Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Video: Across America in Just Five Minutes

As Gadling says:Amazing. Freelance photographer Brian DeFrees took a two-month road trip across the United States and wanted to turn the project into something creative at the end. The result? This five-minute video. The project started August 8 in Syracuse, New York and ended October 1 in Syracuse. The original video? Nearly two-hours long. The edited version - five minutes, fourteen seconds. How did he do it? Simple, really - he strapped a camera to the windshield of his Honda and set it to take a photo every five seconds. This is the result. For more information, check out more info on The Huffington Post or DeFrees' website.

Travel Inspiration from an Ad

Earth from G Adventures on Vimeo.

Today's Video of the Day is an ad for a company called G Adventures that encourages viewers to get out and see "why Earth is the universe's #1 travel destination". The short piece does a beautiful job of illustrating some of the moments that beg us to travel, tailored to pull at the heartstrings of the crowd that doesn't want to be part of the crowd.Thanks Gadling!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Lonely on the Road

Jeremy is a travel writer with an excellent blog called Travel Blather, a sure sign the guy has a sense of humor. You really should bookmark his blog and put it in your Google Reader, which is where I generally stumble across his writings. He is at www.travelblather.comHis most recent column discusses the near impossibility of making a decent income from travel blogging, and the loinliness of extended solo travel. I feel the pain. My one year solo backpacking adventure around Asia left me feeling great a times, but also confused about what the hell I had learned or grown during that time. The comments at his blog are really, really brilliant and his responses are just as revealing.Here's a bit of the text, but do please read the entire post including the comments.
I've watched with interest as the travel blogosphere has filled with people 'living the dream' of funding an existence of non-stop travel by blogging about it. Good luck to everyone attempting to do this - but as an ex freelance travel writer I take this whole 'digital travel nomad' business with a large pinch of salt.Something I learned during that decade of jumping on and off planes and writing about the last trip as I planned the next trip during the current trip - is that travel for travel's sake is tedious after a while.Travel friendships are shallow Before I got into travel writing - like most people bitten by the bug - I travelled quite a lot on my own. And I loved the way it freed me to make friends with anyone. At first I felt self conscious. Almost like I had a sign on my back saying "He has no friends!". But after I'd plucked up courage to talk to strangers it was fantastic fun. (A few beers helped to begin with but now I will talk to anyone!). For a while this ability to just meet interesting people totally rocked. Problem was a lot of these 'friendships' were transient and ultimately a bit meaningless. We bonded over a shared need for info about the next place we wanted to visit or whatever - but we talked the same old stuff most of the time. After a while I grew tired of this.It's hard to observe and to participate Once you realise these 'pseudo friendships' aren't that sustaining you tend to withdraw a bit. You sit back and observe. I kept a diary (blogs didn't exist!). Sometimes I realised I was watching with a degree of cynicism. There's a dumb pecking order to backpacking. The deeper the tan, the more battered the rucksack - the cooler the traveller. (Maybe now it's also about how many twitter followers you have?). I got tired of it all. But there were still amazing temples to see, incredible food to eat, local people with totally different lifestyles to learn from. I found though that the more I observed, the harder it became to click back into participation mode. Once I started writing full time as a travel writer this observation/participation partition seemed more pronounced still. I wasn't doing a trip just to experience it. I was there to get a story, take pictures, make notes. The first few trips were fine. I lived in the moment and just scribbled a few notes and took some pictures, but increasingly the pressure to nail the story took away from the delight of exploration. If you're serious about monetization for your travel blog I reckon you'll feel the same way. Nomadic Matt's comment in his post about how he makes money sums this up well:"I spend more time trying to put bread on my table than I do anything else, and often it really takes away from being able to just travel and enjoy where I am."It's lonely on the road I've been thinking about writing a post on this topic for a while but a post by Nomadic Chick called The Definition of Lonely made me get on and write it. It's a short, oddly wistful post. It begins:“Today, I feel lonely. I wonder what I hunger for? Male companionship? To have my friends surrounding me? … Sometimes it’s intangible, something I can’t quite grasp.”She goes on to say she's learnt after a year on the road that she's "discovering a drawback to long-term travel and that’s the reflex to be reserved... it leaves me somewhat alone, even when I’m surrounded by human contact."She nails that feeling I described above perfectly. Is this a new definition of loneliness? For me, no (for her I guess, yes.) I felt that way a lot, particularly after I'd been doing the job a while.It's wonderfully self-indulgent to gorge yourself on new stimulation day in and day out. But after a while - just like any drug - we get hardened to it.Oh yeah. Another camel ride. Great one more temple to tick off the list… Angkor Wat next.So, if you're reading all those blog posts selling the dream about making money just by writing blog posts and doing smart things with ebooks, advertising and sponsored posts... as you wander your way around the big wide world. Pause for a while.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dance Around the World

Here's another great Dance Around the World video clip. How many places have you been?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Web Photos and Copyright

Web Copy Plus has an excellent example of what can go wrong when an innocent copywriter downloads a photo off the internet, then uses that photo in an advertising campaign. The same rules apply to your writing, so if you find your stolen words being used elsewhere, find an appropriate lawyer and sue to protect your rights.

Here's the article:

Why would copywriters at Webcopyplus pay $4,000 for a digital photo that retails for about $10? Well, frankly, we screwed up. It’s an expensive lesson on copyright laws that we wish to share with other marketers, so you don’t make the same mistake.

Our web copywriters were under the impression that images on the Web without any copyright notices were “public domain” and therefore free to use. Naive? Yes. A notion limited to our copywriting firm? Definitely not. It likely has to do with the fact that works no longer need a copyright notice to have copyright protection (you can read about the Berne Convention Implementation Act, which the US adopted in 1988).

Designers, writers, developers, marketers, business owners, and ironically even photographers, use photos from the Web without permission. Sites like Google make it so convenient. Enter your keywords, do an image search, and you’ve got an endless photo library ripe for the picking. Woman laughing delivers 5.2 million photos. Business man offers 423 million photos. And the keyword kids brings up a whopping 778 million images. You can find pretty well anything, too, from ABBA to zombies.

The Copyright Crime

While we maintained an active stock photo account for our blog with access to an array of suitable photos, one of our copywriters grabbed a photo from the Web. The image: a colour 400 x 300 pixel beach shot with some greenery in the foreground. A nice shot, but nothing spectacular.

We posted it on a client’s tourism blog to add zest to a promotional article — done. Sip some caffeine, get a little Twitter action, and then dive into the next copywriting project. Photo forgotten. That was in May, 2010.

The Lawyer’s Letter

Fast forward a few months, we got a call from the client a couple of days before Christmas, and he wasn’t feeling overly festive. He received a formal letter from a lawyer with the following introduction: “Cease and desist demand and offer to settle copyright infringement claim, and digital millennium copyright act claim, subject to Rule 408, Federal Rules of Evidence.”

Apparently copyright infringement involving images that are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office allows for statutory damages of up to $30,000, or $150,000 if it can be demonstrated it was a willful act.

The Lawyer’s Demands:
1. Immediately cease and desist all unlicensed uses of the image, and delete all copies from computers and digital storage devices.
2. Remit almost $4,000 to his trust account.

The image was removed within minutes. Lengthy discussions ensued. Two days later, a letter of apology was emailed to the lawyer to advise the photo had been immediately removed, and to express regret for the “unintentional errant use” of the image.

The lawyer responded that while they appreciated our commitment to remove the image from the blog, “removal of the image from the website will not relieve you from liability for damages arising from your past infringing use of the image on your commercial website.” The letter also stated that any further attorneys’ fees and costs incurred to resolve the matter would be added to the settlement demand.

The Defendant’s Response

With some pro bono legal advice, a copy of the Certificate of Registration and the date that the image was first published was requested. While the letter contained all sorts of legal jargon, it failed to verify the image was copyright registered and that the lawyer’s client, a photographer, owned the rights to the image.

A few notes were exchanged, and by entering a registration number at the U.S. Copyright Office’s website (, we were able to confirm the image was copyright registered and the lawyer’s client was the rightful owner. Shortly after, we provided a counter offer of $1,925, which we figured would provide the photographer about $100 per month, and the lawyer three-hours’ pay at a lofty $400 per hour. We felt that was generous and more than fair to make this problem go away.

They declined, and due to the exchange of letters (while respectful in nature and completely reasonable, considering we were merely asking for registration and ownership proof), the lawyer slapped on an extra $2,500 in attorney fees, which he subsequently agreed to remove.

The Dilemma

Had the lawyer engaged Webcopyplus, in which case our client wouldn’t be caught in the middle, we would have had options: ignore the letter; say, “Go ahead, sue us”; or respond, “$1,925 is our final offer,” which there’s a chance they’d accept. We felt — and photographers we spoke to agreed — the proposed settlement amount was excessive.

In fact, you can find articles and discussions online on how lawyers around the globe are capitalizing in technologies and laws to bring in piles of claims for copyright infringement damages. For example, check out Copyright Lawsuits as a Business Model.

The Decision

While we considered the lawyer’s demands abusive, the fact remained that our client was trapped in the ordeal, and it was costing him time and causing him grief. Plus, he’d be the one to get subpoenaed. So we opted to settle for $4,000.

It was a tough pill to swallow, but we were the ones who messed up, and salvaging the client relationship was priority. Moreover, settling the matter would allow us to focus on writing copy to market and sell products and services, and build productive relationships, rather than deal with an aggressive lawyer.

Lesson Learned

As web copywriters, we work with dozens of web designers around the globe. Based on recent discussions, even after we shared our story, some continue to suggest copyright laws are blurry, and insist if you ever run into conflict and get a threatening letter, you can simply delete the image and toss the document in the trash (one designer even labeled it “delete and toss”).

While this might work with some individuals and organizations, particularly if they’re in a different province, state or country, which might make legal costs prohibitive, be aware: you could end up in a lengthy and costly court battle. For those who insist, “It won’t happen to me,” mind the fact that this beach photo was the only one we’ve ever grabbed from the Web for a client’s website. And it cost us almost $4,000. Consequently, we urge others to recognize and yield to a simple fact: If it’s on the Internet and others wrote or created it, do not use it without their permission.

As copywriters, we work with and rely on a range of creative types and specialists, including photographers. We didn’t mean any disregard for this profession and now have a greater awareness and appreciation for the fact that freely using photos from the Web diminishes a photographer’s income and livelihood. We apologize, and it won’t happen again.

Copyright Resources

We’re copywriters — not copyrighters — so this is meant to share
our experience, not to provide formal legal advice. However, there’s a lot of useful copyright information on the Internet, which you can check out.

Fair Use — If you’re using copyrighted work for teaching or research, criticism or comment, or news reporting, it may be considered fair use.

Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 — The US adopted the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, an international agreement governing copyright that was initially established in Berne, Switzerland in 1886.

10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained — Techie and photographer Brad Templeton touches on common copyright myths.

Free and Commercial Stock Photography Sources

As part of our updated policies, our copywriters are required to only use stock photo websites in a bid to play by the rules, be fair to photographers, and keep lawyers out of the equation. Here’s a list of stock photo sources you might want to consider, where you can get photos starting at $1 per image:

*For the record, the Pixmac link is an affiliate link (so we can recoup some of the settlement costs and support our caffeine addictions). It’s a relatively new company with 11 million images to choose from, at affordable prices.

Creative Commons

Some photographers let people share and use photographs under Creative Commons licenses, which is an alternative to full copyright (special thanks to Vancouver photographer Kris Krug, who brought this to our attention). You can find millions of Creative Commons photos at Flickr.

Update: Another good information source is the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Responses to FT Article: Death of Travel Guidebooks

The Financial Times article about new technology and the future of printed travel guidebooks was picked up on a Google Group called Travel Guide Writers, and brought up an excellent discussion on travel apps. All you budding travel writers should join this group to keep track on what's happening and new in the fast changing world of travel writing.

Here's the original post from the app vendor at Sutro:

Some thoughts and questions from the "other side" of this conversation

- I'm an App vendor that focuses on publishers with trusted content.

Promotion - There are 225,000+ applications in the Apple store, with the travel section growing by the day. We believe that creating the application is only a small part of the problem. Unless people purchase your application then you make no money regardless of how cheap it was to create it in the first place.
For people to find your application you either rely on luck, or you have to promote through other means such as web site or blog traffic. This is where the big name brands have the leg up - they built their brands when travel guides were physically printed books because they were big enough to bear the printing and distribution costs, and now they can leverage their brands to enable people to find their applications. Think about a LP book - how many people really recognize the author's name compared to LP's name? Yes, it is the author's (and editor's) work that created the book, but the brand is, in this example, LP.

Volume - Our applications are often in the top 12 "what's hot" list of the travel section on iTunes but the volume isn't where we want it to be. When we're the #1 travel application for a few days and still want to see increased volume, what does that say about the volumes of all of the other applications? This is a direct impact of the promotion piece above (we still need to help our publishing partners with their promotional pieces), but also raises the question of whether the market is yet ready for this new approach to delivering travel content. See below on this question.

Price - There is definitely a race to the bottom for application prices. Even LP has reduced their prices (across the board?) to less that $10; many travel applications are even lower than $5. We have heard that a $0.99 application is the sweet spot for Apple's developer iAd advertising as the conversion rate for a higher cost application will be too low to warrant the cost of the "pay per click" model that iAd offers - although we're not sure if that is general across all application types or specific to value add products such as mobile travel guides. A low volume at a low price is not a lot of money,whatever the revenue share split.

Shelf life- Newer applications covering the same destination are preferred by buying customers to older applications. This is human nature (magazines are always published a month ahead of time) but is also encouraged by Apple's store that by default lists applications
newest to oldest. A typical print guide book has a 24 month edition
life before being revamped for the subsequent print run. We find a one
or two monthly refresh of our applications helps to keep them higher
in the various lists. But refreshes have to be meaningful; you can't
just republish the same application with a new version number as
existing users will start to moan in the reviews, and a bad review is
hard to overcome. In our model we roll out new platform features every
few months to have a meaningful refresh. But in a "roll your own"
model" this could be hard to sustain, especially if a large number of
titles are published to have enough volume to put food on the table
and the only real means of improving the product is to add more

Questions that we have at the moment are:

Is the market ready? Yes, there is a great deal of buzz around mobile
applications (it's why we're playing in his arena) but is the buzz
substantiated by people actually buying content? Big brands are able
to dump their books into a mobile application but is that just their
brand momentum carrying over into the mobile space for now? Given the
race to the price bottom how is the value of the content promoted so
that it bucks the pricing trend?

Travel books are likely to disappear, or have significantly less
volume - see the figures that started this thread. What replaces them?
Clearly the smartphone is the new "in" device with projected 10 times
growth in the next three years. So travel guide users are likely to
have a smartphone, but how is travel content delivered to this
platform in a way to make it appealing enough to make people pay money
for the content?
Will we have to wait out a period where users have
tried the free Wikipedia content before realizing that there is a
reason to pay for content from an author that knows his/her stuff?

Is there a minimum size of publisher that can survive? Is the "anyone
can build a cheap application" belief even true? Yes anyone *can*
build a cheap application, but can they earn a living from it? Is the
traditional "big organization with lots of dependent authors" model
still true today and will be tomorrow? I wonder if some of the bigger
publishers are working towards maintaining this status quo - I would
if I was them. But does the technology enable newer author led
consortiums to build their "big enough organizations" to publish
electronically, and do authors want to even do this?

Are mobile applications just the "loss leader" to bring eyeballs and
wallets to other products? Is this true now, and if so will this be
true forever?

Even if money cannot currently be made from mobile applications, do
authors still need to produce applications to stake a claim?

If we could wave a magic wand and have the perfect mobile application
distribution solution tomorrow, what would it look it?

We have our own hypotheses and answers to these questions that we're
actively testing out and discussing with our publishers. But I'm very
interested in hearing the "author's viewpoint" to these questions,
whether publicly here on this forum or via a private message.