Or is that Whom Do You Love?
I usually get flamed for writing about writing about wine, so I’m donning the asbestos undies for this one. Bring on the heat, baby! ‘Cause I’ve got (yet another) bone to pick with the world of wine writing (this includes wine blogging, and hence includes 1WineDude). Mainly, the rub is this:
Why is it that so many wine writers seem to be writing for each other, and not for wine consumers?
It’s no secret that wine consumers themselves are getting into the wine writing space, evidenced by the explosion of wine blogs over the last two years. In many ways, 1WineDude is itself a product of that movement to involve consumers more directly in wine appreciation and critique. When it comes to wine, I’m not a professional per se, but I’m a bit like what we in the IT department call a “super-user” – I’m one of those people that other users come to when they need to know more, but don’t have access to the inside scoop. Yes, I consult, but I don’t make or sell wine – so I view myself primarily as a consumer of wine who somehow forced himself through a crack in the door to take an inside look at how the industry works.
I love the fact that wine consumers are blogging (even if they’re not as “serious” as I am about the writing aspect) and are causing the industry to rethink its product and how it engages those consuming it. That’s good for everyone (except possibly Wine Spectator), and in that way “wine writers” (if that term is extended to include people writing about wine, not just those who make their living at it) are indeed writing for one another – in a very good way with increasingly positive results.
Take someone like The Wine Whore, whose blog unabashedly exists solely on the premise that it will feature a wine review in exchange for receiving a sample (no guarantee it will be positive, thankfully). A lot of people (especially wine writers) will probably hate that idea.
I love that idea.
I love the fact that it’s ballsy and turns the question of wine writing “ethics” on it’s ear. Am I saying that just about anything is “okay” so long the author is upfront and transparent about the premise? When it comes to blogging, yes, I am saying that. Ideas like this one put the power in the hands of the readers, and effectively they get to decide if any core ethical questions are violated by the premise.
The more I think about it, the more brilliant I think idea behind The Wine Whore is (though I receive far too many samples now to effectively steal it!). It’s ultra-cheap publicity for a winery, retailer, or distributor, and it’s useful and entertaining for other wine drinkers. Many wine writers will bristle at The Wine Whore’s premise, but the blog is getting wines and you need to admire the gumption of someone who’s willing to throw that caution to the wind, challenge the wine writing paradigms, and share their thoughts with other wine consumers.
But there are wine writers in wine mags, and in well-established and “serious wine blogs” (if the term is extended to include A- and B-list wine bloggers, which arguably includes 1WineDude if we collectively lower our standards just enough for a moment or two here) that don’t seem to give a crap about wine consumers. They seem to be writing more for one other without taking a consumer view.
I won’t be naming names, and I don’t dismiss this as flippant or somehow wrong – because we’re talking blogs here, and the basic premise behind blogs is that you can write about whatever the hell you like, and all of your real-world certifications and credentials don’t mean jack if you don’t contribute something meaningful to the on-line conversation. I just think it’s a shame to spend all of that talent and potential in writing for other writers. Don’t we have chat rooms and forums for that? Sometimes I think that wine writers, when they lack inspiration for writing about wine, instead write about writing about wine (case in point: this article! oh… the irony…).
Or, even more absurdly, when they are really bored, they attack other wine writers for not meeting their personal blogging or writing standards. Personally, I find this extremely boring reading. Do consumers really enjoy that, or are they just temporarily entertained by the ensuing on-line cat fight, sort of like a sad reality show featuring frustrated and drunk wine writers. I can’t imagine it increases consumers’ appreciation for wine or their opinion of wine writing…
If you’re a “serious” wine writer, or even a wine hobbyist blogger who wants to detail his or her tasting notes and publish them for other to read on the web, stop for a moment and really consider why you’re writing, and who you want to benefit from reading your thoughts. It can’t hurt, and it may just bring some clarity to what you want (or don’t want) to achieve. Who do you love?
As a consumer, consider why you’re reading what a writer is telling you about wine, and if you feel that they really have your best interests at heart – because if they don’t, there is no dearth of competition for your attention at the moment.
But then, I’m the kind of guy who thinks fighting should not be allowed in ice hockey, so what they hell do I know…
(images: uglyradio.wordpress.com, winewhoreblog.com, si.com)
38 thoughts on “Who Do You Love? (Are Wine Writers Writing for You, or for Each Other?)”
As "The Wine Whore" I get a lot of great fan email… my favorite being an email containing the following brief statement of encouragement within the body of the message:
"In a word, 'ballsy'"
Timid it is Not! :-)
Yes! I'm no journalism major but, I think that may be the 1st or 2nd thing they teach i.e. "know your audience." …or at least try to guess.
I thought it was "fake it 'til you make it"?? ;-)
Great, great, great and great again post. I really like my position as a novice wine drinker to write my own articles and my own reviews on wine. I especially enjoy reading other bloggers for there opinions and reviews. One of my faves is Randy Watson, The Wine Whore. Nice to see him get much deserved props from another fave 1WineDude.
I, like many other bloggers, do this because we love doing it, we are interested in what others are saying and we get to converse and maybe someday meet new friends. I also don't forget the masters (snobs and experts, as I occasionally refer). They do know much more than I ever will and I respect and sometime envy what they do for a living.
One more thing, I would like to know how Randy gets all that free wine.
Randy gets the wine because he's a guaranteed source of exposure for the wine brands that elect to participate. As I mention in the post, I see nothing wrong with that stance, provided that he's open and honest about it, and that his posts offer some benefit to his readers. It wouldn't work if he was fraudulent or faking not – at least, it wouldn't work for long since blog readers tend to be able to smell B.S. from a mile away.
On the whole, blog readers don't get enough credit from the masters, I think.
Thanks, Dylan – I think that is a perfect way of looking at it. Of course, your readers cannot know your intentions unless/until they read your blog, so in a large way the question comes down to the benefit that those readers are getting, not your ethical stance or credentials. Power to the people…!
"I walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire, I got a cobra snake for a necktie
A brand new house on the road side, and it's a-made out of rattlesnake hide
Got a band new chimney put on top, and it's a-made out of human skull
Come on take a little walk with me baby, and tell me who do you love?"
Sorry, had to get that out there…
Thanks, Lenn – I did think of our conversation about this topic actually when I was writing this post, and I know you've long been a proponent for writing for your readership (whether a wine blog's readership is wine consumers, wine industry folks, or other bloggers, etc.).
I like the categories you listed, and I do see some that reach out into other categories – for example, there are some out there who review wines and have followings that consist substantially of other wine bloggers, but many consumers who aren't bloggers also dig their stuff and subscribe.
I suppose you're right to label me a "magazine-ist" – I'm also an "anarch-ist", "drunken-ist", but hopefully not an "elite-ist"!
Quite possibly I'm also a "hypocrite-ist" for writing somewhat disparagingly about writing-about wine…. ;-)
Good stuff. Just don't be touting this info over to a certain wine magazine forum and you'll be just fine.
Wait a sec… is it all wine bloggers leaving comments on this post? Doh!
Ok, maybe time for a bit of devil's advocate:
–Blogging is the essence of anarchy, where most bloggers do not want to be bound by any rules or be subject to anyone else's authority. Yet that is a double-edged sword, both strength and weakness. For the benefits it bestows, there are also negatives as well. Thus, it is a fractured realm, loosely composed of groups of bloggers united only by shared desires. And even then, there may be significant differences between the bloggers within those groups.
–I do agree that there are wine bloggers who write primarily for other bloggers. And that is certainly their right to do so. My question though is who are blog readers? What are their demographics? How many are steady readers of blogs as opposed to sporadic ones, mainly when they search for a specific item? What does the average blog reader seek from a blog? What types of info do they want to find in blogs? There are all questions that I don't believe have really been investigated much. I don't think we really know fully who are reading blogs. We may have an audience we wish to cater to, but is that successful?
–We can easily find the number of hits to our blogs, and even how those people ended up on our site. But we lack much info on their identifies and rationale for visiting our blogs. How many blog subscribers actually read all the articles that come up on their feed? How many actually just delete the item and move on?
–And why is there a continued and apparent need to make it always a battle between blogs and wine print media? I believe such comments can alienate potential blog readers. Plus, I do think it can adversely affect efforts to gain credibility, which many bloggers seem to desire. Bloggers can do what they want to do without any need to continually denigrate wine print media. It sometimes gets so very petty.
–I better stop my rambling for now.
See my reply below to Andrew – I really think (probably biased opinion here) that it's only *some* established print media with which bloggers take issue (Mutineer for example seems to have been embraced by bloggers because they have openly embraced blogging).
Yep, all wine bloggers commenting…Oh. Dear… ;-) btw, actually, I thought it was "shake it, don't break it"..?
Sounds like I am in dire need of an editor!
Interestingly, I find it's only *some* print media that rattles the wine blogging cage (and vice-versa) on this side of the pond. Typically, it's publications such as Wine Spectator that have publicly dismissed blogging as being devoid of any merit – which makes sense from their perspective, because they are asking people to pay for their content I suppose…
Good points, Richard (as always!) – I think I added the caveat as a reader… I can't imagine blog readers putting up with a writer who has blatantly false pretenses, or one that is entirely in the pocket of one corporation/brand/etc. or another. The Internet is littered with the remains of such attempts (unfortunately, they've all seemed to have migrated to twitter… sigh…).
As an "A+" level wine blogger, I write only for "B" level wine bloggers….
They can't escape my heat and my stank!
Which of course is why I read your blog!
I write for readers and consumers on my web site. I blog to engage other writers and industry people on my blog. Each venue has limitations and allows me to explore things in ways the other does not. I see visitors from my site click over to my blog – and vice versa – everyone is free to roam my URL as they please.
Hey Arthur – interesting approach, but you're one of the few out there that could do both well!
Wow, Stacy, such self-serving nonsense… Truly awful post. Thank god I'm immune to such blather.
It's ok , I actually appreciate Ken's feedback. The difficulty for me is that I see things from two different perspectives given my career vs. my hobby, so its insightful to me to hear other opinions. I actually would openly welcome your challenges/disagreements. What exaclty are you objecting to in my thoughts? How do you think I can improve my mindset? Feel free to email me.
Interesting example from St. Supery – and one that shows the power of social media in linking up wineries with conumers.
Go easy, Ken – it's a blog, opinions count, as do challenges/disagreements when offered up constructively.
Go easy? Ken's was the best, most honest comment so far.
Not saying don't say it. Just saying don't say it too mean…
Joe, you got some live wires with this one. Yeah, I'll be the first to say that we bloggers are wee bit incestuous at times, but I think it's done more in the spirit of camaraderie then just the sheer stroking of each other's egos. Sure, there's an underlying bit of self-promotion, the whole "I-see-you-can-you-see-me?" schtick, but in the end I think that because blogging is such a new thing, we're acting more as a support system to one another. Ultimately, we will all be responsible for affecting our audiences without leaning on our brethren, but I think that's what makes this aspect of new social media more inviting – the connectedness of it all. (Does that sound TOO mushy or am I just being oversensitive?)
I must start with two admissions: 1) that I have never knowingly read The Wine Whore's blog so I cannot comment on it, and 2) I have always written for a rather different audience than most wine bloggers and not really for the every day consumer.
I do understand your point entirely, however, about the insular and incestuous nature of wine blogging in general terms and that when you come across a blog that breaks the mold, it can be very refreshing.
Of course the main reason bloggers write for other bloggers is that these are the people leaving comments and joining the conversation, so it is natural that they have an impact on the direction of the blog. "Average" consumers are still unlikely to interact on blogs, but that is why twitter can be so exciting, as it is easier to reach out from "the bubble".
I don't think it is necessarily a problem in the sense that if bloggers are representative of society, their interests are similar. What might be a problem is the somewhat competitive and critical nature of the mainly US wine blogging community. It is a bit like a college dorm where if you all spend too much time in each others' company, tensions will arise :)
The European Wine Bloggers Conference is actively reaching out beyond wine blogging to bring in new voices that are critical to getting out the word about wine (no idea if it will work, of course), and because we rarely interact at any other time, we are excited (like college freshmen?) about the opportunities of getting together to talk about our shared passions.
I think we might want to move on from the "who is a serious wine writer and who isn't" type discussion (partly driven by the format of the Wine Blogging Awards, but also, I'm afraid you are one of the ones keeping it most alive as far as I can see) and get back to focusing on who is doing the most interesting stuff, not who is "the best".
Coming back to the point about writing for the consumer, there is such a breadth of wine writing in the US that there is room for everyone I'm sure, but certainly we need writers to engage consumers who do not YET consider themselves wine enthusiasts, but who knows how to do that?
Too much rambling – probably something I ought to write about on my blog :)
Thanks, Robert – my advice would be to slam this post in an article on your blog, and steal the subsequent traffic that ought to come here for the debate. It's worked for others in the past! ;-)
On a more serious note, I love your analogy about the U.S. wine blogging scene: "It is a bit like a college dorm where if you all spend too much time in each others' company, tensions will arise." I've no idea why it's like that, or why we in the U.S. engage in more "navel gazing" when it comes to wine writing.
I understand your point about me keeping some of the debate alive, but I'd also offer that I've more often than not been the one having to *defend* my credibility after having it attacked, which gets tiring both to write and I'm sure to read, so I've made a conscious effort to stop doing it from now on.
Well, you're a sap, Kevin.
Just kidding. Personally, Iove the interconnectedness that blogging has afforded me, and I'e made some *amazing* friends that way. In my book, it's all good.
There probably is a market for writers writing for writers. There is also a much larger market to provide consumers with information relevant to their own wine journey. The evolution of this new flow of wine information is out of the gate and running.
The next chapter is up to consumers to decide what is valuable to them, not the other way around. At the moment, my frustration is there are so many outlets for great ideas about wine and great wines to choose from, yet the number of consumers seeking information and joining the journey seems to be pretty small.
The timing and pace for this has its own course to run.
Good article – continue to go for it!!
Thanks – I'm with you, sometimes I wonder if the wine bloggers will outnumber the consumers somehow… ;-)
Great points – and many consumers of all wine expertise levels are blogging, so the lines are very blurred. What I try to do is write things that I would have liked to read when I was in the "awkward middling stages" of my wine appreciation journey (not that it's finished – not by a looooong shot). I.e., when I was not a beginner per se, but not a geeky "advanced" learner of all things wine, either.
As for the ads, here you go!
Hey, Ken – sell my book on your website!
Or, you could just run this: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/18…
Cool – I'll butt out ;-)
Great post. It does seem that many wine bloggers are writing for other wine bloggers. This is interesting because it really limits the audience. I think all wine bloggers and writers are 'serious', otherwise why waste their time writing? But whether their writing is any good is another issue and probably subjective at that.
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