Sex, Social Media and New Zealand (2): How to write a travel blog
Ten tips to publishing online (versus writing for a print publication).
We’d layer four short sheets of paper — long enough to type maybe three paragraphs, at a pinch — separated by three sheets of carbon paper, and roll them into the machine. God alone knows what the parts of the typewriter were called and by my second newspaper job (on the Sunday Tribune, also in Durban), basic computers were coming in.
Back to the typewriters and those days of yore, you’d compose your first graph (sometimes two of them) on page one, spool it out, and then call “Copy!” to alert the person assigned to pick it up and leg it around.
As far as I remember:
- You kept the bottom copy, which was usually illegible;
- one copy was taken to the news editor’s inbox;
- one went to the syndication desk (the syndication editor sent this page shooting up a tube to the telex department or whatever it was they used in that pre-fax, pre-computer era when blogs and Twitter weren’t even the product of a science fiction writer’s dreams);
- and one was given to the deputy news editor who edited it by hand, worked on it with you as needed, and passed it on to copy chief.
Thinking about blogging today — specifically travel blogging — the memory of using typewriters came back.
- Then, you had to think fast and clearly, write it down — and let it go. You were working to deadline and had strict time constraints. This is what you want to aspire to with your travel blog.
- And you want to write like you would for a newspaper in that one or two sentences per paragraph is preferable. With both newspapers and blogs, it makes for easier reading (scanning).
Remember, you can go back and edit your blog. Sure, you are aiming for perfection — but not at the expense of action. Unlike when you make an error in print that nobody picked up and it’s there to haunt you for life, guaranteed, someone will spot your online error and be quick to point it out. For example, I called Auckland “Adelaide” in a New Zealand post on my examiner.com link (see the comment section). How and why? Darned if I know. But within two ticks I had a direct Twitter message, a comment on the end of the post, and a note from a Facebook friend saying that: “If only you’d taken Geography at school and not Latin …”
- The reach of what you write is potentially anyone on the web. So quality is better than quantity and length does not correlate with reach and impact.
- You can write shorter and more in-depth at the same time. How? By linking.
- You can do your research while you write. Open up a second, third, fourth Firefox or Safari window and google as you go. Link to your citing sources. It’s good for your readers and good for your google ranking.
- If you’re blogging for yourself, you have the power! You can see a story, decide on the angle, write it and post it.
- It’s easy to make your blog into a multimedia post. Take pictures, edit them, use them. Use a Flip camera and make a video. Post the video on You Tube and link to it. (What is a vlog? A blog that uses video.) Use your tape recorder and make podcasts. [Check out story, video and slideshow in combination at Rotorua menu blends Maori hangi, haka, Swoop and Zorb. Eat, play, love, New Zealand.]
- You can do your work from the road, so long as you have internet access and can build in the time. If you’re traveling privately and paying for internet time, you’ll probably need to budget your time. I vote for a worldwide Free Wi-Fi movement.
- You will post to your blog on your site and then post the link to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If it’s work-related, post to Linked In. Then there’s Digg and a bunch of other social networking sites. Before you set off on your travels, consider setting up automatic linking and feeds. For your google ranking, use keywords when you link and never “click here”.
And don’t get me wrong. I love magazines and print journalism. But being realistic, that market is going the way of the typewriter.
So — upward and onward to the blog market.