Simonseeks has come in for some flack for its bold approach with some sites claiming that the ambitious travel advisory site has not won the approval of ‘the travel writing community’.
Really? Whose travel writing community is that? Europe’s? America’s? The World Wide Web’s…or five bitter blokes in a bar in Grimsby?
A criticism levelled at Simonseeks by some professional travel writers is that it uses travel guides from amateurs and celebrities. Celebrities heaven forbid; the quality press would never stoop to that level. I’m still laughing at that one.
But it’s the criticism related to using amateur writers that’s more interesting. This comment from a professional writer on a blog about Simonseeks was quite illuminating:
‘…I feel more useful and welcome at TTE (the Travel Editor) while at SS (Simonseeks) you are just another name among all those amateurs.’
Just another name amongst the amateurs. Simonseeks has what amounts to a level playing field when it comes to travel writing and here’s the rub. It’s the general public who decide whether contributors’ articles are useful and interesting. And that little fact creates a whole new ball game.
Simonseeks lists its most popular writers in order of recommendations from readers and guess what? Its top ten writers aren’t all professional travel writers. The list includes people who are travel enthusiasts rather than professional writers and that might not sit well with some.
Online travel writing has opened up a brave new world and I have a suspicion that the root of some criticism lies not only in a concern for maintaining quality (newspapers have been dumbing-down their travel sections for years) but in bruised egos and protectionism.
To me using travel enthusiasts (let’s not use amateur) is to be applauded….as long as they can come up with the goods. I’m a meritocracy fan (I’ve never been a fan of clubs so I have to be). The only thing that matters to me when reading travel articles is that they are accurate, informative and interesting, not the pedigree of the author or who they happen to know.
Ironically, after getting hot under the collar about the apparent arrogance of some pro-writers I came across a forum topic on Simonseeks and discovered the bitching wasn’t all one sided.
A handful of amateur contributors were complaining about the pros on Simonseeks. However, what the complaints actually revealed was that those making them really were amateurs, but maybe not in the sense that the quality of their writing was amateurish.
Many clearly didn’t have a clue about writing for the web (but then I suspect that’s not exclusive to amateur writers). What really came across as amateurville was that the most ‘outraged’ complaints were based around popular holiday destinations receiving prominent exposure on the site.
Some felt articles about off the beaten track and less well known destinations were more in line with what the ethos of Simonseeks should be. This isn’t only naïve, it demonstrates a complete lack of savvy regarding the business of mainstream travel writing online.
That quirky article about milking a yak in Outer Mongolia may be fascinating, but the ten people who read it a year aren’t going to make the writer, or more importantly Simonseeks, any money.
Like it or not, those popular holiday resorts are what are going to attract the most viewers and if that sounds depressing, it shouldn’t be. There are always, always different angles to be found by anyone who writes about them…as any true traveller and professional writer should know.
It became increasingly difficult to feel incensed on the non-pro writers’ behalf when some were coming out with nonsense like the following.
“…what I’m really looking for when I trawl the Net for hotel/resort/destination reviews is an amateur perspective. In fact, I don’t care how badly written it is – I just want to know what the ordinary punter has experienced in a place.”
I stopped reading after that little gem.
Ultimately who cares if something is written by a professional or amateur travel writer as long as it’s written well? The answer to that is both professional and amateur travel writers apparently.