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From The Edmonton Journal: Travelpod.com

And a sister article for TravelPod...

Travel blogs keep wanderers in touch

Scott Petersen, The Edmonton Journal Published: Saturday, April 01, 2006

When Luc Levesque started up a website to post snippets about his travels nine years ago, he had no idea what he was getting into.

It was designed as a makeshift way to keep in touch with family and friends back home in Canada as he backpacked his way through Europe. It's become a communications portal for thousands of travellers around the globe -- a time-consuming leap.

"The web was really young and on my first trip, I just threw a couple of scripts together," said Levesque, a senior technical architect with Bell Canada in Ottawa. "It was more of an experiment to be honest. I didn't know what to expect."

His site, Travelpod.com, has grown from its makeshift roots into a leader in the world of travel blogs. Instead of long distance phone calls, postcards or mass e-mails from countries around the world, blogging sites have become an easy way to keep in touch with a lot of people, quickly and cheaply.

Posters create an account where they can post pictures, video clips, stories and information from the road, then e-mail the link to their list of friends and family at the click of a button. Clicking on the link brings them directly to the traveller's latest entry and offers an option for them to post little notes in return.

"My family will never travel, so this is a way for them to do it through me," said Carmella Lesiuk, a native of Edmonton who used Travelpod.com extensively during her three years travelling the world. "It's a diary, it's a journal, it's to share with my family and all the people who've stumbled upon it."

The unending growth of the Internet, popularity of web logs, known as blogs, affordability of digital cameras, and the travel industry's increasing use of the Internet have all contributed to a competitive market for travel blog companies. Travelpod.com, now looking for a second round of investors, faces competition from other companies like Travelblog.org, and MyTripJournal.com.

But Levesque believes his company's free service and inventive technology separate it from the pack and are what keep media like USA Today and The Wall Street Journal calling. He's added options for travellers to receive donations, find other travellers in their area they might be interested in meeting, put pins on a virtual map showing where they are and where they've been, and soon, be able to print their final travel blog into a book delivered to their door.

The site now pulls in over 250,000 unique visitors a month and has more than 30,000 registered members, according to Levesque. It also has a strong online community that frequents it to study for future travels, ask questions and compare notes with others.

"There's a huge focus on community," said Levesque, just before leaving on a six-month trip through South America with his fiancee. "It certainly built itself and grew organically over time through word of mouth.

"We realized a while back that the community was one of our biggest assets. You can't build one up overnight."

He's managed to draw revenue from the site through advertisements, donations and commissions for travel bookings, but the company only recently devised a long-term business plan to make it profitable.

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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