What’s the best way to tell a travel story?
Newspaper and magazine travel journalism, as we know, typically aims to pair descriptive, compelling text with illustrative photography. But what if you add complimentary video and a blog to the mix?
The New York Times‘s Matt Gross — the Times‘s Frugal Traveler — has been producing some really, really good travel journalism over the last few years. ((Disclaimer: I’m lucky enough to call Matt a pal, but I was a fan of his work before our paths ever crossed. In fact, before I ever moved to Bangkok, I ate up his NYT travel stories from Southeast Asia, particularly “To Be Young and Hip in Bangkok.”)) And he’s been doing so using not just well-crafted words accompanied by well-shot images. He’s also been using a blog and sms alerts to connect with his readers. And some of his stories are plotted on Google Maps. There’s even a Frugal Traveler Facebook group (latest count: 1,345 fans).
Matt has traveled around the world in 90 days; he took a road trip across the US; and he re-created the European grand tour. All of his stories are formatted as blog posts, and many of them receive over a hundred comments. In some of the comments, readers give him travel tips on where to go and what to do when he gets to future destinations.
In short, though I’m not a fan of the phrase “Web 2.0,” Matt is a travel writer for the Web 2.0 age.
His stories are not only rich in practical details that are helpful in planning a trip, but his dispatches are often emotionally revealing. For example, during his grand tour last summer, he filed a story called “Tracing Family Roots in Vilnius.” The article describes how he tracked down his Lithuanian ancestors. And the accompanying video (embedded below) is also interesting — but it’s more lighthearted:
The written article, blog post, and images were one story. The video was another.
In the end, I think that traditional newspaper and magazine travel journalism will continue to thrive, as will travel TV shows. These meet a need. But it’s interesting to see how Matt’s work has blended traditional and multimedia elements to create something different entirely.
For more reading, I suggest:
- Travel writer Rolf Potts’s interview with Matt. ((Rolf has also engaged readers through a long-standing blog.))
- An essay Matt wrote for World Hum about what home means to someone who’s always on the road.
- And speaking of which, World Hum — which I’ve mentioned before — is a must-visit site devoted to travel writing and narrative storytelling. The fine folks at WH run what is most certainly my favorite travel blog. They’ve recently incorporated some multimedia elements into the site, and they’re all over Twitter.