Debunking the Argument Against Wine and Social Media

Vinted on December 22, 2010 binned in commentary, going pro, wine blogging

For those of you who’ve missed (what will certainly seem like) the last several thousand posts here on 1WineDude.com, I recently spoke at the 2010 Wines of Portugal International Conference as a panelist on the topic of how the Internet and Social Media are impacting the world of wine and how that will impact the Portuguese wine industry.

Among my fellow panelists was the talented Neal Martin, who writes for eRobertParker.com covering Bordeaux.  In some ways, Neal proved the counterbalance to the messages being offered by me and the other panelists, in that he has a rather skeptical approach to the power of social media in the wine world. During the course of the panel, Neal raised several points about social media’s place in the context of wine criticism that I and the other panelists did not address directly – not because we’re without opinion on those points, but because we felt they weren’t relevant to the topic of how wine producers (the largest contingent of our panel audience) could leverage the power of social media online to help their business.

In my case, it certainly did NOT mean that I agreed with those points, as will become clear to anyone in the course of reading this article, in which I will address what I took as the primary (or, if not primary, at least relatively important) points raised or hinted at by Neal about social media’s place in wine criticism – and try to refute them.

I should note that I enjoy Neal’s company, respect his work, and marvel at his writing abilities. But I found many of his views on social media so profoundly off-base that I felt they needed comment.  It’s not that Neal sees no value in social media, but I got the impression that his view is looking backward, not forward – and thinking ahead is absolutely key in understanding what social media can do for you, and the place that it is very likely to take in the future in terms of wine criticism.

Let’s take a look at the contrarian views that are all too often espoused when applying social media to wine, and go from there.  I’ve grouped them below roughly in a group of three, and summarized each as a hypothetical quite or argument. It’s worth noting that I’m not quoting anyone in particular but am paraphrasing and, while it might be tempting to anoint someone like Neal as a sort of dark arts saint of an anti-social-media satanic church, life is rarely that simple and it’s certainly not my intention here.

In this case, Neal’s comments during our panel were simply the catalyst for a sort of… manifesto that took shape in my (twisted) mind.  The kind of thing you’re compelled to write because you have to (and because you’re a bit tired of preaching the same gospel over and over, and would like to have a handy place to keep it so you can refer others to it again… and again… and again…). I will warn you, it’s long and probably not appropriately “scannable” for blog reading, but f–k it I’m posting it anyway.

As always, your comments / criticisms / points / love / hate are all welcome!…

1) Critiquing and writing about wine via established publications is fundamentally different than via blogs. Blogs cannot be taken seriously nor can a non-serious approach/tone to writing about wine.

At first, this seems a sensible argument – “blogs” provide two-way interactive communication via comments, usually have no editor, and primarily are authored by people with no formal background or training in wine.  However, it’s ultimately pointless to distinguish between blogs and other forms of content creation, because a blog is merely a platform – one used by talented writers such as Jancis Robinson (who does have formal training in wine) and Alder Yarrow (who doesn’t).  Why?  Because authors of content on any subject, including wine, are fully capable of using any medium – some have just chosen to publish on-line.  While there are several differences in how an article about wine might be published in print vs. online, there is no fundamental difference between writing about wine and publishing it in one form (online) or another (print).

Another way of putting this argument is that on-line writing is somehow poorer and/or less legitimate than print. But in both cases (print and on-line), someone is creating content and they are either talented, original, and experienced or they’re not – and plenty of both examples are now prevalent in both the on- and off-line worlds; we simply notice the cases in blogging because, with fewer barriers to entry, there are more of them than there are print publications. To assume that print is somehow a requirement for legitimacy is not only arrogant, it’s also incorrect because enough examples of content creators who publish about wine primarily or solely on-line now exist to refute it (Jancis Robinson, Tyler Colman, Alder Yarrow, W. Blake Gray… I wont’ go so far as to submit my own name to that list but I’m aspiring to get there…).

In terms of seriousness, I’ve espoused for over four years that wine coverage needs less stuffiness, less arrogance, and more fun if we hope to keep people interested enough in wine in the coming years to inspire them to delve into its greatness and endless joys at anything beyond the most superficial of levels (and for some, the most superficial of levels will be the end point – and there’s nothing wrong with that, either; but it would be a shame if everyone ended there wine journeys there).  What I’m finding is that as I encounter wine media’s most accomplished and important and inspiring voices, they are anything but arrogant and many times can be giddy with their appreciation of wine and all of its wonders – in other words, the best of the best take wine seriously, but don’t take themselves seriously.

For my part, I’m willing to play the jester in the Court of Wine Media because it’s a hell of a lot more fun than taking myself seriously (both for me and, I hope, for the 1WD readers!). I also suspect many in the budding wine blog-o-world would tell you that they’d rather be a bit silly if it means they’ll enjoy the ride through the wine world more – it doesn’t make what we’re doing somehow less important, and it probably makes it more accessible to the next generation of wine lovers (more on them in a moment or two).

2) The interaction provided by on-line / social media platforms isn’t important, and wine critics don’t need to interact with their audience of consumers.

This, in my view, is the most insidious of the of the arguments against social media because it either presumes that wine consumers don’t want or don’t need to interact with critics and writers, or that somehow it’s not important for wine writers to hear from their audience – and both assumptions are arrogant in the extreme (or else are extremely naive).  Neal didn’t say this directly, but he did say “I don’t want to be interactive” and that’s what got me thinking – is it really a choice?  The trouble with this argument is, everyone else wants to be interactive (do I even need to quote the never-ending statistics of Facebook’s enormous membership as evidence?) so whether or not wine critics/writers want to take that approach is quickly becoming irrelevant.

Ultimately, wine critics and writers serve at the pleasure of their audience. They do not exist to hand down pronouncement from an ivory tower based on our own experiences, no matter how sophisticated our palates or diverse and deep our knowledge of wine. We (I suppose I should be counting myself in these ranks now) exist to foster the global conversation about wine, educate readers on wine and wine experiences, introduce them to new things, help them locate wines of quality, and – most importantly – listen to them so that we can do all of the former to the best of our abilities and provide as much value to them as humanely possible.

In other words, our place is to give back, not to take –  and to spread the “love” of wine in ways that the consumers who listen to what we have to say (and therefore allow us to exist!) in ways that they can best use and understand.  If there’s a way to do that without regularly interacting with those people, I’d love to hear it because I suspect it involves long-distance mind-reading (and therefore would prove not only quite lucrative but also useful in sustaining my marriage for the long term).

Of course, many, many people blog about wine as a personal journal only – and there is nothing wrong with this approach.  However, I would argue that once you’ve built up a following and a community, a blog is no longer really yours; it then belongs to that community, of which you are then the  curator and leader of sorts. Like a public official, your ‘blogging body’ sort of “belongs to the state” at that point, because any other approach undermines that community.

I won’t even go into the profound pleasure that the interaction / argument / discussion / contemplation with readers can provide – words do no justice to the experience of following along with consumers, bloggers, MWs, print wine writers, winemakers and wine PR reps as they interact in the comments of my blog (sometimes all in the same post!). I would be a poorer person (and provide far less value as a writer) without those interactions!

3) The world of wine is complex and difficult; consumers will always need wine experts to help them navigate it and will need them exactly in the same way that they do now.

Nearly every established printed wine coverage seems to think this statement is true – or, if they don’t, they don’t seem to be doing much to dispel the myth. And it is a myth, at least part of it, anyway.

The first half of this paraphrased statement (“the world of wine is complex and consumers will always need wine experts”) is very likely true. While it doesn’t take an expert to appreciate the pleasures of wine, it  often takes one to explain it so that consumers don’t have to be burdened by the detail that they may not even want (and can of course pursue on their own if they become interested – more easily now than ever before, in fact).  However, the second half (“in the same way that they do now”) is, however, now completely false.

Thinking that experts don’t need to change their interaction with their core audience is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears, shutting your eyes, and screaming Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You up” at the top of your voice so as not to hear something you wish weren’t true (as in, “sorry but we’re out of Madeira”…  “NO!  NEVER GONNA SAAAAY GOODBYEEEEEE…. LALALALALALA…!”).

The data exists already to prove it. Through dozens of studies of their purchasing decisions across various goods/markets, Millenial wine consumers have already told the world that not all wine consumer groups are the same, and that they will not be told what to buy – rather, they will be influenced on what to buy by people that they trust. In that context, they idea of expert is malleable and may include wine writers, friends, family, advertisers, wine producers – almost anyone who can successfully interact with them one-on-one and in a genuinely honest way.  Knowing what you’re talking about and having talent aren’t enough – you need to also be trusted, and the only way that you can be trusted is to be known, to interact, to build a relationship. Ivory towers need not apply – and the more savvy wine lovers get on their own (a task made easier and easier each day by the free coverage and readily available tomes of information on the Internet) the less relevant the role of the detached expert becomes in any field.

Just because the Millenials don’t yet move the wine market in significant  numbers to disrupt businesses doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually do that – it is inevitable. As Baby Boomers and Gen Xers move on (ok, die off), Millenials will take over. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when – and we already know that the younger set interact with experts and markets differently.  The question, therefore, becomes whether or not wine will be a market somehow magically immune from this change, somehow amazingly different from every other market in the world in how Millenials will treat it. If you take that bet, then good luck to you for the long term – you’re going to need it.

You can certainly take that bet if you want – and if you believe the latter half of the above point (“the same way that they do now”) then you’ve already made your bet. You can take that bet even though the Jancis Robinsons, James Sucklings, and Tim Hannis of the world are now quite publicly going the other direction in some way/shape/form. You can take that bet, but remember this – it’s the bet that things will always be as they have been, the bet that has never come to pay out even in the industries of taxation and funerals – the bet of self-delusion.

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Wayne Young


    Great post and very tangible and credible arguments to back them up. I esp dislike the arrogance of a "the world needs us experts" philosophy… Who's to say who an expert is? If I blog about Friulian wine, I hazard that I would be a more credible "expert" on the subject than… let's call them "professionals"(?) that know little about this area.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Wayne. No doubt in my mind (obviously! :-) that both the idea of and the need for experts are changing. Smarter minds on social media (Seth Godin, Gary V.) have said more or less the same thing – in today's economy, you need to be sharing the love and giving a gift, not just providing some sort of remote utility value.

      Cheers!

  • 1WineDude


    Whoops – forgot to add some detail of the included photo from the panel ("The Internet Wine Revolution”) included in this post (thanks to those who pointed that out!) – from Left to Right above:

    Ryan Opaz – http://www.catavino.net – Spain
    Louise Hurren – Outsiders – Rocking the Languedoc wine scene – France
    Me – http://www.1winedude.com – USA
    Neal Martin – http://www.wine-journal.com – UK
    Robert McIntosh – http://www.wineconversation.com – UK
    Andre Ribeirinho – http://www.adegga.com – Portugal

    Cheers!

    • Louise Hurren


      Hi Joe, would you mind adding the link to the Outsiders facebook page please? Thanks, Louise http://on.fb.me/hGLSNY

      • 1WineDude


        Hi Louise – just did it but not sure if it's "taking' on the IntenseDebate side (sorry if not!).

  • Colorado Wine Press


    Great post! I might have to steal this line: "We exist to foster the global conversation about wine, educate readers on wine and wine experiences, introduce them to new things, help them locate wines of quality, and – most importantly – listen to them" and claim it as my own genius. The one point I could concede to the "print is better" crowd is that print publishing provides (though not always) the editorial oversight that in a way (small) is similar to the academic peer-review process. I would then counter that point by saying community comments (what you refer to as "interaction") on a blog's post might actually be a better peer-review process than the wizard behind the curtain. Social media is taking the power away from these wizards and making the wine world more democratic and they don't like it, thus the reason why Neal and others are resistant to change (whether that be media or rating systems). If only one person evaluates a wine and deems it with a certain numerical score the masses will have to believe that is the correct answer. But if more and more people are getting in this game we call wine, consumers will have to critically assess each "expert's" authority and in turn learn to be critical of their own palates.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, CWP – I invite you to steal my content! :)

      I think the sands are shifting (irrevocably) as you point out, and once you democratize something, there is no going back really (at least, not without government intervention! :-).

      The corollary to your challenge/response on print/online is that print can often contain better writing due to editing (and I would concur with that), but the Millenial crowd is teaching us that the interaction opportunity trumps the perfected writing, I think. Of course, the other argument that can be levied is that social media does bumpkis to move wine sales, which is true… FOR NOW… but we're talking 4-5 years vs. 25-30 yrs., and that ship is turning but it will take a while for it to be noticeable.

      Cheers!

  • Jim Caudill


    Building relationships has always been at the heart of building sales, and what channels you use to do that are what's growing, expanding and becoming more available on both ends of the pipe, for those who push, and those that receive (and Joe, stop that fantasy right now). What bugs people from time to time are pronouncements that this new wave is the only wave that matters, and that only one group matters. The truth is, everything matters, and smart marketers simply try and find the most appropriate ways to enter, and remain in the conversation.

    • 1WineDude


      thanks, Jim – I'll try to restrain myself and keep it clean! :)

      Great point about one size NOT fitting all – what works today doesn't invalidate what's coming, just as what's coming doesn't invalidate what works today; it's a continuum.

  • HerbC


    Great post. You have to remember that this guy really represents the "print media", which is dying as a category. I believe since he is an employee and not representing his personal thoughts, he must therefore defend the status quo otherwise he would be out of a job. So his position is understandable. He is certainly very arrogant also at the minimum. I think you are right on with your comments and please keep it up. The world is changing and if you are not prepared to participate in this new area you will be gone as a company.

    • El Jefe


      Print media really isn't dying, any more than oil painting or horseback riding or Morse code are dead – print is just in a transition to some other kind of relevancy. Or as Frank Zappa said "Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny."

      The sad thing is that he could be enhancing the relevancy of his print media through social media.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Herb – I'd second El Jefe's reply about print media not really being "dead" per se, but likely morphing into something… *other*.

      I do agree that not changing with the times means that one will get left behind (though it will take some time before that manifests in the wine industry). Cheers!

  • Chris Metcalfe


    Joe, great piece! Because of that, I too would like to say sorry for the long reply also…

    I was at the conference and agree with many of your points. I am not going to go into the "differing opions" of the panel debate, as you have covered that very well.

    What I would like to comment on is your statement of your 3rd point "wine is complex and difficult". I could list 100's of things that are complex and difficult, but wine is pretty simple compared to astro-physics, or Middle East Conflicts.

    Wine, like life, is as complicated as you make it for yourself. As wine is a passion for me, I like to be challenged and experience as many different types, styles and varieties as possible. For someone else, they may like one wine and stick to it. There is a huge amount of people in between. How they get their information about wine are just as different. The worst thing that can happen is that people get discouraged about wine because it seems too complex. That is a very big issues for the commodity that is wine… In my opinion anyway.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Chris!

      I dunno… wine can be pretty complicated. I mean, making it isn't complicated, and enjoying it isn't complicated, but choosing and buying it sure as hell *is* complicated… think about U.S. state laws for wine sales, or AOC details… and do we even need to talk about German wine labels? :-)

      I do agree however that the enjoyment of wine need not be complicated at all – in fact, if anything we should encourage the opportunities to make it simple and approachable. Cheers!

  • tom merle


    This never ending discussion can't occur without reference to another key dimension of social media–the capacity it offers to crowd source, which is probably more important than creating channels for enthusiasts as distinct from experts to create mini docking stations in cyberspace. It facilitates collaboration and the creation of group opinions. TripAdvisor, Yelp, Chowhound took the Zagat Guide approach and magnified it. It's the portals like CellarTracker and maybe, someday, Snooth, that will count most, which Facebook can also contribute to in a major way.

    • 1WineDude


      Great point, Tom – and one which I've quite often taken advantage of whenever in doubt about whether ot not to do something on the blog (for example, my wine "rating" system was crowd-sourced and ultimately it was the 1WD readers who gave it the nod to move forward). Cheers!

  • nealmartin


    You know, I'm disappointed with you Joe. You know why? Because you had two options: either try and remember what I said during a two hour panel debate and write an article based on what…"hints" is the word you used, or you could have spoken to me after the panel or contacted me and quoted me on record. If you couldn't find me, there is this social media contraption called Twitter and you'll find Neal Martin under @nealmartin.

    But you didn't.

    As you said yourself, I just wanted to counterbalance the debate, add a different perspective. Do you think a one-sided discussion would have been constructive for those winemakers present? Yet you feel fit to take what I said, take it completely out of context and twist it to support your own arguments, some of which I agree with and others, I don't.

    What I will say to you Joe, is by doing this, you make people like myself fearful of entering a public arena for what I hoped and felt was a constructive debate. I have to trust that someone like you would contact me prior to your suggestion that I am purportedly "looking backward" but hey, f–k it, you posted it anyway. Just for the record, I've spent years writing on the Internet when people now I read espousing the web laughed at the notion. I built a website from scratch and made it global, I have both a free blog and write for a subscription website, I have an active Twitter account and I'm on Facebook. I use social media in a way that helps me communicate with people without compromising my work and you know what? My audience is happy with that. As for looking forward…do you know what I have up my sleeve Joe?

    As I said at the conference, I don't have time to spend all day interacting with Followers because I am paid to produce content that is up to a certain standard, one that people will be happy to pay for (and they do.) But writing over half a million words of original content takes a few hours and I have this annoying family that takes up my time. But that is what puts a roof over my head and gives my kids the upbringing they deserve. If you do go Pro Joe (I should be poet) then a similar workload might well mean that you have to shift your emphasis away from interacting with your Followers and you might not like that. It would be your decision. If you have the choice between a deadline for a paid article and chatting on Twitter, I want to ask you Joe….what would you do? Because ask any paid wine writer and they will tell you the same thing and so might your family.

    I have many things today but not here (I have articles to finish before Xmas.) It's a shame you have portrayed me as someone I am not and insinuated ideas that are not my own. Ever thought that I might have been deliberately contrarian and provocative because I love a lively debate???
    I guess you were distracted by Ryan's beautifully manicured goatee. I understand…I was at times.

    Perhaps Joe, it is not me that has my fingers in my ears, but you? Too much Rush, not enough Astley.
    If I am self-deluded Joe, it has served me well thus far and trust me…I'm always thinking ahead, even if it is not in the same direction as you.
    Happy Xmas,
    Neal
    P.S. "Posses" has two "s's".

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks for chiming in, Neal.

      I should first say I'm sorry to you if you felt offended. I'm a little stumped on this one (though I suppose I do understand your interpretation, even if I think it's incorrect in terms of my intentions), as I went to (what I considered) great pains to explain that I wasn't taking a shot at you, but that your stance on the panel, which was critical of social media (using the Internet <> social media) inspired me to frame the argument against its use in the world of wine and counter that argument. I did not say that you agreed with every point, or that you were quoted, etc. I guess I saw that as a third (viable) choice, in terms of how you framed it.

      So, in a lot of ways the article has much less to do with you, and isn't about you, but is about the larger debate of whether or not wine media is going to change irrevocably with the advent of social media (I obviously think that the answer is Yes).

      I didn't see, in that context, any need to quote you because it's not an article about your views on social media. I still don't see the need – but I am very glad to have you chime in on that debate. And i"d love to know what you have up your sleeve if it fits in that context, because I am sure the folks following along would enjoy discussing that.

      I didn't at all get the impression that your stance in the panel was anything but the product of your own genuine thoughts, though I do of course accept the possibility that it didn't constitute the totality of your thoughts (life is never *that* simple!), but it's also what I and the other panel members and the entire audience had to go on, and so I think it's valid material on which to comment (as is everything that I said during the times I had the mic on that same panel).

      I'm not going into the family topic – it's of course very personal by definition, so I can only say that I currently balance the (ever-increasing) work on this blog, my family life, my band, and an IT senior-management career day job (soon to be ex-job!) and so I can assure you that my family lets me know whenever the balance is not correct! :-)

      Cheers (and Happy Holidays)!

    • Ken Payton


      Having sat through the session in Porto, I must say I am perplexed by Mr. Martin's response to Joe's gloss. If Mr. Martin was performing a bit of provocative play, it surely remained a mystery to me. Rather, when he spoke I felt as though I were eavesdropping on the revelation of a secret to his psychoanalyst. His oft-repeated refrain of having 'no time' for social media took on the character of a very private, intimate resistance, a fear not unlike that suffered by shut-ins of contracting a social disease should they ride the bus. Of course, had Mr. Martin gone into some detail of his familial and contractual obligations vis-à–vis the demands of social media then we, the audience, would have enjoyed a genuine contribution to the subject at hand. For Mr. Roberts struggles to balance these things as well, as does at least one other member of the panel. But for reasons known only to the gentleman, Mr. Martin did not, preferring instead to let his often enigmatic remarks float sans context. Mr. Roberts can hardly be faulted for not knowing practical details of Mr. Martin's life when Mr. Martin could not be troubled to introduce them.

      All kidding aside, what I think is really going on is how vigorously one polices their on-line image. Participation in social media puts into play personal and unguarded elements of one's character. Imagine were Mr. Parker to reveal a taste for women's hosiery, or were Mr. Jay Miller to post pics of his favorite fighting dogs. This is the peril of social media: the durability of utterances and performances at odds with one's carefully coifed image. And this, too, would make for a productive discussion of social media.

      But to blame Mr. Roberts for omitting elements, or for misconstruing Mr. Martin's private language is off the mark and strangely close to Sarah Palin's temper tantrums about the 'lame stream press'.

      • 1WineDude


        Thanks for the comment, Ken.

        "This is the peril of social media: the durability of utterances and performances at odds with one's carefully coifed image. And this, too, would make for a productive discussion of social media."

        I agree, and I think it begs the question, "why coif the image in the first place?"

        I have personally tried to boot my ego out of the picture as much as I'm able (since I believe it's a false construction anyway) and so I'm not afraid of appearing to be an idiot – very publicly – on these pages if it helps to make wine more accessible or entertaining. I don't expect everyone to take that route, but I'd also challenge anyone who thinks that they can somehow master a perfected image of themselves in this day and age – as you rightly point out, the Internet more-or-less makes it impossible to do that.

        Cheers!

  • ryan opaz


    I'm too busy with speaking and thinking to take time to manicure my goatee. I am lucky that it's shape is refined only by good genes.

    • 1WineDude


      Ryan – I challenge that… the manicuring time would explain your late arrivals to breakfast during the conference… ;-)

  • Louise Hurren


    blimey, i'm obviously out of touch: since when did the shape of one's facial hair have anything to do with wine and social media?

    • 1WineDude


      Louise – it's not just the shape, but also the color, contour and grooming quality…! ;-)

  • Tom Price


    It's actually good for a debate that someone impersonates the bad guy. I understand Neal's point of view as he probably doesn't want this character to stick to him ever after.
    Having said that, these arguments sound awful to me :

    1/ "established publications." : I visited the office of one of them and was really shocked about the way they considered the wines, the time they spent tasting them and the lack of enthusiasm they showed in doing it. On the other side, you have the excess enthusiasm when the wine expert turns up pissed as a newt on a vineyard, writing after all that the wine was ok but efforts could be done on the reception…
    Remember the "excellence award" restaurants…ask Robin Goldstein and his restaurant : Osteria l'Intrepido, the fake restaurant with a wine list of poor rated wines by the wine Spectator that got the award…
    Add the suspicions of ranking following the amount of advertising paid and established publications do not look that good.

    2/"The Babel Tower". Yep, don't you dare communicate with those stupid wine drinkers…they just enjoy it !

    3/Maybe the less worse argument. Wine lovers need to share information, newly ones need some guidance but for Pete's sake LET PEOPLE TRY, MAKE MISTAKES AND MAKE UP THEIR OWN MIND !

    I met so many people, a magazine in the hand asking for a bottle I didn't have, ending up buying something different they loved after tasting, or asking for Anything But Chardonnay telling me they loved Chablis and Saint-Véran that the only institution I can praise are the ones promoting the basics of wine tasting, trying to make it fun and easy.

    Cheers everybody !

    • 1WineDude


      Tom – thanks for the excellent comment.

      "LET PEOPLE TRY, MAKE MISTAKES AND MAKE UP THEIR OWN MIND ! " – Amen to that!

      Cheers!

  • Alan Baker


    Holy Jeebus, is this debate really necessary? I'm just not sure who needs convincing. I'm not trying to be negative at all. I'm a big believer in the power of social media's role in the wine world and it's a major part of how we're building our wine biz but I'm not quite sure who the audience is for this.
    Maybe I'm too buried in it to see why it maters to convince the non-believers. When it comes to things like climate change I can see the need to try and convince those in power to face facts but I'm not sure what the negative impact is of people ignoring the facts of a changing business landscape in the wine industry.
    That's a question I'd like to see examined.

    Is it just a matter of gaining he respect that is due from those in the old school? I really am curious, not being snarky.

    Oh, and if you did just that in the post I'll say sorry for my rant right now. (I skimmed) And actually, I'd rather see the big lumbering giants stay out of the space to let us little guys build.

    Alan
    Cartograph Wines

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Alan – "Maybe I'm too buried in it to see why it maters to convince the non-believers." Maybe, because I can assure you I have conversations nearly every day with those who either don't believe it, don't pay attention to it, or simply don't want to believe it because it means that the lazy marketing (simply pushing a product based on its highest point-score review with no other efforts made to truly understand the product) they've used for the last 15+ years won't work for them in the future. Cheers!

  • PaulG


    Joe, excellent post. Sorry to be late to the party (yesterday was my birthday, and I was absorbed in answering well over 100 Facebook/Twitter birthday wishes). Can't argue with anything you say, but there are some things you don't say that could be added to this discussion. One is the sheer volume of content that Social Media produce – far too much for any sane person to scan or digest. A mechanism to sort and evaluate all the blogs and online content relating to any specific topic, especially one as broad as "wine", is what is needed and missing. Another point that should be made about "old media" – eg print – which is not disappearing as so many young bloggers seem to wish. Old media, especially print, has built in filters – they are called editors. And they ensure that a certain quality standard will be met for each publication, according to its individual focus and business plan. Is that limiting to writers? Yes, in some ways it is. But I would not be half the writer I am today were it not for the influence and talent of dozens of fine editors I have worked with over the years. Who is editing the blogs? Interactive commentary with your readers is not something new. It used to be done via e-mail and was not as instant nor as communal, but it did happen. But no matter how immediate and entertaining such dialogue may be, it is not the same as a writer getting specific feedback from a professional editor. And quality suffers because of it, more often than not.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Paul – one of those b-day wishes was mine! :)

      Does editing make for better writing? YES, no doubt in my mind.

      Will people be influenced by the best writers in the future? I think the answer is largely NO. I'm not saying it's a good answer, of the way things should be, but the bottom line is that people are starting to look to experts whose expertise is not necessarily established by the same means as they were in the not-too-distant past – it's those with whom they feel a relationship of trust, whether they be the best writers and/or most knowledgeable about their subject matter, or not. In some cases, those are good writers, some in print, with editors, etc. And in some cases… not.

      Cheers!

  • Jack Straw


    Nothing but self promotion. I think what you guys need is a social media tool to promote social media tools.
    See "circle jerk".
    Every time I try and actually read an entire wine blog post I get sick to my stomach. You guys think that you know it all and everything else is just crap and we are all just posers. Just do what you want to do and find joy in that. Stop trying so hard to make everyone else believe in you and your so-called social media whooy.
    We routinely sell out of our wines and we don't need you or your twitterbook.
    Where is the hosemaster when you need him?
    Jackson K. Straw

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Jack. Or do you go by Jackson (or Mr. Straw)?

      I'm about a 92 points on your comment…

  • Thomas Pellechia


    The "diminishing return" discussion way up above is right on, and so are points that PaulG makes.

    Joe, the one thing I truly disagree with is what you recently commented: "Will people be influenced by the best writers in the future? I think the answer is largely NO."

    Maybe I disagree because I am a writer (not a wine critic–there is a distinction). My true problem with so-called social media is the devaluation of solid communication, but again, that's probably because I am a writer and I value the craft. To me, the diminishing return is that the more portals we gain, it seems the more devaluation of the craft of writing and communicating we suffer.

    Interactivity is only a function; like wine, it needs quality control to be good.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Thom.

      "the diminishing return is that the more portals we gain, it seems the more devaluation of the craft of writing and communicating we suffer"

      It's important for me to note that I *Agree* with what you are saying here, I just think some devaluation in day-to-day wine coverage is an inevitable result. However, I for one hope I am wrong, and that quality writing continues to exist and be a force that can influence the wine world!

      Cheers!

  • @robdougan


    The simple fact is that Neal Martin worked very hard to achieve an amazingly comprehensive body of work with the Wine Journal. He did that using the means of a website (call it a blog) before most twigged. He could have done it by means of a subscription newsletter in an earlier time, or hieroglyphics on stone in an even earlier period perhaps.

    His point is simply nothing has changed. Hard work, discipline and taking time to do excellent work is still the order of the day. It was the same before the invention of wine, the telephone, fax machine, internet, blogs, social media…

    Sure Neal spent 20 pounds a year on the hosting of his site in those days. But nothing changes the fact he had a writing and tasting talent, worked in a way most of us would find incomprehensible, and created a resource that wine lovers worldwide found invaluable. He then went on to do the same professionally.

    He should be the poster boy for every blogger. He has actually done it. And if Neal had published a book this / or last year named: "From Blogger to Wine Writer: How the Net can Reward Hard Work" (or something of the sort) most here would be 'high-fiving' each other as if web 2.0 was some solution in itself and all the old and real stuff didn’t apply.

    He didn't because he his focus is to write about wine.

    Yet his suggestion is: Take some time out, focus, work, and do something well.

    To be honest even GaryVee would find this post and many (not all, mark you) subsequent comments ridiculous.

    Gary has great insights about the web, publishes books sharing fine ideas, and has a blog (and a business) dealing with this.

    But have you ever seen him talk about this stuff on the Wine Library TV site?

    No. Because that is strictly about wine. (Also Gary never made gains with WLTV by attacking other folks, or desperately latching onto a controversy, or by focusing on anything other than wine.)

    In short: Ask why is it always a class act (like these and others) that do well? In every field?

    Conclusion is that both Neal and Gary (in different ways) suggest the following : Use new tools with old values in mind.

    Old values are the same: Hard work …(One could go on and on with examples for those who don’t know already…)

    The old adage runs: "Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising."

    Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are tools like Pen, Paper, and a Printing machine.

    Use them foolishly and you're finished before you started. Jump on a bandwagon and the same applies. We all see people who (with this digital archive) will be embarrassed that their inanities were on record. Whose children or grandchildren will end up saying, “It seems that Grandpa could not spell at all.” Or, “Who’d have thought Grandma was a shill. What a shame.”

    Worse: the observation: They were just following…coasting…without thinking…

    Create something great. You still have a chance.

    (Face it: Have you made a wine this year, or started a real business, or written a book, or really sorted a body of work?)

    Something to consider for the year ahead…We all should.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Rob – great comment.

      I'm going to stop shy of calling the post and subsequent comments ridiculous (obviously I'd disagree, since I felt compelled to write it and others felt compelled to respond) but certainly I'd agree with the nod to Neal's accomplishments and talent, and to the application of hard work and values (it may not always seem like it, but I can assure you that nothing on this blog comes about by means of half-assed work!).

      I should add (because your excellent comment has made me think more about it just now) that I don't write anything on 1WineDude specifically to drum up controversy, though I don't of course shy away from controversial topics.

      Why bother even covering these topics? Because the wine industry absolutely (in my opinion) needs a firm kick in the ass. Sometimes that can be accomplished simply by bloggers covering wine regions / wines / etc. and doing that to the best of their abilities. Other times, it requires calling out topics related to wine but that might not involve the direct or traditional coverage of wine (I would count this post's topic in the latter category). Not everyone may want to read it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be written in some way/shape/form – and while I may not be doing the best job in the world at calling these things out, I am at least trying to make a difference in the only ways that I know how.

      Cheers!

  • @robdougan


    I'd have to second your comments regarding this blog. Clearly any reader could only guess at the commitment and the man hours involved. Dare say, it's a hell of a lot (and probably too much). Joe, wishing you all the very best for this season and the year ahead.

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks for that, Rob – and as I am sure you know, it's comments like yours (excellent, well-spoken, and with downright profound thoughts behind them) that keep me coming back and putting in the work! I'd love to see you chiming in more often in 2011.

      Happy Holidays!

      • @robdougan


        Kind of you Joe. I do hope my defence against the needless hectoring of others (which to be frank has become the easy pain quotidien for too many wine blogs and others) I was not too harsh.

        Naturally, in the months ahead I will be curious to follow your work.

        • 1WineDude


          Rob, are you kidding? Anyone who uses the phrase "easy pain quotidian" is welcome here and will eb given a large amount of slack and benefit of the doubt! :)

          Actually, I'm glad to have the reference point of your comment, because I really did *not* want to make this about Neal – I wanted to engender discussion about the larger topic of whether or not wine critics/writers and wineries/PR should be looking to the future market and planning how they will adapt. In hindsight, I didn't do the best job of framing it but I hope this post and the followup comments will get people thinking, and maybe even have them coming back to it when someone tells them that social media is bunk when it comes to wine, etc.

          Cheers!

  • Thomas Pellechia


    "In hindsight, I didn't do the best job of framing it…"

    Joe,

    The benefit of an editor???

    Have a good and happy holiday.

    Thomas

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Thomas – right back at ya!

      As for the editing – are you volunteering? Because if you are I am so all over that…! :)

      • Thomas Pellechia


        Sure, I'll volunteer–for a fee…

        • 1WineDude


          Thomas where is the holiday spirit of giving, eh? ;-)

  • StellaHayes


    Joe, you were clear in your post (sorry, I didn't mean to scapegoat Neal) that Neal's thoughts on social media inspired you to write on the subject on your blog in "manifesto" style. Great debates do that! It wasn't my intention to be disparaging to Neal. I think you started a discussion that's long overdue!

    Cheers!

    Stella

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Stella!

  • Tasting Room Reviews


    We started our blog that reviews tasting rooms, rather than the wines themselves, as sort of an experiment. We used social media exclusively to get the word out thus far with I'd say some measure of success. Over 100 followers after just a week, without resorting to any crazy spamming or trading follows. Legitimate followers. And that has generated about 200 unique visitors in our first week. We'll probably write something up after a few more weeks talking about what we've done and what the affects have been. It's been a fun and interesting ride.

  • winethropology


    Between email, SMS, RSS feeds, Feedburner subscriptions, Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs, forums, chat rooms, and the constantly growing list of other delivery mechanisms, there is no shortage of ways readers can consume content – which also means there's a never ending list of outlets demanding authors' attention. At some point, the administrative burden of jockeying content into so many channels will exceed the demands of actually writing something worth reading. Hell, maybe that point's already passed. But how can the effectiveness of these outlets be measured/validated? Looking ahead, as you've said here, the benefits of publication via social media are beyond doubt, but isn't there a point of diminishing returns after which we're chasing social media's tail at the expense of good writing?

  • 1WineDude


    Thanks, winethropology.

    "isn't there a point of diminishing returns after which we're chasing social media's tail at the expense of good writing"

    Yes, and in fact I'd say that we've already reached that point. The fact that you can even ask the question, and I can respond, and we can spin off a dialog and have others chime in is itself an indicator of how social media has totally changed the dialog when it comes to the stuff we spend our hard-earned money on, including wine.

    I think the outlets that foster that kind of communication (and that help to spread those messages, sort of like a good virus!) are worth everybody's time. Twitter and Facebook are the ones that work best for me and seem to work best for the 1WD audience and so I use those primarily. Doesn't mean I don't dabble in others, but the point is that I only dabble in those others, and commit instead the majority of time to the blog, FB and twitter because they spread the ideas and get the dialog going.

    It's a point I've kind of debated with Gary V. a little bit, in that he advises that we go wherever the fish are, and everywhere the fish are; I disagree, and I feel that it's better to target the energy in the most effective places with the most critical mass, otherwise we're all spreading ourselves too thin. Different approaches but they ultimately have the same end – connecting with people over a topic about which we are mutually passionate and that has brought us together (in this case, wine).

    From the reader's point of view (and I'm a consumer of wine content as well as a creator!), having the multitude of choices means we're constantly overwhelmed with choice. But the alternative is having a small number of voices dictating how we interact on the topic of wine, and I'd personally always choice the former over the latter, because I like having options and I like the freedom and the variety of opinions. It's not easy to separate the wheat from the chaff, but I think it's easier than we tend to imagine and we need to give ourselves and other readers credit – we've all got functioning brains and we are all capable of navigating these waters to get to what we like best, even if the waters are deep and wide.

    Cheers!

  • El Jefe


    When Gary started doing what he was doing, going after all fish everywhere was possible – and at the time was something I got pretty good at. I used to be all over blogs and forums (fora?) but that's just not practical.

    Over four years ago I started a blog because there was no other platform to engage with fans and potential fans. And I hung out in the forums (including and especially Gary's WLTV forum.) Now the blog sits mostly quiet because of Facebook and Twitter – which have become much more effective places to engage, because people are already there.

    Actually, I take that back a little. A better way to put it was that Facebook and Twitter suck less at it. With the blog I found it very difficult to get the average fan to engage there – though it was no problem with ITB people. Since average fans are already on Facebook & Twitter, they are more willing to engage. (I can't help but notice that even for you and your very popular blog, all or nearly all of your commenters are ITB to some degree. I include the amateur bloggers as being ITB for obvious reasons.)

  • El Jefe


    "…but that's not practical NOW."

  • 1WineDude


    thanks, Jefe – no question the field is more crowded now and in many more ways… probably exponentially so!

    I think when we talk ITB, it's important to note that the vast majority of amateur wine bloggers are passionate consumers – they're the Intermediate wine lover set to which 1WD is primarily targeted, in a way. So while I agree to some extent, I'd hesitate to put them all into the "ITB" camp.

    I will totally agree on seeing twitter and FB take off like wildfire in 2010 – in fact, I've noticed today that my blog on the whole gets fewer comments than it used to, but a LOT more FB Likes and twitter RTs. In fact, it appears that the "nice post!" comment has largely been replaced by the RT and FB Like. All of which is totally fine by me, but does make it a bit harder to understand and measure the reach or influence of a blog post now. Oh well – no one said the democratization of wine was gonna be *less* work for all involved! ;-)

  • 1WineDude


    To add to that last thought… there are twice as many reactions to this post on FB and twitter than there are comments… which underscores the point about the increasing FB and twitter influence. At this point, I'd say avoiding FB and twitter is downright perilous for just about *anyone* in *any* industry…!

  • El Jefe


    OK, fair enough. That was also true when I was blogging more. Some of those amateur wine bloggers became some of my best brand ambassadors. (BTW you have somehow helped inspire me to actually make a blog post today!)

    NB: When I say "amateur" I mean "one who does something for the love of it". It isn't meant to imply a lack of skill etc. In fact, in my experience the skill of amateur can often exceed that of a pro. That's why I include them as ITB, especially the ones that know what "ITB" means…)

  • El Jefe


    My motto these days is "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it." ;)

  • 1WineDude


    HA! Excellent…!

  • 1WineDude


    thanks, Jefe – No worries, I have the EXACT same definition for "amateur" as well. And I am happy to have inspired something today – which means my work for the day is now finished and I can feel free to go drink now, right? :)

  • El Jefe


    Right!

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