Q and A with Huffington Post’s new travel editor, Kate Auletta

by Chris on July 20, 2010

Q and A with Huffington Post’s travel editor, Kate Auletta

Huffington Post travel section

The Huffington Post is launching its new Travel vertical today. I have a piece on the site, essentially a condensed version of three posts that I wrote recently on Twilight tourism.

I found out about the new section last month from Travel Editor Kate Auletta, who contacted me about submitting a post (probably because of this piece that ran on HuffPo back in December 2009). Editorially, she was very hands off, letting me decide what and when to submit. Even though HuffPo doesn’t pay, I took her up on the offer, primarily because I had already written the pieces and I knew from experience how much the link would increase my site traffic. I did revamp the posts for length (HuffPo wants entries to be between 500 to 800 words) and stuck on a new top that would appeal more to a general audience instead of readers searching for specific information.

I knew that other travel bloggers, writers, journalists and PR professionals would be curious about the HuffPo’s section and its plans going forward. So I emailed Auletta a list of questions about the “vertical” (it’s interesting how that’s the term of choice nowadays, as that’s what we labeled specialized niche blogs at USA TODAY). Here are her responses:

CGF: What’s the philosophy behind the Huffington Post’s new Travel section? What kind of posts should readers expect to find?

Kate Auletta: I’m of the belief that travel is in everybody’s DNA, no matter if that travel takes you less than 100 miles. It’s about transporting yourself and your comfort zone somewhere else and, most importantly, about learning about other cultures and people. With that in mind, we’ll have beautiful photography, breaking news, destination briefs, trends, and even what I’m calling ‘weird and wonderful’ news and stories.

Who are some of the authors that readers should expect to find on HuffPo Travel?

We’ll have a mix of experienced travel writers as well as people who may seem outside the mold, like chef Scott Conant, photographer Mattias Klum, and environmentalist Philippe Cousteau.  We have a few others up our sleeve, too.

Tell us about your background as an editor and journalist.

I come from WSJ., the magazine from the Wall Street Journal, where I was Assistant Features Editor/Travel. Before that, I worked as an editor at House & Garden and InStyle.

How would you describe your own travel style? Are you a backpacker or more of a luxury lover?

I’m no backpacker, but I don’t need luxury, either. I’m happiest staying in a house where the amenities of home are easily available. Don’t get me wrong: I went to La Mamounia in Morocco in 2001 and that was hands-down the most luxurious place I’ve ever been and I would go back there in a heartbeat, but I’m also happy wearing flipflops around the beach, too.

What are some of your favorite travel blogs or publications?

Globorati, Jaunted, Gadling and Luxist are some of my favorite blogs. I’m a true magazine junkie, too. Nothing compares to sitting back and reading Travel & Leisure or Conde Nast Traveler cover to cover.

Where’s the last best place that you’ve visited?

Barbuda. It’s the small sister island to Antigua. It’s visually stunning with amazing, empty beaches, has a relaxed vibe and people, and some of the greatest grilled fish I’ve ever had in my life.

What’s your dream vacation?

Growing up, my parents [ed note: Kate's father is New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta] took me on both relaxing (read: beach) and “learning” vacations. I’ve toured Morocco on a bus and schlepped through Istanbul, but I’ve also laid on the beach in St. Barths for 2 weeks. My dream trip really is a mix of the two: a strenuous, sight-seeing hike in the morning, followed by an afternoon of lounging in the sun. With amazing food, of course.

Are you accepting submissions from travel bloggers? What’s the application process? Is there any compensation?

YES! As far as I’m concerned, the more voices, the better. Have people shoot me an email to travel@huffingtonpost.com with what they write about and where they have traveled, their writing experience, etc. and we can go from there. There is, however, no compensation for our writers.

What about photography?

HuffPost is very particular about photos. We need to make sure we have the rights to absolutely everything! If you’re a photographer who has traveled the world and wants to share your photos, though, send them my way!

What is your stance on press trips?

The Huffington Post does not allow press trips.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce July 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm

HuffPo gets an estmated 40 million unique vistors per month. The CEO Eric Hippeau recently bragged about how they will turn a profit this year.

Other popular sites earn appx $1 per unique person per month. And they want us to work for nothing? Wonder if Kate is working for free?

Reply

Chris July 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Bruce – I doubt Kate is working for free. The HuffPo does pay their section editors. Dan Froomkin famously signed on to be Washington editor when the Washington Post axed his blog last year. I’m not sure what the salary structure is over there, but it’s probably pretty good to lure Auletta away from the WSJ (although she was at the magazine, which is probably a more tenuous situation).

As I said today on Twitter, I think that the section can be used as a tool to promote your own site, increase traffic and get some quality backlinks. If I continue submitting pieces, they’ll be ones that I already wrote for my own blog – which I’m currently doing for free anyway.

Reply

Gary Arndt July 21, 2010 at 12:10 am

I’m not sure that a company which provides zero compensation can take the high road and say people can’t take press trips.

Reply

Chris July 21, 2010 at 12:24 am

I was surprised by that too, Gary (it came up when I was figuring out what post to send her). Not sure what their reasoning is for it. To me, it should be fine, as long as the post has the proper disclosure. We’ll see if that aspect of the section changes.

Reply

yves August 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Amen to that. I recently pitched a story to a travel magazine (online) and they said they liked it but couldn’t pay. I have a lot of writing experience for top magazines so for it to be worth it for me I have to at least get some of my expenses comped (by the hotels, restaurants, etc. I would cover). I mentioned this and the editor responded with the same rule.

I get it. They don’t want to appear like they’re taking payolla. But from my perspective it’s turned travel journalism into “user generated content.” Boo on them :(

Reply

pam July 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

According to this little blurb, the HuffPo was valued at 150 million.

[Link: http://laurelpapworth.com/social-media-revenue-huffington-post-techcrunch-valuations/

Yes the publication doesn’t pay contributors to this new travel section, nor does it allow them to participate in press trips. My question for Kate Auletta is this: Why?

Reply

David Whitley July 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

OK. So it doesn’t allow press trips, doesn’t pay people for their work and requires all rights to photographs.

In other news, I am welcoming people who will come and do my housework and filing. They must bring their own cleaning equipment and filing cabinets, which I reserve all rights to keep afterwards, and they will not be allowed to offer their cleaning services elsewhere. They will receive no compensation, and must pay for a taxi to get to my house rather than using subsidised public transport.

Reply

Lori Henry July 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm

In response to David Whitley: brilliant.

Reply

Karen Bryan July 21, 2010 at 11:36 am

I too very much doubt if the editor is working for no pay. So let me get this straight. HuffPo vet me first, then I pay for my own travel (as HuffPo don’t allow press trips) and write them unique content, give then rights to my photos. Question – how do I live and pay my bills, while HuffPo rake in the ad revenue.

Best course of action, nobody contribute to HuffPo travel! Yes you’ll get some traffic, but you need a win win situation (which this isn’t), HuffPo is getting your content for free and earning money from this.

Reply

Chris July 22, 2010 at 2:20 am

Karen – I mentioned this on Twitter today, but my feeling is that bloggers can experiment with this if they feel it fits their goals. Honestly, my friends who are journalists thought I was crazy for starting a blog a year ago. “You’re giving it away for free,” they told me. And they were right. But when my mainstream media job ended, my blog helped me get my current corporate gig. My daily rate as a professional writer hasn’t changed.

What does that have to do with HuffPo? Well, I plan on contributing a few posts that I’ve already written (for free) over the next few weeks, just to see if it increases my traffic. If it leads to something new or other opportunities, great. If it doesn’t, then no harm no foul. And I certainly don’t think other people should do it if it doesn’t fit their goals.

Reply

JoAnna July 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I read this piece yesterday and have been thinking about this all night long. I don’t understand why large, popular websites that should be able to pay, don’t. What is the explanation? And why no press trips?

Reply

Chris July 22, 2010 at 2:24 am

JoAnna – Kate never elaborated on the press trip policy in our emails. When she asked me to contribute, I asked her what their policy was, as I abide by the rules of whatever publication runs my work. I was surprised by the answer, and I told her that would limit the amount of posts and topics that I could contribute. She told me that she understood and that I could post as little or as frequently as I wanted. Anyway, that’s as much as I know about the policy. Maybe Kate will elaborate at some point, but for now, she’s probably going crazy with the launch. Dave is correct – I doubt that she’s lacking for copy.

Reply

JoAnna July 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for the interview and the reply to my comment Chris. I’m going to give it a try. I’m excited to see what direction the publication takes now that it’s opening its doors to travel writers.

Reply

Dave from The Longest Way Home July 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm

The answer is: There’s plenty of content out there. And, plenty of non-marketing travel bloggers who’d love to see their names in lights.

Even more of the marketing bloggers who crave links and publicity. Huffington Post knows this. It’s their business. They will get all the content they want.

Moreover, after this article, there are already a bevy of people writing up content for them, rest assured.

Reply

Jennifer Rudolph July 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

It’s becoming more and more challenging from a travel PR perspective when confronted with no press trip policies. If stories are about experiencing destinations, how can that best be conveyed with out the writer experiencing it themselves?

Reply

Chris July 22, 2010 at 2:36 am

Jennifer – I can see where that would be very challenging for PR practitioners. I came up in the tradition that it’s best to travel anonymously – my Philly Sunday section included restaurant coverage and our staff reviewer always worked diligently to make sure that he wasn’t noticed (it was almost sport among restaurateurs to figure out what he looked like). When I went out on stories for USAT, I never told destinations or hoteliers that I was coming to town. But then, the company paid.

For freelancers, the model has usually often required visiting the destination on your own dime, then trying to sell stories to as many outlets as possible to cover your costs. That’s not working as well anymore, because fewer outlets are paying enough to do that. Thus the press trip conundrum. It’s forced talented freelance writers to make hard decisions – do they take a press trip and get themselves banned by the NYT and limited in other outlets? Or go on the trip and make sure that your hosts know that certain publications won’t allow you to write about them (which is probably why they invited you in the first place).

I’m not sure what the solution is. I know that even though I don’t agree with the HuffPo’s press trip policy, I’ll follow it as it pertains to any posts that I give them. And if I accept a trip, I’ll do so by telling the destination that it’s for MY blog and no one else. But then, I travel often enough on my own that I have a backlog of stories I could contribute to any publication that has a press trip ban. Others probably don’t have that luxury.

Except the NYT, of course. And I already wrote that off a few years ago :)

Reply

soultravelers3 July 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I was wondering when they would add a travel section. I’ve been writing for Huffington Post for a while as does Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau and a few others.

Reply

Nomadic Matt July 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I recently signed on to write with them. While there’s no money, the traffic value might be worth it (have to see) but the seo value of being able to include a link or two is google gold!

Reply

soultravelers3 July 24, 2010 at 3:48 am

Also, I’m not sure how this is different than Tips from the T-list, Bootsnall, Uptake’s Travel Insight 100, Lonely Planet etc where I and many of the above ( and other top travel writers and bloggers) have content that is not paid for.

Isn’t this just part of the game today?

Obviously, there are some advantages or there would not be ANY writers on Huffpo.

Have you seen the latest where Huffpo will take over the NY Times?

http://www.businessinsider.com/huffington-post-beginning-2010-7

What I love about writing for Huffpo is I can write when I want and put up what I want from my blog. My literary agent thinks it’s fabulous too. My passion is about letting people know that travel doesn’t have to be expensive & that families can do extended travel.

Re: “If stories are about experiencing destinations, how can that best be conveyed with out the writer experiencing it themselves?”

Jennifer – I’ve never done a press trip and don’t think one needs to do that to travel ( we’re traveling the world as a family & live large on just 23 dollars a day per person since 2006). I like to choose where I go, when I go, what I do and what I say. I think the massive and ever growing amount of travel blogs has changed the whole press trip area.

Reply

Sean July 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Updated Writers Guidelines from BootsnAll.
http://writers.bootsnall.com/

We have been paid and unpaid markets. Paid opportunities have existed for 6 years. Things change SoTrav3!

I welcome Huffpo into Travel. Let’s get it on!

Reply

Chris July 30, 2010 at 10:42 am

Sean –

Thanks for posting your guidelines here. I’m sure they’ll be helpful to people who are trying to figure out where to place their work (and I love that BootsnAll has done so much for bloggers). I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you at TBEX. Maybe sometime down in Portland our paths will cross.

Reply

Pamela Wright July 28, 2010 at 10:25 am

Just like the newspapers, travel writers now find that the world has changed. Count the number of websites that are shouting about travel writing being an easy way to make money and get your travel paid for. The truth is that the business model has changed drastically. The web doesn’t require “good” writing, just content that is keyword rich. There will be plenty of people writing for HuffPo and to try to boycott it isn’t going to work. Guess it’s time to figure out a new way of earning a living.

Reply

Julie Ovenell-Carter July 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm

A few years ago I refused to sign a rights-grabbing contract at a Canadian newspaper that wanted all-rights to my photos and my words in return for a measly $125 cheque. Even so, that company knew when to back off: those writers who *did* sign the contract are still allowed to take press trips.

HuffPo = all rights + no payment + no press trips. As they used to say on Sesame Street: one of those things just doesn’t belong…

Reply

Bob Schulman July 29, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Chris, I wonder if Kate meant she is not allowed to take press trips vs. not accepting stories from sponsored trips.

Reply

Chris July 30, 2010 at 10:37 am

Bob, I had asked her before this interview about submitting content from sponsored trips and she told me no. Now that the site is up, it looks to me that some of the stories may have come from press trips (like the one on Necker Island). I will ask her to clarify.

Reply

Judy Waytiuk July 29, 2010 at 11:22 pm

No pay, all photo rights, no press trips. Talk about devaluing/screwing/shafting/milking/taking ridiculous advantage of your contributors!
Yet here we see posts from people who will happily sell themselves for nothing more than hoped-for exposure… well, if I ever want exposure, I’ll drop my drawers on Main Street, thank you very much.
Disgusting.

Reply

Chris July 30, 2010 at 12:42 am

Judy – Again, I’ll reiterate: it’s up to each writer to decide for themselves what they want to do with their content. Personally, I’m figuring out if HuffPo drives traffic or if it’s a waste of time. So far after three posts, I’m noticing that it does more for my SEO rank (ie, more hits from Google) than direct clicks. And I’m not sure how many people are reading that new section yet, as my most recent post received a lot more referrals from Facebook than HP.

Reply

Judy Waytiuk July 30, 2010 at 11:51 am

Just driving traffic to your site doesn’t strike me as either cost-effective or indirectly revenue-bearing. And your observation about Facebook driving more traffic to you than HP says a great deal, I think.
You can rationalize about new revenue models and giving away your work for free until the cows come home, bed down, and go into REM sleep– but you’re still giving away what should be bought and paid for.

Reply

Chris July 30, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Technically, I’m giving away content just by having this blog! Yet I’ve learned things from running it that has helped my career overall. Being a blogger has proven to be a crash course in social media and reader engagement, and I learn new things from it every day. And that’s what I mean about every writer/blogger having different motivations for their actions. HuffPo may not work for you, but for someone like Nomadic Matt who has made a name for himself figuring out the mechanics of SEO, it’s not a bad investment of time. And there’s no denying that HuffPo gets a lot of attention in NYC/mainstream media circles. And it reaches a whole different audience than other travel websites. Some bloggers may want to tap into that.

I’m not trying to convince anyone to write for them. But I do think it’s unfair to taint all contributors with the same brush, when you don’t know why they are making that choice.

Reply

Mark August 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm

We take a certain pride that our Internet-based travel Web site was one of the first back in 1996-97. For a little perspective, Google did not exist then. We were a Yahoo “Cool Site” pick at one point. We keep the site vintage 1996-97 for sentimental reasons.
Internet access was much different then. We connected in some very unusual places to update our site as we traveled around the United States.
We were hired by Parent Soup as “travel consultants” and we featured speakers at U.S. Department of Education sponsored conference called, “Families Technology and Education.” http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/eecearchive/books/fte/general/blondin.html
It has been interesting to watch as the travel sites have grown.

Reply

Emilie C. Harting August 30, 2012 at 9:53 am

I’m curious about the definition of the term “press trip.” Does that mean a group trip with journalists or does it mean any kind of subsidized travel, i.e a media rate?

Reply

Leave a Comment


{ 7 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: