Back in October (yeah, I really am about that far behind on things), the scientifically-minded Becca Yeamans-Irwin wrote on her blog about a research study that examined five influential English language wine blogs (including this lil’ ol’ one right here) using content analysis software called Leximancer.
As you no doubt already expected from the above run-on, complex sentence, her article caused some heated discussion regarding the merits of the study, most of which centered on what seemed like obvious conclusions one would draw from websites dedicated mostly to writing about wine (for example, regarding the website Vinography, the research conclusions included the realization that “’Flavour,’ ‘wine,’ ‘tasting,’ ‘adventures’ and other flavor-related terms were central themes of the blog.” Surprise! Not!).
Now, I’ve spent enough time in academia to know that obvious conclusions need to be treated as non-obvious, in that they still need to be formally stated and backed up by data. So my take on the research study steered clear of that criticism, but I did initially have concerns about it, which I stated in a comment on Becca’s blog post:
1) I am not clear if there is a causal relationship between the automated text analysis and the findings regarding each blog.
2) The conclusions seem like sane advice for *any* niche blog topic, rather than offering anything specific to blogging about the topic of wine.
It’s an interesting start, but I am not sure it tells us anything quite yet
I had intended to leave it at that, but since posting that comment, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart, and I think the conclusions, though somewhat generic, warrant emphasis for those who are considering (or have recently started) blogging about wine (and yes, writing that makes me feel kinda old, okay?)…
So we should talk about some of those conclusions. I’ll start with what the study discovered about 1WD:
Researchers conclusions on 1WineDude:
- Finding, learning, and tasting wines were found to be very important themes of 1WineDude. [ well… DUH… ]
- Using lists of wines is a commonly used method in this blog, as well as an apparent advanced knowledge of social media in terms of getting readers to interact with the blog. [ Ok, fair enough ]
- Self-promotion is a central theme of this blog, as well as the promotion of blogging in general. [ hopefully it’s a bit more of the latter than the former ]
As it turns out, the above list more or less sums up how to make an impact for just about any wine blog. This lead Becca to draw her own conclusions about gaining an audience and credibility as a wine blogger, which I have summarized below:
1) Don’t just describe the wine. Tell a story.
2) Carve your own niche and find a way to differentiate yourself from all the other wine blogs out there.
3) Self-promote: A nice balanced way, anyway.
Now, you’ll notice there is some emphasis and a few links embedded in that summary. They are to 1WD articles that, over the years, have made those same points, albeit in a thoroughly un-academic way. I can’t very well criticize the making of points that I myself have made, now can I? Helllooooo, circular reasoning!
So the impetus behind my slight change of heart on this topic is probably now as obvious as those conclusions seemed to those of us who have already been blogging for some time on the subject of wine, but might not have been so obvious for those just getting their tongues wet on the subject. The conclusions look simple because they are true, and while the software and the study have lots of potential blemishes, I now see the analysis as a hopeful start in terms of trying to get some data behind establishing what works in this crazy niche genre of blogging, and why.
8 thoughts on “Thoughts On Thoughts On Thoughts On Influential Wine Blogs”
I went back and read Becca’s piece and although I have not read the actual study, it does not seem to be all that strong. The fact that the study arrived at conclusions that are generally accepted by the “industry’ does not mean that it is a “good” study. I have a whole host of questions about the methods used that were not really addressed in Becca’s article. People have been trying to develop text analysis software for years and while I am sure there have been “improvements” it remains at best a rather murky field.
DC – I agree. But that doesn't mean that the conclusions aren't good ones to consider.
Oh, I certainly agree! Don’t get me wrong—good advice, but that does not validate the study. That was my only point.
Yeah, I understand. The study is kind of superfluous with respect to the advice.
For the most part I agree with your circular-reasoning comment; it seems like a lot of this stuff is almost redundantly obvious. On the other hand, it was still an interesting read, if only because her studies ended up backing up your previous advice.
Cigar – yeah, it did kind of go in a spiral, didn't it?
I had a look at the article and agree that there aren’t a whole lot of points that go beyond the obvious. For each of the blogs, “wine” was found to be the main theme on them. Well.. duh? Isn’t that what you expect if you’re writing a blog about wine? You certainly wouldn’t expect the main theme to be around coffee. There aren’t many insightful revelations here that would help a starting wine blogger out, although that’s what you would hope from a study like this.
The only thing that I thought was noteworthy is the storytelling element – ultimately you have to develop your own “brand” as a blogger and a good way of doing that is shedding light on a topic from your personal viewpoint.
Tim – indeed, branding and storytelling are important. But as for the study finding that the wine blogs were about wine, I’d counter that sometimes I feel as though some wine blogs are about the blogger rather than being about wine! ;-)
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