My dentist is such a kind, gentle person so I really wish I could stop unconsciously humming this song every time I visit. (I don't notice myself doing it, honest.) The receptionist gave me such a funny look as I was paying her today.
Anyhow, thought you might like to hear about a meeting I went to earlier this week, about how travel writers can earn money on the web.
We met at a restaurant called La Porte des Indes, just behind Selfridge's. The panel were travel writers who are managing to make a decent income with the help of the web, plus a nice lady called Debbie Marshall, who had many years in the travel trade before deciding to set up her own travel website dedicated to over-50s.
Here she is, and you'll see we were sitting under one of those beautiful canopies that maharajas used to use.
I found her talk very interesting, as it showed some of what you need to do to pull people to your site, if that is what you aim to do.
Above all, it seems, you need a "niche." Subscribers to her business, Silver Travel Advisor. are keen on travel, over 50 and have taken the trouble to register. That's a niche.
She spoke interestingly about forging links with organisations relevant to the site. Hers include the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) which has a significant over-60s membership, and another is Age UK. Clever, this, because it generates reciprocal links from well used sites and pushes up her own site visibility.
Talking of the RHS, here's a picture I took recently at RHS Wisley just south of London (highly recommended, by the way). A robin had got into the houseplant shop. Little did it know that there were dozens of packets of bird food just a few feet away from where it sat,
Back at the meeting, other panel members discussed how to use Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and numerous other social media to best advantage. They all agreed that Google ads are a bit of a waste of time, the pay-per-clicks don't even keep you in cups of coffee, and can clutter up your site. And sometimes they offer inappropriate ads for your garden-loving grannies too
At the end of the evening, I am afraid that the message I had was, that writers who are not actually celebrities, and who love writing interestingly about different places and also making money, are continuing to chase ever-decreasing traditional media, at ever-dwindling rates of pay. Some are writing advertorials sponsored by travel companies, tweeting themselves into the grave, or doing variations of the same thing over and over again, wall-to-wall French gourmet breaks, endless skiing holidays, non-stop mountain biking.
There is nice work around, though - it's a matter of finding it. I find the excellent TravelwritersUK consistently comes up with decent story leads that pay proper money. And certain long established, fact-packed sites with lots of links, like Pacific Coast Highway make money as part of a portfolio of its owner's travel activities.
But if you are an aspiring travel writer, and fitting yourself into a "niche," getting married to your computer and having Twitter as your best friend don't appeal, then the answer at the moment might well be "Don't give up the day job." Although I hope not.
Oh, by the way, Porte des Indes provided us with some good canapes after our meeting. Everyone loved the Dahi Puri, made with gram flour shells -finicky to make, and I think they were particularly classy ones. But I've found a home-made recipe here.which I might try
I also heard an interesting piece of gossip at the meeting about Stephen Fry, who famously has millions and millions of Twitter followers. One delegate recalls him visiting a very pricey shirt shop buying himself a shirt, and then going away and accidentally leaving a large package behind. When opened, the package was revealed to contain vast quantities of caviar, "about 1,000 pounds worth" said our informant, (although who knows where he got that figure. )
Not knowing how to contact Fry, they tweeted him to tell him where his caviar was. But he didn't reply, and never came back for the caviar. He can't read all his messages, of course, but I'd have thought he'd employ someone to read and respond. Unless he's spending all his money on caviar that is. :)