I shared recently a post about how I am not an expert. It’s super empowering to do such a thing, because it relieves me of the need to throw away all respect for the ‘art’ of travel hacking in pursuit of readers. Sadly, Gary from View from the Wing and Ben from One Mile at a Time haven’t done the same, and find themselves trapped. Yesterday Brian, the Points Guy blew the lid off a deal using US Air points to fly British Airways and avoid fees. The response from the big blogs was to republish the same information, rather than link to Brian.
The reason given was that since Brian opened the door to this, it was fair game. So instead of one silly blogger blowing something up we had a stampede. And why? Well because there was fear that they might not seem relevant anymore, and might not be the ‘Expert’. The fact of the matter is that none of these guys are really experts at things like the US Air deal, but if someone else is talking about it and they aren’t they lose their coveted position as thought leaders.
This deal was posted on a handful of minor blog sites, and I didn’t take the bait. But this morning I saw The Points Guy cover it. And I know that American’s PR shop, at least, has in the past monitored what’s posted there. So this now falls into the bucket, for me, of very short-term opportunities that folks should know about before it’s gone.
I’ll pause here a moment and say that I do respect Gary a lot, I don’t read Ben’s blog because it never resonated with me, and Brian for me, back in the day helped me get going, though I don’t read it any more. They have all done great things, but sometimes they, as do I, face difficult decisions and sometimes get them wrong.
The funny thing is, none of these guys are really innovating, nor am I right now. I personally am too busy grasping at the pieces of my quickly unraveling life, to test out the new deal. Deals instead are fed to us via readers or can be obtained by crawling through what Gary Leff coined ‘the minor blogs’ and flyertalk. There are a couple of minor blogs that really are innovating, but there comes a point of conflict when building a site -do you sell out tricks to boost reader clicks, or do you keep them under the radar. I myself have been guilty of selling out tricks for clicks in the past.
Blogs need to make a firm commitment to their long term vision
If it is your goal to build readership and revenue at the expense of a trick, then you are not on the innovators side of the fence. It is fine to be there, and I wish you well. Another blog that does this a lot is MillionMileSecrets, and I respect the heck out of Daraius, he helps new folk come into the game, and is a really nice guy too. Make no mistake, he sells tricks for clicks. But if you don’t, how do you become successful?
This is always the challenge. If Saverocity moves away from sharing all the greatest deals, how do we stay relevant, how do we grow? The answer, for me at least, is that we are in it for the long haul, and for the love of the game. From what I see, Credit Card affiliate money is drying up, and in the 1-2 year time horizon I wouldn’t be surprised to see that vanish all together. From there, a lot of incentive to blow up deals for clicks will evaporate, but there will be still this fear of losing expert ‘status’.
The Bigger you are, the more general you should be
Take a look at any major publication and you will see this truth. If you have mass market appeal then selling out a ‘trick’ has the effect of getting it into the hands of a fraction of a percentage of your readership for actual use, and the remaining 99.9% just think you are the ‘expert’. There are other ways to gain expert status without blowing up smaller deals. Looking at Gary, Ben, and Brian they are doing a phenomenal job of building readership and bringing new people into the game without these things, posts like the one from yesterday are like fishing with dynamite, sure it works to draw some buzz, but how much harm is caused in the process?
I’m no angel. As I mentioned earlier I have done the same thing in the past, and I may unintentionally again in the future as there aren’t firm lines in the sand, but I think everybody in the space knows that a line was crossed yesterday. Brian made a bad judgement call, and Ben and Gary (plus a number of other blogs) decided to jump off the cliff with him like lemmings, in fear that they wouldn’t be the expert anymore. We have to all accept that our peers in this space are very capable of (re)producing ideas and readers are very capable of reading other blogs too, it doesn’t show weakness to have a principle.
But what about keeping things from readers
This is a challenge. I really hate these forum douchebags. In fact, one of the main reasons you don’t see Saverocity blogging about these tricks (other than principle) is that the forums they are posted on are full of idiots that I don’t have time for. I don’t necessarily want to send you there as the answer, but some things just aren’t for blogging about. So if you want information on the space this is my suggestion:
- For comprehensive daily updates on Award program changes or related news, read: View from the Wing
- For a digest of next generation programs, bank deals and less known cards read: PF Digest
- For manufactured spending:
- For maximizing travel reward programs – Travel is Free
- For maximizing efficiency between earning and burning Milenomics
For expert level advice, but who don’t publicly post about the depth of their knowledge: The Miles Professor, MilesAbound, MileageUpdate, Miles, Points and Mai Tais. I also suspect AmolK and Bengali Miles Guru who both write for HackMyTrip are experts, though we haven’t spoken much, and this list isn’t exhaustive, but should give you some hints. The Freequent Flyer is not afraid to innovate. You might notice that a lot of these names come from #milemadness… that is because I knew of them prior, and then I saw what they were doing during the month. You might also note that you don’t know much of what they were doing, that is because we thought is wiser to not broadcast them for clicks.
The reality is, the folk listed above know more than enough tricks of the trade to get you where you need to go, so rather than face that conundrum of withholding information from readers, if readers want specific help, reach out to them. If you are at the point of experience where really juicy tricks are what you need to elevate you to the next level you need to be quite well established in the game already, and should not be leaning on blogs for surprise answers. If you were the guy that really needed to fly to London you should be asking around and brainstorming how to get there.
So, as a rule of thumb… if you are a complete newbie to this traveling or manufactured spending lark, go through the list of blogs above. If you are spending less than $10,000 per month on your cards you have a lot to learn from these. If you start heading up above that number start reaching out to people, either the bloggers, or the people who comment on the posts and start talking offline. There is enough low hanging fruit to get the new folk on the path, and the more juicy things should be shared a little more discretely.
Here is the link to Brian’s post on the US Airways points on British Airways, full disclosure, I didn’t know about this loophole, it is obviously one that I should have tested out when US joined OneWorld, but I didn’t. But hey, there you go, I am not an expert, I don’t know it all and it is OK for me to not reproduce it in full in order to appear to be one. I am working on some other things right now though, and in future posts I will share how to find the next unicorn, not how to kill it.