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I interview myself about getting laid off at MapQuest and becoming a freelancer again

MapQuestWhat happened?

On Jan. 31, I was laid off after the Aol-owned MapQuest decided to refocus resources away from publishing original travel articles.

Were you surprised?

For several reasons, no:

  • I work in media.
  • I work in travel media. (Getting laid off from a travel media job made me feel like Goodfella‘s Henry Hill when he first got pinched—it wasn’t a good thing, but it kind of added to my bona fides.)
  • A couple weeks earlier, Aol-owned Tech Crunch reported in a widely circulated article that its parent company was restructuring and layoffs and site closures were likely. To the best of my knowledge, no one at Aol refuted these rumors. Additionally, for months media coverage of Aol has focused on the company’s transition from content creation to selling online ads.

Do you regret putting aside freelancing to work full-time at MapQuest?

Not at all. My experience at MapQuest was fantastic and I learned a ton. For the first time since I started travel writing in 2005, I worked in-house with other travel writers and editors. Day in, day out I got to talk travel, writing, editing, social media, media strategy, journalism ethics, and the like with colleagues whose backgrounds differed from mine.

Also, I got to do some challenging work at MapQuest. And I picked up a bunch of new skills, most notably with video.

MapQuest was a fun place to work and there’s a lot of enthusiasm around the site and apps—which are much better than their reputation. It’s ridiculous that in tech, being around for a couple of decades is a bad thing. MapQuest’s apps are very competitive with other mobile-navigation options.

I’m thankful MapQuest ventured into publishing original editorial content and gave me the opportunity to be part of that effort.

That sounds like a lot of corporate speak.

You’re probably right. But it’s heartfelt.

What are you doing for work now?

As great an opportunity as MapQuest was, I am very excited to be freelancing again (I freelanced from 2004 to 2013).

Yes, I know you freelanced. I’m you.

Quiet, you’re ruining the structure. Since leaving MapQuest, I’ve already had three articles published on Condé Nast Traveler’s website and had some good conversations with editors for other publications.

I got into travel writing because I like (wait for it) travel and writing. Over the past five years at, Eater Louisville and MapQuest, I devoted a lot of attention to web traffic, editorial and social media strategies, managing freelancers and interns, template design, and a bunch of other areas. While I enjoy that stuff, I’m excited to devote all of my energy now to creating fun and engaging content.

If you’re an editor looking for articles that’ll be amusing and insightful, I can be reached at

That was shameless. You’re not looking for full-time employment?

If I found the right opportunity, I’d jump. But I’m not just looking for a full-time gig for the sake of employment.

Are you moving back to Louisville?

While I miss parts of Louisville dearly, my family is staying put in the DC area. We’re a lot closer to our families, my wife has a fantastic job that she loves, and we have roots here (we’d lived in the DC area for 10 years before heading out to Louisville).

Any missed opportunities you regret at MapQuest?

Yes—a thousand percent! I wanted to interview Shingy, Aol’s digital prophet, when the Internet was at peak Shingymania. I’d been assigning Q&As with notable people who travel a lot for work (celebrity chefs, actors, authors). Aol’s CEO Tim Armstrong told Details that “David Shing is an explorer of the future. He lives in multiple worlds and interacts with multiple worlds, and he really goes out into the future and sends us road maps back. I look at him as mapping the future landscape, the same way that the early explorers did.” So Shingy sounded like the perfect subject for a travel Q&A with MapQuest. Also, Shingy attends a lot of conferences, so I figured he’d have some practical advice for travelers too.

Sadly Shingy was off limits at the time. I’d still love to interview him though, maybe over carrot sticks at Applebee’s.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

The pleasure is all mine.

What we’ve been doing at MapQuest

MapQuestIt’s been a bit since I posted about what we’re working on at MapQuest. Here’s a quick rundown:

Launched editorial content on a spiffy new template

Editorial content (“articles” to the lay person) debuted on MapQuest in June. The first big template blowout we did was for “Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’: A 30th Anniversary Tour of Minneapolis to Die 4.”

Debuted editorial content in MapQuest’s apps

Editorial travel content in a navigation app, right where people need it most. Version 4.4 of the iPhone app, released in early July, includes gameday guides to all 30 MLB ballparks, in which local experts share their insights about their home field. (You can view the gameday guides on the World Wide Web too.)

Published a “99 Summer Quests” series

For summer 2014, MapQuest is running a “99 Summer Quests” series, with 99 articles highlighting “memorable, meaningful, just-gotta-do-it experiences for every day of summer vacation.”

Started a celebrity-traveler interview series

We’ve been talking to celebs like José Andrés and Lois Lowry about how travel impacts their work, as well as suggestions for travelers to the celebs’ hometowns and their tips for hitting the road.

Debuted pop culture tours

Remembered the aforelinkedto Prince article? Of course you do! Several more posts that blend travel with pop culture are forthcoming.

Engaged in social media

You can’t publish articles without sharing them with an engaged audience these days. To that extent, we’ve been focusing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +. And we just packaged our content in five Flipboard magazines too.

Published lots and lots of articles

While we’ve built up a deep network of contributors, I’ve managed to get myself some fun writing assignments:

Photo: Courtesy MapQuest

Aol sells Gadling to Skift

Gadling logo

Based on the emails I receive and this website’s search engine traffic, some visitors here are interested in the travel blog Gadling. (I edited it and contributed to it for a spell after joining Aol and MapQuest in October.)

Today, Aol announced it sold Gadling to Skift. Appropriately, you can get the details on Skift. Or Gadling.

And if you were emailing me via a Gadling account, best to use now. Thanks!

525 invoices sent, 525 invoices paid

Freelancers complaining about not getting paid seems to be a common theme on the Internet, or at least the Internet that I see. So I just wanted to share a little evidence to the contrary*—during my nine-plus years as a freelancer, I submitted 525 invoices. And effective this past weekend, all 525 were paid. And almost all of them in a timely manner. Thanks!

*Possibly relevant tidbit: My job during breaks in college was with a hospital, collecting on past-due accounts from insurers.

I have a new, full-time job. It’s travel news/travel buzz editor at MapQuest.

MapQuestDidn’t want to bury the lede there.

After nine years and a month of freelancing, this morning I accepted a permanent, full-time position as travel news/travel buzz editor at the AOL-owned MapQuest.

A heartfelt thank you to all of my freelance clients and colleagues over the last nine years! It’s been wonderful working with you. Also, both Eater Louisville and are hiring to replace me. Please get in touch if you’re interested in either position (highly recommend them both).

My new position with MapQuest is based at AOL’s offices in Dulles, Va., a Washington, DC suburb. According to MapQuest’s LinkedIn profile:

As a top 20 website, MapQuest helps more than 40 million people per month, providing tools for Internet and mobile users, developers, and businesses. Long known as a leader for maps and directions, the new MapQuest is all about the journey; helping you explore, discover and navigate your world.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to work with AOL and MapQuest.

Photo: Courtesy MapQuest

Eater Louisville is a finalist for two Greater Louisville Journalism Awards

Society of Professional Journalists logoEater Louisville came in first, second, or third for two Greater Louisville Journalism Awards:

  • Best website
  • Best blog

The Louisville Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) will announce exactly where Eater Louisville (and all the other contestants) placed at its annual awards program on June 27. Thanks to the SPJ as well as Eater Louisville’s readers, tipsters, colleagues at Eater, and all the folks involved in Louisville’s restaurant scene.

Photo: Courtesy SPJ