An interesting new way for travel writers to get hired

Horizon Guides examples

It’s always good to hear about people and companies in the travel publishing space doing new things.

Matt Barker regularly needs writers to help him and his team produce what he says is a “disruptive” new way to connect tour operators in specific destinations with travellers.

His Horizon Guides are digital travel guides sponsored by tour operators and free to download by readers. Those readers can opt in to receive extra information from the tour operators, and these ‘hot leads’ are then passed on to the tour operator to convert to sale. It’s one of those ideas that’s so simple you end up thinking ‘why didn’t I think of that?’

Matt has just kicked off a Crowdcube campaign to raise £150,000, which you can access (and read more about the business) here: https://www.crowdcube.com/companies/i-i-travel-media-ltd/pitches/boak6l

I asked Matt a few questions about how writers can get involved in this new scheme.

Matthew Barker CEO Horizon Guides
Matthew Barker CEO Horizon Guides

Explain the money stuff, as far as you can, about how writers can be compensated and by how much.

​With I&I Travel Media (JD: the content marketing arm of Matt’s company) we were dancing to the client’s tune. They would say “we need X and we can afford Y” (usually a pittance) and we’d try to find the writers from our network who could deliver.

With Horizon Guides we get to call the shots. This is good because it means we don’t need to sacrifice quality or independence – we publish proper material from professional writers who know their stuff, there’s no client to please and we don’t need to worry about objectivity and bias.

Our commissions are either feature length articles or sections of notes and background research that our editorial team combines into the finished guides. Commissions start at around USD 200 and up.

When you get a sponsor for a guide, they renew sponsorship of that guide each month, correct? What happens when they decide to end the deal?

​A partner gets a license to a guide, with a minimum period of three months​. In return the partner gets exclusive access to the leads and audiences that we generate with the guide. We basically take “content marketing” off their plates and automate the whole thing for them at way better quality than they could manage themselves.

We’ve never ‘churned’ (lost a customer) yet, but in the case that we do it takes five minutes to switch them out with a new sponsor.

Is each guide sponsored by just one company/brand?

​Yes our current product works on an exclusive sponsorship model. Over the coming months and years we’ll be creating different solutions for partners that are separate and independent to the guides.

Horizon Guides website signupHow do you select your writers for your guides? Do they always come through I&ITM?

We’ve got a huge database of freelance writers, so it’s effectively a “closed crowdsourcing” process​. When we start work on a new project we filter the contributors with relevant expertise and push an assignment notice. We’ve got it pretty streamlined and can usually get from commission to publication within five weeks.

Are writers expected to be in location while researching and writing their guides?

Our contributors tend to be based in-destination. They’re typically freelance writers, travel bloggers or copywriters who live in the country we’re covering. Otherwise they need to have been there within six months and have demonstrable expertise and knowledge in the destination. We never publish any desk research.

How long is each guide on average and what can a writer of a guide expect to get paid, and when?

A published guide averages 20,000 words.

An individual commission ranges from USD 200 to 800 (JD: several writers are used to compile a full guide), depending on the scope of the assignment. We have several researchers working on a guide, plus someone to write a foreword, feature articles, etc. We pay as soon as the content is accepted and signed-off, always within 30 days.

Are you looking for writers currently for any guides?

Our commissions are currently on hold while we complete our Crowdfund, but ​as soon as that’s finished we’ll resume commissioning with a vengeance. Freelancers can register for assignments here.

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