Brian Ekdale, Melissa Tully, Mariah Wellman, and I launched a research group during my first semester at the University of Iowa. We blended our interest in production, global media, travel, blogging, and social media to start an on-going project that explores how travel influencers and destination marketing organizations work together, which includes questions about the ethics of disclosure, the negotiation of labor and compensation practices, and much more. The first paper our research group produced, entitled “Bridging the Gap: Influencers, Destination Marketers, and Intermediaries in the Changing Travel and Tourism Media Industry,” was accepted into the 68th annual International Communication Association conference taking place in Prague, Czech Republic in May. Brian and Melissa will be presenting the paper, so the picture at the top of this post was basically meant as self-torture since I can’t attend the conference.

Here’s the abstract for the paper:

This study examines the relationship between travel influencers (e.g., bloggers and social media personalities) and destination marketers within the changing travel and tourism industry. Through in-depth interviews, observations, and document analysis, we explore the tensions between travel influencers and destination marketers that shape the way travel is promoted, labor is compensated, and professional structures are negotiated. We examine a new breed of travel and tourism worker—intermediaries who bridge the gap between influencers and destinations. These intermediaries seek to professionalize and formalize the industry while simultaneously solidifying their own role within it. By examining the relationships between digital content creators, destination marketers, and third-party intermediaries, this case study provides insight into how digital media industries negotiate the tension between participation and control.

We are currently reworking the manuscript before submitting the article for publication. As I’m finishing up the changes to this manuscript, the research group is now beginning to focus on our second paper. Hopefully there will be more information about this and other papers our research group produces soon.

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