World Hum and Brave New Traveler Compared

| July 21, 2009 | 7 Comments

Taking a break from books, after having posted reviews of Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson, we would like to turn our attention to the web. We spent the weekend checking out a couple of the web’s more popular travel publications—World Hum (WH) and Brave New Traveler (BNT).

Our goal here was to analyze and observe how the sites operated, hoping to pick up tips to help shape our own blogging strategy. Of course, we were not looking at replicating every aspect of these publications, but hoped to uncover some ideas, strategies and tips.

worldhum World Hum and Brave New Traveler Compared

Both sites do not focus on destination-specific narratives, instead highlighting travel in the broadest sense

It should be stated at the outset that we’re not long-term readers of either publication. And although we’ve spent a good deal of time reading and reviewing over a few days, this article is comprised of what amounts to first impressions.

BNT describes itself as a daily travel magazine that incorporates “original content and previously published articles from guest authors”. Moreover, BNT avoids “destination-specific” narratives and instead focuses on topics like philosophy, health, politics and culture. WH, a subsidiary of the Travel Channel, focuses on travel journalism and caters to travel aficionados around the globe. It exists to serve the “travel addicted”.

Philosophies

Overall, both sites do not focus on destination-specific narratives, instead choosing to highlight travel in the broadest sense of the word. Perhaps the editorial teams at both publications feel that focusing on such narratives reduces their appeal to their respective ‘casual’ readership, or perhaps they feel destination-specific stories are better left to blogs documenting journeys of a more personal nature.

Instead, both publications tend to (for the most part) forego the travel story and focus on the philosophy of wanderlust, and the topics of culture and politics through the lens of travel. Of the two, BNT is the ‘hipper’ blog—WH is more staid both in the overall tone of their articles and in their site design, employing subtler hues and smaller thumbnails. At the time of this review, however, both sites had strangely coincident stories on Japanese love hotels . Not that that’s a bad thing—just odd. (Check them out—here and here.)

Both publish regularly, WH at the pace of about a ‘featured’ article per day; meanwhile, drawing from a larger community and a greater number of contributors, BNT tends to publish several features per day, although the articles are not as long or detailed as those in WH. BNT, however, tends to respond to news, breaking or otherwise, a little faster, whereas WH tends to be more of a ‘feature’ publication. Moreover, BNT’s articles are more idiosyncratic and unexpected while WH tends to be a little more staid and introspective.

Reader engagement

As far as reader engagement goes, BNT is the clear innovator. In January 2008, they joined forces with Matador—a social network of like-minded travelers. This partnership provided BNT with a network of quality travel blogs from which to draw, and extended its borders to draw in and engage readers from the community at MatadorTravel.com. All of BNT’s articles are enhanced because of the dialogue engendered by this partnership.

Tone

As a result of its community, the style of post that seems to best connect with readers at BNT is the ubiquitous ‘list’ article. At the time of writing, list posts dominated the front page, ie:

Asking our readers

Which travel publication do you prefer?

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Of course, these articles are popular because lists are scannable, succint and tend to go viral, encouraging discussion and word-of-mouth. Hence, they are a natural fit for the folks at Matador. Converesely, the feature-length pieces at WH tend to dig a little deeper and offer a greater amount of introspection. Reader engagement at WH, however, tends to be a little more unilateral. Take for instance its popular ‘Ask Rolf Potts’ segment, wherein everybody’s favourite vagabonder fields questions from readers in the space of a blog post. Rolf Potts does, sometimes, engage readers in the comment stream, but it’s generally the exception rather than the rule. On the other hand, authors at BNT tend to engage their readership at a much higher rate. Let’s be fair, however—the talent pool from which WH draws is much less extensive and tends to boast longer bylines than those at BNT. We certainly don’t expect seasoned writers to engage their readers to the same degree as less well-known, less experienced authors.

Design & usage

From a design and usage standpoint, both sites are similarly organized, but BNT serves up a little more eye-candy. We especially like the ‘called-out’ features along the top of their home page, each with thumbnail. In terms of navigation, both sites are similarly organized. Built on WordPress, BNT has a more traditional blog-style layout, ie it has a very busy sidebar. WH’s design is a little more muted in this respect, but to its advantage. WH tag and category-based structure is a little more intuitive, ie each section on the homepage—Top Story, Features, From the Archives, etc—is assembled through tag- and category-based relationships. The end result is that WH’s  organization is much cleaner and easier to use.

Traffic

In terms of traffic, according to Alexa WH ranks an impressive 44,629, with 759 sites linking in, compared with BNT’s ranking of 55,558 with 512 sites linking in. Compete.com, another web service similar to Alexa, reported 75,937 unique visitors for WH in the June period, compared with 42,473 for BNT.

compete World Hum and Brave New Traveler Compared
The bottom line is that WH enjoys a little bit more exposure owing to its Travel Channel pedigree.

Although services that measure metrics on the web provide information that should be regarded as dubious at best, they do serve to provide points of comparison. The bottom line is that WH enjoys a little bit more exposure than BNT owing to its Travel Channel pedigree. At the same time, however, BNT leverages the Matador community to remain competitive.

Subscription options

BNT has embraced twitter with more gusto, and provides subscription options (RSS and Email) right from the front page. The link to WH’s Feedburner feed is displayed with much less prominence. No surprise here, as the former publication appears to embrace the more ‘social’ aspect of publishing on the web. To be fair, WH provides the same services, but delivers them with less panache. WH is on Twitter, too, but reveals the fact in tiny text at the bottom of its index’s sidebar.

Conclusion

While both publications deserve a spot among the feeds in your RSS reader, we find ourselves returning more often to BNT. Although the writing at WH is top-notch—better even in some respects to that at BNT—the social aspect of BNT is the draw. It’s just full of personality because it’s filled with personalities.


31DaysBook 216x300 World Hum and Brave New Traveler Compared

This posting was inspired by Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Bloga downloadable e-book designed to help you revitalize your blog by giving you 31 tasks that will all help to improve! Darren’s book essentially provides one action or activity to do per day for a 31 day period—and a lesson around why it should be done. Today’s ‘list post’ was the second activity from the work book, the first was our post on building a better travel blog. We’ve been working through the activities that Darren has suggested and will include a note whenever a post is inspired by his program. For anyone who hasn’t checked out Darren Rowse’s eBook already, we highly recommend it. In addition to providing substantive recommendations on how to improve your blog, there is an excellent community built around his methods.Highly recommended—check it out here.


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About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Check him out on Google+.

Comments (7)

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  1. Akila says:


    Daniel, Interesting post. I also find myself returning to Brave New Traveler b/c of their engaging community, even though I prefer the articles at World Hum. World Hum’s articles are usually better researched and more thought-provoking. I have never seen a typo in a World Hum articles though I find them occasionally in BNT.

    • Daniel says:


      Agreed, Akila. Thanks for the comment. I find BNT to be a little ‘stickier’ (meaning I return their more often), but I do find World Hum’s articles to be top notch. Ultimately, the two sites are different enough to have carved out their own niches and both are bound to do very well because of it.


  2. I’ve found myself wondering the same every time I visit these 2 sites — what ARE the differences? I’m burdened with information overload, both as a reader of the many travel sites from which there are to choose AND as a free-lance writer desirous of casting my net into the vast pool of talented writers. Thank you for this comparison. You just made my job easier. :-) — Tammie

  3. Angela says:


    I totally agree with your conclusion. Although World Hum is exquisitely written, I find that sometimes is too ephemeral and some of the topics a bit far from the reality of traveling. An entire magazine on the “concept” of travel sometimes feels like forcing things.
    Brave New Traveler tackles sort of the same topic, but in a “real” way.
    Great post!

  4. Lauren Quinn says:


    Interesting comparisons. WH and BNT are two of my biggest stops on the web, and I go to them for totally different reasons. I feel like they have pretty different visions and target audiences, and both do an excellent job of serving both. Therefore, I go to them for different things: WH for longer narratives and essays from well-established industry folks (ie Rick Steves and Stup Hilton are not regular contributors), and BNT for the younger, quirkier stuff, and for community engagement. I’ve met a lot of great fellow travelers and travel writers on BNT, and it definitely feels more accessible/easier to break in to (hey, they’ve even published me!). A lot of thought-provoking and interesting conversations happen on BNT, but not a lot of thought-provoking and interesting narratives (as it’s not designed for that). Basically: WH for the old-school good stuff, BNT for the new-school good stuff.

    But an excellent post! Enjoyed your dead-on insights.

  5. Social says:


    Both sites look pretty interesting and only time will tell which one I will prefer. I really like articles such as the ‘The 5 Deadliest Travel Fears’ and ‘25 Ways To Earn Money When You’re Broke On The Road’ as they are both entertaining and educational.

    After spending no more than 15 mins on each site I would say that ‘Brave New Traveler’ got my attention the most although I will be checking back to visit both sites periodically.

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