Why Travel Writers Really Need A Niche

17 July 2009 Post Author:
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Earlier this week Rebecca did a great job of reviewing ExcellentGuide.com. She made a point about the fact that they were trying to be too many things, instead of just focusing on one and actually being excellent at it, which they weren’t.

I felt it was a perfect example of a mistake that a lot of travel blogs – and thus travel writers – are making these days, and that is that they lack specialization, or more simply, a travel niche.

I see the same mistake frequently when I look at some Travel Blogs. I’m often asked by travel writers to look at their site and make suggestions, and most often the first thing I notice is that they don’t have a travel niche – no specialty that would set them apart from every other travel blog out there.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some travel writers who do an exceptionally good job with their travel blogs – they travel frequently and regularly add new (and great) travel content to their blog. Their sites are well organized and easy to navigate, and I enjoy reading their travel articles. But let’s be honest here – there are thousands of travel writers out there, many of whom are also doing just as good of a job.

So how do you stand out from the crowd?

The answer is simple – choose a travel niche. Find a specific topic that you are passionate about (and no, “travel” is not specific enough), and focus on writing about that topic. A perfect travel niche for you should be:

  • Something you love, and
  • Something you know alot about, and
  • Something you have firsthand experience with

When you write on a specialized travel niche topic, it’s far more likely that people who are searching for information on that topic will find you. You have the opportunity to become an expert in your travel niche. And being an Expert is a good thing. People love to quote experts, especially in print. People love to ask experts for help and advice.

Experts get offered opportunities – and paying opportunities – that others don’t get.

I’d like to point out a couple of travel blogs that I think do a very good job of excelling in their travel niche (and hope they don’t mind being made an example of! ) :)

The first is ThePlanetD. Dave and Deb, aka “Canada’s Adventure Couple” have done a great job of setting themselves apart from 99% of other travel writers – their niche is Adventure Travel. They specialize in the kind of travel that make the rest of us embarassed to admit that we like sitting on a beach with a trashy novel ordering cocktails from that cute young beach waiter in those sexy boy-short trunks. They’re off having exciting, adventurous trips, and they have a loyal following of readers and travelers who are interesting in just that same kind of trip.

Another good example that I’ve just come across this week, is Travel, She Wrote, a travel blog by CeliaSue Hecht, about traveling with her dog CiCi. It’s a great site full of lots of interesting articles about her adventures with CiCi as well as reviews of pet-friendly venues and events. Now that’s a great travel niche! So if someone is looking for to plan a road-trip with their dog, and needs to know a few pet-friendly places to stay along the way, they wouldn’t waste time perusing a typical travel blog, they’d check with CeliaSue – she’s an expert on that. The only advice I would give to CeliaSue would be to use her Tagline as her Blog name (“Have Dog Blog, Will Travel”) and to put a picture of CiCi right in her header image, so that it’s clear, from the moment someone lands on the site, what it’s about.

Your travel niche might be a specific destination — even if that’s your own home town, like Jon Rochetti’s travel blog, TheDCTraveler. Jon is an expert on Washington DC and all that happens there.

When Publishers want content on a specific locale, they look first for writers who already know that particular destination well. When an Editor or Journalist needs a quote on a specific subject, they look for an expert on that subject. Experts get asked to sit on Panel and Advisory Boards, judge competitions, give speeches or lectures, contribute to new projects, and much more. The fastest way to become an expert is to pick a niche that you know well (or possibly even better than anyone else) and write about it. Teach others. Share your knowledge.

The bottom line is that if you choose to write about all things travel and all destinations, you might be able to succeed and make a living from it, but it will certainly be challenging because you have a lot of competition in that market — some really good competition, too. But if you pick a niche, and work to become the go-to person in that niche, success will be easier and opportunities will come sooner.

~Trisha

Do you have a travel writing niche? Share your thoughts!

24 Responses to “Why Travel Writers Really Need A Niche”

  1. Dave and Deb
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow, thank you for the mention! I will definitely be checking out Travel,She Wrote and TheDCTraveler. I do agree that a niche is very important. We have been traveling for years, but nobody took notice until we became the Adventure Couple. We used to always say “how come nobody wants to hear about our travels?” Or “I would love to share this experience…if only people were interested.” Now that we have found a niche, we have connected with like minded people and it is far more fulfilling to blog with a specific topic always in mind.

  2. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Deb – you are most welcome! I really do think you’ve done a great job of finding a great travel niche and excelling at writing about it.

    You’ve hit the nail right on the head too, because that’s the problem I hear over and over from travel writers – “I write and write, but I’m not getting noticed/paid/appreciated”…..there are only so many paid travel writing assignments to go around and a lot of competition for them, so one really has to set themselves apart from the rest as something special to get noticed by Publishers…….

    Bravo to you and Dave!

  3. James Hills
    Twitter:
    says:

    Niche’s are extremely important – its interesting, when I started Man Tripping http://www.mantripping.com I started looking at all the “women’s travel” sites out there and realized there was really nothing for “guys” so I decided to grab it and run with it.

    Passion and expertise is key, but you can gain expertise over time, but passion you can never learn – you either have it or you don’t. But you always need it to carry on.

    I learned that a few blogs ago when I was all eager to make “Internet Millions!” just writing a blog … well, while I was making good money I wasn’t happy and the blog died. With Man Tripping it keeps growing (slowly though) but the passion and expertise grow with it.

    We are always interested in guest writers and tips from people as well as travel pro’s on where to go and things to do for mancations, guys weekends, guys night outs etc.

    We try to keep it clean since there is more to being a guy than booze and women … that was great in high school and college but there are so many other wonderful things to do as a man besides “bad stuff” while still having fun.

  4. Akila
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great article and, Rebecca and Trisha, great site in general. I found y’all a few days ago and have enjoyed reading your material. Finding a niche is difficult. We set up our blog about a year ago but didn’t really do much with it at all because we felt that it was lacking something. My mom read through our posts on Ireland one day and told me that she loved all of our food descriptions and how the food part of our trips seemed like the best part of our travels. And then we thought about it and realized that our favorite parts of our travels are when we are eating and experiencing the food, and we always, always bring home recipes to try. So, for those of you stuck trying to find a niche, consider talking to friends or family members about what they think you are an expert in. We never considered ourselves experts in food — but everybody else seems to think we are — so that is what we are pretending to be on our site.

  5. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Akila – thanks for your kind words! You have a great website yourself!

    I think you’ve found a brilliant niche – and you’re not “pretending” because I don’t think you need to have some fancy degree from a cooking school or food university (is there such a thing?) – anyone can be an expert on food if they eat enough of it, appreciate it, and are always willing to try new foods and new recipes, and it sounds like you are!

    And that is VERY good advice to anyone struggling to find a travel niche – sometimes someone else can see what we are good at better than we can ourselves.

    Lastly, if you haven’t yet joined the IFWTWA (International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association) you should consider it……they are a great organization to belong to and can help you find writing assignments within your travel niche…..think about it!

  6. Excellent point. Thanks for the reminder.

    When I recently decided to make the move over to travel blogging after years of traditional print-based travel-reporting, I decided I’d have to narrow my focus or get lost in a vast sea of travel blogs. So I decided I’d focus on Canada–my first true travel love and a place whose far corners I have visited and re-visited over the years. (Plus, there were very few useful Canada-specific travel blogs when I went looking…) After just five months, the strategy seems to be working, both from an editorial, advertising and traffic point of view.

    (I’m still travelling the world–but I write the non-Canada content for other sites with broader content.)

  7. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Julie – thanks for visiting! You’ve chosen a great travel niche – I LOVE Canada – such a beautiful country and such nice people! You have a terrific website – very informative….. I’m really glad your angle is working out for you!

  8. Lori
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great post- I agree that, with so many travel writers these days, we all have to get specific about what we can offer that’s different from everybody else. I am just starting to do that and am going from general “Travel” to cultural dancing while I travel. My blog will reflect this as my summer of travelling heats up. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    @Lori – cool niche! I will look forward to reading it!

  10. Shannon OD
    Twitter:
    says:

    Really great tips – and it definitely has me thinking. I haven’t really tried to monetize my blog yet, but it’s something that I have recently started working on and this post gives me some valuable strategies for being successful!

    ~Shannon

  11. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Shannon – thanks for your nice compliment on this article – I’m glad it’s helping you! I enjoyed reading about your ‘girly day’ on your website http://alittleadrift.com/ as well – keep up the great writing!

  12. Trisha, this is a great post.

    When we started “Where & What in the World,” it focused on too many aspects of travel.

    What we’ve one the past 7 months is tie most of our travel pieces with food and our food with the locale. Our numbers have increased dramatically.

    When we are doing a piece that is strictly travel without a food tie, we post it somewhere else. Frequently, on Global-Writes.Com the travel magazine of IFWTWA. Thank you for your plug. It is a great organization.

    Our first book, “Our Love Affairs with Food & Travel,” did fine. But, bookstores did not like it as they did not know if they should list it under food or travel. It’s a perfect example of what not to do, even though the chefs and many others love it.

    Maralyn

  13. thanks, I made the changes you suggested with cici’s photo in the header and have dog blog will travel as the name… you like?

    and writers, if you have dog travel stories and/or photos, please enter our shaggy dog tales contest, get published and win a prize for your pooch !

  14. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi CeliaSue – YES! I absolutely DO love it! She’s a beautiful pooch. AND a big “happy birthday” from me to CiCi also……

  15. Trisha
    Twitter:
    says:

    @Maralyn – thanks once again for your compliments and also for your feedback – as you’ve seen with your own experience, niche writing is the way to go.

    I think most of us writers have learned our craft the hard way – by doing, stumbling, getting up and trying something different. I’m sure that must be why you and I work so hard to help other writers!

  16. Good points, Trisha. I’m planning to start up a new travel blog later this year, and that’s exactly how I plan to approach it. Of course, there’s always room for a bit of well-written off topic stuff, provided this doesn’t detract from the main focus.

  17. Great article, Trisha. Lots of great tips. I still consider myself a newbie to the technical aspects of blogging, but I’m delighted you’ve validated that at least I’m doing something right! I blog about the topic I know best, and that is travel to France. I just need more spare time to post more often. If it weren’t for that pesky day job! :) But that’s what pays the bills….for now.
    Thanks again for a great post!
    Mary Ann
    http://www.enchanted-traveler.com
    @enchantedtravel

    • Hi Mary Ann – thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your kind words!

      I took a peek at your blog – very nice job, great theme and I like the colors you’re using (happy colors). You’re absolutely doing the right thing by focusing on a topic you know well and seem to love, and that is focused.

      I understand what you mean about finding time to write – it’s a challenge that many writers face. You just have to keep submitting your articles to any publication for which they may be a good fit, and keep promoting your expertise. Good luck!

  18. Alex Simpson says:

    Thank you so much for this article, it has made me think about my blog in such a new light. I am now thinking about what can be my niche. All my friends read my blogs because they want to know what I am up to but I would love for people around the world to hear about my experiences in a hope I might be able to inspire them in some ways. I loved the idea about the blog with the travelling dog, sounds so fun and interesting. Wish me luck!
    .-= Alex Simpson´s last blog post: Saint-Chapelle, The Chapels =-.

  19. Bret
    Twitter:
    says:

    Excellent topic, and one we put a lot of thought into before launching our site, Green Global Travel. As far as we’ve been able to tell after researching hundreds of travel blogs, ours is the only one that focuses exclusively on Ecotourism (a.k.a. Sustainable Travel), incorporating stories on nature/wildlife and cultural conservation that fit into the overall theme. It’s not the most popular travel topic by any means, but we believe it’s one that will become increasingly crucial in years to come, as globalization leads to even broader-scaled cultural homogeneity and scarcity of natural resources.

    • Terrific niche, Bret! And I agree – I firmly believe that sustainable ecotourism will become an increasingly important segment of the overall travel market, so you’re wise to build the foundation now for what will be not just a popular meeting place for discussion but also a valuable information resource. Good luck!

  20. The first paragraph rings true to me as it’s so easy to be everything to everyone. It’s best to narrow things down and concentrate on being the best at it rather than trying to be too broad. Nice post and thanks for putting things into great context.

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