I’d love to say that email like the one below is a rare occurrence in my life lately, but then I’d be a liar.
If you wonder why freelance content producers (i.e. photographers, writers, screenwriters, musicians, etc. ) can be seen hanging out near Dunkin’ Donuts dumpsters these days (hey, don’t knock it, those “day-olds” can be tasty), consider the following exchange!
Date: September 30, 2010 8:04:18 AM EDT
We are writing a comprehensive guide on Single Parent Travel and as an influential figure in travel we would like to ask if you would contribute to the guide with 100-200 words. We will publish your advice on the website along with a link back to your site. The guide will also be published as an ebook and if demand is great enough the book will be published in hard copy too, so your tips would appear in the final hard copy published version.
If you have any tips you would like to share, then we would love to hear from you. The guide aims to share with single parents where to visit with their children, what they can do, as well as offering tips and advice in the process. Whether you are a single parent, or have any tips for those travelling alone with children ˆ we welcome any offerings.
T************* is a leading travel site throughout America, with millions of people hitting our site every year.
Look forward to receiving your contribution.
Kind Regards, Chris
Now, the impersonal greeting, and the awful grammar notwithstanding (i.e. “as an influential figure in travel, we would like to ask you….” Really? Who’s influential: you, or me? It’s a bit hard to tell from that sentence construct), it’s a fishing mission for free content… another “industry leader” crowdsourcing content and then trying to make you feel honored to give it up, while they rake in ad revenue thanks to their “millions of hits.”
I particularly love the part where they dangle the published book version (which they’ll also sell) as an added incentive to provide free content! Talk about cojones! You gotta love it….
Here’s my reply:
From: Bob Krist <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: September 30, 2010 8:13:15 AM EDT
Subject: Re: Photo Traveler Contribution Opportunity
Hi Chris: Thanks for your email and the contribution opportunity.
As an influential figure in travel and a professional writer and photographer, I am unable to provide content to you for links and credits (until my bank and supermarket accept same for mortgage and food payments!).
I will make an exception if the T************ staff is also working on this project for only links and credits, but somehow, I think you might be getting paid in US currency to crowdsource free content.
all the best, Bob Krist
Crowdsourcing is all the rage now and the travel journalism business has been decimated by it. Consider the following report from another colleague who recently attended a travel journalism symposium at UCLA.
The first speaker was the former head of a big syndicated news service who now runs a company syndicating travel stories to mags and newspapers. Cost for a subscription for a news outlet to use three stories per week (each with 3 photos supplied by the writer) is….wait for it…$9.00. She admitted that writers don’t get paid and supply the text and photos for free. They do it for credits and the free travel!
More shocking was the third panel member who was an internet star with his own travel blog, Twitter following, Facebook presence etc. The students really loved him but at the end someone in the audience asked him how he got paid. “Paid?” he replied. “I don’t get paid.” He was shocked someone even asked.
For a long and comprehensive look from an internet luminary at what the future may hold for individual content producers as this trend continues, read artificial-intelligence pioneer Jaron Lanier’s book “You Are Not a Gadget.”
Spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty.
So, the next time you’re thinking of wanting to go pro in the travel photo and writing biz, think twice…..and,um, are you going to be finishing that donut?