November 17, 2019 – The Internet is full of pointless lists, but do they make you travel to a destination?
If I ran the Internet, there would be two things I would do immediately.
I would ban comments, at least until and unless someone had actually read the article. No, I would ban comments entirely. The 1% of intelligent and engaging comment gets drowned out by our keyboard warriors, so the online world would be a better place without comments.
And I would ban pointless lists, especially pointless clickbait travel lists.
I mean, has anyone actually travelled to a destination because they saw it on a clickbait list? Like, ever?
My relationship with travel lists is admittedly evolving. Having started my online writing career at the tender age of 41, I used to think lists were the greatest thing ever for someone writing about tourism. When Albania was voted Lonely Planet’s Number One place to go in 2011, I could write with authority about it when few could, and when Lonely Planet gave its destination top spot love to Hvar in 2012, I was in heaven.
30 Must-See Places Before You Die, Top 10 Romantic Towns in Europe, 27 Unknown Jewels of Croatia, Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations in Europe, Top 10 Places in Europe to Bring Your Pet Giraffe, the lists went on. And the more the lists peppered my inbox with their unending lists which always had some kind of Croatian angle, the more I found myself asking the same question:
According to whom? On what authoritiy?
There are some well-established lists in the travel industry – Lonely Planet’s Top 10 series each October; the New York Times 52 Places to See in 2019, the Conde Nast Annual Traveller Awards are three examples. There are certain lists which are based on detailed research, such as Business Insider’s list of the top 15 countries billionaires will visit in 2019.
And then there is an enormous list of total and utter pointless clickbait crap. An ENORMOUS list.
The cleverest of these is the European Best Destinations website, which is a website which descended on Croatia in a blaze of publicity in 2016 from memory. Zagreb was voted Best Advent Destination in Europe, Zadar the very Best Destination in Europe.
I remember at the time that the Croatian media, while encouraging people to vote, vote, vote, were a little incredulous that Zagreb could be shortlisted as best Advent market in Europe. Full credit to the Zagreb Tourist Board, they built on this gift and have added lots of content. So much so that perhaps today it can be considered as one of the best in Europe.
But Zadar as best destination?
The European Best Destinations project was very clever, choosing one destination per European country and encouraging everyone to vote. Croatians are very patriotic, and online they love to celebrate victory and being the best at things. If one (actually more than one was allowed per person) click could help Croatia become the best at something, they would click away. And so Croatia had the best destination in Europe. A quick look at the EBD website explained things a little more:
European Best Destinations is a European organisation based in Brussels and developed to promote culture and tourism in Europe. In partnership with the participating tourism offices and the EDEN Network we promote a better understanding of the wealth, diversity and quality of European destinations.
So participating tourist boards – just one per country per list – pay to take part in the project, then the general public is encouraged to be patriotic and vote for the destination in a country. And so a new Best Destination is born.
And then there are lists such as the one which hit my inbox a few days ago before I asked to be removed from the mailing list – a travel website called Big Seven Travel. They had come up with a list of the top 50 Christmas markets in the world for 2019, with the big science of their research concluding that Zagreb was the third-best in the world, behind Birmingham of all places, and somewhere in the States.
According to the press release, This year’s top Christmas Markets were ranked on a number of factors, including but not limited to vendor variety, entertainment, local traditions, reader suggestions from our 1.5 million social audience and previous awards.
The only time I had ever come across this website was from similar previous press releases and pointless lists, so I decided to have a look at their impressive social media reach.
They do indeed have very impressive numbers – over 530,000 Facebook fans. A little odd, then, that this fantastic list of the top 50 Christmas markets in the world got just one like from that massive following of half a million followers. Even stranger, perhaps, that such a clickbait title of the 50 Sexiest Cities in the World got no likes at all. Indeed, have a scroll down, and if you find a post with more than one Facebook like, you are a better man than me. A little strange given that reader suggestions are one of the main factors in compiling the list. Allegedly.
But the team have been busy thoroughly researching their lists. In the last few days alone, and in addition to their thoroughly researched lists of the world’s top 50 Christmas markets and sexiest cities, they have managed to research and rank the 50 friendliest cities in the world, the top 25 winter getaways, the best 50 cocktails in the world, the best 50 burgers in Europe, 21 pizzas you have to eat in New York before you did, and much, much more.
But with almost none of their half a million fans clicking, how do they get the clicks?
A simple technique which works very well.
Simply contact the media in each of the countries you have decided to list and send a press release. An easy copy paste text and photo, one easy story done. Clickbait and share guaranteed. Their readers will be delighted and will share with their friends. And so more pointlessness spreads around the Internet.
And does it actually make anyone travel?
I have made a personal decision not to write any more about lists unless they come with some level of authority – there are just too many interesting things to write about instead. But we do do lists at TCN, but we try and make them useful – and the most detailed lists about destinations out there, such as 25 things to know about Sibenik.
I would invite your comments, but I have mentally banned them, above.