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Camping… With A Butler? The State Of The Trend Piece

0820tent.jpgThe trend of “glamping” (glamorous camping) was the subject of a story in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. Several resorts in the United States and Canada offer what’s variously called “luxury camping” or “soft adventure.” The piece by reporter Kimi Yoshino focuses on The Resort at Paws Up, a Montana resort that offers luxury tents with electricity, linen beddings and the services of a “camping butler.” It’s also one of the best pieces of trend journalism we’ve seen in a while—several widespread tricks of the trade we’ve seen in the New York Times, Washington Post and other newspapers all converge here.

So let’s take a look at this article and find out exactly what we can learn from it.


1. Have a unique concept for your lifestyle piece.

In this case, the fact that a number of rural resorts throughout North America have found that by catering to the wealthy (at the expense of even upper-middle class guests), they can increase their profit margins significantly. Unique concept and multiple angles the author can take it in; compare to New York‘s cover piece on “Grups” or the Washington Post‘s “wingman.” In all three cases, a somewhat simple concept (luxury resorts, hipsters settling down and raising families, flirting at a bar/party) is approached in a manner designed to lure in weary section editors and generate discussion (yup) on blogs.

2. Use a good opening graf.

ex. 1: “When 6-year-old Ethan Bondick told his mom and dad he wanted to go fly-fishing in Montana, his well-heeled parents were stumped.”

ex. 2: “In the back of the club, on a bench built for two, a short college guy with a baby face is putting the moves on a miniskirted beauty whose shapely legs, crossed just so, rival Katie Couric’s. The only thing between him and his destiny is her girlfriend, squished between the two of them, large lips in a pout.”

3. Include the salacious details.

ex. 1: “The Bondicks, who live in a sprawling home on the edge of a state park outside Boston and hire a personal chef at home, shelled out $595 a night — plus an additional $110 per person per day for food. It’s a hefty price to sleep in a tent, but the perks include a camp butler to build their fire, a maid to crank up the heated down comforter at nightfall and a cook to whip up bison rib-eye for dinner and French toast topped with huckleberries for breakfast.”

ex. 2: “If really hard-pressed, I would admit that I actually own a Clash T-shirt that I got from that last Clash tour,” the musician told me. “But I don’t wear it! And I’m certainly not going to wear it under an Armani black blazer. I even remember meeting this guy who was around my age, who was wearing an expensive blazer, and on the lapel was a London Calling button. Who the f*** wears that? That’s what I wore when I was 18 in art school! And you’re the same age as me? And you’re wearing it again!” He pauses, then adds, “And you know what? Giving your kid a mohawk is f***ed up, too.”

4. Build up sympathy/envy of your subjects, than take it away.

ex. 1: “Rhyne and Lisa Davis and their son, Jack, saw a herd of more than 350 elk. But it wasn’t serendipity rounding a bend on a nature hike. Duggan, the butler, sent a scout ahead to track the animals on the sprawling property, then drove the family directly to the spot.”

ex. 2: “Linden’s wingman violated this rule recently. Linden had flirted with a classmate all semester, had even accompanied her to a movie. The more he was with her, the more he liked her — and the more tongue-tied he became. His wingman knew this. The night after the movie outing (not a date, he insists), Linden dropped by a friend’s apartment and discovered his wingman and the girl “all over each other.” He didn’t speak to his friend for several days.”

5. Use the “money sentence”.

ex. 1: “The bathhouses, a short walk from the tents, have heated slate floors, a rain-forest shower big enough for two, granite countertops and artisan mountain sage soap.”

ex. 2: “At age 32, with a wife who was four months pregnant with their first child, Ruble had a bright idea—he decided to take up skateboarding.”

There you have it: The road to a successful trend story.

— Neal Ungerleider

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