March 28, 2012

Hey Wine Industry, You’re Looking at Wine Bloggers all Wrong

A great post by Meg Maker made me reevaluate the industry’s perspective on wine bloggers. I think it is worth a quick history lesson. Though blogs hit the mainstream in 2004 for the rest of the world it wasn’t until about 2006 that the wine industry discovered this new category of digital wine writers. In the beginning, it was mostly passionate aficionados and hobbyists. We struggled as an industry to understand if we should send samples to them, how they helped generate awareness, and many other issues. One of the leaders in engaging with bloggers was (and still is) Rodney Strong Vineyards, who blazed a path and realized the value of finding new outlets of brand awareness in an ever shrinking professional wine writer universe. Joel Vincent started the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008 and we saw a surge in wine blogging. At one point we measured almost 500 ACTIVE wine bloggers that included not only passionate oenophiles, but also professional writers, wineries, “posers” and more. Wineries were also inundated with requests for samples since many “poser” bloggers realized you could get free wine. Sounds like a good gig if you can get it. Then, as a result of the abuse of many “mommy” bloggers, an FTC ruling in 2009 forced bloggers to disclose the source of all freebies, in an effort to curb the flood of paid-for reviews of dubious credibility. The decline of active wine blogging continues today, at the same time coupled with the ascension of some key wine bloggers into relevant wine writing positions (most notably Joe Roberts and Alder Yarrow) and the inclusion of key wine writers in the blogosphere (too many greats to name). Bloggers are no longer amateurs, and in an ever decreasing market for content, they serve an amazingly vital role for wineries. But we are looking at them in all the wrong ways.

We often try to put them in the box of comparison to the “Power Critics” (of which there are, at most, 25). Mainstream critics are declining in number, due to the elimination of many established wine columns in print publications (we’ve seen a major decline in the last few years); the competition from free content; and the unbelievable amount of wines we have in the US market competing for their attention. In addition, the decades of stories that have already been written about wineries, regions, and varieties make it a struggle to generate new and interesting content.

Let’s set the record straight, a blogger is not like a mainstream critic, EVEN if they are a mainstream “Power Critic”. None of them have the current traffic that equals the circulation of any of these power critics and it is unfair to try to use that comparison. Additionally, no blogger yet (with maybe the exception of Gary Vaynerchuck and/or Alder Yarrow) has been able to significantly “move the needle” like a write up in the NYT or SF Chronicle. But that doesn’t mean they don’t help sales, even if it is one bottle at a time. There are dozens of anecdotes, but here is a great one below:

PROOF a blogger can catalyze sales.

So what is the value of a blogger?

  1. In a world with fewer outlets to get press attention, bloggers provide a much needed medium to share stories about your wines, your winery, your region, or your varieties. Even if they have an audience of 10, they present your story to an audience that trusts them.
  2. You are able join the conversation. The beauty of blogs is that you are able to participate in the conversation and possibly convert some of their readers into customers.
  3. YOU (meaning wineries and wine retailers) are responsible for using their stories to help your brand. Who do you think made Robert Parker? It was YOU, the wineries, who distributed his scores to help create context for your wines to help retailers sell them. We as an industry fail if we don’t leverage blogger content to elevate our brands. Moreover, this content comes digitally and can be leveraged through various digital merchandising opportunities. WE FAIL if we don’t use their tasting notes, scores, badges, or whatever, not only on our sites, through social media, and in email and other communications with our customers, but also distributed to our retail partners on our sell sheets. A winery that really leverages blogger press is Cornerstone Cellars from Napa: http://www.cornerstonecellars.com/NapaValley.A great example of digital tools from bloggers that help lift sales are Joe Roberts’ ratings: http://www.1winedude.com/index.php/first-time-start-here/ and his Badges: http://www.1winedude.com/index.php/2010/08/25/the-otter-badgers-of-wine-reviews/. We have done experiments with scores and digital merchandising tools like these (an analogy would be a Gold Medal sticker on a bottle in a store) and we’ve seen a lift in sales from 10% to 30% vs. the same products without. We are still in the process of publishing our findings.
  4. Bloggers not only influence their small readership, but since they are so discoverable via search engines, they also help consumers who use Google to validate their sales choices. Imagine a consumer in a store looking for the 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc using Google. . . click here to see how many blog posts validate their choice. They have done such a good job working with bloggers that the reviews (and they are good ones) dominate the results below the winery itself. Moreover, if a blogger links back to your wine, it also helps your SEO rankings.
  5. A blogger’s influence extends well beyond the readership of his/her blog. Many of them are also active in other social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. This multiplies their sphere of influence dramatically. This extended influence is not something that many wineries consider.
  6. Bloggers DO influence sales, even if indirectly. The Twitter example above is one of thousands of examples. Another one can be found in the comments of one of our previous blog posts (http://www.vintank.com/2012/03/stop-measuring-vanity-metrics-measure-what-matters-instead/) where Craig Haserot from Sojourn Cellars bemoans that no sales come from social media and is trumped by four wine bloggers who demonstrate how they heard of him via social media, helped others buy the wine, and had even written about the wine: http://www.wellesleywinepress.com/2012/02/passionate-for-western-pinot-noir-this.html
  7. Wine bloggers are consumers too! Yes, they do rate wines (some that they have received free) but they also buy wine. Moreover, the number one catalyst for wine sales remains personal recommendations, and in their social circles (outside of the blogosphere) many of them are considered the “wine person.” They are often asked which wines they recommend. You can be sure that there is a correlation between the wines they write about and the wines they recommend and buy.
  8. Wine bloggers are a community we need to nurture. They represent tremendous value for our industry (we are scheduled to release approximately 150K wines in the US in 2012 and only 40K will be rated by professionals). But if we don’t work with them correctly, nurture their existence, and value their work, they will slowly vanish and this great resource will have been lost. The only ones to blame will be us, the wine industry.
FOOTNOTE – Many thanks to Michael Wangbickler from our wonderful partner, Balzac Communications for editing this post.
  • http://twitter.com/1WineDude Joe Roberts

    “Wine bloggers are consumers too!”

    AMEN to that. That’s a point I’ve been trying to drive home with producers and print writers and other bloggers for a long time now. We need MORE people talking about wine on-line, not fewer. What could be better for the biz than people getting so passionate about vino that they want to talk about it on-line in their spare time?

  • http://twitter.com/marcygordon Marcy Gordon

    All good points especially #6,  #7 & #8 . 

    In regard to #6 the power of twitter constantly surprises me, and I’ve had many people tell me they tried/bought a wine based on one of my tweets! Amazing. I get more reaction and interaction from my twitter mico-blogging than my standard blog posts.  #7– I am a consumer first and foremost, as well as a writer and wine blogger. #8 — I think many bloggers just don’t understand the role of PR/Marketing. Having previously worked in consumer marketing myself I cringe at some of the behavior and requests I see made by bloggers in all categories not just wine. Both sides need to make an effort to understand the needs of the other. Unfortunately my post about The 5 Kinds of Wine Bloggers seems as true now as ever –http://comeforthewine.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-kind-of-wine-blogger-are-you.html

  • http://twitter.com/passaggio Cynthia Cosco

    I agree Joe…amen to that.  Let’s get people excited about wine enough to talk about it online.  Nice post Paul…

  • http://www.creative-culinary.com/ Barbara | Creative Culinary

    Very interesting read even if not a wine blogger but as a food blogger some of your comments still hit home. I would be rich if I had even a buck for every ‘opportunity’ I get to publicize someone’s event or product. If REALLY lucky, they might offer us a product and then we shop for ingredients, prepare a dish, take photographs (with expensive equipment that I never expected ‘cooking’ would require!) all before sitting down to start a post. And we get offered a $5 coupon off on the product to do that. I quit saying no thanks because that is too polite an answer for the offers we see.

    I recently discussed what I thought was a mutually beneficial relationship with a local liquor store; they provide me with the booze and I would put an ad and a link for them on the posts I do each Friday offering a cocktail recipe to my readers. I’ll be honest; I sometimes have to pitch cocktails I make. Whether too early in the morning or too busy with work, most of my booze was going down the sink and I thought this would be a great win win situation.

    In a city the size of Denver, I have a blog with a lot of visibility and was excited that finally..someone got it! We had a nice phone conversation and he asked me what I needed this week and I mentioned I was doing a cocktail with the brand of Bacardi in the name. He said he would make sure his staff knew that a bottle would be up front for me to pick up.

    The next day I made the drive to his store; located in a shopping complex near me, about a 10 minutes drive. I went in to get the ‘bottle’ of Bacardi for a Bacardi Cocktail and I’ll tell you my chin is still on the floor. He had set aside a $.99 size airplane bottle. Need I say more? I was in such shock I left with the bottle but it’s going back and I’ll keep looking for a more enlightened resource…and a different store to shop in too!

  • http://twitter.com/jamesonfink Jameson Fink

    I have to admit it was a really exciting moment for me, to have someone I haven’t met make a buying decision based on a post. I must, however, give ample credit to a super-refreshing white wine. The post practically wrote itself. And thanks for sharing Meg’s article. It’s important to understand and respect what marketing and PR people are trying to accomplish. It’s a two-way street.

  • http://twitter.com/1WineDude Joe Roberts
  • http://www.facebook.com/alana.gentry Alana Gentry

    I looked at someone’s blog roll the other day, I think it was pulled together in 2008-09 when rolls were all the rage; the majority of those blogs are defunct now. I believe that right now, a good criteria is longevity. I also feel that the best bloggers are writers first and wine lovers second. My personal belief is that scores are going to be less meaningful than names and quotes in the near future. I think a shelf talker from Mutineer Magazine will soon be more powerful to a certain demographic than the current “91 points!” screamers.

    Anyway, agree with all your points Paul and thanks for taking the time to write this, it takes TIME to write articles so it is a real gift to us all. Thank you for the wonderful sentiment, “wine bloggers are a community we need to nurture.”

  • Alder Yarrow

    The really important point that every winery needs to pay attention to is #4. What you didn’t tell people to do  Paul (perhaps you were just being kind) is to keep going through those Google search results for Cornerstone until they find a review from a major critic like Tanzer, the Spectator, or the Advocate.  They’ll be at it forever.  Once they’ve worn themselves out from doing that, they should sit and consider the question, “what are all your new customers over the next five years more likely to do when they hear about your brand or one of your wines and want to know whether it’s any good or not: a) Go to the store and buy a copy of the Wine Spectator or b) type the wine name into Google?”

    Without any desire to toot my own horn, I’ve been provided information privately by wineries for several years that they see jumps in sales and mailing list signups as a result of my reviews.  One even went so far as to say my review of his wines was only second to his writeup in the Spectator in terms of immediately driving sales (and I think he said he got orders for about 6 cases of wine from my review, lest anyone think that meant something momentous). 

    I don’t generally talk about this sort of thing, since a lot of people see it as bragging, but the truth of the matter is that both immediately, and in aggregate over time, blog reviews WILL drive sales. Period.

  • Anonymous

    The key is to remove the word blog from the vernacular. People that write about wine are writers and where they share their material is a platform. The problem is that the term “blogger” has negative connotations that confuses people, especially those who are not savvy with social and the broader internet in general. 

  • Bill Smart

    As always, spot on Paul.   Not everyone is going to wake up to the new information highway in the wine industry.  Those that do will be successful.  Those that don’t will be left behind. 

  • Clark Smith

    Some good points made here, though I think many of us already understand them.  But come on — do you seriously think there is a danger that “if we don’t work with them correctly, nurture their existence, and value
    their work, they will slowly vanish and this great resource will have
    been lost?”  The species hardly seems endangered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pmabray Paul Mabray

    Clark,
    Actually it is already happening.  We monitor almost every wine blog in the world and are watching the decline of the activity and new blogs that are emerging.  Like the canary in the coal mine, these are early indicators of the potential loss of the species.

  • http://proofwinecollective.com Josh McFadden

    Let us not forget so soon that online wine writing is painfully tedious and, most of it, a bore to read. Hear me my friends, could you yourself come to wine for the first time by reading one of these bloggers? The format itself is absurd. (wine= inherently social, intoxicating, tangible; reading=hermetical, educational, analytical) 

    All of us, we fell in love with wine, not wine writing.

     Who among these bloggers writes to their audience with even a hint of the understanding of a Parker or the charm and accessibility of a Princess Di? These good bloggers reveal trivia as though they were talking about some great “truth” like children with puffed up chests– but they do not make our dearly beloved wine relevant for the NEW ONES. They only speak amongst themselves because they are the only ones listening. And YES! the inevitable attrition of passions has begun with this first generation of online wine warriors. As much as the industry loves watching this hot blogger-on-blogger action, we know full well that it is not sustainable. A person, even a blogger, wants to be successful. And unless these bloggers are focused on bringing new wine consumers into the fold, they will just be talking to the same early-adopters over and over again.

     Let us hope that someone NEW is coming, something better than “wine bloggers.”  
     Parker was a writer to popularize wine.but
    The next generation DOES NOT READ!
    Let us ask ourselves, what is the goal? 
    To justify wine writing, or, to popularize wine?
    -josh, proof wine collective

  • http://www.vtwinemedia.com/ VT Wine Media

    I too wish we could evolve past the term “blogger”…as a tech guy, I have never quite liked it.  It’s just a couple of letter changes away from “booger” and sounds almost as bad.  JourNetlists? VinoLogs? 

    Given what a minuscule fraction of a percent samples are in my tasting, I appreciated Meg’s article very much, because it does lay down appropriate, potentially professional guidelines for folks, who I think have a lot to offer the expansion of wine culture in the US.  
    Not only are we real consumers, but we are real people as well, and our connections go beyond the quantifiable digital networks.  I do not get much commentary on my posts, but I am surprised by how many times I have been stopped on the street, or in a Co-op half way across the state, by someone who enjoyed an article, or is in some way connected through the wine.  The technology facilitates extension, creation, and nurturing of real world relationships.  If a customer becomes something more than a number, they can become something more than a customer.

  • http://twitter.com/winebratsf The Wine Brat

    So true.  Too few people are measure blogger ROI in the right way; partially because the tools available are not up to par, but also because of the web (the spider not the net) of influence we as bloggers have.

    If I recommend a wine and someone buys it, the wineries have only a suggestion of the true source of the sale UNLESS a direct link is clicked and they are monitoring click through rates.

    I personally, will see a review on a blog and buy wine frequently but either because there is no link or because I can locate the wine nearby for a more favorable price, I buy it elsewhere.  The bottom line being YES we do influence sales and YES we are consumers.
    I agree wholeheardedly with #8 – I myself have seen my stats drop due to lack of enthusiasm over the last 16 months.  Fortunately that is changing, but with the changing media outlets, it’s a difficult task to re-attract readers; instead, we need to find new ways of measuring social ROI.  Bringing in Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter AND the blog.  Which really goes to #5 as well.

    http://lusciouslushes.com/2012/03/where-do-we-go-from-here/ 

    #3 has been an issue from the beginning of social media.  Brands do NOT do a good job of monitoring their interaction.  While I am not an advocate of the entire wine universe being on twitter, it is Marketing 101 to use your tools (Vintank, Google alerts, etc) to know what people are saying.  Sitting back and staying quiet is worse than defending yourself imo.

    Wineries, listen up:  If you’re not interacting, you’re not reacting.  And then, you die.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pmabray Paul Mabray

    Wow Josh, that is quite the dystopian view of a bloggers and their contribution to the industry.  We must not forget that through our own myopia after years in the industry (which it looks like you have some) we forget those (the majority) and their ignorance towards wine.  Also, I am sure Proof Wine Collective would be happy to be written about by Alder, Joe, David White, or on the blogs of Jon Bonne or Eric Asimov and that you’d have a completely different perspective of their value.

    Wine writing is one tool and HOWEVER it manifests itself (articles, tasting notes, pictures, videos, etc, etc, etc), has positive influence on bringing new customers into the fold.  The overall point is that a blog (professional or amateur) delivers content digitally, the way the new consumers like to get it.

  • http://proofwinecollective.com Josh McFadden

    Paul, I would agree with pretty much everything you said, save for my
    view on wine bloggers being dystopian. On the contrary, I am very
    excited about the future of wine, especially what’s possible online. I
    don’t like most wine blogs, most of them are unremarkable if not a total
    mess, and I am honest/stupid enough to say it. But I don’t think it’s
    because I’m being fickel or jaded– most of them are quite unreadable.
    (that’s why they don’t have readers, then quit) Of course, like your
    examples -these big bright shinning stars- some are good. But the big
    problem still remains: there is still NO WAY for a new customer to
    START.

    Thought experiment:

    Imagine an active 4chan member thinking to himself, “I want to get into
    wine… how do I do that?”  Or instead of 4chan try a young movie star,
    like Ellen Page trying to earnestly learn about wine on her own. 
    Imagine they have a weekend to themselves, and want to learn about wine
    online. Where would they go? How would they know who to trust? and how
    long would they last before giving up?

    An analogy for creatives:

    Just because my friend starts a band or started shooting his own film,
    doesn’t mean I need to support him. IN FACT, supporting him might be the
    WORST thing I can do for him. We should not act as crutches, they must
    learn to walk on their own. Creatives need to fail over and over again,
    in order to make something powerful and lasting. They must overcome
    thousands of obstacles to create something that matters. I say it is
    better to critique these creatives, then to superficially adore them.
    When you adore them, you are treating them like customers. When I think
    about my future with wine online, I would like to be working with
    powerful content creators that compete for large audiences, rather than
    spoiled customers playing dress-up and pretending like their voice
    matters.  (Ouch!)

    The more I know, the less I can connect: The problem with marketing.

    What you call ‘myopia’, I’d call ‘the curse of knowledge’ which is the
    idea that once you or I learn something, we CAN NO LONGER see the world
    in the same way. By opening one door, we have closed another, and can no
    longer empathize with the person we were previously. (example: I’m
    afraid of drinking for the first time, then I drink for the first time,
    now I can’t really imagine living in a world where I am afraid of
    drinking for the first time.)  I would agree that most professionals in
    the wine industry have this problem. We all have this problem, but what
    do we do about it? I’m choosing to ask basic questions like: If I didn’t
    drink wine, how could I start? and what the heck is a wine blogger and
    why aren’t they more awesome?

  • Tom Wark

     Josh:
    The next generation and this generation does indeed read and they will continue to. Reading remains the most efficient way to digest information. Video will not replace anything but the most superficial kind of information that may have once been primarily distributed in print.

    I view wine bloggers as the minor leagues; the place where wine writing and wine reviewing talent is developed and brought up to the bigs, be they general circulation magazines or newspapers where they will become the columnists or the wine publications and newsletters of significance.

    What’s interesting to contemplate is that this talent we see within the blogging community always existed, but we had no way of identifying it unless we knew the talent and experienced wine with them. Now this talent has a way to show off.

    The best wine blog reviewers will always get samples just like folks at smaller circulation newspapers in secondary markets always did and always will get samples.

    It’s this thing about “nurturing” wine bloggers that intrigues me and that I need to think a little about.

  • Alder Yarrow

    Josh,

    Would you mind answering your own question? Where do beginning wine lovers start?

    I’m curious to know your opinion, because one of the things I found when I was just starting was that most of what we now refer to as “traditional” wine media, were completely inaccessible.  Most wrote about wines that I had no access to, in ways that presumed a certain level of knowledge, and even worse, presumed a certain attitude towards wine that was completely off-putting to me as a beginning consumer.

    Alder

  • http://proofwinecollective.com Josh McFadden

    Tom, I like your minor/major league analogy. I think it’s quite thoughtful.

    I see so many passionate and talented people spending their time with these projects, and I can’t help but feel bad for them. Typically they go into their project too quickly without fully developing what they are attempting to do.  And by the time they realize that no one is reading and they are losing momentum– they feel like they have to defend what they’ve done (double-down) or quit.  It’s a sad story, but it is the rule rather than the exception.

  • http://proofwinecollective.com Josh McFadden

    Adler, definitely a fair question.  Last year I began looking at wine culture through the lens of long term development. I eventually called it ‘The Stages of Wine Consumer Development’  with this framework I’ll be opening a B+M wine-bar/shop in san luis obispo later this year. This model is meant to ask this very basic question, ‘where do people start?’ and ‘where are they now?’

    here is an overview that was part of a presentation I gave last year: http://proofwinecollective.com/stages-page6.pdf

    The basic premise is that we would like to meet consumers where they are.
    Different consumers carry with them unique experiences, social habits and sources of confusion that may limit them from breakthroughs as a wine consumer.

    To ignore this reality is to limit the audience to which a business/winery/blog can speak — which is effectively the current state of the wine industry.

    The extent to which these potential breakthroughs are anticipated and accommodated, therefore, is the extent to which a wine outlet can promote wine consumer development across all potential consumer types.

    The Archetypes
    #1 “The Skeptic”
    #2 “The Wanderer”
    #3 “The Participant”
    #4 “The Curator”

    (1 => 2) Key Breakthrough from “The Skeptic” to “The Wanderer”
    Witnessing that alcohol can be a source of responsible fun, rather than a waste of time. (for the most part, the ENTIRETY of the wine industry ignores this breakthrough)

    (2 => 3) Key Breakthrough from “The Wanderer” to “The Participant”
    Developing a set of social habits, even at a small scale, that include wine consumption.

    (3 => 4) Key Breakthrough from “The Participant” to “The Curator”
    Achieving confidence through one’s experience to selfmediate
    wine culture, free of the need of external guidance. (bloggers, industry, collectors)

  • Alder Yarrow

    Josh, that’s all very interesting, and I sincerely wish you great success, but one way of reading your reply to my question, if you really are answering it, is that no one is getting it right and helping new drinkers establish a relationship to wine. But it’s never a particularly strong argument when you’re trying to suggest that everyone else is getting it wrong, and you’re the only one who can get it right. That’s the structure of argument used by UFO nuts, conspiracy theorists, and (making no insinuations whatsoever, you seem perfectly sane) the mentally ill. 

  • Mike Dunne

    Princess Di wrote a wine column? The next generation doesn’t read? Neither explains why I haven’t heard of Proof Wine Collective.

  • Mike Dunne

    Maybe Paul was being kind, maybe he was being smart. How many people who use Google ever hit “next”? It’s the equivalent of the “jump” of many newspaper stories, the longtime curse of mainstream media. A lot of readers don’t just bother. The savvy among them just may be googling “Cornerstone and Wine Spectator.”

  • Alder Yarrow

    Yeah, but if Cornerstone never published the Wine Spectator rating on their “press” page, people wouldn’t find anything even if they used THAT phrase!  :-o

  • http://blog.terroirist.com/?p=9499 Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Following Bliss

    [...] Paul Mabray screams, “Hey Wine Industry, You’re Looking at Wine Bloggers all Wrong.” [...]

  • Meg Maker

    Paul, thanks for the thoughtful post. 

    The comments here so far bring to mind the discussion happening right now on Adam Roberts’s post, also published Wednesday, “Are Food Blogs Over?” (see http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2012/03/are-food-blogs-over.html). Adam’s thesis is that food blogs have reached their late high Renaissance, a very mannered phase desperately in need of a Modernist makeover. In order to be successful, a food blogger cannot copy what has gone before; he or she must do something wholly new and original. Some commenters are questioning the entire praxis, wondering aloud whether it makes sense for anyone even to attempt such a re-invention, and whether it’s worth it both for them and for their readership. What’s the point of trying? 

    But others, especially those who are new to the medium, hold that food blogging is decidedly not over. This is likely because these newer writers are in a phase of personal discovery, and approach their sites as chronicles of their own trajectory. They don’t seem to see themselves as part of a larger discipline. And I think that’s fine. They may have a small audience, and they may not be doing anything wholly new. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have anything new to say, provided their voice is original and genuine, simply because it’s *their* voice. 

    Inasmuch as food blogging or wine blogging is nonfiction writing, then no, it’s not over, because at its core it’s personal narrative, creative nonfiction, and storytelling, and these came before blogging—and will probably last after it.

  • http://proofwinecollective.com Josh McFadden

    *SNAP!* Good comeback.
     
    1. Di was an absurd example. That was the point. Who’s thinking big? Who can ACTUALLY grab a large MAINSTREAM audience? Gary V broke through, helping bring many new members to the wine community. Why are we still comparing ourselves to other wine-bloggers/wine-professionals?

    2. If you haven’t heard that most people in this country don’t read, I’m sorry to break the news to you. They CAN read, they DO read from time-to-time but when they do “read” they are skimming and approximating information. They read headlines, tweets, lists, quotes, but articles– that’s a real hard sell. Anyone working in marketing knows this as a fact.

    3. I am not a wine blogger. I am not trying to be written about by wine bloggers. That is not my purpose at this time, I was merely giving my CV to give context for those interested.

  • http://proofwinecollective.com Josh McFadden

    Alder, yes that was a reply to you. I was just trying to give you some context, man. In the past 4 years, I’ve had the chance to work-with/start a lot of wineries and wine projects, finding new ways of looking at things is kinda my gig. From that ‘behind-the-curtain’ perspective I have gotten to see many MISSING PARTS in the industry and If I worried about having an unpopular opinion, I would have accomplished nothing. 

    Ok, maybe, we need to start with a mainstream question as not to appear too obscure.
    How much of the US population owns a corkscrews?
    (ie, who can ACTUALLY drink wine?, or, how many people out there are prepared to drink wine?)
    10%… maybe 20% if we are being optimistic.
    Let’s tell ourselves, “That’s ridiculous!”
    Let’s do something about it.  Many of us deaden ourselves to the outside non-wine world and speak only to those who are already wine consumers; maybe that’s why wine blogging has become so incestuous.

    So yes, the status quo is getting it wrong. and I hope you feel the same way. I hope that when you sit down to write a post, you’re attempting to create something better than before. You are attempting to reach a larger audience than before. You are making wine more relevant than before.

    If you start talking to customers and try to back trace their path to
    you, you’ll find many startling things. It was not an easy journey for
    most of them, we must clear a path to let more in.

  • RichardPF

    My own comment touches upon a line that is worthy of its own post. Paul stated: “In addition, the decades of stories that have already been written about wineries, regions, and varieties make it a struggle to generate new and interesting content.”  That is an issue that faces all wine writers, whether print media or blog. How do you generate “new and interesting content” rather than simply providing long lists of tasting notes? Originality is a valuable trait, though not always easy to find. At last year’s WBC, Jancis Robinson advised bloggers to be Accurate, Humble, Opinionated and Original. How many bloggers have tried to follow her advice? Originality content speaks volumes about the quality of a writer, whether a blogger or not.   

  • http://twitter.com/1WineDude Joe Roberts

    Richard – great point and one I find myself bringing up often to wineries.

    Them: “But we don’t know which bloggers should get our attention!”
    Me: “If you figured it out for print – in which there are tons of poorly-written, marginal columns about wine – then certainly you can figure it for on-line media as well.”

  • http://dmwineline.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/worth-reading-this-week-buy-your-own-piece-of-the-andes/ Worth Reading This Week: Buy your own piece of the Andes | Dave McIntyre's WineLine

    [...] definitely a slow week when the Bloggers v. Writers dispute heats up again. This time, Vintank posted a lengthy “nyah nyah” at “traditional” wine writers, urging wineries [...]

  • http://modeldeals.info/wine-blogging-wednesday-70-2009-bodega-bernabeleva-camino-de-navaherreros-garnacha-4/ Wine Blogging Wednesday #70: 2009 Bodega Bernabeleva Camino de Navaherreros Garnacha « Gossip on the Web

    [...] Bringing Focus and Attention to Jazz and WineTasteCamp 2012 Northern Virginia (May 4-6)Hey Wine Industry, You’re Looking at Wine Bloggers all Wrong – VinTank [...]

  • http://twitter.com/DonelanWine Tyler Thomas

    Paul –

    Thoughtful and helpful.  One of things I find exciting about all this is its “newness.”  Think about the history you outlined and how short of a time span it represents!  Things move so fast and right now there still seem to be so many “this shoulds” that it will be interesting to see when we look back at the “actually dids”.  I’m inclined to place a lot of importance on #3 and #4.  Well done. 

  • http://www.SAHMmelier.wordpress.com/ Sahmmelier

    Okay, I am afraid to even comment on this string, but I will.  I started my wine blog MOSTLY because I wanted a cerebral outlet for me and because I had many friends that were intimidated by wine.  Many of my girlfriends had no idea where to start, how to pair, or how to describe what they were tasting.  My goal was not to build an empire, but to provide a safe place to learn.  I try to make it witty with a touch of self-help and double entendre.  I try to pair the wines with food and to keep it in “laymen’s” terms.  If I am ever deemed “sample worthy,” that would be wonderful.  In the meantime, I am providing a log on my experiences with wines for different seasons, occasions, and price points for my friends that are new to wine. And hopefully keeping my brain from going through StayAtHomeMom atrophy. I would love to build a bigger audience, I love learning from other writes, but ultimately I write because I enjoy writing, teaching, and hope to promote the smaller winemakers I find. 

  • http://www.wineofthemonthclub.com/category/s?keyword=chardonnay Chardonnay

    Agree with your point about how specializing creates depth of
    expertise. But, you are making an assumption that the only reason
    people read wine bloggers (I will give you many do) is for wine
    recommendations or deep insight into a region.
     

  • Bill Eyer

    @girlwithaglass:disqus < You said "I also feel that the best bloggers are writers first and wine lovers second" I adamantly disagree. #IMO the best bloggers are explorers first, everything else naturally falls in line afterward!

  • Bill Eyer

    @pmabray:disqus < Great article, and I particularly like the point you made via #7 cheers!

  • http://www.designbusinessengineering.com Lindy Asimus

    This is a factor for all business, wine included but really we can fall into the bubble of our own experience and forget that not all those who might read our blog know what we know and the scope for original material to post about is vast. But remember that visuals are highly valued now online and not all information that might begin on a blog is doomed to just stay there. Indeed the blog is the easy way into Content Marketing and begins the process for sharing original on to other platforms which will help drive sales but also can be incorporated into direct mail – which is enduring as the most valuable channel for generating sales.

    A structured approach takes a lot of the stress away from this activity. And it is worth mentioning I think, having a blog doesn’t necessarily make one a blogger. Unless that’s how one prefers to regard themselves.

  • WineMaps

    I would guess to say that beginning wine lovers start from recommendations from their close friends, family and in-person reviews at a restaurant, bar or wine store.

    With social media, discovering that recommendation through an app, blog or post has made it easier especially when it is republished to a like minded audience.

    Oh and large ads seem to work as well. :-)

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