Do Readers Begrudge Travel Bloggers Making A Living?

A National Newspaper recently profiled a travel blogger who had travelled around the world and made a decent living. The paper shared the article on their Facebook Page and while most of the comments were of the ‘that’s cool bro’ variety there was one that caught my eye.

And I bet he made money promoting all the places he stayed at along the way.*

*I’m paraphrasing here, the actual comment was ruder and contained more troll-speak but you get the gist. Also I’m being deliberately vague re the blogger as I don’t want to get into a discussion re how they personally make a living, it was just one of the incidents that sparked the idea for this piece.

Now, I’m not in the habit of baiting trolls so I moved onto something else but a part of me really wanted to reply:

AND YOUR POINT IS…

I know this guy probably only represents 0.001% of the population but it’s not the first time I’ve seen comments like this. It seems that, particularly when a travel blogger is doing well, a small minority come out to attack them for making money from their website. I’ve even heard of people boasting that they remove code from affiliate links and add ad blockers to their browsers to stop bloggers (and big publishers) making what is honestly a meagre % off their purchases.

And I don’t get it.

This is how many forms of media survive in 2017. In an internet age where the reader accesses content for free, the publisher needs to find ways to make sure their writers eat and their web host gets paid the monthly fee.

As a reader, I’m totally cool with that. I spend hours soaking up the advice, entertainment and distraction that blogs provide. I’ve read posts that have saved me money, found tips that saved me time and have planned trips without the need of a travel agent (sorry agents) because a blogger has poured so much helpful detail onto their website. In my eyes the least I can do is book via their affiliate link, especially as it costs me nothing.

I get that there are issues of integrity. No one wants to feel sold to and readers definitely don’t want to be duped. As publishers we need to disclose when content is sponsored and perhaps be clearer about what exactly that means. But as a reader I’m not bothered by any of these things – as long as I’m reading good content, how you make a living is nowt to do with me. (Unless it’s illegal, then that’s just naughty.)

Another comment I sometimes see bandied on these types of threads is ‘anyone can do that’ and boy do I chuckle. I imagine it’s only those who haven’t tried to build a website, an audience, income streams and business relationships while bouncing around the globe who think this travel blogging malarkey is easy.

I was once one of them! This month I’ll be shutting down a second site I launched in the optimistic days of 2012. I had grand plans to make this some passive secondary income stream and invested lot of time and money over the years. Yet without more time, passion and a heap load of skills it became just another unloved site on the internet. Honestly, I tip my hat to the bloggers making big bucks ‘coz everyone can try but we can’t all do it.

Anyway I’m obviously hugely biased because I’m a blogger who has chosen to monetize some of my shiz. So I’d love to hear from others – does it irk you when you see an affiliate link? Do ads put you off blog content? Would you rather pay to read ad-free content? Is the way a travel blogger makes money important to you or irrelevant if you like what they’re writing? Maybe I’ve just given far too much thought to a random dude’s comment! Would love to know your thoughts.

21 Comments

  1. Reply

    Greg

    March 31, 2017

    Spot on – as always – Jayne. Really bugs me too, I get a lot of comments like ‘you’ve the best job in the world’ and ‘need an apprentice?’ Which are kinda cool, and it is the best job in the world… but only because I work my nads off to get in front of the right people, be seen as someone useful and, like you, build that audience (which has grown 2-fold in the last year due to a LOT of hard work on content and marketing…). BUT what really gets my goat is… a lot of bloggers in the whisky and booze world self-righteously proclaim that their site is better, more honest and more useful because it is not a business… ‘I’ve been doing this for years and never saw the need to monetise, don’t want to lose integrity’ – such BS; more likely they have not the commercial accumen to monetise and make it work, and integrity? That’s an individual thing to uphold and to lose; not down to whether you earn coin from your site or not.

    Sorry, bit of a rant, but you brought out a passion point!

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 31, 2017

      Hahaha rant’s always welcome and I totally get your point. I have some affiliate links on the site but have remained largely ad free as I bought into that notion that it’s more noble not to run ads. I’m not sure where that idea came from really and am beginning to think the only person who has lost out here is me haha.

      Also it’s interesting to note similar attitudes across different niches. I was wondering if because travel is so aspirational people are more wary of monetised content but if you’ve heard similar comments in the whiskey business that’s obvs not the case.

  2. Reply

    Christine @ Adventure, Baby!

    March 31, 2017

    Really interesting discussion Jayne! I really hope that most people are supportive of us in the same way that people saw they support small businesses, as that’s what we are! Might look a bit flashier on the outside, but really a small business doing its best to survive a tough world (golly that sounded a bit Dickensian!)

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 31, 2017

      I love that way of looking at it – just need to rebrand blogs as small businesses 🙂

      I also agree with you that perhaps it is the perception that jars. Because travel can look so glam perhaps the perception is we make more than we do and that’s causing a disconnect with the reader.

  3. Reply

    Angie Silver

    March 31, 2017

    I love these posts of yours…so true, I don’t think anyone would a problem with someone else actually making money out of their job!! I also try and buy stuff through bloggers affiliate links and if the product has sold out via their link I feel bad about buying it elsewhere!

    In regards to the ‘anyone can do that’ attitude to bloggers…I can’t tell you how many of my friends have set up a blog and abandoned it after one or two posts!

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 31, 2017

      Aw thanks – you can tell I’m having a glam Friday night pouring my thoughts on the internet 🙂

      Be so interesting to know the drop out rate of blogs. I bet there so many great ideas left undeveloped because it’s deceptive how much time it takes.

  4. Reply

    Megan

    March 31, 2017

    As a keen blog reader, I’ve never cared whether or not the author is monetizing their site. As long as I enjoy the content and feel it’s genuine (ie: not influenced by the $$) then I’m happy to see ads, or affiliate links or whatever it takes for them to make a living. Unless….the bloggers don’t clearly disclose affiliate links, sponsored posts or comped travel etc. Fortunately I haven’t seen it much in the blogs I follow, but aside from the ethical issues, as a reader it makes me feel duped and it’s hard not to resent someone for making money while not being honest about it. But that’s a whole other issue!

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 31, 2017

      Oh yes I totally get. I am wondering though if most readers understand the terminology when we talk of sponsored/hosted/affiliated etc and whether that matters. Maybe they are not that bothered by the ins and outs of the business and I’m over-thinking it. Again haha

  5. Reply

    Claire

    March 31, 2017

    People have to earn a living. I think there needs to be a balance between sponsored and non-sponsored content. Personally I wouldn’t read hotel review posts as they don’t appeal, but it wouldn’t put me off the blog if the rest of the content was varied and with a strong voice.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 31, 2017

      I feel the same when I read blogs. Interestingly hotel and airlines reviews are some of my most read posts because of the number of people who search these topics on google when planning their holiday. I find it’s always a bit of a juggle between serving long-term readers, bringing in new ones through seo/google and paying the bills at the end of the month.

  6. Reply

    Lisa // Fjords & Beaches

    March 31, 2017

    LOVED reading this!

    I am often surprised at how many people make these comments (“I bet you were sponsored/stayed there for free”) – but so what if the blogger was? Why does it bother them?

    I love the idea of your reply to that comment, Jayne, because I don’t actually understand what they are trying to prove! What would this particular commenter have answered if you would have asked “and your point is..?”

    Thank you for putting this out there – I think many people dislike the fact that bloggers can make money doing what they love without actually realising it themselves.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 31, 2017

      I’m definitely over-thinking this but I’m really trying to wrap my head around what the objection was in that comment. Is it seen as somehow shady to make money from a blog and if so why? If the content is good and the blogger is upfront about what is and isn’t sponsored isn’t that fair? Everyone’s just trying to make a living but for some reason travel bloggers seem to get called out on it. I’d love to know if trad publications have seen a similar backlash and if so does the payment model need changing? Ultimately if people want to read 100% pure unspon, ad-free content they’re going to have to start paying for it! May put a few of us out of business mind you – scrap that idea haha.

  7. Reply

    Camila

    March 31, 2017

    Honestly, I think I agree with you and with the opposite comments too (though not the troll lol). I’m a blogger who does sponsored work too and to be honest it makes me discover news things and it’s great to be paid or get something free when I work so much on this little internet corner of mine. BUT along the years I have stopped reading blogs by travel bloggers who are either always on the move. Obviously I’m not a nomad so that’d just not my niche. The other thing is that if everything is always sponsored I just lose interest, it depends how the blogger writes and talks about things, but some things just sound so fake. I like when it gets a bit more gritty and personal. But that’s just my 2cents!

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 31, 2017

      I totally understand, readers want to see the honest truth and sponsored content needs to be well balanced and sit naturally among the rest of the content. Too much spon or affiliate links is too much for most people. It’s just some of the reactions I’ve seen seem to object to any kind of monetization at all. I’ve literally seen messages readers sent to other bloggers saying thanks for the heads up re x but I signed up without your referral link so you wouldn’t get the credit. Think this is just a mean minority though!

  8. Reply

    Emma Hart

    April 2, 2017

    Such an interesting post Jayne. I’m happy to support bloggers in anyway possible, if that means buying through their affiliate links then I’m more than happy to do so, especially if their content is useful and interesting. What does get me though is when it’s obvious that people have set up their blog JUST to make money. Every single post is a product recommendation or has affiliate links EVERYWHERE. That’s when I’m less willing to help support them. I like it when people have a passion for what they’re writing about and what they’re doing. I’ll never begrudge people making a living from that.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      April 2, 2017

      That’s a really great point about passion. I definitely enjoy blogs that feel like a labour of love rather than a fully commercial endeavor.

  9. Reply

    Kristin

    April 7, 2017

    I love seeing all the interesting and creative ways people make a living NOT stuck inside four walls, but at least with the bloggers I read regularly, there’s never any doubt that they have to earn it! The only ones that bother me are the ones that insist that their way is the only way to go, that you have to quit your job and do things their way in order to TRULY travel. Because I may not be able to travel constantly with my 9-to-5, but with good tips from you full time travelers, I can use my vacation days to travel like a rockstar!

  10. Reply

    Jayne Gorman

    April 7, 2017

    I completely understand that! I see some blogs that are set up to sell the digital nomad lifestyle and even though I travel a lot that lifestyle/ type of content is not for me either. I’d love to think my readers were using the tips they see here to travel like rockstars though . -that’s a good goal for me!

  11. Reply

    Ioanna

    April 8, 2017

    There is the general attitude that what’s on the internet, should be for free. News, blogs, games… whatever. Somehow the intellectual work that gets into producing a nontangible product – like knowledge, is seen as .. less or such. People don’t question that they have to pay for shoes they buy online, but knowledge? Entertainment? That should be for free. I obviously disagree – I am new to blogging as a writer, but I’ve been a consumer for years and years. As long as the ads are not annoying pop-ups or showing unrelated or questionable products (gambling), I’m good.

    It’s totally fine if someone’s writing a blog as a hobby, but it does not make his or her writing automatically more honest than a paid blogger. You can write for free and still be biased and dishonest. You either have integrity, or you don’t.

    Good post, Jayne.

    Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)

  12. Reply

    Jayne Gorman

    April 10, 2017

    I want to high five your last point! I totally agree that the integrity of a blog depends on the integrity of the person writing it and wish that there wasn’t an automatic assumption that you’re going to be dishonest if you’re being paid for your work. Like many traditional publications, professional bloggers have worked up their own set of guidelines about what they will and won’t write about as well as the way they do it. Readers are good at sniffing out BS so it’s in a bloggers interest to keep it real if they want to keep the readers.

LEAVE A COMMENT

RELATED POSTS

Send this to friend