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.
23 thoughts on “Wine Blogging Isn’t Dead (To Those Who Are Paying Attention)”
Yes indeed! I have a post coming this week that asks who we are as a community and what we should be asking to keep moving us a long. This is a grand slam of a post to be able to refer to. We are just not a "somewhere" yet where all the measurement and meaning questions have answers. Furthermore only some of us are asking the right questions and others aren't asking any. What and who we are is a question in need of new parts of the answer everyday, but only if more folks participate in the development and growth.
Jason – great insight, and thanks, and I'm glad this will prove useful for you! What the wine blogging community is, I think, is a bell curve. On the far left, a tiny percentage of poser wanna-bes who are pretending to be knowledgeable and are in it for free shiz. Lots of people like to talk about that group and decry them, but it's a red herring because their numbers are **tiny**. On the far right, we've got serious folks who know their stuff, have a craft in terms of coverage or writing, and are making an impact that would have been impossible only 6 or 7 years ago. In the middle, passionate consumers who just want to share their love for wine and their discoveries with their friends, etc. Some trending from that middle to the left or right, of course (the WBC attendees, I think, trend towards the right, or want to take things positively to another level, for example). Lumping them into one large group, though, is sort of like lumping all white wines into one large group – it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But in one respect, the numbers do not lie, a TON of people blog about wine and guess what, those folks are only the ones that bothered to establish a website and went through that trouble. How many more would we see if we included those who frequently tweet or provide FB updates about wine? It would be in the thousands, surely.
Forgive me Joe, but as you know I am rather new to blogging and perhaps my comments should be taken as such (but at least I attended the WBC so that puts me somewhere more to the right in your bell curve). While I disagree that blogging is 'dead', it does appear to me that the vast majority of traffic on wine blogs comes from other bloggers. I have no doubt that more established bloggers (you, Alder, Jamie, etc.) have a broader reach, but for a very large percentage of those 650+ bloggers, their impact or reach is minimal and insular. I also agree that the wine blogging world is just a baby, but might it be that instead of 'dead' wine blogging has become over-saturated? For a non-blogger to find useful content, he/she has an ocean of noise (perhaps some would include my blog in this characterization) to traverse and it might be easier just to pay the four bucks and pick up a Spectator in the checkout line at the Whole Foods…..
masi3v – No worries, all valid questions, I think! For me, the charge that wine blogging is minimal and insular could be levied against a ton of other media for niche topics, but there isn't any harm in the audience being niche. If the vast majority of wine bloggers are avid consumers and are talking with one another, then the platforms are in fact reaching consumers. We seem to want to separate the casual consumer from the avid ones, but the casual ones are not really buying wine mags, either! As for saturation, I agree a bit on that but I'd counter that I don't think it's all that difficult to single out the best of the best, it just isn't something that can be done in five minutes :).
I think both, the casual and the avid consumers, are going for more tech options like smart phone & tablets apps…
@antociano – I think when it comes to wine recommendations & suggestions (relatively quick info., etc.), you're right. I think there will always be a place for longer format, in-depth coverage as well, which is where blogs and magazines come in, but the movement to mobile cannot be denied. I have actually for a while now included a quick-and-dirty mobile version of 1WD (at https://www.1winedude.com/mobile ) but that's just to make the content more digestible for smaller-screen devices. And in some ways it was one of the drivers for me to start tweeting wine reviews – that migration towards smaller-format, quick, easily-shareable recommendations. Cheers!
I think what you need is a "responsive" wordpress plugin as I set up in my blog.
And I agree with you, we need to be more wide about spreading our content on the different options available (FB, twitter, pinterest, etc).
@antociano – Do tell about this plugin…! :)
The one I use in http://www.antociano,net is MobilePress http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/
But they are several more depending on the WP version you have.
I hope this help.
Thanks – that's an OLD one! :)
"While I disagree that blogging is 'dead', it does appear to me that the vast majority of traffic on wine blogs comes from other bloggers."
Given traffic at http://www.fermentationwineblog.com….that's a hell of a lot of bloggers visiting.
Tom – agreed. I suppose I am in a similar spot.
Tom, there is no doubt that both you and Joe have numbers I can only fantasize about, but I was referring to the vast majority of the 650+ bloggers that Joe mentioned. I would guess that most of them have numbers that are not even a blip on your 'radar screen'.
masi3v – Ah, but if we aggregate them, even with overlap… we are talking a lot of passionate wine-loving eyeballs.
Perhaps I misunderstood Tom's response. I thought he was disagreeing with my notion that most traffic on wine blogs comes from other bloggers. If that were true, he seemed to say, based on his daily stats, there must be a ton of wine bloggers out there. He did not share his stats, but I took it to mean that he gets far more than 650 'hits' a day.
My contention is that you and Tom (along with a few others) are more the exception than the rule when it comes to your 'average' blogger.
masi – Yeah, I totally get what you are saying. Tom is saying I think that it's industry, consumers who don't blog, serious bloggers, and consumer who *do* blog all visiting these sites. Most wine blogs, like most blogs on ANY topic, don't have large audiences. But when those smaller audiences are made up of passionate people, a lot of noise (joyous or mean) can be made and a good amount of buying decisions can be made as well. My point was that a blog can engage those smaller audiences and still be successful, depending on what the goals of the blog and its author are. And that to me is okay – in fact, we need as much oft hat going on as possible because it means that more people are getting geeky about wine. :)
I'm going to follow along with Joe's initial analogy regarding the age of wine blogs, and agree that the genre has outgrown the phase where it is just so damn cute, and is interesting to look at no matter what it does. Now as it reaches it's juvenile years, folks are going to start paying more attention to how it behaves and what it says. This is the time when the cohorts focus on intra-socialization, as early training for larger world interaction.
It makes sense that we'd be reading one another's blogs at this point. Without the tech revolution, we'd all be sitting at home reading the Wine Speculator or the Wine Devil's Advocate, stewing in our own juices, boring the crap out of our family and friends…instead we have a burgeoning community, in which it is OK to communicate about wine, and share information. We each get better at it, no matter how high-profile or low down the beverage chain we are, and that has a positive impact on our personal and professional endeavors.
Last night prior to the Twitter #WineChat on Finger Lakes Wines and the 2011 Riesling Release, I gathered a consumer tasting panel to join me and try the wine samples provided by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, because I feel that it is better for me, my local community, and for the wine world in general if I can use my position as a "wine blogger" to be an information conduit. I know that it worked out for one of the participating wineries, because I just heard from a panel member who placed a case order at their website this morning.
I'm not sure what all of the twitter impressions will amount to, but this is not the first time that being at a nexus point between the digital and real world, has made someone happy by hooking them up with a wine they will enjoy.
Sure we are still young and somewhat awkward, but there is quite a bit of excitement and more importantly the inquisitiveness necessary to make it to the next growth phase.
Now if we can just get through puberty…
Todd – extremely well-stated, but then I think we're getting used to that high standard from you!
Pshaw! You kids and your facts. Why, I remember back in my day we used to to blog with chalk on the sidewalk. And not just any sidewalk. It was the one that was 5 miles away. And we had to walk uphill to get there and uphill to get back home. Don't talk to ME about facts, sonny boy!
Joe – I'm not talking about truth from a book… I'm talking about truthiness, the kind you feel I your GUT!!! :)
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