Andy, I have followed your newsletter and blog for years and it is amazing to see how things have developed for you. From a guy who was basically begging for donations so he could keep traveling on $15 a day to $40K-$50K a year (thank you google ads, eh?) and mostly tax free (stay out of the USA!). Even though I don't know you I am proud of you and I'm sure many of your other readers are as well.
It is hard to be all things to all people but that is ofte what is required to make money. I fear change in your site but that is probably just the fear of change. As long as you continue to stay true to your mission statement things will be fine.
My only criticism (don't hate me, please!) is the RSS feed issue. I understand your issue with it but I still feel if you are to become the #1 travel site you will need to embrace this.
Best of luck
I cannot figure out how to monetize RSS feeds, I must get paid for suppling all the aggregate sites, I provide the content, they make the money.
Generally, most Blogger want to be famous, this is their pay, I want money.
The traffic has doubled since I stopped it.
I want the RSS feed: There are three ways to monetize a post.
1. In the RSS feed, requires and unbelievable amount of readers
Not Traveler friendly
2. In the email, 10 times higher payout.
3. Read online, this is the best, but the most difficult for real travelers. If I give a snippet and it goes to the page, I cannot download my own blog and read it offline. I am in some ways always making this for real traveler.
Not Traveler Friendly.
RSS is the hardest to monetize, the hardest for travelers to read.
Owning a mailing list is of value, what the techies want to stop. And correctly it applies to some who sell or cheat the readers.
I find people do not know how to manage their email boxes, I am not sure what to do.
Good move on making the index page title link only.
The first step to getting people to read is to get them to click. A click is an investment of effort -- it is the first step towards investing the time to really read something.
You are right Wade. I finally realized readers do not want to read daily, They want to hop and skip around, I have so many post, even doing that is difficult.
I was having trouble telling one friend how to find my Haiti post, now they can see a few because the snippets go thirty post back..
This way they choose a topic that is of interest to them, then maybe they enjoy and subscribe to the journal. However, I must somehow change the words from travel to culture or anthropology, in a way, travel is not the subject of the journal, it is more about the explanations of culture.
Fun stuff, but I have little respect for the new generation of readers who never read anything, they just look at the photos and words, then make a snap judgements.
over the past year i have come to love and respect your articles.
just one suggestion..in todays read you resort to gutter language.."f..ck your ar..." etc..
andy, you don't need to..all you do is to lower yourself to their level..
you are way, way above these ferrals.
my grandmother told me that swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary !!
keep it up..
any news of roadie and the orphanage ?
thanks to you i have been able to give money to a worthy cause.
This is a long one Andy. Sorry about that. But I cant resist but to comment on your points above.
Upon seeing your new blog front page format, my first impression was "Wow, Andy has made a significant upgrade in his websites usability."
It wasn't something that I had contemplated in the past, that is I didn't think that your website was not user friendly, but there was an instant feeling of more information being available to me for far less work on my part.
This is good, and what you should continue to strive for. More information available to the casual first-look viewer, and easy navigation, for minimal work.
I would take the time to think about how to navigate to what I want to find on your site, but most people won't.
About your goal to have a more "professional" look to you website. To sell a product further than to your loyal readers, you may be right.
Although, you have so much information available on your website, that I don't notice any "unprofessional" aspects anymore. The content has truly trumped any flaws in form. Your website "gets out of the way" of your information, for the most part. Which on a content based website is your goal.
However, if you wanted to make some upgrades to a truly polished website, I would just have three recommendations.
a. Save around $300 and start a logo design contest, for a new logo, on a website such as www.99designs.com or one of its competitors. This way you will get more logos to choose from than if you were to just hire one guy who may or may not give you want you want in 3 attempts or so.
You'd be surprised by how much a professionally designed logo can make or break the professional look of a site. Especially on a content based website where the rest of the site is minimally designed to get out of the way of the information. The best website designs can look like hell without a professionally designed logo, and as someone who is developing his own product and money generating site for the past few years, the logo has been consistently the toughest thing to do on my own.
If only I knew what I knew now a couple of years ago, then I wouldn't have spent any time trying to design my own logo. The $300 is always worth it in time and outcome for a logo design. And I'm fairly good a turning out corporate style professional websites. Logos are a different animal altogether. You may be able to do a good one, but someone who does them regularly can often make one that is way out of a casual designers league in terms of professionalism. The more money that you offer for the winning design on a logo contest, the more effort that you will get from designers and, generally, the more choices you will get. $300 being about the average standard.
b. Organize the sidebar into a single column. The Header also needs organization and to be generally decluttered.
c. Unless you are paying an arm and a leg, and sometimes even not then, website designers can't be trusted to have the expertise and motivation to give you a website design to the professional standard that you need it to be. Therefore, start bookmarking professional websites that have elements that you want to emulate. I prefer clean/corporate style, with lots of whitespace, for my needs. You may want to emulate other travel sites, although I often find them too cluttered.
After you do this for about a month, then practice creating the website elements in photoshop. Being able to design the front end of a website yourself to your minimum professional standards is a huge advantage when working with designers. You can then give them a mockup to your minimum standard, with confidence that they must work to improve it above that standard. This way, you are not subject to their laziness in getting what you need. You will also get work much cheaper from them, and be able to filter out bad designers who you will soon be able to surpass. People that cant design at all are vulnerable to getting back below standard work from any designer. This is what I have learned from lots of trial and error.
About your backpack manufacturing plan. And, granted, this is just my opinion.
You need to seriously consider how you are going to make a competitive "moat" around your product. Especially since you are documenting your plan, more or less, on your blog. You need to first make sure that the product is different enough (design, quality, price, etc...) to make it stand out against its more commercial competitors. The advantage has to be such that people will search it out. Second, it has to be such that someone isn't going to be able to notice it, given any amount of success that you may have, and throw a bunch of money at emulating, ripping off, and manufacturing your basic product. People will notice, but it must be difficult for them to reproduce your product successfully. Its a cutthroat world, and people are maniacs for cash. I just want to see your efforts pay you for years to come.
I noticed that the readers on my travelogue seem to have favorite types of posts. I can almost predict in advance who will comment and seem interested in which types of posts.
You are right, readers skim pages looking for what they want to invest their time into reading. They NEED to in a world full of mountains of information, content, and words to read. This is the state of the world. I don't believe that there is a new type of reader, rather I believe that we all are reading in a new time. Our access to content in mountainous-- we can't read everything -- we need a way to quickly determine what is worth reading for us and what is not. By publishing the entries title link only, I feel as if you are enabling this decision making process a little further.
Having a lot of content up front encourages skimming -- giving people the choice to jump to what they want to read encourages reading.
Though I have one big suggestion. I think that you could encourage this process further by color coding the title links in accordance to the topics of the posts.
Blue= Travel tip
Red= Philosophy/ travel thoughts
Green= Destination information
Orange= News/ current events
Like this it would make it easier for regular readers to find the type of entries that they like reading the most, while having not much of an impact on the one time visitors.
Types of travel blog entries, http://www.vagabondjourney.com/travelogue/types-of-travel-blog-posts-travelogue-entries/
My sincere apologies , I had not intended to ruffle your feathers . with regard to your problems
1. 'Constant pain in back and leg'.They must have available over the counter painkillers , What about a stiff upper lip ? It got me through many great travels on two bad legs at almost twice your age .
2. 'The web sites are ugly'.Yours is the best Blog because it is genuine and not a webversion of the Conde Nash Travller , as so many of them are .
3. 'People criticizing me bothers me'.It still bothers me you skipped the Citadel at the Cap . If you don't like tourist traps avoid the tourists and see the Taj Mahal in the middle of the night .
You need to be more of an adventurer (in business as well ) and less of a worry wart ( whatever that is ! )
I think what Wade is suggesting can be seen at http://www.guardian.co.uk/ -- which is an excellent example, but requires an absurd amount of labor for back-categorization.
Oh, and apology accepted, Andy.
Wade idea is good for categories, I think you two are talking about the categories of a newspaper. We will eventually hire people to file away missives, so all readers can reader to until exhausted on their very specific topic although 4800 divided by six categories is not quite what I had in mind.
Newspaper post do not have a long shelf life, they are "News,", they become "Olds" soon, a different genre.
I had to finally admit two years ago, nobody did a log, they wrote articles.
My biggest talent is I will speculate, and I am not afraid to tell my opinion in passive voice, mixed with active authoritarian. This terse tone, mixed with normal ambiguities of daily life takes readers off center. Taking them from understanding to misunderstanding and not wrapping up all the conclusions but allow them to do this keeps them awake. Generally the slower bunch, get tired, the quicker bunch gets intrigued, and photos keeps most happy.
I talk before, during and after a situation, while 99.99 percent of Travel Writers want to be appointed the guru, without the credentials.
Then also, I can easily see when others are searching for topics in their mind, my mind is trying to limit the number of topics per day, minute, or second.
Just one more quick comment and a question:
Upon looking at your new organization on your blog again, one thing struck me. That was that if you could just have your designer put a thin pencil line under each title of each blog post, that would greatly help the eye focus on the title. I believe that this can be done automatically in the CSS. Right now, it takes just a little more effort to focus on each title than if there were a line separating it from the synopsis underneath. Just my own preference.
You mention needing to make $100,000 per year. I remember you mentioning that with your original nest-egg of around $10,000, you would be able to travel for several years (I may be remembering wrong). While I know that this is increasingly unrealistic for those that don't want to stay in the most basic of accommodations every night, and you likely spend $600-$1000 usd per month minimum, when you aren't moving much (again, please correct me), I was curious as to why you are motivated to earn $100,000k per year? I don't fault you if its for a bit greater luxury or security as you get older. I ask in the context of wanting to know the realities of travel cost for someone who may try to become a traveler in the future. What is your motivation for "needing" to make your $100,000 figure?
This might be of interest for those interested in Andy's lack of an RSS feed:
This segment and the helpful comments and feedback is one of your best since I started reading your blog. Lingering aches and pains are a real drag on your quality of life so I'd advise you to focus on healing yourself before making commitments to your ambitions and other self imposed goals. Hopefully, now, 6 months later your aches and pains have faded away.
I agree that readers often and increasingly will skip around around to click on blog titles that appeal to them. I think most people are guilty of skimming over internet websites and content, like Wade mentioned there are mountains of information to explore and learn from and there only so much time in front of a screen. I appreciate your frankness in regards to present internet users. I've answered over 1500 questions at allexperts.com and SO MANY of these questions could be answered and easily found by using google or yahoo but like you said they's either dumb, lack reading skills or in my opinion are just LAZY. Over the years I've noticed this laziness toward written content among native English speakers who prefer their content verbally. I am the opposite prefering to communicate in writing so I have proof of what as exchanged because when done verbally people do not truly listen or they edit what was said like gossip.
Yearly earnings doesn't matter nearly as much as yearly savings.