The Interview: Everett Potter
Karen Roach of the University of Wisconsin Worldview (my grad school alma mater) interviewed me recently on the subject of blogging. Here's the lowdown.
When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog, Everett Potter’s Travel Report,
in May 2006, largely as a place to write stories that were not seeing
the light of day in the dozen or so publications I was writing for at
the time. I have been a freelance journalist for 25 years, so the idea
of writing an extra story or two a week didn’t phase me. I’ve had
upwards of five columns at a time, including an 18-year stint as a
weekly columnist with The New York Times Syndicate and six years with
But the blog format also allowed me to express my entrepreneurial
side. I came of age at a time when business was a four-letter word.
Those of us who had such urges were urged to suppress them. The blog
seemed like a way to keep both sides of me content.
What happened is that the world moves faster than you think it
might. I saw my blog as being useful 10 years down the line. It became
“useful” in less than two years. I now have 20 writers, all of them
pros of long standing, contributing on either a regular or occasional
basis. I cover consumer travel subjects — frequent- flier miles, travel
websites, cruises — but I also have sections on art, food (the former
Paris editor of Gourmet, Alexander Lobrano, is a
contributor), adventure travel and interviews with notables in the
travel field, including Robert Redford.
The blog has taken on a life of its own. It’s been singled out a couple of times by The Wall Street Journal (most recently in May), and now gets picked up on occasion by NPR. It’s gratifying.
Do you have a sense of who’s reading it?
A lot of travel professionals — outfitters, tour operators, travel PR
people looking for trends — as well as independent travelers who want
insider-ish information. That great, unserved populace whose backpacks
are gathering dust in the garage but who aren’t booking Four Seasons
hotels either: people who love the idea of a weeklong biking, walking
or hiking trip. In fact, I’m breaking rank and leading a walking trip in England
for some of these readers. It’s with The Wayfarers, probably the best
English walking company, this September. It’s about pub lunches,
country inns, rolling countryside and good company.
Have you tried to market your blog in any way?
Constantly. I post on Facebook and Twitter four or five times a week,
enough to be informative, but not enough to be annoying (I hope). I
also do a weekly e-mail blast to nearly 10,000 subscribers.
For you, is blogging therapeutic or obligatory?
Obligatory in the sense that I treat the blog as I do an assignment from National Geographic Traveler, Forbes Life
or any other publication that I write for — there are deadlines that
have to be met and I maintain the same level of professionalism that I
do in my other work. Therapeutic? Only in the sense that I feel a sense
of accomplishment when the week’s postings are up and e-mailed. I think
it’s closer to relief.
Any advice you’d give a new blogger?
If you embark on blogging, remember to keep on blogging. This sounds
trite, doesn’t it? But I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ll glance at
and see that they were last updated in May 2007. No one wants to read
And consider some way of marketing your blog. The fact of the matter
is, if you build it, they will not come. Not when there are tens of
millions of blogs out there. Well, maybe your mother will look at it.
What blogs do you read?
I glance at World Hum and Gadling and Jaunted, all travel blogs, and I read Virtual Gourmet, my colleague John Mariani’s blog — he’s Esquire restaurant critic. I think The New York Times has a checkered record with blogs — their food and wine blogs used to be good, and their Media Decoder
is still good for those of us who are media junkies. But most of the
blogs I visit these days are one-shot visits — I go to them because of
an engaging tweet with a bit.ly link that sends me to them. It’s
strictly here today, gone four minutes later, in terms of visiting a
site. Hmm, make that three minutes.