HuffPost Travel Gets Flack From Travel Writers

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HuffPost Travel Gets Flack From Travel Writers

HuffPost Travel, the newly launched travel vertical of the Huffington Post, recently ran into a blitz of criticism from professional travel writers.

In a wide-ranging interview with HuffPost Travel editor, Kate Auletta, writer Chris Gray Faust, of travel blog, Chris Around the World , asked Auletta a series of questions near and dear to the hearts of travel bloggers and journalists everywhere: Are you accepting submissions from travel bloggers? What's the application process and is there any compensation.

Auletta made it clear she was looking for "more voices," saying " the more voices the better...but there is no compensation for our writers, however."

Many travel writers are accustomed to providing content for nothing, but only to high value sites, because they believe it will drive traffic to their own sites, and the exposure will generate paying gigs.

But then Auletta added that, relative to photography, she requires "the rights to absolutely everything."

Things went from bad to worse when she said she did not allow HuffPost Travel writers to even take press trips, a position that seems now to be in flux.

Interestingly, she did not say HuffPost Travel required an exclusive or "first on," leading several writers to say they'd publish to their own blog sites or paying sites first, then to Auletta's

Nevertheless, the response to her comments was immediate and sharp.

One comment on Faust's post said since Huffington Post was valued at 150 million dollars why couldn't they pay their writers? And why require all rights to photographs, and not allow their writers to take press trips?

Another said, "I doubt Kate (Auletta) is working for free," while another writer compared Auletta's policy to that of house cleaners who "come and do my housework... bring their own cleaning equipment...will not be allowed to offer their cleaning services elsewhere. They will receive no compensation, and must pay for a taxi to get to my house rather than using subsidised public transport."

Reportedly the Huffington Post gets about 40 million unique visitor's a month, making the writers' lament, "why would they want us to work for nothing?" that much more pointed.

The overall sense is that HuffPost Travel is a work in progress, and Auletta, who was lured away from the WSJ's magazine, will rethink and reevaluate her policies, if not regarding compensation, then at least regarding rights and press rips, the back bone of most professional travel journalists.

Auletta's favorite destination? Barbuda, sister island to Antigua. A good place to escape the frustrations of travel writers.

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Comment by Kaleel Sakakeeny on August 5, 2010 at 2:25pm
I think, Frank, this will evolve into a "don't ask don't tell" situation, but I could be wrong.
I don't think Auletta has had much experience in the travel space so we'll see. The good news is they have not asked for an exclusive so will take content previously published via or not via a press trip.
Thanks for writing in
KS
Comment by frank shiell (aka Pancho) on August 4, 2010 at 12:00am
WHAT? "no press trips" policy at The H P? Furgetit. Travel journalists must travel. Theater critics must see the how. OH, is it that the same old "no-freebie, go-incognito (and clueless)" obsolete syndrome? Goal is to create superb travel literature that inspires, educates and is read for intrinsic value. (Err, like maybe also, to boast edit quality to entice advertisers??) I'm like, like you know...whatever.
. Amusing to see staffers of "no freebie" pubs, scarfing free lunches and strashering airline local ticketing offices for free upgrades.
Comment by Kaleel Sakakeeny on August 3, 2010 at 8:16am
Years ago I think I was part of a 2 or 3 group team pleading with SATW to reconstruct and reexamine. I thought the huge conventions size should be abandoned for smaller, on going more training ones. I asked that they determine their value to the marketplace, the public, even while they spent hours on deciding who could join and the what the qualifications were..when no one cared any more if one was a SATW member or not. I suggested bringing n a retired biz exec to be CEO, and to drop all requirements for membership...just to see if anyone wanted to join even under those circumstances.
Oh, well. That fight is long gone and most of us have moved on. Thanks for writing in, Mary
Comment by Mary E Gallagher on August 3, 2010 at 12:58am
Kaleel is right and there is another reality. like the pay situation, that fraternal organizations such as SATW and others will go by the wayside or have to reinvent their purpose. What is the average age of a SATW member? Do bloggers and online stars see a need to belong to this type of affiliation? Then are there enough travel writers with the print outlets to qualify for such restrictive membership?
Comment by Kaleel Sakakeeny on August 2, 2010 at 4:29pm
I agree , of course :).

But I was saying it's up to us to monetize our content. The model of pay for content is dying, if not dead. It's perfectly possible to generate good, hard cash by leveraging your content and not expecting some third party to pay you. We do well by letting our content "carry" revenue-generating options: paid and free media, a la carte services.
But I've been having this conversation with SATW ( a shadow of its former self for this reason) for years now. Literally.
Thanks for writing it!
KS
Comment by Sandra Phinney on August 2, 2010 at 4:15pm
Kaleel, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at Huffington Post's travel writing mandate (no pay, no rights, no press trips). Not that I am a big fan of press trips but they do serve their purpose. Especially independent solo trips that many of us arrange with various tourism reps. Anyway, the problem is that if we expect our "pay" to be links to sites, product placements in TVP's etc. I have yet to figure out how to buy groceries, bird food or air tickets with them. If the world did not rely on hard cash for me to live and get from point A to point B, I'd be all for the kind of exchanges you propose. Alas, my bank account only accepts money. I have no trouble with folks setting up blogs and writing for themselves for free. But the moment someone else publishes content that does not belong to them (magazines, newspapers, blogs, books, websites etc.) then I draw the line. Can't imagine the folks at Huffington not relying on their paychecks, whether it's the publishers, editors or cleaning crew. I think there are too many wanna-be travel writers out there who haven't a clue what's involved save seeing their words in print and calling themselves travel writers. Perhaps they are looking for fame. Me, I'm looking to put food on my table. So I trade words for money. Or potatoes. There's no shame in being traditional or old world.
Comment by Mary E Gallagher on July 31, 2010 at 11:58pm
I think I m in love with Allan Lynch ...he's so calm, mild mannered! Maybe it's that orange suit? Is it rubber? Oh that means he''s kinky too. Allan it would be a very boring world without people like you! I fret about the killing of America's 20 year old men in Afghanistan for what? Profit for Blackwater and Halliburton? Obama another candidate who lied to us. I doubt if there is an honest elected person in the world and other morbid thoughts. Thank goodness you're this bright happy orange light out there who if nothing else believes writers should be paid. Sent from the second poorest county in North Carolina, aka a third world country 220 miles from the White House where the schools are still segregated. Move to the USA countryside it's a real eye opener.
Comment by Kaleel Sakakeeny on July 31, 2010 at 7:14pm
Allan, thanks for your comment and I appreciate your intensity and your point of view. I think we "met" over SATW posts where, for years, I argued against the idea of expecting pay for content, sort of the feudal system. You work, I pay you in cash, potatoes or whatever.
We have entered the new age of monetizing our content . Pay me for a product placement in our TVPs. Pay for a link in my blog. Pay for an upload to a high value site. The idea of my standing in line for a check for my work is very traditional and very old world. That is, old world as of a year ago or two,
Still, Huff Post should pay for the content AND be a partner in the monetizing of the content, which finally is up to the writer.
Good to hear from you!!
Comment by Allan Lynch on July 31, 2010 at 5:28pm
Screw the press trip bit, why are we even considering them or any other outlet if the outlet doesn't pay?

I've been a publisher. If you would work for another publication/website/blog/outlet for free, why should I expect to have to pay you? Working for free is not a sustainable form of marketing or networking or any other delusional heading you wish to justify it under.

If your price is "free" then that's how much respect you'll get from editors and publishers.

For years I've heard from start-ups about "once they get going" they'll be able to share the wealth. Bullshit. Most never get going. In the case of the Huffington Post, it's owned by a very wealthy woman who is seems to have near-oracle status among some in the new and old media. But how many of those people in the inner circle in Washington whose friendship and favour she courts know she doesn't pay writers? It's not just travel writers, I understand that most columnists for the Post also aren't paid. How does this very wealthy woman justify that? And why don't people who interview her and her editors ask that question?

If I'm an entrepreneur and you will work for me for free, what is the impetus to pay you? Threaten to leave? So what, there are lots of others willing to step in.

This illustrates that travel writing is populated by far too many people who haven't a business sense (some of us do, but too, too many don't) and by dabblers. If you can afford to write for free or for "the trip", then how serious a writer are you? Okay, you may think you're serious about your writing, but you have the luxury of a spousal/companion's income or a pension to live off and pay the real bills.

Gawd, this makes my blood boil.

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