A Note From Joe Brancatelli
The JoeSentMe Story and The Philosphy of No
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, print publications and travel sites abandoned their commitment to provide news, views and information to business travelers. Several, including biztravel.com, where I was lead columnist, shut down because the wealthy travel agent who owned it couldn't be bothered to provide information while business travelers weren't buying tickets from him.
I was appalled by that attitude. And appalled that no newspaper, magazine or Web site stepped up to provide communications between business travelers during those dangerous and extraordinary times.
So with very little money and even less technological expertise, I started JoeSentMe.com. The site launched on September 27, 2001, with new editions of my two columns, The Brancatelli File and the Tactical Traveler. I cobbled together a mailing list from E-mails that I'd received from business travelers over the years.
I initially thought JoeSentMe.com would last only a month and quickly disappear after the commercial travel Web sites and media companies came to their corporate senses. After all, I was a publications consultant and I knew those folks weren't as stupid as their decisions sometimes made them look. But they didn't come to their senses.
Then something really strange happened: The readers of JoeSentMe insisted that I find a way to keep JoeSentMe going. They liked how JoeSentMe, limited as it then was, committed to serving the needs of business travelers to the exclusion of all else.
To keep the site going and growing, I recruited syndicated business travel columnist Chris Barnett. I linked to the column of David Rowell, a former travel wholesaler who had created The Travel Insider and wanted to offer his inside knowledge to business travelers. Martin Deutsch, the legendary travel journalist who founded Frequent Flyer magazine, came aboard to provide guidance, insight and his Up Front column. Many more talented writers joined later and I convinced some business travelers to launch their own blogs to share their knowledge and experience.
That's when I realized what I'd informally called The Philosophy of No was what business travelers really wanted all along.
As I was sitting in a San Francisco hotel room, stranded like all other business travelers after 9/11, I imagined a business travel site that was proud of what it didn't do. So when I created JoeSentMe.com, I set some important ground rules: No advertising. No spam. No popups. No secret agendas. No selling. No promoting. No fine print. No special interests. No tracking cookies.
When I agreed to keep JoeSentMe going after the first month, I pledged one other thing to the readers: They'd always be the sole focus. I wouldn't take money or funding, in any form or any disguise, from the travel industry. It was another facet of The Philosophy of No. The travel industry would have no influence on and no input into JoeSentMe because the exclusive stream of revenue would be subscription dollars of the members.
Now entering its 15th year of publishing, JoeSentMe has expanded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. It publishes more business travel content than any Web site or print publication. It has become the voice of American business travelers. And it does it all by sticking to the Philosophy of No.
JoeSentMe.com exists today because the writers and editors continue to volunteer their time and talents to the venture. They have absolute freedom to write what they think is right without fear or favor. And JoeSentMe exists today because business travelers generously contribute their cash to pay for the site's upkeep and growth.
We must be doing something right. The subscription renewal rate is about 90 percent--and we do that without automatic renewals. I demand each and every subscriber affirmatively renew each year because I want them to think about whether they still need the site in their lives. It's still another facet of The Philosophy of No. There's no coasting at JoeSentMe. We work to earn your trust each and every week and your subscription dollars each and every year.
There are still no ads. The site still sells nothing. We don't trade links with other sites. We don't take commissions, sell "special reports" or sponsor high-cost conferences. We don't promote ourselves. We don't advertise. We don't do brand extensions. We don't take travel industry funding in any form. And JoeSentMe advocates for nothing except the agenda of business travelers. All the news, deals, columns and blogs that post each week are singularly focused on serving business travelers.
I may or may not be a "madman genius"--The Washington Post called me that and I surely agree with the "madman" part--but JoeSentMe.com has become a beacon of business travel sanity.
We're thrilled you're here. We promise to keep the lines of communication open. And we promise to continue to say no to anything, anyone and any industry that would threaten our independence and our dedication to business travelers. You can reach me at any time via E-mail.
JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.