Some time ago I wrote a piece for this site on how certain online markets were maturing and beginning to offer new opportunities for well-paid, professional travel writing assignments.
In the months since I have worked with numerous travel brands who are waking up to the value of investing in professional-standard travel journalism for their websites, and are willing to pay decent rates for it.
But at the same time I have also seen a relentless growth in the other kind of digital travel content: the cheap, churned-out, superficial dross that exists purely to fill up space, fool the search engines and drive cheap & easy clicks.
The problem is that there is an economic imperative for both types of content creation, and there are plenty of people out there who are happy to pay pennies for garbage. This creates what is known as the signal to noise problem; the deluge of rubbish is overwhelming our ability to discover the rarer but higher quality travel journalism that still exists online.
Many tools exist to deal with this problem, of which search engines and social media sites are the most obvious examples, but they all have their own flaws.
Search engines are manipulated and controlled by marketers and advertisers, and, as any internet user will know, the results that come first are not necessarily the best or most useful. They tend to reflect the more powerful and influential publishers, bloggers and brands at the expense of lesser-known content creators or more niche interests.
Social media tools suffer from much the same problem, frequently degenerating into popularity contests for the bigger publishers and travel bloggers and often highlight those that are better at self-promotion rather than great writing or photography.
As with the search engines, lesser-known journalists and those that are published outside of the mainstream rarely get the chance to break out in social media, even if they are creating content that genuinely deserves more attention.
With the OutBounding.org project (http://beta.outbounding.org/) we’re working on an alternative. We’re creating a system that cuts through the noise and highlights the best of the best, no matter who created it or where it was published.
The system is deceptively simple: the community of journalists, publishers and our audiences can submit content they love in less than 5 seconds using a very simple submission form:
Any subsequent submissions of the same article count as a vote, and articles that receive the most submissions or votes gradually rise to the top of our homepage, producing a constantly evolving list of the best content, as voted by our own community:
In each case the site links directly and exclusively to the source website, sending traffic and new readers straight to the source.
You might be wondering what the difference is between that and any other social sharing tool, such as StumbleUpon or Digg. The critical difference is that our site is managed by a team of dedicated editors who continually review the submissions to make sure that the content is demonstrably top quality.
Using a set of editorial criteria that emphasises and rewards content that is inspiring, detail-oriented, practically useful, entertaining and thoughtfully created, we are able to promote the very best submissions through the site. This is especially useful for highlighting great content created by lesser-known journalists and smaller publications.
Even that might not sound too exciting, but this is only where the real fun begins. Having created a system for curating “the best travel content on the web” we plan to go one step further and distribute that content with new audiences across the web.
We’re able to do this through a series of feeds and embeddable widgets that will be used by third party publishers, tourism boards and travel brands across the web. Anyone who has a need for well-curated content will be able to access our feeds and use them on their own sites and apps. In every case the feed links directly back to the source content, helping us send vast new audiences to the original sites and blogs.
We’ll also be connecting content directly with new audiences through our email subscriptions, social media efforts and through new digital publications and magazines.
This is our mission: to identify and celebrate great content wherever it is published and help restore the value and worth in creating and publishing high quality travel journalism.
But we still need your help. Our success depends on the enthusiasm of the content creating and publishing community, especially independent travel journalists and bloggers, to participate and submit great content on a regular basis.
If you like the sound of what we’re doing please pay us a visit and get involved: http://beta.outbounding.org/