I started this blog (and wrote my always-soon-to-be-bestselling e-book) because I was frustrated at the state of the travel hacking blogosphere. A tiny amount of actual information trickled out over and over again, mixed in with enthusiastic praise for credit cards that no one, let alone a travel hacker, should ever carry.
It hasn't gotten any better since then, but the landscape has changed. Many blogs that had a single author when I got started have either hired more writers or been consolidated into the ever-growing credit card affiliate empires, in both cases with the goal of being all things to all people.
I haven't changed though and, realistically, at this point I never will. I write about manufactured spend, about minimizing the price I pay for the trips I want to take, and about gaming loyalty programs, because that's who I am.
But if I were 25 again and frustrated at the state of the travel hacking blogosphere, I think the blog I'd start would look very different from this one, because the problems in the travel hacking blogosphere look different than they did back then.
Organize content differently
Actual travel hacking practices are fragmented between a bunch of different techniques, while blogs are almost all organized chronologically. On omnibus blogs like Doctor of Credit (who covers topics that can range very far afield from travel hacking), that makes it tiresome to scroll through pages and pages of posts to find out when the latest Kroger gas promotion ends, or the next Giant gas promotion begins.
If I were creating a website from scratch, I'd organize my posts differently. For example, Safeway Visa gift card discounts, Kroger fuel rewards promotions, and Giant fuel rewards promotions are all "grocery store" promotions: they're interesting to people who want to manufacture spend at grocery stores, and they're boring to people who don't.
By separating different kinds of content into separate sections, you could make the most relevant content immediately available to the people who want it. When was the last Office Depot gift card promotion? What are the best IHG Rewards Pointsbreak destinations (if any)? How about American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards? These aren't exactly secrets, but it's information that would be much more valuable if organized in a coherent, persistent way by someone who knew what they were talking about, instead of in the chronological, stream-of-consciousness way we see on blogs today.
Keep timely content visible
Likewise, high-interest bank accounts and new account bonuses are variations on a theme: putting excess cash in accounts where it earns the most interest. But on a site like Doctor of Credit, which I rely on for such things, posts like "[NY, NJ] Northfield Bank $350 Checking Bonus" just disappear between "The Amex Offers Multi-Tab Trick is Dead, There’s Now a Hard Limit of One Offer per Person" and "Get $5 Amazon, Target, Home Depot Card with Verizon Up Rewards Program [YMMV]." These are all perfectly good posts, but they don't have anything in common with each other. Not to pile on DoC, but even the post category classification isn't intuitive. The assigned categories of those posts are, respectively, "bank account bonuses," "deals," and "loyalty programs."
Purely for my own benefit, I try to keep my Hotel Promotions page updated, so if I have a last-minute stay or unexpected layover I can quickly check my site to see if there are any promotions I have the opportunity to maximize. The opposite of that are the Loyalty Lobby hotel promotion pages (this is Hilton's, do yourself a favor and don't open it), which are inscrutable and unusable, besides consuming all your browser's memory to render.
How does it really work?
The question I got frustrated asking after reading travel hacking blogs for over a year, before starting my own, was "how does it really work?" Not "how is it supposed to work," or "how do people say it works," but "how does it really work?" So I do frankly nutty stuff like getting on a train to Philadelphia in order to buy a Momentum prepaid card to find out how the attached high-interest savings account worked (spoiler: it didn't).
That basic question, "how does it really work?" is the same question I ask today, and it's an incredibly powerful question, because almost nothing works the way it's supposed to. Sometimes the error works in your favor and sometimes it works against you, but to this day, almost no one is writing about the way things really work, and telling people about the world as it really is will always be an opportunity to build an audience.
Work for your readers
The one thing that hasn't changed in all the years I've been writing here is that the only way to serve your readers responsibly is to work for your readers. If you work for anybody else, you have no choice but to put your readers second, third, or last.
I'm absolutely open-minded about revenue models: I make money (enough to keep me writing at least) from blog subscriptions, from Google Adsense ads, and from Amazon Associates purchases. Somebody even once bought ad space on the site, which is very much for sale, if anyone is interested.
But the one thing that's impossible is adhering to content restrictions imposed by the people who pay your bills while giving your readers the best possible information they need to succeed. No one has ever explained to me how a person can both accept money from a credit card company, accept content restrictions from that credit card company, and plausibly hope to serve their readers' needs. If they ever do, I'll update this post.