This is an article about wine blogging.
Yeah, I know… at least I saved it for Friday when most people (myself included) head offline to mingle and sip in the “real” world (translation: my traffic stats take a dive).
Topic the First: What happened to 1WineDude.com ?
First, those of you visiting 1WineDude.com will (hopefully, anyway, depending on your level of sobriety at the time) have noticed that the site is now hosted at totally new digs.
But it’s the same old Dude. New Label, Same Plonk!
I’ve tried, in what for me is a very non-lazy, industrious way – to minimize the disruption to you, my readers. What this means is that all of the old articles, posts, and comments have been migrated over to the new digs, and you e-mail subscribers out there should be receiving new update with no disruption.
What is doesn’t mean is that links to previous 1WineDude.com articles will translate automatically to their new digs counterparts. Hey, I said I tried to minimze the disruption in a way that was industrious for me. If you can figure out a way to link up the old and new posts that won’t cost me any more time, money, or frustration, then I’m all ears, bro’!
Aside from the new look, the Comments engine has been totally replaced, and I’m trying to setup automatic updates that will provide a weekly summary post of my twitter wine mini-reviews. Should be fun!
At some point (soon), the previous 1WineDude.blogspot.com address will forward here. When I get around to it, that is (in other words, when I figure out the redirection code).
Anyway – suggestions for the new site? Comments? Shout ‘em out!
Topic the Second: Are Wine Bloggers Already Going Mainstream?
My intention is not to lose friends with this post, but I do expect some feathers to be ruffled on this next topic.
A recent episode of the fine radio program Wine Biz Radio caused my ears to perk up Underdog-style when I heard them discussing a venture by wine & technology think-tank group VinTank.
VinTank is in the process of compiling a Social Media report for the wine industry. Not that big of a deal, really – unless you happen to be a wine blogger. According to Open Wine Consortium mastermind, Wine Bloggers Conference co-founder, and VinTank member Joel Vincent:
“In order to create an overall picture of the wine “Social Media”
landscape, [VinTank] will establish a directory of which micro-publishers
(blogs) are interesting and worth wineries spending time with as well
as evaluating “social networking” sites related to wines in order to
enable the mapping of their particular strengths to a wineries business
objectives and strategic marketing plan.
In other words, the VinTank survey and report will concentrate on wine blogs. My thoughts on hearing this were myriad and conflicted, but in summary can be boiled down to the following statement:
It’s about time.
According to the Wine Biz Radio broadcast, not all wine bloggers share my viewpoint on this. Apparently, the reaction of a room full of wine bloggers upon hearing that they would be the subject of social media report was a mixture of suspicion and shock.
Which I find sad. I mean, honestly – bloggers spend most of their time examining and then writing their opinions about the work of others (wineries, traditoinal wine media outlets, etc., etc.), and we balk (even if slightly) at the idea of someone examining us? That would make us all too similar to the mainstream media that we like to verbally disembowel on a semi-regular basis.
New Label, Same Plonk!
The reaction I heard described on Wine Biz Radio was old school. Mainstream. Not what bloggers should be shooting for right now.
Ironies aside, this kind of reaction is not going to positively reinforce the strong credibility and influence that wine blogging is gaining in the wine world. Without the kind of work being performed by VinTank, how should we expect the wine industry to get a better handle on that budding new influence?
What’s good for the goose, as they say…
I expect quite a few people to disagree with me here. But… if you’re a wine bloger seething at these words, just do me the courtesy of looking at it this way:
If a traditional wine mag reacted to this in the same way that some wine bloggers have, you’d be all over it. And not in a good way.
Bottom line: Wine bloggers are now a force within the wine industry. We will be scrutinized. Get used to it!
(images: avltheatre.com, vintank.com)
Hey – ever wonder what I think about wine blogging?
Oh, well – just in case you change your mind: I recently asked to help start up responses to questions about wine blogging by the fine folks over at WineBlogger.info.
Or maybe I was just the first one to see the request and respond. Not sure.
Anyway, you can check out my responses to their questions on wine blogging here – and as always, you’re welcome to join in the discussion yourself (whether here or at WineBlogger.info).
So… I’m “freshly pressed,” so to speak (specifically in terms of palate fatigue and possible liver damage), from the first North American wine bloggers conference in Sonoma. Overall it was a fantastic event, about which I could pen a great number of virtual pages in covering. But that’s not what I’m going to write about.
Not exactly, anyway.
I’m also, as I type this, just returned from a visit to C. Donatiello winery in Healdsburg. I could write a lengthy amount (what else is new, right?) about how nice owner Chris Donatiello is (he’s quite pleasant, and generous), how beautiful the aroma garden grounds were (very), or the quality of their wines (extremely promising for a first vintage, but unfortunately not yet widely available – anyway, more on those upcoming on my twitter wine review feed).
But that’s not what I’m going to write about. Not exactly, anyway.
Instead, I’m going to write about how the face of wine media is changing, and why that’s dangerous for wine bloggers. Because I just spent the better part of three days at a conference where I and my fellow wine bloggers were being at times courted by the Sonoma wine industry, which helped to sponsor the event.
The congregation of 150+ wine bloggers at the WBC, whose individual influence in the world of wine could by-and-large be considered modest (at best), or insignificant (at worst), has amassed the collective power and reach of this new(ish) arm of the wine media – one that is now drawing a larger and larger amount of wine marketing attention. Gary Vaynerchuk underscored this during his WBC keynote speech, when he provided the energetic NJ businessman’s view of the opportunities available now that the ‘old guard’ is no longer the all-dominant force in wine media. The attention given to bloggers by PR departments is a natural progression – and now this is happening for the world of wine.
This is a dramatic turn of events compared to how wine blogging was viewed (more or less as a fad) a little more than three years ago. The winemakers, PR, and the Sonoma wine industry in general “get it” – and it’s all happening rather quickly thanks to the immediacy of the Internet.
Which means that wine blogging has the potential to completely screw itself now.
First, I need to make one thing very clear: there is nothing wrong with what the PR departments in Sonoma are doing by sponsoring the WBC and courting the wine blog-o-world. It’s their job – one that they’ve been doing for years with the traditional wine media.
In a way, wine blogging has arrived. The danger is that, as guest panelist Tracy Rickman told us during one of the conference breakout sessions, outside factors (such as the potential influence of the courting PR) can influence us to become more and more mainstream. At the moment we actually become mainstream, we have lost our edge (and might as well be ‘overtaken’ by the next phase of wine media, whatever that may be).
In the same breakout session, Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff cautioned that winery PR would no doubt attempt to “use” us, and that we needed to be prepared – and cautious about to whom we lend our trust. Keynote speaker Alice Feiring (yes, she actually entered CA wine country for this…) added (among some very inspiring dialog), “Trust no one.”
What’s a wine blogger to do?
Go on blogging, of course!
I’m not saying that bloggers need to become prudes who completely shut down at the very thought of having to walk a tightrope line of credibility just because they’ve been invited to an industry event, or a personal winery tour, or the like. Heaven knows I’ve got no problem whatsoever being courted by winemakers, PR contacts, or the wine media in general (in fact, my view is that it’s about time this has happened).
The trick is maintaining the willpower to keep a unique, individual, and (hopefully) credibly opinionated voice as a blogger while the “courting” ramps up.
I don’t know what the future will bring, but I’m looking forward to the ride…
Cheers (and “Organic Flow” forever)!