23 Responses

  1. JustSaying
    JustSaying at |

    Very revealing article…….gives you rationale why we see so many articles about the Far East and so few about Europe………sponsored versus unsponsored……but that’s ok…..just hit the delete button……..

  2. Aptraveler
    Aptraveler at |

    Thanks Seth for this great write up, it’s certainly food for thought especially when one ponders the perceived ‘neutrality’ or ‘unbiased’ opinion of a blogger. A lot of people take issue with the ‘purity’ of a blogger’s content as just trying to avoid any sponsored writing because the blogger simply wrote about the benefits/perks of a product/service or a liked destination. To me, is an issue that will never be settled. And if you don’t like what you read or ‘perceive’ that the writer sold their soul to the devil, then don’t bother readying that blog anymore, simply put – case closed!

  3. Thomas
    Thomas at |

    Great article. This is why I take your input much more seriously than some of the other BoardingArea bloggers who recently decided to constantly push referrals. There’s nothing wrong in being sponsored if there is a balance. Unfortunately for many bloggers on this site things became too focused on sponsorships and $$$$

  4. Scottrick
    Scottrick at |

    This article is one reason why I don’t feel so bad about credit card affiliate marketing. I know it can still be done poorly or badly, but earning money through advertising and referrals means that I get to decide how I use it and what I want to write about (you could argue there’s still bias if I were to write too much about a particular card in my effort to earn referrals).

    But at least when I visit a destination, I’m there because I want to be and not because it’s the only place that was willing to offer me a free trip.

  5. Ryan E
    Ryan E at |

    Good food for thought. As I’ve started using a blog simply as an easy way to privately share our trip photos and stories with family members across the country, I wonder if one day I’d like to do something along those lines more seriously as a “semi-hobby” once I retire. I had just read about the TBEX conference somewhere, actually.

    Personally I think it’s hard to be objective when being sponsored on a trip; or at least, hard for me to take what the traveler says seriously. I generally won’t follow writers or bloggers who do get regularly comped. The way I see it, I can easily find the CVBs, hotel and attraction websites, etc. for most places myself. So I can see their one-side attractive photos, writeups, etc. What I value from the online travel world is independent reviews from people who just chose a destination for their own personal reasons.

    I find non-sponsored writers tend to educate me more about off-the-beaten track destinations, or sights. Again, I can find more than enough info about London, Hawaii, Aruba, Hong Kong, etc. on my own!

    BoardingArea has too many folks that either are comped or seem to let affiliate marketing or ad needs drive their choices. You’re one of the exceptions, and hope you always will be!

  6. Carl P
    Carl P at |

    “Apparently most have not yet discovered the payouts associated with credit card referrals and so they look for other means to pay their way”

    So do you see a difference between trusting a trip review that was sponsored vs a credit card review by somebody with related affiliated links? I’m not sure I see it.

    At least with trip reviews if you rate them poorly you mostly likely didn’t plan to go to there again anyway (or wanting anything from them again). When reviewing an affiliated credit card you may be affecting an ongoing relationship that you would most likely like to keep.

    1. JustSaying
      JustSaying at |

      No matter how good we think we are or how smart we think we are we can always get smarter and get better………and I certainly had rather those discussions be on places I want to go. Seeing a review with a connection on China Air or Royal Jordanian to an island that takes a couple of days to get to and a couple of days to return from is absolutely sponsored 9 times out of 10 and is a waste of a working human’s time (or 99 out of 100 normal working human beings)…….discussing the best spots on the French Riviera which would be quite useful is almost NEVER reviewed………not sure if the bloggers are intimidated by the Riviera or just refuse to write about anything that they aren’t sponsored on……….but if you look at surveys of where people want to go it is France first……….there should be a flood of bloggers reviewing D-Day 7-th anniversary trips but there are none………no it’s take my Mom to Easter Island? Please?

  7. Paul Feagan
    Paul Feagan at |

    It is a worrying trend. My http://www.bugadvisor.com blog only has a small readership so I’ve never been offered anything. I also tend to fund all my own travel rather than travel on business (Dubai, Germany and Romania being the exceptions so far). I guess if I was ever offered a free trip/hotel/flight etc I would probably accept it and then start the subsequent review with a disclaimer that described what had been provided. I’d like to hope that my review wouldn’t be influenced by the freebie, but equally I would worry that by not being anonymous, I was treated better than the average guest. As for blog.wandr.me, it seems to have become a closed shop – they have a ‘become a blogger’ link and submit your site details dialog, but nobody ever replies to this (bit rude I think) – has anyone managed to become a new boardingarea blogger recently?

    1. JustSating
      JustSating at |

      Paul: They’re been reading their own press releases and don’t think they need any help……..

  8. Liz
    Liz at |

    Forgive me for saying so, but this is why the only travel website I think is totally reliable is JoeSentMe.com. It has no ads of any kind and a strict (and totally public) stance on links and such: http://member.biztravelife.com/cyber.htm#POLICY It is also why I happily fork over $69 for membership. I trust what it says because I know that my bucks, not an airline or hotel, funds the operation. This is not to disparage any other site. But I like knowing what influences and who controls the information I am reading.

  9. Sheila
    Sheila at |

    There seems to be a perception that only travel bloggers take sponsored trips. I don’t believe that’s entirely true. In 2009, I was the only travel blogger of the five writers invited on a press trip. Obviously, the others were wrote for print publications. I was the only writer of the bunch that disclosed the sponsored travel in my articles.

  10. travelbloggerbuzz
    travelbloggerbuzz at |

    Fascinating follow up to a surprisingly good article. I have not been approached to be sponsored, not sure how I will react if some agency wants to send me to Maldives lol

  11. Durant Imboden
    Durant Imboden at |

    I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and lack of professional objectivity tends to be self-evident. If a blogger gushes about a destination, hotel, cruise ship, etc. and won’t shut up about it on Twitter or Facebook, it’s pretty obvious that the blogger hasn’t learned the difference between editorial and advertorial. (Then again, some travel bloggers are in the business of producing advertorial, and sponsored “blogger trips” often have different objectives and expectations than “press trips” do.)

  12. Rick Murray
    Rick Murray at |

    Remaining objective is tough for many who write, especially when sponsors get involved. As the former owner of a small newspaper we often got sponsors to help defray the costs of investigating certain news stories. The sponsor always wants the story to be written to suit whatever his/her objective is, not whatever the truth is.

    In many cases a potential sponsor would approach us, demanding we write a “hit” piece on a competitor or to suit some political agenda. We always had to turn these requests down and instead offer to write copy for paid advertisements. And even some of these we had to turn down because we could not knowingly allow an advertiser to publish something we knew was not true.

    I always had sponsors sign releases which stated that whatever story comes out of the investigation would reflect the truth no matter where it lies. The language prohibited the sponsor from suing us when the results of an investigation into a story turned out to be something other than what they wanted.

  13. Ben
    Ben at |

    I personally think that the credibility of boardingarea as a whole is severely affected by the constant flow of credit card focused posts (the number of posts for a 5,000 miles incremental bonus on the SPG card was sickening). A factor that makes it more complicated in my mind is not knowing the quantum of the referral bonus (I am willing to gift $5 to somebody who provides valuable advice. If the referral is in the hundreds I am simply going to stop reading everything related to credit cards), and the difference between credit card providers (e.g. I want to know if AmEx pays more than Chase).

  14. Ben
    Ben at |

    Thanks for the reply and the valuable insight.
    Just wanted to clarify point 1. I am not characterizing BoardingArea bloggers as travel bloggers. I am simply observing that there are days when I enter the website and 95% of posts talk about the latest cannot-miss credit card offer, all making the same points about how amazing it is. I do believe all is done in good faith, and I am sure people can find hundreds of ways to rationalize it, but clearly incentives influence behavior (how many actually amazing offers have you seen over the last year?).
    Do I blame them? Definitely not, if I started to write a blog, and noticed I have a following, the temptation to make some money from the hobby would be extremely strong, following the old wisdom “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t [I]?”
    It is at time useful, I do not churn credit cards because I have an excellent but young credit history, but if I did it would be good to have perspectives on all bloggers on what they would get.At the same time, I would trust you 100% as you are a) knowledgeable and b) unconflicted. I would discount a lot all the conflicted advise because disclosing the conflict is very different from being transparent.
    Provocative idea: let’s ask boarding area bloggers to share annual financials, with total revenues and split of referrals vs. ads.