22 Mar BBC – Travel – BBC Travel author brief
BBC Travel is a feature section within BBC.com that offers high-quality stories about destinations around the world that aim to amaze, immerse, inspire and connect. It is fuelled by new, unexpected and emotionally engaging stories from a global community of editors, writers, photographers and video journalists who provide a trusted perspective on the world of travel. We are independent, impartial and honest.
BBC Travel is targeted at curious, passionate readers who want to learn about the world as much as they want to travel there. They are professional, aspirational and intelligent. They are more concerned with the value of an experience than its price.
What is BBC Travel’s editorial strategy?
We tell readers about places they’ve never been and show them a new side to places they think they know. With an open mind, an eye for the surprising and a global voice, we inspire our readers to fall in love with the world – everyday.
In a complex world of negative news and xenophobia at one extreme, and top 10 lists and substance-less roundups at the other, we’ve lost the experience and sheer joy of travel. BBC Travel aims to provide an antidote by celebrating the people, places and cultures that make this world so wonderfully diverse and amazing.
To do this, we tell stories with unexpected angles – on themes such as culture, food, experiences and discovery – that haven’t been covered before. Not only do we teach our readers something new, we change their perceptions about places and people. Through our travel stories, we connect readers to cultures around the world, and appeal to people who aren’t travelling at the moment as much as those who are.
How are we doing this?
- We craft compelling, immersive and contextual travel stories, giving readers narratives that both paint a picture of and provide a depth of understanding about a place.
- We bring back characters, telling stories through the perspective of noteworthy locals. Narratives have an inspirational or unexpected human-interest angle that brings a character to life.
- We add emotional impact, telling universal tales about the human spirit. Our stories elicit an emotional response – such as empathy, joy, loss, pride or nostalgia – and help readers relate to the characters involved.
- We inform and make readers feel a little bit smarter. Our stories pique readers’ curiosities and teach them something that few people know. They become the ‘cocktail party conversations’ of travel, letting readers in on a little secret.
- We take our readers to a destination right now by ensuring that our stories have a relevant (non-seasonal), ‘why now’ hook. Someone who has been to the destination before should be as captivated by the story as someone who is going there for the first time.
- We provide a strong sense of place and a full-sensory experience. By setting the scene and detailing the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of being there, our readers are more connected to the experience.
- We look for photo- and video-heavy commissions and ensure that all the visuals offer an immersive experience for our readers.
- We craft stories that are ‘shareable’. As social media is a huge component to our success, each story needs to compel readers to want to share it with their friends – and the world at large.
What will we likely reject?
We will likely refuse point-of-interest (POI) or venue-based articles or guides, lists or roundups. We will rarely accept pitches for event-driven pieces.
BBC Travel will also likely reject:
- Any ideas that are too general
- Substance-less lists, bullets of venues and ideas without real writing attached
- Stories pegged to a seasonal ‘why now’ hook, (ie, we should do this story because it’s spring)
- Outdated ideas (trends that peaked a while ago)
- Pieces that don’t keep the general BBC audience in mind
- Stories that don’t have a clear travel angle
- Stories on singular events and festivals
Please note: You will likely not get a response from us if your pitch falls into one of these categories.
Pitches must fit the above criteria. Please submit a title (max 39 characters) and a short synopsis (50-100 words) briefly explaining the chosen topic/theme/angle, why you think it would work on the site, why it is relevant to our audience, how is it ‘shareable’ and why you should be writing the story, etc.
Questions to ask when crafting a pitch:
- What is the unexpected or new angle to this story?
- Is this story emotional, relatable or educational? How so?
- What is the (non-seasonal) ‘why now’ hook?
- What’s the immersive travel angle?
- Who is the character(s) of this story?
- What makes it ‘shareable’?
- Could you provide visual (photo and video) assets to accompany the piece?
Please be aware that we receive many pitches, so it can take time for us to reply. And please do not send follow up emails for the same pitch.
This is an example of a good pitch:
Sardinia’s sacred pasta
Sardinia is home to one of the rarest dishes in the world: su filindeu (‘The Threads of God’). It’s made by pulling and folding semolina dough into 256 perfectly even strands of pasta with the tips of your fingers and then layering the needle-thin wires diagonally in an intricate pattern. It’s so difficult to prepare that for more than 200 years, it has only been served to the faithful who complete a 20-mile pilgrimage on foot from the town of Nuoro to Lula for the Feast of San Francesco.
Why now hook:
Today, there are only five women alive who still know how to make su filindeu. The most renowned guardian of the tradition is Paola Abraini, a slight grandmother who has recently started doing something new with the sacred dish: She’s making it for a handful of restaurants. On a recent trip back to Sardinia, I tasted Paola’s heavenly su filindeu pasta for the first time in a bowl of mutton-broth soup with grated sharp pecorino. Next week, she’s invited me into her home to reveal how she makes it.
I’ll report (and film) the tightly guarded technique behind one of Italy’s most endangered culinary treasures, and include a sidebar highlighting the three places around the regional capital of Nuoro where people can taste it. I’ll also detail the surprising story behind the dish – it involves an outlaw who hid out in a cave. The video can be featured on Facebook to help promote the story.
Feature articles (800 to 2,000 words)
We’re looking for features that inspire, entice and excite. Content needs to be immediately engaging, and written in a tight, fast-paced narrative style, packed with insider knowledge and complete with a strong ‘why now’ hook. Articles need to be inspirational with a strong travel angle, and they must be sharable.
If you’re a good shooter then we’d love for you to supply relevant images to go with your feature, along with caption and credit information. Please deliver the high-resolution images via Dropbox (with a sharable link), WeTransfer or another file transfer system.Otherwise, we can source accompanying images from stock libraries.
Also, the BBC has adopted a mission to address a long-standing challenge in media: too few women as expert sources. As part of a company-wide initiative, BBC Travel asks that you strive for 50-50 gender balance in your reporting – meaning, the gender parity of your sources should be as close to 50% female, 50% male as possible.
Here are some of our favourite stories:
Photo essays (5 to 16 images, plus captions)
Photo essays should have a strong narrative arc, telling the story through images and informative captions. Horizontal format images are preferred as they look better on our site. All photo essays will only be commissioned upon seeing the images – please deliver the high-resolution images via Dropbox (with a sharable link), WeTransfer or another file transfer system.
Below are some of our favourite photo essays:
Columns and Series
If you have an idea for a new column or series that you would like to write, please send through a pitch.
Please inquire for our complete list of series and themes that are open to pitching.
We occasionally accept short, embeddable video (of about one minute or less) to accompany text stories. The amount (and length) will be confirmed with you upon commissioning.
For feature-length lead video (such as short documentaries of about three to five minutes), please inquire for our video brief.
Tone should be evocative, authentic, entertaining and inspiring, aimed at professional and well-educated readers. Please look through the content on BBC Travel to get an idea of the style and tone we’re looking for.
Please provide your Twitter and Instagram handles, as well as a link to your public Facebook page (if you have one), in your submitted copy so we can include you in relevant social pushes.
It is BBC policy to give every piece of content at least two edits. Please let us know if you’ll be off the grid for some time and unavailable for edits.
Please hyperlink any POI to the venue’s actual web address. If it does not have its own webpage, use your judgement to link to an informative source (not Wikipedia or TripAdvisor). Please do not hyperlink a subhead when the subhead is the venue’s name, but link the first reference after that in the text. When you can’t find any website for a venue, please include the address and phone number in parentheses.
Please ensure you check and verify all information, facts and documents, particularly those researched on the internet. This may include confirming with an individual or organisation that they posted the material and that it is accurate.
Along with your draft, please submit:
- A list of all written sources, including books and academic papers (with links, when available).
- The name, title and contact information (phone number, email – preferably both) for every interviewed source, even if they are not directly quoted.
- A brief description of the information gathered from each source.
Press trips, Sponsored Travel, Freebies, Comps and Discounts
BBC Travel does not allow press trips, sponsored travel, freebies, comps, funding assistance or media discounts, except in the rare case in which it is the only opportunity for press to be a part of something before the public launch, it is the only way to gain access to something or the story would be logistically unattainable otherwise. In all cases, this decision is up to the discretion of the editor, and any proposal to accept or attempt to receive such financial assistance should be referred to a senior editorial figure who will ensure the acceptance of such assistances does not compromise the BBC’s editorial integrity.
Given the many permutations that sponsored travel can take, we expect you to let us know when pitching if the story stemmed from an experience for which you received any funding assistance, or if you’ll need to seek funding assistance to complete the assignment. In all cases, we need to approve it before commissioning, there is no assurance of coverage in exchange for such services and suppliers will not have an editorial say in the content.
We require all rights to articles/photo essays and will not purchase a piece that has been/will run elsewhere. We expect the narrative to be original content. For images, we require a license to run the photo(s) with your piece or in promotion of your piece.
If for any reason we cannot reach the editorial standards set by the BBC for publication then we reserve the right to pay a kill fee for your time.
We want to both engage our travel community and raise the profiles of our authors. If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, or if you have a public Facebook page, please send through your handle(s). We’ll file these and use them when posting your stories or ‘regramming’ your photos.
You can also use the hashtag #BBCTravel when posting Instagram travel photos. The BBC Travel Instagram account will ‘regram’ these photos and credit your personal account.
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