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Blogging Conferences You Should Know About

I started blogging back in 2003 (on Blogger) and on this blog in 2004. But it was only recently that I realized a whole world of blogging conferences had sprung up, promising to help bloggers up their game, find sponsors, and more.

I’ve learned about these conferences almost exclusively on Twitter, where I see hashtags for #blogher, #bwe10, or #trvlblog10. And it always seems that I learn about the conferences only when they are happening, not prior to. So, I never have a chance to attend.

I know I can’t be the only one in the dark about the myriad blogger meet-ups. So, I thought I’d profile a few here. Check the conferences’ websites for more information on hashtags, because Twitter will most definitely be the place you’ll find the most up-to-date news on them. And, by all means, if you know of others that I have not listed, add them in a comment below!

General Blogging

Blog World Expo – This is a general bloggers conference and touts itself as the “first and only industry-wide conference, tradeshow and media event for all new media.” Blog World Expo has different tracks for different blog topics, such as travel and food. While I am serious about blogging, I have to admit I am a bit intimidated by Blog World’s scope – visit their website and check out all the big name sponsors and pictures of the masses of people! In 2010, Blog World is meeting in Las Vegas from October 14-16. Follow them on Twitter @blogworld or #bwe10.

BlogHer – BlogHer also offers a general-track blogging conference for all the people – almost exclusively women – who are affiliated with BlogHer, a vast blogging network. It seems like everyone and her mother is a member of BlogHer – except for me, as I can never figure out how to get affiliated with and/or invited to BlogHer’s network. Nevertheless, BlogHer has proven to be an effective and exciting  yearly event, judging from the Twitter love that it gets. In fact, the #blogher hashtag was one of the first ones I ever noticed for a live-tweeting event. BlogHer ’11 will be in San Diego August 5-6, 2011. There’s also a separate BlogHer Food Conference happening October 8-9, 2010, in San Francisco. (Food bloggers: read on, as I’ve listed a couple more food blogging conferences near the end of this post.) Follow @blogher on Twitter.

Travel Blogging

Travel Blog Exchange Conference – Ah, TBEX. This travel bloggers conference is dear to my heart because I actually attended the 2010 edition of TBEX in New York City. TBEX ’11 is taking place in Vancouver from June 11-12, 2011, and it’s sure to be as fun and informative as this year’s. I’m sure it will also be more packed. There also appear to be break-out chapters popping up in places like NYC and Copenhagen. For more TBEX info, follow @tbex11 or the #tbex.

Travel Bloggers Show – I just missed the Travel Bloggers Show, taking place in Orlando from September 11-14, 2010, in conjunction with the The Trade Show.  While TBEX seemed more casual, the Travel Bloggers Show appears to be a more serious, industry-minded affair, with more travel industry and PR participants than travel bloggers. At any rate, their panels look much the same as TBEX – “writing a niche blog,” “working with PR,” etc. I’m unsure when the next Travel Bloggers Show will take place, but you can follow them on Twitter for details: @trvlbloggershow.

Book Passage Travel, Food, and Photography Conference – To be fair, this is more of a conference for old (print) media than it is for bloggers. But I saw a lot of traffic on Twitter coming from it when it was going on this past August in California, so I wanted to include it. Of course, many of the people who attend the Book Passage conference are bloggers – that’s just the way the industry is heading – but this is the event to go to if you’re serious about your content and not just about monetization and the like. Who knows? The things you could learn here could help catapult you to writing for other online outlets. More about Book Passage @bookpassage.

If I’m going to mention Book Passage, I should also mention ASJA and SATW. The American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Society of American Travel Writers both have writing conferences worth inquiring about. And, they are also on Twitter: @asjahq and @satw. You must be a dues-paying member of these organizations to attend their conferences. (Disclosure: I am a member of ASJA and a former member of SATW. I let my SATW membership lapse and it’s too much of a pain to try to reclaim it unfortunately.)

Food Blogging

International Food Blogger Conference – The IFBC conference for 2010 just ended a few weeks ago in Seattle, and it looks like it was a fine, sophisticated time. Presented by the website Foodista.com, there were panels on recipe writing as well as making food posts SEO-able. One nice thing that the conference website did was set up a blogroll of all the IFBC attendees – a nice incentive to attend, no? As this conference just ended, I haven’t seen when the 2011 event will happen. But check the website or follow them on Twitter @ifbc or #ifbc.

FoodBuzz – FoodBuzz is a network much like BlogHer (see above) in that it has created a huge network through the use of affiliate badges and link love. And, also like BlogHer, all the people involved in FoodBuzz want a place where they can gather in real life to share tips on food, blogging, and social media integration. FoodBuzz’s 2010 conference, the FoodBuzz Festival, is taking place in San Francisco November 5-7, 2010. And I bet it will be both fun and tasty. Follow FoodBuzz on Twitter @foodbuzz or #foodbuzz.

28 Things I Learned At TBEX

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend TBEX, a meet-up of travel bloggers organized by Travel Blog Exchange and, in particular, Kim Mance of Galavanting. For those of you who attended and may have met me, I was under the guise of Italofile, my blog about Italy travel (@italofileblog on Twitter), and also as USA Tourism Board (@usatourismboard), an unofficial guide to USA travel that I’ve been playing around with over the last year (to little success sigh).

At any rate, the TBEX conference was incredibly useful for knowledge gathering, networking, and enjoying a few Gin and Tonics on a lovely, if sticky, June evening in New York City. Here’s a list of what I learned, some professional, as well as personal, revelations. I’d love to hear what you learned, too, so leave a comment below.

Things I Learned At TBEX

  1. Travel bloggers and travel writers are the same. We have (or should have) editorial calendars, self-imposed deadlines, and an inherent drive to learn more about the world around us.

  2. My travel writing heroes are real and they are fabulous. Pictured are Jim Benning, Mike Barish, David Farley, and Robert Reid. Not pictured, but also in my pantheon are Johnny Jet, Spud Hilton, Chris Gray Faust, Sean Keener, and many many others.

  3. Your own travel photos are better than photos you’ve “borrowed” from Flickr, according to Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere. (See horribly grainy photo in link #2 – but, hey, it’s mine!)

  4. Travel writers like to drink.

  5. Some travel writers like to drink $300 glasses of scotch. Don’t do that if you’re on a press trip and liquor is comped. Bad form.

  6. If you go on a press trip or get PR stuff in the mail and you’re going to write about it, disclose it. Every time.

  7. Both PR people and travel writers should do research on each other to make sure that their relationships make sense.

  8. If you want to increase your SEO, make sure you add titles, alt tags, and descriptions to your posts and especially any photos or videos that you use because the latter have less of the “market share” on search engines.

  9. Knew this, but it was reiterated at TBEX: Google’s Adwords Keywords is invaluable for SEO.

  10. You can SEO your site to death, but if the content is no good no one is going to care. Write for humans, damnit!

  11. It’s not enough to have a laptop and an iPhone. Travel bloggers use all kinds of cool tools like the Quick Pod handheld tripod for shooting video or taking photos of yourself, the wireless mini battery extender for iPhone, and Pano, an app for taking outstanding photos on the iPhone (as long as the light is right).

  12. My next computer should be a Mac or an iPad. Really jealous of the three TBEXers who won the iPad drawings from TripAdvisor.com.

  13. The people who work at TripAdvisor.com are pretty nice and know how to throw an awesome happy hour (see #4).

  14. I should get to Australia – and particularly the Northern Territory – immediately. I was mesmerized by Mike Barish‘s talk about it during lunch on Saturday. Wow.

  15. If I could write about travel the way Mike Barish casually talks about travel, I’d be eternally grateful to the universe and perhaps much wealthier than I am today. But then….

  16. Overheard at TBEX: “Travel writers have been starving artists for an eternity. Travel blogging’s not going to change that. Much.” Or…something like that.

  17. I’m not the only travel blogger with kids. LOTS of mommy travel bloggers were at TBEX including Ciao Bambino and Luxury Travel Mom. The work that these ladies do is amazing and makes me realize that I need to stop bitching about having no time to write. (That said, ladies, are your kids in school, have a nanny, etc.? Or are you parenting and writing at the same time, all the time?)

  18. Having a son with autism also should not hamper my ability to be a kick ass travel writer, as evidenced, once again, by TBEX organizer and galavanter Kim Mance.

  19. Two days to attend TBEX was both too much and too little time to spend away from my kids.

  20. Some travel bloggers look just like their Twitter avatars, in particular @italylogue and @journeywoman. It was so great meeting Jessica and Evelyn.

  21. Journey Woman, aka Evelyn Hannon, is a pioneer of women’s travel, having started in 1982. And don’t ask her to change her website: it’s comfortable, like your grandmother’s house.

  22. Finding your niche is important. More important is sticking with it, getting better with each post.

  23. If you’ve excelled at your niche, create and sell an e-book about it, a la Nomadic Matt. It’s a way to monetize your blog without having to fill it with ads.

  24. Invest in your blog by, for example, purchasing a theme. (Something I learned from Nomadic Matt’s eBook How to Make Money with Your Travel Blog. (See…#23 works!)

  25. The extremely prolific travel writer Zach Everson doesn’t seem to have a geographic specialty, rather his niche is humor, a trait that works for a ton of markets. To wit, this tweet on ethical blogging and this one about shooting travel video and this tweet on traveling within the U.S. Was cracking up the whole time. Wish I had such a gift.

  26. Speaking of gifts, An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town by David Farley comes out in paperback on July 6, 2010. Who doesn’t want to read about the search to find Jesus’s foreskin? Yeah, thought so.

  27. Pam Mendel, of Nerd’s Eye View, is incredibly funny (knew that, TBEX cemented it) and quite the activist for travel writers. I love the way she used her guest spot on a conference panel to demand Free WiFi in hotels. It really is just as important as the lighting and indoor plumbing.

  28. Try to keep the emotion out of travel writing. Look at your work objectively and don’t beat yourself up thinking that every one else but you has got it figured out. As Sean Keener so nicely put it in this tweet:

It’s not about keeping up. It’s about finding your voice and your “why”

Thanks everyone for a great weekend! I sincerely hope I can make it out to Vancouver for TBEX 2011.