So here’s a wacky thought: should there be reviews for travel blogs?
On the heels of last week’s rant, I’m wondering if the travel blogging industry wouldn’t benefit from a little fear. Constructive fear, obviously. This isn’t junior high school, though some days it feels like it. No, I’m talking about the same accountability, good practice expectations and repercussions faced by anyone that creates a thing for public consumption, like a book, restaurant or a car.
Reviews would not only comment on content, but also the blog’s total value, with each blog’s focus and mission taken into account. Granted, it would be a bit subjective, being that so many people are tackling so many genres and subgenres, but then that’s no different than book and movie reviewing.
Also, perhaps a little fact checking? Being that certain bloggers tend to embellish their credentials (because why not?), when appropriate, these reviews would also aim to call out the guiltiest fibbers.
The way I have (rather quickly) envisioned it, reviews would serve multiple purposes.
1. Cataloging travel blogs. So, for starters, when the monthly “what are some good travel blogs?” call goes out on Twitter, those people could simply be pointed to the reviews.
2. A good source for PRs. Since it seems they rarely take the, admittedly not insubstantial, time to really dig into the blogs before contacting the blogger, this would be a quick way for them to not only sort out the family travel blogs from the adventure blogs for more effective pitching, but also get a quick snapshot of each blog’s strength: practical info, photography, writing, humor, etc.
3. Give new/aspiring bloggers a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
4. Hopefully encourage a higher standard than our current “anything goes” environment, thereby raising the general standing of the travel blogging industry.
There’d be minimum criteria, of course. Say, blogs would have to be active for at least 18 months and have a minimum of 78 posts (an average of one post a week during the minimum interval) before they could be considered for a review. Also, I think there would have to be a panel of reviewers instead of just one reviewer, since everyone is going to notice/appreciate/hate different things. The obstacle we face here is that the travel blogging community is kinda incestuous these days, so the panel would have to rotate if someone had a conflict of interest by reviewing a friend blogger. Or, failing that, get reviewers that aren’t travel bloggers at all, totally eliminating a possible conflict of interest.
Reviewers, who would all be bylined for the sake of legitimacy and accountability, would have to read at least 10 posts and spend no less than, say, 30 minutes clicking around the site to get a sense for feel, content and features. After that, reviewers would write a review, maybe 250-500 words, detailing what they liked and didn’t like, then answer a series of questions and rank each blog on a number of scales, like “overall content,” “design,” “value,” “fun,” etc, and finally a “last word” summary paragraph for quick reference.
Downside: Where would we find the people to volunteer their time? How would the various expenses be financed?
But before any of that is addressed, would anyone really read these reviews? And would they make any difference?