Once again the travel blogging industry was whipped into a frenzy recently after an image appeared on the Delta Airlines Facebook page.
Friday morning, Delta Airlines posted an image of a funny, or scary, Llama in front of Machu Picchu as a way to promote their Atlanta to Lima flights. The post generated positive comments at first, but then about five hours after it was posted, the travel blogger who took the photo chimed in with the following comment.
Now that should have been the end of the story. They take their dialogue private, determine how their image arrived on that page, then move on and both live happily ever after. However it wasn’t, partially thanks to a tweet and Facebook post (since deleted / hidden) that the travel blogger sent out:
I watched the Delta post turn into a one-sided battleground as the day progressed. Every story has two-sides to it, right? so I waited for Delta Airlines to provide a response of their own before making any judgements, others were not so patient.
It seems that ‘expect me to contact you shortly’ really meant – ‘I am going to unleash the wrath of the travel blogger community on you and smear your name in the mud’. Within 13 minutes of their post, other travel bloggers chimed in, crying foul and telling Delta they should be ashamed for using this image without permission, some people even accusing Delta Airlines of stealing the image.
A few of my favourite Facebook and Twitter comments are below, one thing I found troubling was that nobody seemed to bother to do their own research into the situation, to see if there was any way whatsoever that Delta could have used the image legitimately. Many of these comments are Founding Members of the newly formed Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA), who are supposed to act professionally and maintain accuracy with their information.
Sadly, it’s moments like these that can easily have professional journalists snickering at the travel blogging industry, not to mention companies and tourist boards re-considering if working with travel bloggers is really worth the hassle.
The list of negative comments goes on and on (those last two crack me up, are Kate and Travelbllgr the same person?). Some of these people I don’t know and have never heard of, but others are well known in the online travel world, even respected by some. This is the part that saddens me most, especially the PTBA Founding Members, who are not upholding the code of ethics they are supposed to represent. Instead they’ve taken a lemming-like mentality that permeates our constant communication, instant gratification world.
Yes, the majority of the blame of course lies on the shoulders of Erica Kuschel over at Over Yonderlust, who failed to check into the issue before seeking vengeance. In reality it should have been a happy moment for Over Yonderlust and, if handled appropriately, may have resulted in them getting some extra exposure and credit from Delta. But, everyone else who came out with guns ‘a blazing has done their own part in giving potential industry partners the wrong signal.
If anyone took the time to think about the scenario, it should seem improbable that an organization like Delta would be so foolish to hijack or steal someone’s image. Maybe a bit of fact-checking was needed? Indeed, after some time, Delta provided the following response, stating that they had indeed purchased the image from Getty Images – check out the link yourself.
Funny enough though, even after this response, the bashing of Delta continued both on Facebook and Twitter.
Now, it is four days later, and Over Yonderlust hasn’t acknowledged any wrong-doing whatsoever. They did remove their two Facebook posts however. These are some of their last mentions of the issue:
Now, I’m no expert on Stock Photography, but if I sign an agreement with a company like Getty, who may license out my image to virtually any person or company out there, I would be pretty sure to do some due diligence before starting any kind of public bashing about someone using my photos. Some people are pissed off that Erica didn’t get any credit for the image, others are mad that she hasn’t been paid and many think she should have received both. Thankfully a few people saw it with a more level-headed approach:
It’s a troubling situation that almost every person who calls themselves a travel blogger is struggling to make money. This desperation is what, in my opinion, partially leads to these type of outbursts on social media and travel blog forums.
But, how often do you see a name credit on a stock photo? Almost never. How quickly do you get paid for stock photos? Not immediately. Take a look at the basic Getty producer agreement details. It clearly states that what they sell for you this month, will appear on your statement next month, and you’ll get paid in two months. I don’t know if this is the type of agreement Erica has with Getty, but I would hope she knows what her agreement terms are. Some other people share this same sentiment:
Knowing that the people at Over Yonderlust have had an agreement in place with Getty for some time, their initial statement that Delta was using their image without permission has no credibility. Then following up on comments later, stating that the issue as they haven’t been paid yet is, again, not an issue – they’ll get payment when the terms of their agreement warrants it. It’s quite inexcusable to have your images available for purchase through an agency, then bash the end-users who pay for them.
Above that, we’re not just dealing with a new member in the travel blogging industry either, this is someone that has a following, just like many of the people who posted comments in the Delta Facebook post. In fact, Over Yonderlust are also a Founding Members of the previously mentioned Professional Travel Bloggers Association.
A month or two ago I considered joining the new Professional Travel Bloggers Association as its premise seemed solid. Giving legitimacy to the travel blogging industry by promoting professionalism and strengthening relationships with the travel industry. Their code of ethics is an inspiring treat to read and asserts that their members will always: strive for accuracy (not in this case), be accountable (perhaps if they all apologize), respect intellectual property (a bit too aggressively?), act civil and dignified without personal attacks (is it ok to attack companies though?) and be professional.
Ooops, sorry Delta, I guess the PTBA didn’t think you’d mind if their Founding Members publicly bashed you. Do you still want to join the PTBA as an industry member? No hard feelings, right?
If I were Delta, I’d be left with a very sour taste in my mouth after this entire fiasco. Giving them credit, the travel blogger who started it all does seem genuinely concerned about the outcome. While they did ask other travel bloggers to ‘calm down’, I think the wording of these messages (and deleting their Facebook posts) lacks accountability on their part.
The damage has been done. Even so, I only count two people who have seemingly sent any type of apology to Delta for this debacle. I guess most others are happy to just carry on as if nothing happened.
I suspect few, if any others will apologize to Delta, and I’m apparently not the only one who thinks they deserve better. A few people out there agree that apologies are needed here. Kudos to a select few other travel bloggers out there too who kept a clear perspective and refrained from commenting until they had more information.
Perhaps the PTBA isn’t a total loss, but then what do you do with the members who acted against the entire foundation of the association? Do you ban them? Is this post an over-reaction to an over-reaction? Possibly. Does the PTBA release a public apology to Delta on behalf of their members who acted out of line? Or do they ignore the issue and pretend it never happened, sending a signal that it doesn’t really matter how their members (and Founding Members) act on their behalf, following their code of ethics is merely a suggestion.
I know I’ll be curiously watching how developments with the PTBA unfold in coming months as they have elections to create a Board of Directors. The results of such elections could heavily influence my opinion on whether or not the association can, and will, be able to achieve the goals it has outlined for itself.
Becoming a professional in any field isn’t something that should be taken lightly. You’re not just in it for yourself, you’re in it for the betterment of the entire industry. What you do affects others both positively and negatively. It goes far beyond putting another badge on your blog or a promotional line in your media kit when you’re pitching for a free press trip. So come on now guys and girls, it’s time for you all to swallow some of your pride and own up and apologize to Delta and your fellow travel bloggers.
As for Delta, you have to give them credit for being calm and concerned about the situation once it was brought to their attention. While they could have possibly reacted faster, they took the right path, something that the non-lemming posters on Facebook appreciated.
If you got ensnared in this debacle, feel free to drop me a line here and chat about your thoughts on how these types of actions and reactions impact the effectiveness of an organization like the PTBA. To anyone mentioned in this post who has since apologized for or retracted their comments, good on you!