainstorm a large number of ideas around a problem, aiming for quantity […]

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