ComScore Media Metrix, Nielsen NetRatings, Hitwise
Simple exposure vs. decision support

Newpaper stories vs. Web travel-planning articles

Vintage suitcases

ABOVE: In the 21st Century, newspaper-style travel articles make no more sense than luggage without wheels.

by Durant Imboden, Europe for Visitors

Many of today's travel writers developed their writing skills in the newspaper era, when Sunday travel sections published hundreds--maybe even thousands--of freelance stories every week. The typical story was 500 to 700 words long, with a fairly standard structure:

  • A lead (I refuse to use the spelling "lede") to hook the reader;
  • A few hundred words of descriptive text for the armchair traveler ("I did this, I saw that");
  • A closing paragraph or sidebar with practical advice and/or contact information for the handful of readers who might follow the writer's example by visiting the destination, taking the cruise, booking a week at the nudist dude ranch, etc.

That structure worked well in printed newspaper travel sections, which were designed to supply travel ideas and entertainment to all of a newspaper's local readers. 

However, it's less useful and effective on the Web, where most traffic is driven by search and the typical reader is looking for practical how-to information and "decision support" for a specific destination or travel experience.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not knocking sites like World Hum (which emphasizes travel narrative) or personal travel blogs such as Lisa Taylor Huff's The Bold Soul (which is about a middle-aged American's quest for a new life and love in Paris). But if you want to make a living from travel writing and publishing on the Web, you should be targeting active travelers who want help in planning their adventures, not just readers who want to read about yours.

Next article: "Article structure"

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