Last night, I was in NYC for the premiere party of "Confessions of a Travel Writer" on The Travel Channel. I was one of five journalists- the only new media blogger might I add- the show followed on a press trip in Chile this past February. I was blogging/videoblogging daily for Condenast's Jaunted.com, for which I have now become a regular contributor. It was an incredible experience to say the least on all ends- from the destination to the talent and crew. It was a truly magical and positive shoot!
The one-hour special was an airable pilot, and was not promoted whatsoever by the network. Instead, we relied on our own minimal grassroots promotion to get the word out. We created the confessionsofatravelwriter.com site, a facebook fan page, told colleagues and friends, as well as promoted it through our own social networks. Oh yes, and if you speak Spanish, below is a fun profile on me and the show in the Chilean newspaper LUN (BTW- it says I'm 36 and I'm really 26. Damn fact checkers!)
Fortunately, the network also placed us in between two episodes of one of their top shows, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.
Well, considering the above it was still somewhat surprising to see all the buzz and conversation that erupted even an hour after the show aired. Just as we attempted to bring viewers the good, bad and ugly of travel writing, reactions seem to have varied as well. But the fact is, there was a reaction and a ton of it!
1) All press is good press.
2) Apathy is where creative ideas die.
So the fact that a show with no promotion at all could have people tweeting non-stop and firing up blogs with hits and comments, says something powerful.
A few things though need to be noted:
1) Charles Runnette, the narrator of the show has gotten a ton of heat for being well... perhaps beyond snarky and bit bitchy. As a good friend of his, I must say- and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know this- it's TV and therefore story lines and personas are exaggerated. Does Charles whine sometimes? Yeah. I do too. He was also writing for Virtuoso, a high-end magazine whose audience might not be like all of us. It's important to point out though that unlike a lot of the notable and great Travel Channel shows currently airing, we were trying to peel away at the perfection and reveal what really happens on a press trip when you bring together different types of people without the script and the ego stroking of every destination and tourism board. I'll actually be doing a video blog with Charles shortly, so look out for that. In the end, I just think people need to know that he's actually an accomplished, compassionate, sincere and hard working individual and friend. But, people love to hate à la Simon Cowell, and the fact is that if there's five people on a show, there's always going to be one person that brings that out.
2) There's still no word about whether The Travel Channel is going to pick up the show. Obviously, I'm a bit biased but I feel like the time is NOW for a TV show and network to bring an entertaining yet more editorial, raw and personal look at traveling and the work that goes into telling those stories. Hopefully, if we do move forward they'll take everyone's opinions into consideration including to display a bit more of the spot we visit and the story lines of the other writers.
3) In the meantime, set your tivos! You can catch the show airing again this Sunday, August 16th at 11pm est. You can also tell Travel Channel that you want to see more Confessions Of A Travel Writer on their site.
All in all, I hope a show like this uncovers an inspiring world many might not have known- that of five somewhat quirky journalists and one of limitless possibility that is only a plane ticket away.