The Travelfish newsletter: The good, the bad and the ugly

Regular Travelfish readers may know that we have a regular newsletter that we send out every Monday (well sometimes Tuesday if things get out of hand). It’s a wrap on what is happening both at Travelfish HQ and on the Travelfish.org website along with a roundup on interesting news and writing on the region. You can read a previous issues here.

We’ve thousands of subscribers and thankfully have new people subscribing daily.

Not surprisingly we also have people unsubscribing (luckily not on a daily basis). After all, we’re a travel website focused on a single part of the world and for some people, once they complete their trip, the newsletter loses an element of its relevance. But there do seem to be many armchair travellers or repeat Asia visitors out there — which is great to know!

When people unsubscribe, they’re given the option to let us know why they’re unsubscribing. We thought what better way to help you decide if you should subscribe was to let you know why people unsubscribe.

So here’s a selection of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. While this is just a selection, it is roughly in proportion to the total numbers of unsubscribes we get.

The Good
“It’s too upsetting to read about Southeast now I am no longer able to go.”

“I’m leaving SE Asia in a couple of days, and I fear reading your blog will not help my withdrawal. Give me a couple months and I’ll be back. Travelfish is an excellent resource.”

“Not travelling at the moment or in the near future and its sad to read everything!”

“Loved reading your travel news but we are going away in a few days time and will not have internet access (apart from spasmodic visits to Maccas!) for some months – will be back to subscribe when we have finished travelling, as your info is excellent – can relate to so many of the articles. Thanks very much, and great to know you are expanding.”

“Your newsletter was great, but my times of travelling are over now.”

“Finished 4 years of travelling Awesome site!!!!!!!! Used it always on our trip”

“No travel plans for some time. Great help for my recent trip to Thailand though…”

“Great site…..going to South America – I will subscribe when SE Asia is on my radar again”

“I am unlikely to be travelling again for a long period. However the emails were very interesting and useful when I needed them!”

“Not in Asia anymore! Brilliant website though and will be back!”

“We came back from travelling and it’s depressing me having to read about all these wonderful places.”

“I have completed my travels of Southeast Asia for a few years. I’ll start up again when i decide to go back to SE Asia. I really enjoyed the newsletters.”

“Fantastic read when I was planning my trip to SE Asia. Thank you!”

“Not currently planning a trip as I just got back from Vietnam and Cambodia but will be subscribing when I go again. Great newsletter, thanks.:) was very useful and insightful”

“No longer relevant as traveling in Europe – loved the letter/website though and will use the website again for future Asian travels.”

“Loved your newsletters. Found them interesting and informative. Not able to travel in near future now.”

“Very helpful newsletter! We went to SE Asia for 3 months last year. planning next trip now to different part of the world… thanks for your info.”

“You have developed a great website and I have used it wisely. My Asia travels are over for the next few years. Many thanks for your services.”

“Love it. Travelfish was amazing in helping to plan for our trip to Cambodia/Vietnam in Nov/Dec 2011. But now planning to go somewhere other than SE Asia. Thank you!”

“No more travel planned for the next year or so. Thanks for an excellent service . Love your regular newsletters!! Best wishes for the future. I’m spreading the word!”

“All of information I received was extremely useful. We completed our trip in April, jet lag was everlasting on return to the states, but worth it.”

“No trips planned to Southeast Asia for awhile – however – found Travelfish to be a terrific resource!!!!”

“We don’t need the information any more as we came back from our holiday a while ago. But it is a great newsletter, thank you.”

“I’ve finished travelling for the moment! But travelfish was extremely helpful!”

“Finished my trip to Asia. Now focusing on South America. Your site/newsletter is awesome and I will use it again and recommend it.”

“I have just been away and it’s too depressing to see such amazing places right now! I’ll re-subscribe for the next time. Brilliant site though.”

“It’s just that I won’t be going back to SE Asia in the near future — and seeing this every week makes me envious of those who are there! I still subscribe to you on Facebook.”

“Not planning to travel to Asia soon, but will definitely connect again when I plan to travel to that part of the world.”

“I am no longer traveling to SE Asia. If I plan another trip, I will plan on subscribing again.”

“I have stopped travelling for now and will subscribe when I need it again. Many thanks!”

The Bad
“Trivial content.”

“It was not an interesting read for us. Probably the writings are aimed at a different, less experienced audience.”

“Not that interesting”

“No time to read”

“Not relevant. Thanks.”

“Good info on Travelfish, but the newsletter not so good.”

“I don’t like to be pushed I like to choose who I deal with thank you.”

The Ugly
“YOU ARE JUST ADVERTISING STUFF NOT INFORMING OR EDUCATING US. I NEED MORE ADVERTS LIKE A HOLE IN THE HEAD. GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR BUSINESS AND THANKS FOR THE INFORMATION WE USED TO GET.” [THEIR CAPS!]

“Basically, Southeast Asia as a whole and especially Thailand are just jam-packed with rude, lewd, corrupt, slimy, putrid, sleazy, cheating ****. I have traveled far and abroad and in my well-travelled opinion, most of Asia and Southeast Asia should be widely avoided at all cost!” [**** added by us]

In conclusion
If you’ve read through the above and the newsletter sounds like your kind of thing (note you can read previous editions here to get a feel for what we’re doing), feel free to signup via the form below.

You can unsubscribe at any time and, as we’ve probably illustrated up top, we do read every single unsubscribe we receive!

Good travels.

Travelfish: 2012 in review

Overnight rain here in Bali washed most of the pungent smoke out of the air from last night’s fireworks extravaganza and it looks like we’re settling in for one of those overcast with occasional shower type days, custom-designed for laying in bed doing not much at all. A contemplative day.

So with that in mind, here’s a bit of contemplation on where 2012 took Travefish.org.

This has been, without doubt, our busiest year ever and the site has grown beyond our expectations, through hard work, having an excellent team of writers and, without doubt, a bit of good fortune thrown in here and there.

Through the year, Samantha, as editor in chief, took over all editorial responsibilities of the site and managed our growing team of freelance correspondents, currently 19 in total, who are based across the region. We also took on our first staff writer, David.

Through the year we brought a number of our writers to Bali individually for a weeklong workshop, where we showed them more of the inner workings and tried to better explain the whats, hows and most importantly, whys of how things get done at Travelfish. In some cases, this gave us our first opportunity to meet people who had been working with us for long periods of time, and in all cases we think it was a great learning experience for everyone.

Personally I managed to fit in an uncomfortably frequent travel schedule, with nine trips to Malaysia, four to Thailand, three to Singapore and one apiece to Vietnam and Cambodia — yes Laos, I’ve not forgotten you — I’ll see you soon!

Between my and David’s travels along with the correspondents’ regular contributions to the Travelfish blogs, we published more than 1,100 stories and 34 features. Vast amounts of our destination research was also either updated or expanded, with Java and sections of Malaysia finally getting the attention they deserve. Yet there is plenty more to do — you should see the input queue! We also added our 5,500th property review in December 2012.

With all this new material we needed to take a far more structured approach to getting it from us to you. An editorial schedule appeared, and we made information available via Facebook and Twitter (and to a far lesser extent, Google+).

Samantha’s efforts with Facebook grew our overall likes to more than 11,500 (from 7,000 at the start of the year) and while we at times felt stymied by Facebook’s policies, we’ve rolled with the punches and continue to consider it an important channel for organic growth.

My Twitter addiction continues to grow at a gangrenous rate, with almost 13,000 followers, most of them possibly real (!). I thank you all for putting up with my blathering — well those who haven’t (justifiably) muted me anyway. The Travelfish Twitter stream is 100% me with a dash of Travelfish thrown in — nothing constructed. I think it’s useful to know, love and/or hate who the people are behind a brand — I hope most of you are in the former!

We also moved the on-again off-again newsletter to a firm, well almost firm, Monday weekly schedule and this has seen our email list grow by about 75% over the year. While it is tedious to do, people seem to love it — it’s the only thing we do where if we run late, real people actually email or tweet us asking where it is. We love you all :) Not a subscriber? You can sign-up here.

At the very tail end of 2012 we finally made some changes to the Travelfish forum, hoping to make it both easier to use for existing members and more enticing for potential new members. We’re allowing members to add in their social networks to better allow them to find like-minded travelling souls and we’ll be adding more features in the coming weeks.

Numbers wise, Travelfish.org saw continued steady growth traffic wise, receiving almost 8,000,000 visits in the year (up around 45% on 2011) and more than 20,000,000 pageviews (up about 20% on 2011). While member numbers continue to grow, we did see fewer new members compared to the year before (nice one Facebook!). We’ll be working hard to grow this further in 2013 by creating yet more reasons to make it worthwhile to become a Travelfish member.

Revenue-wise, despite losing long-time advertiser AirAsia in the first half of the year, overall revenue grew by about 70% and we believe we’re well positioned financially for 2013 and beyond. This is a great relief and has been a long time coming particularly as we adhere to a strict policy of never taking freebies.

So what does 2013 hold for Travelfish?

To a large extent, more of the same really. We’ll continue to build upon and add to the depth of our destination coverage. With seven writers based in Thailand alone, we have a lot of new material planned. We’re finally making progress filling out our Malaysia coverage and if you thought you heard a lot about Indonesia from us in 2012, you ain’t heard nothing yet. Indonesia is where independent travel is at! (We get a lot of people asking about The Philippines and Burma, and while we’d love to add them, 2013 won’t be the year this happens.)

This new year will also see us reinvigorate our existing iPhone apps, while iPad and Kindle users should (hopefully) have something to get pretty excited about soon as we finally firm up a concept we’ve been experimenting with for much of 2012.

But most importantly, what we’ll be concentrating on doing more than anything else, is helping travellers get the most out of their travels to Southeast Asia.

Because we want travellers to love Southeast Asia as much as we do.

Best wishes for a great 2013 to you all, thanks for your support, and good, safe travels,

Stuart McDonald
Head Chef
Travelfish.org