Recently, Leslie from Trips with Tykes had a great post on truth in travel blogging. She pulled the curtain back from media trips a little bit. I’ve learned a bit about hosted trips myself over the past year and we had a fun discussion about how sponsored trips or posts affect how we write about things. I encourage you to give it a listen when you have a chance (embedded in Soundcloud below, or on the web here, or on iTunes at Saverocity Observation Deck). We also got some Disney nerd talk in about Pandora and the new Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout ride in the second half, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Anyway, I had a few lingering thoughts on travel blogging, so I decided to…blog about them. Happy to hear everyone’s thoughts on the podcast or my thoughts in the comments!
Influencer is an apt term
Like we mentioned on the podcast, I only started personally hearing the term influencer in the last year or so, but it’s a great descriptor for what bloggers/vloggers/social media people do. A lot has been made of how social media can be a huge echo chamber in the past year, but I (foolishly) didn’t make the connection to influencers until the podcast.
A simple example is Jetsmarter. A lot of people in my social feeds have been flying private via Jetsmarter trials. Just seeing that all over my feed makes me feel FOMO and wish I had the time to join up myself.
Coincidentally, today Forbes released a list of top influencers. Some of those influencers have been paid quite a bit of money to help various companies market their products. So you have this weird space on the internet where we’re all influencing each other in our echo chambers but some people are getting paid to do it, so who’s opinion do we trust?
Objectivity is near impossible
I’m past the point in my life where I worry a ton about what others do; people are successful and I don’t need to get mad about it. So the discussion of travel blogging bias really has helped me to turn a mirror on myself.
One thing I didn’t get to adequately express on the podcast is my belief that full blown objectivity is impossible. We are all a product of complicated experiences which have led to more complicated belief systems and will always write with bias.
For example, I still don’t love cash back. While I’ve learned to appreciate its value more, I’m never going to write as excitedly about cash back as I might about a premium cabin redemption. Random tweets people write will be a product of their bias. So while I aim to be as objective as possible, I view pure objectivity as a golden standard that I will never reach, but will always strive for.
Concessions make objectivity even more difficult
Of course, when you throw affiliates, money, or “freebies” into the mix, objectivity becomes even more difficult. It’s human nature, it’s harder to be critical of someone you who has given you nice things. Even harder if you’re financially tied to that entity. This is pretty straightforward.
Drawing a line
So obviously, Disney has been very kind to me this year. I got the chance to attend the Social Media Moms Celebration (discounted off full ticket price) and the Pandora World of Avatar media preview (completely hosted). I thoroughly enjoyed both events, in part because Disney exerted absolutely no editorial control over how I covered them. (An exception was NDA stuff, like I saw the Pixar short Lou but wasn’t supposed to talk about it, but that’s “leak prevention” not editorial control in my mind).
But I know some affiliates or sponsors will dictate what you can or cannot write about in an editorial fashion. Disney could have easily said “don’t write or talk about how Flight of Passage can sometimes break down”, but they didn’t. (It can, btw. Monitoring early previews I had serious concerns it wouldn’t be able to handle the loads when Pandora opened, but it’s actually been running quite well, better than I expected for sure.)
I’ve never been in such a situation, but I remember Matt got put into that kind of situation a few years ago, and he told the affiliate to go pound sand. I’d like to believe I’d do the same in a similar situation.
Keeping myself honest
Let’s be real, nobody is pounding down my door when they see my Twitter following. But still, I want to keep myself honest, and that means not taking every free thing offered to me. I’ll be in Orlando for work next week and will likely visit Disney with my coworkers on my own dime.
I also think I need to keep myself honest because if I don’t I’ll be doing the tens of people I do influence a disservice. Which leads me to my final point.
Who’s opinion do you trust?
When it comes to the echo chambers, I’ve learned to be very selective about the people’s opinions I truly trust. And I’d like to be someone whose opinion is valued by others.
That means I owe it to myself and to readers to cut any B.S. and give my honest opinions. That means if something bad happens even if I’m #sponsored, I need to write about it. Otherwise, what good is my opinion?
So my goal is to be as honest and real about my travel, my family, and my life as possible. And hopefully that helps readers as they make decisions on where and how to travel. Like I said, it’s impossible to be completely objective, but I’m committed to doing the best I can. Hopefully that’s good enough!
Give the podcast a listen and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Apologies for the inside baseball, back to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.