Max Hartshorne’s impressive career as a journalist and editor has culminated in the popular destination travel site GoNOMAD.com, an online space that connects travelers through well-crafted travel writing and stunning photographs. GoNOMAD.com, which prides itself on “participatory travel”—travel that takes you outside the passive and catapults you into the active—is for anyone who “wants to get the skinny on the unexplored, the unseen and the unwritten about.” We interviewed Max seven years ago and you’ll find that interview here. He’s joining us again this week to catch us up on the changes he’s seen over the last seven years.
It’s been almost 7 years since we interviewed you on TravelWriting2.com, what do you think are the biggest changes in the online industry since then?
Back in 2010, when we did the interview, things were still pretty flush for publishers, I can remember being able to charge a whole lot more than we do now for simple promotions for clients. At that time, there was also a more robust travel ad network so we had a mix of better travel-related display ads for airlines, tourism boards, etc. We still have a good display mix, but it’s not all travel now, which I preferred.
With all the travel sites that have popped up in the last 7 years, what adjustments have you had to make to keep GoNOMAD competitive?
We had to finally adapt and make the big change to WordPress, which in retrospect we should have done much earlier. With the ability to use so many plug-ins for common issues, and to have a platform that almost everybody else uses, makes troubleshooting and innovating much easier. We still publish every day, and we work at more partnerships than solo advertising campaigns.
Your pay rates for writers have remained the same for the last 7 years, why do you think writers still flood you with articles despite no increase in pay rates?
I think they still flood us with articles because we give them something that’s hard to get in this day and age: We read their queries and their articles, we respond to their emails and their questions, and we pay a lot of attention to the stories and the quality so that they come out looking very good. Writers also see a huge value in a good link and to be a part of a high-quality site that’s been out there since 2000. Just being responsive and honest about criticism and giving due praise counts for more than you think.
Over the years, how has your revenue mixed changed?
We now work more with partnerships and leveraging the traffic and social audiences of a whole bunch of sites, versus selling only our own social, editorial and display opportunities. We have found that bigger advertisers need more eyeballs, so we bring in other travel blogs and partner with a few strong sites to give advertisers a larger number of deliverables and audiences. After I met with Tim and another partner at TBEX in Keystone Colorado in 2012, I convinced them to help me create the 360° Travel Network, and we’ve been working together on joint projects ever since.
In our last interview, you said you would never want to return to working for someone else. Have your feelings on that changed?
I have had the chance to work for other people part time and found I chafed at their direction and found myself anxious about pleasing them. I think doing your own thing and being able to chart your own course is more valuable than any amount of pay you might earn. My ability to go on trips whenever I want to is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. People who work for other people are prisoners who only get weekends and vacations off–I live a full life and do exactly what I want to do every day. How can you beat that?
What travel plans do you have for 2018 that you’re most excited about?
So far I haven’t planned much except for the fun conferences that I attend and speak at: The New York Times Travel Show in NYC, IPW in Denver, and PRSA in New Orleans. I am hoping to go to Norway this winter and I look forward to whatever invitations make their way to my mailbox in the next few months. It’s fun not knowing, and being able to say yes when the invites arrive!
GoNOMAD is on many, many lists of the World’s Best Travel Blogs. Max takes pride in the thousands of articles and hundreds of writers GoNOMAD has encouraged and published. You’ll find the writer’s guidelines here. Since 2004, Max has been publishing the blog, ReadUpOnIt.com about his life as an editor, frequent traveler, and media and business critic. He spends his work days reading travel stories and publishing them on GoNOMAD Travel, and working with sponsors and advertising clients to help promote their businesses. Max is also a partner in the 360° Travel Network.