I’ve started seeing the most recent set of Tbex (huge travel blogging and industry conference) attendees post about their takeaways from the conference. This year’s Tbex North America in Fort Lauderdale was my second Tbex ( I also attended last year’s in Cancun). I love the conference and I still find it full of good information and even better networking opportunities. I would still recommend Tbex to anyone, but this year’s conference gave me some new food for thought.
(One of my favorite networking opportunites… the time I got to meet the Travelocity Roaming Gnome!)
The need for a “niche” is something that’s often talked about in the blogging world. Certainly starting out I read how important it was to have a recognizable “brand” within a pretty narrow niche. This idea was furthered by my time at Tbex this year. While I agree with this philosophy to a certain extent, especially about brand recognition, I find the niche pill a little harder to swallow. I am not going to review your new diet pills (though frankly, I’ve gotten an insulting number of offers lately) because that’s not who I am or what I write about. It wouldn’t make sense in the context of this blog or my “brand”. I get it.
The niche part is where things get a little murkier for me. Isn’t “travel” itself enough of a niche? There is a certain pressure to fall into a very clearly definable category; solo female travel, budget, luxury, eco, backpacking, culinary travel, outdoors, adventure, etc. I think this works very well for some people, but not everyone. Honestly, I find it limiting. Is that holding me back from the millions I’d be earning as a left-handed blogger traveling cross country on a pogo stick to visit the hometowns of the original Mickey Mouse Club? Perhaps, and if anyone offers me millions that’s exactly where you’ll find me this time next year, we all have a price, but for now I’m following a diverse set of interests, and here’s why.
(Sometimes the champagne is on your private verandah on a ship at sunset, and sometimes it’s out of the bottle on the monorail)
Why do people read blogs? Why does anyone care what I have to say? I’ll admit this is a question I struggled with when I first started (and still do sometimes if we are being honest). Traditional media is full of the cheapest, warmest, prettiest towns in the world. If you’re looking for factual information on anywhere at all, it’s at your fingertips 24/7. The only reason I can think of that I (or anyone else) would turn to a blog is for the personal connection. The writers personality; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the things guide books leave out.
(Sometimes you have cocktails in fancy dresses, and sometimes you have to open drug store wine with tweezers in a cheap motel room)
Having said that, people are not “niches”, and those that could be described as such are boring and one dimensional. I’m not a niche, and you, my readers, are not a niche. I have many interests and have narrowed it down to travel for the purposes of this blog, mostly to differentiate between a travel blog and a free verse online journal, but past that I struggle. My blog tends to be budget conscious because I am kinda poor, it tends to be solo because I have a hard time finding people in my life that want to travel when and where I want to, it tends to feature a lot of food because I love to eat (I may have just figured out those diet pill offers). Does that mean I am undermining my brand when I save up for an expensive meal at a high end restaurant, or travel with my friends or significant other? I don’t think so.
(Sometimes you eat a 15 course molecular gastronomy feast, and sometimes you eat greasy pizza on the street… that doesn’t make you a contradiction, it makes you a human)
While attending Tbex Fort Lauderdale, I shared a room with a couple of other travel bloggers ( Danielle of Adventure Editorial and Bobbi of 1fungrltravels, check them both out, they are both amazing writers and people) in a cheap, but absolutely adorable, motel that looked like it hadn’t changed a bit since the 1960’s. I also did a food tour of Fort Lauderdale that utilized the water taxi system, and sailed us right by The Fort Lauderdale International Yacht Show, and I thought, “yeah, I could do that.” It’s likely I’ll never own one of the Admiral Yachts (though I wouldn’t turn it down), but I would certainly do a yacht week, work on a yacht, or rent one in lieu of a hotel for a bit. None of those are “cheap” options, but are worthwhile options, in my opinion. Given this blog’s, “budget” tendencies would doing a piece on my time aboard a yacht be somehow disloyal to the readers?
(Gorgeous yachts preparing for the Fort Lauderdale International Yacht Show.)
I guess that’s a question I’ll leave to you, dear readers. As a reader are you willing to follow someone (preferably me 🙂 ) through a variety of adventures, or would you prefer a more central theme or narrower niche? And fellow bloggers, do you find niches limiting or helpful to your writing? I’ll be the first to admit that I have some commitment issues and hate making a decision. I even struggle at restaurants and have one of the worst cases of order envy in documented history. So be honest, is it self indulgent to refuse to be defined by a niche?