Long before “influencers,” “native advertising,” and “content marketing” entered the marketing discussions, I put up a blanket disclosure policy. That was 2006, but it hasn’t changed much. If you trust me, I won’t take advantage of it by recommending something crappy. If you need to see every relationship every time I mentioned a place or product though because I might have some kind of financial connection to them, go elsewhere.
To me the brouhaha about disclosing any relationship with supporters, advertisers, back-scratchers, or business partners every single time a post or tweet goes up is unneeded and just plain annoying. It’s as if every time an athlete goes out to play they should have to wear a sign about who gives them shoes. Or a red carpet Academy Awards nominee should have to make a statement about what’s in her goodie bag and who supplied the jewels she’s parading around in. (“That’s a lovely necklace: please disclose for all our Oscar night viewers whether you bought it or not and if you paid full price.”) Influencers get paid to share things with their followers—what else is new?
So here goes:
I write books that I wish people would buy. I write travel articles I hope people will read. I run websites I hope people will visit so my traffic will attract advertisers. I point people to places I’ve been quoted in the news or have been interviewed because the article is worthwhile, but also because I would like these journalists to think talking to me is worthwhile, so they will keep doing so, so people will keep buying my books. Overall though, I couldn’t do any of this unless I wrote and said things that were useful, that helped people travel better for less. I can do that because I’m experienced and maybe even wise, but also because I really care about the subject. I give sincere advice that’s proven to work. And after all, it’s not like a travel blog is going to leave me rolling in money on a lounge chair in Tahiti. If I wanted to become a shill in exchange for big paychecks, I’d be in a field other than travel writing.
Which brings me to the meat of this feeble attempt at a disclosure policy. I talk about lots of things in here and in some cases I benefit from doing that financially. I write about advertisers’ products or services if they’re worthwhile, which could put a pint in front of me now and then. I have ads on this site that send me the equivalent of a pack of gum if you click on them. Some of the destinations I write about have sponsored a trip of mine at one time or another. I plug writers that write for me on Perceptive Travel or elsewhere because it’s good karma and/or it helps another worthwhile website. If other travel authors or webmasters are nice to me or we’ve clinked glasses together, I may say flattering things about them and link to their site, just because.
The best form of marketing is always word of mouth and sometimes those with a mouthpiece get paid to talk something up, especially if anyone cares what they have to say. That’s in every form of media, whether it’s a podcast host, a TV reality show full of product placements, or a movie star wearing a designer’s dress. But sometimes you just run your mouth to be running it, just hoping one person will find the verbage useful or enlightening.
Sometimes I pay for my travels, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I mention a product I bought, sometimes I mention one somebody gave me. In every case, I’m going to talk about it because I want to, warts-n-all if justified.
If none of what you read in the Cheapest Destinations blog is helpful or interesting, I assume you won’t return. If you’re annoyed about possible conflicts of interest, I assume you’ll go get your info elsewhere from a completely unbiased source. Good luck finding that anywhere in the travel publishing world though (maybe Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report since nobody knows who Andrew really is.) So I try to make it all useful to real travelers who want to get the most out of their travel budget. That’s the prime directive. Now let’s blow this joint and hop on a plane!