Amtrak is Offering Free Tickets to Writers

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 02:08 PM

A poodle on an Amtrak train (Hollywood Poodle/flickr)

Amtrak is offering "residencies" to some writers who tweet at them -- essentially, they're given free train tickets so that they can ride the rails and work on their writing in quiet isolation. (In return, they ask the writers to mention Amtrak on social media.)

There's two things here. One is the ethical question, if you want to ask it, about writers lightly shilling for a rail company. I don't find that terribly interesting though. What I do find interesting is that this seems like a rare example of a brand (sorry to use that word) interacting with humans on social media in a non-grating way. 

I think the reason this worked is that Amtrak avoided the mistake companies often make on social media, which is to awkwardly hijack conversation around a popular topic (like the Oscars) and make it about something unrelated, like trains. 

Instead, real, breathing people expressed a wish that a lot of writers may have had but not articulated out loud (I wish I could get a subsidy to write my book on a train) and Amtrak gracefully took the opportunity to scoop up goodwill and publicity. It'll be interesting to see, once the moderate buzz from this dies down, if the Amtrak Writers' Residency continues to be a real thing or quietly disappears. 


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Comments [4]

Sandy Olson-Hill from gulfport, fl

actually use the train quite a bit and be happy to hawk what I like a little in exchange.

Feb. 26 2014 03:55 PM
Erik R. from Colindres, Spain

There we go. Fixed it.

Feb. 26 2014 03:50 PM
Erik R. from Colindres, Spain

That's pretty bizarre.

That photo is fantastic. Although the photographer could've taken one extra train journey to have the screen in the wallpaper ALSO have almost the exact same shot of the dog on the computer. Perhaps if he'd tweeted about Amtrak, they would've comped him the ride...

Feb. 26 2014 03:37 PM


Feb. 26 2014 03:36 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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