2021 couldn’t have come quickly enough.
Most of us didn’t see the dumpster fire that was 2020 coming. Enough has already been said about the pandemic that saying anything more now borders on being redundant if not cliché. So, suffice it to say that here we are. We made it. Hopefully, that thing we see on the horizon is more of a finish line than a tripwire.
This episode will mostly be insider baseball—I’ll reflect on 2020 from the perspective of the podcast and website, I’ll discuss some of the goals we have for 2021, and finally, I’ll make some exciting announcements for 2021.
It seems like such a long time ago, but we changed the name of the podcast and website back in February… ages ago… to something more representative of what the show is all about. We were originally called “All Over the Place,” which I thought was clever, but it turns out 20 other podcasts think the same thing. So, we changed it. The name change might have set us back in terms of visibility and momentum—but it was ultimately the right move to make.
Stats and Growth
The podcast continues to exceed my expectations. In terms of growth, it had a good year. We saw a little dip at the beginning of the pandemic, but it ramped up as 2020 moved on. We’ve grown 150% in terms of episode listens within the first week of publication. In terms of total numbers, we saw a 350% increase in downloads/listens when compared to 2019.
In terms of webpage visits unrelated to podcast download statistics, we’ve increased some 275%, with the last two months of 2020 exceeding the amount of visits during the previous year in total.
And, while I don’t have delusions that this podcast will ever make it on those “Top 10 Best Podcasts” lists—this subject is far too narrow and niche—, I am happy that so many people tune into the podcast from around the world: we’ve had people in over 120 countries visit our site and listen to the podcast.
So, it is hard not be happy about that.
And hopefully, whenever we’re able to travel freely again, even more eyes and interest will be on travel writing and we’ll continue to grow and spread the travel writing gospel.
This time last year, I committed to covering more diverse perspectives in travel writing. I wanted to speak to more underrepresented voices in the travel writing space. This was before the BLM and social justice protests took off. While we still have a long way to go in terms of satisfying that commitment, I hope we are heading in the right direction. And I’ll continue to invite underrepresented voices of all kinds onto the podcast.
This time last year, we also stated that we hoped 2020 would help us achieve financial self-sufficiency. The primary strategy was a patron-funded model using platforms like Patreon and PayPal. We had the goal of getting 2 new patrons a month. We didn’t reach that goal. That said, we did receive a few and we are very grateful. Special thanks to Renee, Monica, and Geoffrey for your continued support. For 2021, we hope to increase our patronage with the same goal as we had last year—2 new patrons a month in 2021.
I know it is strange to ask for patrons during a time of increased unemployment and economic instability, but if you can support the podcast with only a few dollars a month and keep the interviews and articles free for everyone else, we’d be grateful.
Other wins this year:
J. R. Patterson has been writing wonderful, in-depth reviews of travel books for the site. Go check them out if you haven’t already.
We’ve also started publishing “Author Profiles,” which are written, behind-the-scenes interviews with authors of travel books discussing their careers, influences, and approaches. These are published once a month and we’re looking to schedule more, so if you’re an author of travel books and want to participate, please get in touch.
Goals for 2021
- Interview more underrepresented voices in travel literature.
- Continue to strive towards financial self-sufficiency with 2 new patrons per month.
- Grow by another 150% in episode downloads on the first week of publication by the end of 2020.
- Grow by another 350% in total downloads when compared to the previous year.
- Publish more articles related to the business and craft of travel writing on the TWW website.
Plans and Announcements for 2021
Now for the fun stuff.
Some of the plans that I’m going to announce are directly related to Travel Writing World, and some are indirectly related in that they’re either personal projects or related to travel writing in general.
The big news is that we are launching Adventures in Ideas in 2021. Adventures in Ideas is basically an online literary travel writing journal. There really aren’t many active publications that focus on narrative, literary travel writing. I can count them all on one hand. In a genre that focuses so much on SEO and keyword research, it’d be great to have a break from that mess and focus on good stories and good writing instead.
In personal news, I will be going on sabbatical in the second half of 2021 and working on some projects that were delayed this year because of the pandemic. This will definitely create some obstacles to overcome in terms of recording and planning. But I have some ides about what to do. More on this later.
In other personal news, I’ve also started a new podcast called Sonus Loci: The Sound of Place. The new podcast has no commentary. Instead, it captures soundscapes and the sound of place using binaural recording devices. Right now, I have been recording local and regional soundscapes, but I hope to record international soundscapes when the world opens back up. The podcast might not be populated on all the podcast apps just yet, but it should be there soon. Search for Sonus Loci or visit my personal site.
2020 was a hard year for obvious reasons. But it was especially hard for the travel writing community because of the lockdowns, the financial uncertainty, and the imploding travel industry. We also lost a number of travel writing titans like Jan Morris and Barry Lopez. That said, I am optimistic about the future of travel writing and hope to see a “Roaring Twenties” of travel writing prosperity if and when we can get a handle on this whole pandemic.
On that note, while the bar isn’t that high, I hope your new year will be much better than the last.
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