Gadling is a haven for the world travelers among us, and as its Editor-in-Chief, Grant Martin gets to discuss new innovations in the world of traveling. Through Gadling, Grant Martin was able to use his love of travel and addiction to finding cheap flights to become the Editor. Grant talked with us about the role trend spotting plays in the world of travel.
12 Questions with Grant Martin
1. How did you get involved with Gadling and what motivates you to continue?
My career with Gadling began in 2007, when the site posted an ad for travelers familiar with the airline industry. As a frequent flyer and cheap flight fanatic, I applied for the position and ended up getting picked. Now, as Editor-in-Chief I help oversee the site’s creative direction, select new team members and help cultivate relationships with other travel media sites and companies. This dynamic keeps me pushing forward: the fast paced environment, the myriad business decisions and the frequent interaction with personalities across the wide spectrum of the travel industry. It’s an excellent place to work.
2. How significant is the topic of trendspotting to Gadling?
As one of the web’s largest travel blogs, it’s important that our staff and writers stay on top of the latest data, trends and news in the travel industry so that we can keep our readers in the know. "Trendspotting" is obviously an important part of that process—something we work to combine original content that’s developed organically by our writers. Ultimately we strive to have the site’s editorial reflect a healthy mix of what’s "trending" along with what’s most meaningful to our readers and writers.
3. How do you define a trend?
A "trend" is pattern, a series of occurrences or events that suggest a shift in behavior or direction. In the context of our expertise in travel, trends can be quite varied and come from everywhere. They’re spotted in our everyday workplace environment, among the hot keywords on Twitter, chatter among our friends on Facebook and popular articles from traditional news media outlets. It’s really a composite product that ends up being balanced by the experiences of our staff, with a gut feeling as to its momentum.
4. How do you define cool?
Defining "cool" can be difficult, especially when your site appeals to a demographic as wide as Gadling serves. What’s cool is such a fast-moving target that one can get lost in the woods if one spends too much time worrying about it. More importantly, Gadling strives to deliver content that resonates with our readers on both an emotional and practical level. If you can start a discussion about something that is meaningful for your audience, whether it happens to be "cool," you’re ultimately going to have more success. While this editor may think that a particular idea or direction suits the industry well, for example, another blogger or pundit may abhor it.
5. Do you need a culture of innovation to create something that is cool?
Innovation and coolness certainly go hand-in-hand, but one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. Often it’s the opposite—doing what’s most innovative requires that you go against the established thinking of your industry. For Gadling, one area of innovation is our site design. It’s definitely important to keep the blog designed and pitched to the current times. Technology and site designs change rapidly on the web, and we simply can’t compete with an outdated site. Fortunately, we have a talented design team that can build almost anything imaginable. They’ve been a huge help.
Bloggers obviously are expected to be in tune with the current hot trends in the industry, although their writing style doesn’t necessarily need to be innovative.
6. What is the best way to create an infectious idea, product or service?
There’s a lot of talk on the web about making content go "viral," but there’s really no secret formula. For us, it’s a combination of writing the most meaningful content for our audience, allowing a discussion and making savvy use of the social web to spread that
discussion. Our best successes at Gadling have come from knowing our demographic and leveraging that group into a viral channel. A particular post that is gaining traction from our readers, for example, can be monitored and then actively changed as it’s trending to include embedded badges towards Digg, Reddit and Twitter.
Knowing our readers helps us design our posts to their taste and reaction—perhaps eliciting a discussion or further interaction within the site—but ultimately inspiring them to share their discovery and recommend the content to others.
Another way in which we’ve created infections ideas is by adapting a current trend or buzzword. The term "staycation" for example, was recently adapted to "yaycation" by one of our bloggers, creating a fair amount of it’s own traction.
7. What is the key to innovation?
Intensive collaboration among the team has played an important role in developing and publishing fresh, viral content. We try to maintain a high volume of inter-blogger communication via email and external sites to keep ideas circulating. Few posts are the result of just one blogger’s labor. Instead, many are built among several writers after days of internal tailoring and discussion.
Content is then tempered with the current travel landscape, tailoring content to today’s budgets, trends and momentum.
8. What are your ambitions for Gadling?
Blogs are playing an ever more important role in the current media landscape, especially as traditional outlets such as newspapers and magazines shrink. It’s important to me as editor to facilitate the growth and position of Gadling in today’s competitive market, most importantly by creating unique, original travel content but also by bringing new, dynamic team members into contribute.
In the near future I’d like to see a higher volume of featured contributions and original content, covering new, fantastic destinations from fresh perspectives and with passionate bloggers. I’d like to see Gadling play more of a role of travel content *origin* rather than *source*.
9. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
Whenever I have writer’s block I take a break to read some excellent travel writing, usually in the Sydney Morning Herald, New York Times and Guardian.
10. Professionally, what do you want to be doing in 10 years?
In ten years I’d like to be retired after the successful maturation and blazing sale of Gadling to wealthy Saudi investors. I’d also like to push forth with my first career as a Materials Engineer and find similar success.
11. What are your most important hobbies?
My jobs keep me busy enough such that I barely have time for leisure activities (I no longer own a TV) so it’s important that I use my free time well. Usually I split my few available hours during the week among cooking, reading, ultimate Frisbee and visiting my lovely girlfriend.
12. What is an example of a time where you have thrown away an existing idea to force yourself to find something new?
Gadling has a huge database of legacy content that’s easy to use on a recurring basis. This makes it easy for us to mature a blogger’s column very quickly, but it also tends to make many of the series look similar. For a recent addition to our team, The Accidental Chef, we recently took a different route, creating a completely new landing page and style. We used a combination of influences from across the web and our personal experiences to create a microsite that suits the content very well, and I think that the result is outstanding.
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