They're Paid to Travel and Write, But How Good Are These Travel Bloggers?

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It's a dream come true for any blogger: getting paid to travel the world and write about it. Several major companies have sponsored contests to supply this fantasy to a lucky few, who then make money traveling and blogging about the businesses' products or services. But could any average Joe or Jane do their job? We cut through the propaganda to assess five bloggers who got their travel funded.

Blogger Report Card - Pei Wei Blog


Alice Shin: Pei Wei

This Miami ad copywriter, 27, won a contest to travel to five Asian countries with the chefs from restaurant chain Pei Wei as part of a marketing promotion. Shin blogs about the food she tries and the chefs' insights along with posting videos and pictures. She also tries to weave in experiences with local culture. Most of her posts are super-upbeat. Among the negatives: eating live octopus and admitting the restaurant's style of Korean barbecue is different from the kind she grew up with as a Korean-American.

Thanks, no doubt, to her day job, Shin does lay it on thick at points, like when describing her first taste of rib roast in Japan as "Melting. Spreading. Opening up like slightly sweet beef butter, bathing my tongue."

Still, she mostly keeps posts concise, though she said in a recent video chat with readers she takes two hours to write each day and has the trip master, Terry, edit. "I'm a copywriter, so I'm used to taking more time. This type of writing, it was hard at first, getting the hang of it."

Writing: B+
Authenticity: B
Information: A-
Spirit: A
Reliability: B-

Blogger Report Card - Cruzerati


Mike Barish: Chevrolet

Barish, a seasoned freelance travel writer who contributes to AOL's Gadling, is part of a six-pack of bloggers promoting Chevrolet's new car, the Cruze, in a five-month trip around the U.S. The blogger stresses he's "up for anything" in his introductory Cruze-arati video and calls on readers to tell him where to go and what to do. So far, he's competed in Charleston's OysterFest and visited the World's Smallest Police Station, among other quirky sights.

The New Yorker seems to be a natural on camera, and he's got a personality that, combined with his writing experience, should make his one of the better blogs on the Cruze-arati site. Since he's actually a journalist, we hope Barish maintains his ethics as he promotes the car for the company.

Writing: A-
Authenticity: B+
Information: B-
Spirit: A-
Reliability: B

Blogger Report Card - Sony Blog


Jared Chamberlain: Sony

In June 2010, Sony chose web designer Jared Chamberlain to blog and photograph his way through the World Cup in South Africa using the company's Xperia X10 mobile phone. Chamberlain, whose trip to the semi-finals and finals matches was his first outside the U.S., already ran an electronics blog.

Passionate about gadgets, maybe; about punctuation and syntax, not so much. Chamberlain is another exclamation-point-happy blogger; he's got three in the last paragraph of his post on Spain's win. He also uses lots of meaningless adjectives like "great" and "awesome."

He did his part to capture the event through photos, though he could use some lessons in focus and cropping. He was almost all rainbows and sunshine, save a slight gripe about the apparent dangerousness of Durban, in which he was instructed not to go out at night.

Writing: D
Authenticity: B
Information: C-
Spirit: B
Reliability: C

Blogger Report Card - Queensland Australia Blog


Ben Southall: Tourism Queensland

This blogger is the only one on the list who parlayed his role into even more travel. In 2009, the British project manager and charity fundraiser won Tourism Queensland's "Best Job in the World," a position as caretaker on Hamilton Island and leeway to explore every nook and cranny of that part of the Australian state. He also got $150,000 AUD to last the six months of the job, which involved extensive blogging and picture posting to promote Queensland. After this gig, he became the Queensland Tourism Ambassador, a role that took him around the States, Asia, New Zealand and the U.K. to talk about his experiences in Australia.

Southall's posts were definitely thorough, but too much so. His blog readers complained about this tendency in the comments section. The blogger clearly had a problem summarizing info and writing tight copy, and the issue got only slightly better as the blog progressed, as evidenced by a 3,000-word post covering four days. Some called his blogging plain boring and reporter-like and begged for more humor and interaction. Others challenged his genuineness, particularly in a post on the Aboriginal population.

Writing: C
Authenticity: B-
Information: A-
Spirit: B-
Reliability: B


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