Photo: Wong's Bar, Bangkok.

Idle banter forum

Will write for noodles

Posted by somtam2000 on 13/10/2015 at 08:48 admin

From this week's newsletter:

"We've done more than our fair share of food walks in Southeast Asia, and a common theme that pops up in chats over noodles with the guides is travel writers and bloggers asking for free tours in return for coverage.

Generally it is a quid pro quo, where the food tour operator provides a complimentary trip for the writer (and sometimes, when demanded, for their companion) and in return the writer undertakes to review, in some form or another, the food tour. This kind of arrangement is unfortunately very common in much of travel writing (both amateur and professional), especially in restaurant and hotel reviews. We're not a fan. At all.

The requests, according to the guides we have come to know, often come wrapped up in a veil of demands and blackmail. The writer may suggest they only have the time to test one food tour, are contacting A, B and C operators, and will go with the best offer of swag in return for a review. The swag these people ask for -- though this is especially so when it comes to hotel stays -- can be quite astonishing.

Back to the small food tour operator, what are they to do? Work for free? Or as food tours generally include food, actually lose money for a day of work in the hope of positive coverage for their business? If they refuse, one of their competitors will no doubt acquiesce, and they'll be the one receiving the glowing praise in some travel magazine or travel blog. You could argue that it's a sort of barter exchange with PR the result, but if there is no chance of reviewing the editorial, why risk it? And if there is a chance of reviewing the editorial -- well, that simply is PR and readers would be well advised to not trust the blog/publication covering them.

This strikes us as a very crappy state of affairs -- both for the tour provider and the reader. Publishers should absolutely pay the costs of these tours. If they can't afford to pay, they shouldn't be in the business. Period. Independent travel bloggers, who are invariably offering less exposure than traditional press yet are just as demanding for swag, should likewise, pay their own way. Period.

Next time you come across a piece claiming to unearth "The best food tour in X" and that tour was comped, rest assured there's almost definitely other operators in town, probably offering as good, if not better, a product than what you just read. The unmentionables are just refusing to play the game of being blackmailed into working for free to boost some writer's cuttings and support some publisher's bottom line.

Here at Travelfish, we pay our way every time. No exceptions."

What do you think? Should publishers cover writer's costs in these kind of circumstances?

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,021
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Posted by bdkeys on 13/10/2015 at 16:41

It's exactly this sort of behaviour that makes me increasingly dubious of food bloggers and to a lesser extent, travel bloggers.
It reeks of self-importance and some of these folks need to realise that at the end of the day, what they're doing is not much more than a glorified 'group email'.

Yes, I know, there are some very excellent independent travel blogs out there with objective info which is useful (less so for food blogs), but if bloggers intend to wrangle freebies for themselves, they should also be prepared to demonstrate their value to the tourism operator.
Questions like 'what is your audience?' and 'what platforms do you publish on?' should be asked of every writer, and if they can't or won't demonstrate their value to the local operator, tell 'em to stick it
Too simplistic? Maybe, but bloggers need to step back a bit.

#2 bdkeys has been a member since 13/10/2015. Posts: 1

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Posted by Gogomobile on 13/10/2015 at 18:53

You would have to be lazy to do a food tour. You can walk around and eat loads of things for 1/3 of a tour cost.

#3 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by walkerpub on 13/10/2015 at 19:07

Well said-Stuart do you feel like you are a lone voice in the wilderness- I really enjoyed your piece on TripAdvisor and shoddy reviewing tactics- that site is total BS- the untold story of bloggers and travel writers on the take-we love your integrity regarding comps-, freebies, junkets et al. And that is why we trust TravelFish...stopped reading most of the bloggers save a few...

#4 walkerpub has been a member since 30/8/2012. Posts: 4

Posted by Gogomobile on 13/10/2015 at 22:48

Untold? Travel writers have been getting freebies for write ups for several decades and it's old news. There are some very good bloggers though that do good write ups of cities and towns.

#5 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

Posted by somtam2000 on 13/10/2015 at 23:05 admin

@bdkeys & @walkerpub - cheers!

#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,021
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Posted by sidewinder on 14/10/2015 at 08:55

Every time the newsletter comes in I find myself nodding in agreement to the soap box section, this week as much as ever. I'm just amazed that anyone would try and blackmail a small company like that.

Even if it's the other way round and companies reach out to bloggers to review their tour, I'm still yet to see a balanced review when this happens. A particularly annoying one happened earlier this year where (nothing to do with SE Asia) a company had clearly just asked every popular travel blog under the sun to come for a free London food tour - for a few weeks not a day went by where my Feedly didn't include another blog going on about the damn thing. I'm sure they did all enjoy it - who wouldn't for free, but would they if they had shelled out £65?

#7 sidewinder has been a member since 11/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 57
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Posted by walkerpub on 14/10/2015 at 09:00

pretty tough to bite the hand that feeds you!

#8 walkerpub has been a member since 30/8/2012. Posts: 4

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