I hate this debate.
Actually, I love the debate, I just hate the way it’s being presented; namely, without a single shred of hard evidence to back up the claims that wine blogs are now dinosaurs.
People, wine blogging is, quite literally, about Kindergarten age. Wine blogging has been around for something like 7 years, depending on what you take to be the first official wine blog. Wine blogging can barely tie its own shoes or successfully write a lowercase “m” on its first try, and now it’s no longer cool, it’s going the way of the Dodo bird?
Attention all those who would say that wine blogging has lost its sheen, failed to deliver on any of its promises, or has otherwise become passé: some hard evidence points directly to the contrary. You all remember evidence, right? Numbers… from data… the stuff from which we can actually start to draw the basis of conclusions without falling prey to our pronouncements being based solely on the shifting sands of subjective opinoin? That stuff?
Well, that stuff all tells a very different story…
The fact is that there are now a sh*t-ton of wine blogs, and that’s just including the ones written in the English language. Go ahead and count them – the numbers are high, over 650 that are fairly regularly updated.
On a similar note, the American Wine Bloggers Conference is on a streak of selling out attendance (2013 has already seen about a fifth of the slots taken for registration as well), which suggests the appetite for at least a small percentage of those bloggers aspiring to do something more with that passion has also, theoretically, never been higher.
Not exactly symptomatic of a fading pulse, is it?
Now, if you’ll indulge me in some more speculative ramblings… (lacking hard numbers, but I think they’re logical progressions at any rate):
Most wine blogs are written by passionate wine consumers. This has to be true statistically, though I can’t cite any definitive data here (but last time I checked, wine consumers outnumber wine writers by not an insignificant margin). And fine wine consumption in the U.S. is far from being dead, folks. Is most of that passionate consumer writing great? No, but it doesn’t have to be, because most blogs are personal journals; the important thing is that people are sharing the passion that they have for all things vinous, and that’s essential for the wine biz to continue to grow (particularly in mature markets).
Having said that most of the wine blog writing being not-so-great, riddle me this, Bat Man: when has there been another time in modern history when you could get such good writing, dialog, and debate about fine wine as you can now… all for free. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Totally subjective, of course, but I’ll bet any box of samples in my basement that the volume of quality writing has never been greater, or the price of accessing it lower.
There is one number that is down among wine blogs: comment count per post. But that has nothing to do with waning relevance, or darkening sheen, or empty promises; it’s simply a side-effect of the fact that social sharing (twitter retweets, Facebook Likes, etc.) activity is way up. Simply put, that’s what people do to indicate their approval now – they tweet, or Like, instead of leaving an “atta-boy!” style comment (on a somewhat petty gloating note, this is something I predicted would happen to wine blogs about 18 months ago, seeing as how it had already happened in more mature blogging markets already and wine is traditionally behind the times on everything, with the possible exclusion of farming practices and bottling line tech). So while we have less dialog per post generally, the potential influence of each wine blog post has never been greater; it is ridiculously easy – easier than it’s ever been before - for people to share that content with their friends.
As for the promises that wine blogging was supposed to deliver, what exactly were those? Because I’ve been at this for almost as long as wine blogging has been alive and I don’t remember any hard-and-fast charter detailing any promises.
What wine blogging has already done, in its tiny fraction of historical timeline existence, is to forever change the consumption of wine media, democratize a significant percentage of wine reviews, and create an entire new body of taste-makers and influencers (that in some cases now sit next to – or even surpass – print media in terms of reach). Notice I did NOT say that wine blogs have totally unseated those print resources; but they have clearly shown that the “pie chart” of total wine influence and passion in the consumer sphere was far larger than we’d previously thought, and certainly far larger than just the subscription counts of the biggest wine mags now in circulation.
Sorry, but that sounds like a pretty damn good resume of accomplishments to me. Especially for a first-grader.