Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

Barcelona Nightlife Video

April 11, 2014

People have been talking about video as a way to gain traffic for many years now, and I’ve always had my reservations… but now that Google have bought the world’s second largest search engine, Youtube, and are showing video results on many searches, it seemed well worth at least investigating if I can use video to my advantage. So I decided to invest in a video shoot, which I am hoping will drive traffic to my website, Barcelona Life…

…Now, ever since I began Barcelona Life, I concentrated on making nightlife a major content theme, conscious that the likes of Booking dot com and Hostelworld were the go-to guys on hotel info and hostel reviews respectively. Then Tripadvisor came along and stole a march on Booking dot com in the hotels sphere, plus they also now dominate restaurant reviews, and even attractions. In fact there’s one or several major player in every travel niche pretty much, from car hire to activities and tours, driving small websites like mine down in the search engine results and making it harder to survive… that’s business for you! Anyway this isn’t a sob story, but rather an experiment to see if I can’t give myself an advantage by adding great video to my content and also, by hosting it on Youtube as well, drive some traffic to my site. I chose nightlife for the film’s theme, because despite competition, it’s one area where BL is still a leading resource, and I wanted to strengthen my depth of coverage on this field.

The jury’s still out on how effective an investment in time and money this mini-project will be, but the video at least has been expertedly shot by The Travel Vlogger and starred in by many of my amigos… including the lovely Jessica from Hola Yessica, now known as the Barcelona Blonde! (I’ll give her a big up for helping out as she has her own, high quality blog and Youtube channel which you might want to check out).

Anyway you can see the results here in our video on Barcelona’s wild nightlife! And whilst it was a pain in the arse to organise, in the end it was great fun to shoot. Getting lashed on mojitos and shots in four different bars, illegal beers on Las Ramblas, killing time on Plaza Reial and taxi to Opium Mar pretty much encapsulates what a night out in BCN is all about… so do check it out if you want a flavour of the city’s vida nocturna.

Freelancer’s Working Timetable 2013

January 2, 2013

Holy sh!t… it’s 2013 already! Last time I updated this blog was to have a bitch about the cons of freelancing! And that was way back in May 2012. Safe to say a lot has happened since then. My main project Barcelona Life travel guide, made a nice recovery from Google’s Panda and Penguin updates and is flying again, after that little wobble, and there’s also been an uptake in interest from advertisers. I guess Spain’s economic crisis also means that more and more local businesses in Barcelona are relying on foreign coin, so obviously BL is a great platform for them in that respect.

Meanwhile Urban Travel Blog finally launched a new design and is now actively looking for premium partners in the travel industry to work with. We’ve got one almost signed up, so let’s hope others follow suit! Overall my strategy is simply to publish more and more of our flagship content, which are our (long) weekend guides to the world’s best cities, plus of course keep the travel stories coming and hope the traffic continues to rise! Hush hush but there’s also side project in development (idea phase only!) here, so let’s see how that goes.

After hearing that my favourite wine blog was about to close, I’ve also started helping out over at Catavino.net developing a new travel section, with gourmet guides to Barcelona and beyond, plus a tours section where we put their readers in contact with some of the best wine tour providers in Spain and Portugal and help them book a great trip or experience.

Get Sailing is another project I’m heavily involved in… 2012 was a slightly painful year of experimentation and possibly too many meetings and not enough action, but we’ve relaunched the site on WordPress which should enable us to dramatically increase the functionality of the site simply by using plug ins (rather than programming from scratch). Once we’ve got the site looking a fraction better I need to wave my magic content and SEO wand to get us much more traffic. We’ve got a good search engine but no where near enough visitors to take bookings just yet. Naturally I’ve got a good plan cooking how to fast track this a bit!

So 2013 looks to be one full of opportunities! The main threat being spreading myself too thinly. As I’m quite committed to all the above however there’s no chance to pulling out of any of them just yet – plus I can’t really afford to pay anyone to replace me anyhow – so what is needed is a good work ethic and maximum efficiency. In fact today, January 1st 2013, I’ve overcome my hangover to work out a daily working schedule which I hope will keep me on track, breaking down my hours into specific activities and ensuring that not too much time gets wasted on things like checking email and social media – or even worse pointless Facebook browsing etc!

A typical day might look like this, with three main windows for getting important tasks done.

12:00 – Get up! (Yes I like to lie in:).
13:00 – Check and reply to emails, social media if time
14:00 – Major task I
16:00 – Lunch
16:30 – Major task II
18:30 – Check and reply to emails, social media if time
19:00 – Siesta
20:00 – Dinner
21:00 – Major task III
01:00 – TV series / Spanish reading
02:00 – Reading
03:00 – Sleep

Importantly two of them are in the afternoon, so that if I do decided to go out or play football in the evening I still have two thirds of my usual working day to get things done. Last year, because I relied so much on my evening/late night work shifts, when I did take a break it was almost liking taking the whole day off. Ok, let’s see how it goes! I plan to write down motivational goals and rules as well and print them off, to keep me focused. Plus I also plan to have a work window on both Saturdays and Sundays, at least during January to April, when the summer fun and travels are not a major distraction.

Of course if you’ve got any tips on being super efficient in 2013 please do share them! Especially if you’re a fellow freelancer, who can get distracted easily!

Barcelona Activities

January 17, 2012

Right, happy new year y’all. Thought I’d better lay down the first post of 2012 and I think it’s going to be a busy year. If you’ve read any of my previous posts about travel writing as a job then you’ll know that I’ve got my reservations about round-the-world blogs that naive backpackers assume are somehow going to make them millions, or in the very least fund their travels. In fact I am working on a global blog, but it’s a little different in concept… more on that in a later post!

For now I’ve been concentrating on my travel franchise, Barcelona Life, and trying to add to the revenue streams. When you start a travel guide the hardest markets to tap into – on the grounds they are the most competitive – are hotels, then apartments and then hostels. You’re fighting a losing battle if you think you’ve ever going to make any discernible income from hotel bookings when the likes of Tripadvisor, Booking.com and countless other heavily funded global brands out there are sweeping these all up, dominating both the Google search results and bidding heavily on Adwords as well. So what’s left for the little guys? Activities for one, and that’s where Barcelona certainly gives you a helping hand… there’s a million great things to do around here, and if you can help people find and book those activities then there’s a little money to be made.

From this leading article about nightlife in Barcelona I make a bit of money selling both VIP nightlife tours and pub crawls, whereas this page about food and drink tours is the perfect place to sell cookery classes, wine tasting tours and even cheese tasting why not!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg concerning what’s possible, but in order to make any money you need great Google rankings and a reliable provider who you can trust! So brush up on your SEO before you get going and make some local contacts and meet them in person if at all possible.

My Reputation Precedes Me…

August 31, 2011

Apologies for the pretentious post title, but if I was inclined to feeling smug (which I might be if I wasn’t so poor. It’s hard to be smug when you are 33 and still can’t afford to pay off your student loans) then I might be doing just that now.

For this summer, rather than spend ages desperately coming up with new ideas about Barcelona and frantically polishing pitches to submit to the usually deaf inboxes of various impossible-to-contact editors, for a very welcome change they have been coming to me. It started with the Editor of Easyjet Magazine, who heard about me through my regular work with Ink (the media company that seemingly publish half of all budget airlines inflight magazines) contacting me and asking me to research a piece on Barcelona’s cocktail revolution. In fact the said revolution had pretty much passed me by up until now, but thankfully some research did reveal quite a few new places, most famously Albert Adria’s new venture 41 Degrees. And then continued when the Editor of Yeahbaby (also by Ink) asked me to pitch her some summer-themed stories. Hey pronto two feature article commissions and half the effort as usual as I hadn’t had to come up with five different pitches just to land one piece.

The cocktails article was particularly fun to write as it meant checking out some of the most exclusive and expensive places in town, and blagging quite a few free drinks en route. Luckily – after find this post online I was able to track down a knowledgeable and extremely polite gentleman by the name of Albert Montserrat, who kindly agreed to help with the article purely out of his love of cocktails (what a guy!). He promptly introduced me to Jordi Otero of Banker’s Bar – the city’s most prestigious bartender (and younger than me I might add), as well as taking me to Muti’s, a speakeasy cocktail bar known only to a lucky few. Anyway much merriment ensued and you can possibly track down the article here. (Unfortunately the Easyjet Magazine website keeps getting worse). Naturally I also used some of what I learned to bash out a handy text on the best cocktail bars in Barcelona for my own site.

The article that got commissioned in the end for Yeahbaby was about street parties or ‘festes majores’. Basically during summer every district in Barcelona has its own ‘Festa Major’ or Grand Festival, which is usually little more than 4-7 days of drinking on the street, live music, dancing and the odd street decoration. Cheap, authentic and fun for me they are definitely some of the best festivals in Barcelona (hint: La Merce is biggest and best!). I had to write it from memory, which is always tough, but luckily I had the good sense to make just a smattering of notes one year which I kept on my phone and miraculously still had. It’s good to have those first hand concrete details… personally I find them hard to replicate using my imagination alone (guess I’ll never make it as a novel writer after all!). To read the piece you’ll have to navigate their website’s tricky ‘magazine reader’ thingy. Good luck – http://bmibabymagazine.com/.

So there you go prospective travel writers. Get your foot in the door, build your expertise around a destination (or several destinations) and do a great job on every commission and after a while it seems the editors start to come to you… in fact since then Easyjet have come back to me and sent me up to El Bulli to interview none other than Ferran Adria… now that’s what being a travel journalist should be all about!

Poetry Brothel – Barcelona

December 26, 2009

Got a lovely lead a couple of months ago and went straight to the editor of Ryanair Magazine as I knew he would snap this one up! Barcelona’s poetry brothel (the second in the world, the first having opened up in New York), works much like an ordinary brothel does (or at least how I imagine an ordinary brothel does;) except for instead of being led into a dark corner for some hanky panky you are led into a dark corner for some erotic reading by poetic putas… A really fantastically fun article to research and write – and one that gave me plenty of opportunities to exercise my beloved puns. Ladies of quill repute anyone? Anyway, it’s on planes right now so ask for a copy or head online.

I developed a crush on quite a few of the buxom bards so I may well pop back at my leisure… check out their blog for forthcoming events.

Cheese All That

October 13, 2009

My latest published article is a ‘People’ piece for Wizzair Magazine, in which I interviewed Spanish cheese expert Katherine McLaughlin, a 20-year Barcelona resident. I had chanced to go by her shop, Formatgeria La Seu, one day and we got talking and so I decided to pitch a piece about her interesting life/profession to the Editor. Naturally it didn’t turn out as smoothly as I had planned! My first error was not replacing the batteries in my digital recorder at the first sign they were low… you guessed it, we were a good 40 minutes into our conversation before I realised that for at least 25 of those we hadn’t been recording! It’s never the same when you try and go back over material and we pressed on, although barely had her phone stopped ringing than the customers started arriving and the interview was becoming increasingly disjointed. A further problem materialised when it came to picture time. Wizz had asked me for photos as part of my commission and, whereas I had managed to supply some natty shots with my compact Canon for a previous piece (interviewing a bike tour guide in Krakow), that had been outside and with an interviewee who I knew and was easier to direct. A reluctant model, no tripod and a mere 4.0 megapixels to work with the results were pedestrian. But with a bit of Photoshopping they just about turned out all right.

As for the text… well I typed up the transcript, but when I started working on the article I really felt it was lacking some fizz. In the end, rather than try and string out what I had, I called Katherine and she kindly agreed to do a second interview! This time around I got a great anecdote about her being chased by a bull in Galicia, as well as some better all round info. It was a bit of rescue job and I’ve definitely read better People pieces in Wizz, but a couple of lessons learnt at least. I think there’s always a bit of luck involved when your piece is heavily reliant on an interview with just one person, and – even though Katherine and I struck up a great rapport – you’re not always guaranteed that the information they impart is delivered in pithy quote-size chunks! In other words an interesting or pleasant conversation doesn’t directly correspond to great material for copy.

Anyhow you can judge for yourselves by reading the article here.

If you are in Barcelona and interested in Spanish cheeses then I can thoroughly recommend dropping in on Ms McLaughlin as she is a great no-nonsense Scotswoman who really knows her stuff on her specialist subject (farm house cheese). Her fare could make a good, if somewhat smelly, souvenir for the folks back home too!

Recycled Sounds for Easyjet Magazine

October 2, 2009

Ah, you wait months for an article to be published and then two crop up at once! Credit due to the Easyjet web content manager who could certainly teach their counterpart at Ryanair a thing or two about timely posting…

Recycled Sounds: Barcelona’s maestros of rubbish rhythms

As I mentioned in my previous blog post the idea for this article came from the same Time Out stub (thanks guys!) about recycling projects in Barcelona as the idea for Trashion Victims, and was particularly great from my perspective as it enabled me to get my first feature article with Easyjet Magazine… not a bad publication to be in with! The pitch for the article was little more than an interview with the band, Cabo San Roque (who are based in Barcelona); and whereas the editor was keen on the eco angle (the whole point being the band play with recycled instruments) it turns out that the recycling is done more from a practical than world-saving perspective. I don’t feel it detracts from the interest of the piece.

I must say the research could have gone a little more smoothly. The band’s manager, for some reason, invited me to a performance that was taking place at some kind of Catalan business event in a huge conference room full of suited and booted executive types (I was in my scruffy jeans and T-shirt). I had to sit through 2 hours of presentation in Catalan, alleviated with the odd video presentation and Coldplay soundtrack, before the performance – which lasted just 15-20 minutes – got underway. Luckily the band’s leader, Roger Aixut, was an extremely nice and interesting guy (he apologised for the strange set up) and we talked for a good 30 or 40 mins afterwards, whilst my digital recorder faithfully took notes. By the end it was a case of having too much, rather than too little material, but that’s always a nice problem to have (kind of like Fabio Capello deciding who to play on the right wing). The editor barely touched the piece at all (although reading the exorbitantly long second sentence, perhaps it would have been better if he had!), and generally I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

Ok enough foreplay. I hope you enjoy the piece. I managed to squeeze in a couple of funnies – I was somewhat surprised the baguette didn’t get edited out. Read on!

Trashion Victims for Ryanair Magazine

September 30, 2009

Ryanair Magazine have finally updated their website, so I can proudly reveal my latest article, Trashion Victims: Recycled Chic in Barcelona, which has been on planes since mid-Sept. (I have no idea why Ryanair runs magazines from mid-month to mid-month, rather than simply ‘September’ ‘October’ etc, but there you go!).

I got the idea for the article from Time Out Guide to Barcelona 2007 edition, which had a short stub about various exciting recycling projects in the city (in fact from the same propitious stub I also got the lead for another article: ‘Recycled Sounds’, about Cabo San Roque band, which will be published shortly in Easyjet Magazine). After a bit of Internet research, I got in contact with a company called Demano, who luckily turned out to be the original recyclers of PVC posters in the city (these huge events posters are made out of expensive, durable plastic which was being buried at great expense to the environment, but which Demano turn into trendy bags – amongst other things). A very charming lady called Marcela Manrique invited me to their workshop so she could tell me more about the project – it was a lovely office in Poble Nou, full of trendy 20-late-somethings and I could have quite happily subscribed for a job there! But I won’t tell you what she had to say because it’s all in the article. After interviewing Marcela I nosed around town meeting the bizarre but brilliant Brazilian, Felipe McWallace, an artist and recyclomaniac, who supplied most of the article’s juicy quotes, as well as the affable Samuel Nualart and his partner who were working on a similar project to Demano but using original artists’ drawings on recycled canvasses – see Pinzat.

Once I’d gathered all the material I was put in contact with Barcelona-based photographer Susana Gellida (who thankfully spoke better English than my Spanish. We were able to talk and I was able to communicate my ideas to her – vital for getting images that match the story.) and I think she did a superb job of chronicling the piece in pictures. As bags are a tough subject to make visually exciting, I wasn’t surprised that the editor opted for shots mostly of Felipe with his dreadlocks and iconic sartorial style, outlandish customised bikes and chaotic junk-filled ‘laboratory’ (LABpukO on C/Palma de Sant Just). It meant a slight re-edit on the text, as the editor also wanted to start the piece with a quote from him (and you can certainly expect a post about a writer’s response to being edited soon in this blog!), but I think it came out really well.

Ok, I hope you enjoy the article, and please comment below with any feedback etc.

Oh and a quick post script! It seems I am sharing publishing honours in the magazine with my friend Steve Fallon, who I met when helping him with nightlife advice on Krakow for the Lonely Planet guide to Poland… (he really couldn’t have come to a better person;). Check out his amusing article describing just a few of the joys of being a travel writer.