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Wine

Wine Blogging ~ Are Wine Bloggers All Just Writing for Themselves as a Community?

One might think so, if you take the comments on wine blogs as evidence to that effect.

At the Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC), a three day symposium for wine bloggers, media innovators, and wine industry leaders held in Santa Rosa, California, I had the chance to meet Tracy , a PhD student from Auburn University in Alabama, but who is living in Mephis, TN. Tracy and Steve Heimoff were both attending to lead the panel discussion on Credibility.

I met Tracy before her panel, however, when we (Tracy, her male companion Robert, and I) were leaving the Kick Ranch’s welcome reception. As we walked down the hill, I decided to ask them if they’d like a ride back to the Flamingo Hotel, where the conference was being held. Our brief conversation had been so comfortable, that the offer was made in a collegiality moment. She was clearly someone that was fascinating with whom to chat… Her husband struck a low profile, perhaps because being a professor had him constantly having to share knowledge and opinions, and this time he was just along for the ride. As a great listener, he simply let us have at it… We then sat next to each other at the next event, and Tracy continued to tell me why she was there as a researcher working on her PhD degree.

[SIDEBAR: I was totally struck dumb later when a comment on one of Steve Heimoff’s blogs had an attendee even questioning why she was even at the conference. Clearly, he totally missed the point, because Tracy was very clear from the beginning of her seminar why she was there. I know we only hear what we want to hear, and her studying wine bloggers and wine blogging wasn’t on his radar screen, “So why was he even in the room?” thought I, when his comment was posted on a blog about the conference.]

As we got to the valley floor, the Pure Luxury bus had filled to capacity and was leaving. For us, it wasn’t a problem, but for one conference attendee, it would mean waiting a half hour or so for the next bus to arrive. I knew I had room for one more in my car, and so I made the offer to a new friend/colleague Delfim Costa. As it turned out – absolute small world that it is – this past April I was approached by Delfim’s company, Enoforum, about helping with their PR… I say small world, because Delfim’s company is based in Portugal. At the time, I was pretty overwhelmed with assignments, so I could only thank Delfim’s colleague for the opportunity… Now, Delfim was riding in my car back to the conference center.

Back to my question: Are Wine Bloggers All Just Writing for Themselves as a Community?

It was Tracy and her academic studying of wine bloggers who first discussed this aspect of wine blogs to me. This gave me pause for thinking. Is she absolutely right?

In the past week, I’ve been quietly watching some of the wine blog world. It’s not my occupation (I’m journaling, as I continue to state in this blog). It’s also not my preoccupation to see what others are writing about, nor is it even a fascination; but, for other wine bloggers, it would appear to be. Tracy’s the scientist on this one, so I’ll let her gather her data, then I’ll read her book! I can’t wait to read her results. Meanwhile, this week I’ll be back to doing what I must… work.

What I learned this past week, by stumbling upon Enobytes, is that this blog had created a list of Google’s Top 100 Wine Blogs.

Now, if I Google “Wine Blog,” I come up as their number 14 to 15. I do better with Yahoo, Ask, and AOL. MSN has me as their first blog – go figure. So, to not show up at all (?), and to read other people’s post – of course I couldn’t help myself from posting. Then, it became totally fascinating to watch. (“This can become really addictive,” I thought to myself, as if blogging isn’t addicting enough.)

Click here for the stream that followed: It’s a fascinating read of bloggers all either wanting to be on the list, having been missed from the list, or somewhat insisting that the name of their blog listing be changed – even though that’s the name that Google has them listed under.

So, in my humble opinion, based on all of this past week’s private research, we’re a pretty self absorbed group of people, talking to each other. I have over 1,000 people reading my blog each day, none of whom post comments – for the most part. Maybe one or two people might comment, once or twice a week. The few that do comment are mostly other bloggers… to Tracy’s point.

I believe Tracy’s onto something; and that is, writers write and readers read… And, what do they think of all of us jounaling people?

Based on our behavior, we rant, we rave, and they (people who aren’t blogging about wine) are simply enjoying how the internet is revealing our fish bowl pen palling of personal opinions, observations, understandings, and experiences… At many varying levels of expertise and understanding; from novice to pro.

14 Responses to “Wine Blogging ~ Are Wine Bloggers All Just Writing for Themselves as a Community?”

  1. kevin keith says:

    You could almost think of bloggers talking amongst themselves as writers like Byron, Shelley and the like did during their time, or Dorothy Parker and her writer’s circle, or even the Beat Generation, with Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs and that lot. Or think of it as an extended jam session amongst jazz musicians, or how musicians turn up on each others’ recordings. It may seem incestuous at times, but it really not unlike a large collective working together to create a harmony of passionate discord. Or maybe we all egomaniacs.

  2. Jo says:

    Kevin,

    Well… the egomaniac thing did come up on Steve’s blog as defined by Tom Wark. Thankfully, I’m aware that having a healthy ego is a good thing, so I’m okay with that one. And, you’ve pointed out another important aspect… Membership: camaraderie, social networking, et al. Now I’m reminded of my like-mind hang arounds like Monet, Manet, Renoir, etc. I always go back to the Impressionists for how they all hung out together for the benefit of the movement away from rigid visuals.

    The difference between then and now is that we’re not hanging out in a cafe in a quiet corner, or keeping to ourselves in our own private club house.

    The Internet has taken private conversations and made them very public… not just for a brief glimpse, but written in cyber space for the world to watch, and for as long as eternity can access it: present and future.

  3. Jo, Kevin, I think you’re both right: the the wine blogosphere is like the Impressionists, or Bloomsbury Circle, or something like that. We do largely write for and speak to one another, I think, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a sign of how young blogging is. What’s so exciting is that nobody knows where it’s headed, but it sure is fun going along for the ride!

  4. Jo says:

    If I had been in New York City during the days of the beatnics, I would have been there.

    It’s really hard to not be part of a new social movement, regardless of chronology… I’m no spring chicken (and darn proud of it, I might say), but love new ideas and ways of doing business.

    It is a very exhilarating movement, I agree.

  5. Tracy Rickman says:

    I love it – Kevin really hit the nail on the head. And yes, writers write and readers read but how do the readers choose which writers to read??

  6. Jo says:

    Tracy,

    That’s something that YOU’RE going to have to figure out, and then will be “the” great read. I have a friend in the wine business – he’s a sales manager who handles Italian imports. He’s been one of my quiet friends for years. I met him in the 90s, when I was at Belvedere, and he was at the Henry Wine Group (You know who you are!).

    He said to me, “I read your blog, Jo, but I don’t read wine blogs.” Perhaps it’s because we know each other, but my own sisters and brother don’t read my blog, unless I tell them I’ve got something I want them to see. Same with other friends and family, so we can’t judge the friend’s behavior by everyone else that surrounds me.

    I tend to make statements that are self contained… not rants, so there’s little draw for others to read what I’ve written… I’m just the oddball out, and I’m fine with that. I’m writing to release the stories from within.

    I also know that someday, I’ll decide to go do something else, and won’t feel like writing like this anymore. I’m mutable… not fixed. (Consider that I’ve had six separate careers – totally disconnected by craft and/or industry.)

    I’m journaling, and what would make anyone want to read someone else’s journal? Perhaps because it’s made public by the Internet, and voyerism is just so darn much fun?

    Obviously, I don’t have the answer, but I know you’ll find it, Tracy.

  7. Bravo Jo! Thanks for bringing up this issue because I’ve been questioning and contemplating the question you’ve raised for a while now.

    First, let me extend an apology for your blog not showing up on my list. You were not disqualified based on my criteria, and in all honesty, I’m not sure what happened. The only defense I have is that your blog did not show up on the day I ran the Google query (mid-October). I have no idea why that would be, but the good news is that when I look at today’s results, you fall into position #11 (after excluding certain blogs based on criteria defined on my post). Google results are forever changing which is a good thing 🙂

    On to other business. I had an opportunity to watch the video with Steve and Tracy. I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion and I appreciated and valued what Tracy brought to the table as an outsider (as a blog reader and consumer researcher, hello!). Her opinion is what counts (for me) and what drives my direction (who are we writing for anyway – other bloggers or our READERS?)

    I think there is a built in and inherent relationship between bloggers and wanting to appease and be accepted by peers, so in a sense, I think many bloggers write [sometimes unconsciously] with their peers in mind. I think this becomes less apparent as confidence builds.

  8. Jo says:

    Hi, Pamela,

    First, now that you’ve given the date to me, I know exactly why my blog didn’t show up on your blog list. I’ve had third party people get into my blog, on IX W

  9. Jo says:

    Sorry, something happened as i was writing, and it just disappeared into “Published… IX Web Hosting. It happened several times, and my site would have to be totally cleaned out by my Webmaster, and reloaded. I finally just told my husband, find a more secure server. I asked Google why they had removed my blog from their list, and they were the ones to tell me that they, too, were picking up the crap being dropped in my index page, and they won’t recommend anyone whose site is compromised. As soon as I got my new server company, I reappeared in the Google listing. (The Web is amazing!)

    I think you’re right about the inherent built-in relationship – that exclusionary aspects, too, I’ve learned. (Fraternity, sorority-ish at times… I’ve got the stories, but won’t tell them to protect the not-so innocent.)

    This brings me to not writing for other bloggers. except perhaps for this particular blog, I don’t give a rat’s patutie. I write to present stories that I love and want to share. If someone wants to read them, Wohoo!

    I also wrote it with Tracy in mind. She’s gathering research, so what other bloggers have to say in this one will give her some feedback; especially in light of someone actually questioning why she should have been leading a panel on credibility. Who better than someone so scholarly (between Steve Heimoff and Tracy… scholars both)?

    That person was way off base, and I tend to be an educator myself (I was the director of a school, after four years of teaching.) If someone didn’t “get” it, then it becomes my job to finish the job, so everyone gets it. I just couldn’t stand by and let someone get away with a misleading comment that others might take for being a statement of fact, versus a statement of misunderstanding.

    An objection is simply a request for more information. (I learned that one as a sales manager.)

    Thanks for your comments! (No apology needed on the blog thing. Now we both understand what went bump in the night, and know how fragile some of the egos involved are, on that blog listing)… including mine.

  10. Joon says:

    I don’t necessarily feel that wine bloggers are writing only for other wine bloggers. Perhaps there’s a bit of self-selection as to who posts comments: novices might not be as comfortable as bloggers in making an assertion about a certain wine or issue. This might explain that you’re getting 1,000 hits a day but only a few comments.

    Similar behavior exists in all other “specialized” fields. For instance, the world of poetry is HIGHLY insular, despite the existence of popular movements, literacy programs, and the efforts of various US Poet Laureates. There’s nothing wrong with this, though. People who are more interested in wine, poetry, or any specific pursuit will inevitably do more research, read more, and participate more frequently on public forums. If anything, I think the proliferation of wine blogs is a good indicator that wine is broadening its appeal among the masses.

    (BTW you set a good example for a nouveau blogger like myself. Keep up the great posting!)

    Joon S.
    http://vinicultured.com

  11. Dale Cruse says:

    I think many wine bloggers fall into the trap of blogging for each other because they don’t know how to write for anyone else. They’re so stuck in their “faint aromas of tar and cedar box” descriptions that the general public tunes out.

    However, my pal Gary Vaynerchuk describes wine in easy to understand language and suddenly he gets 80,000 viewers a day. Meanwhile the rest of the wine blogosphere can’t figure out why ZRD9they don’t get visitors.

  12. Jo says:

    Joon, thanks for the compliment as to the example that I’m setting. Age does wonderful things to one’s soul and sense of being.

    Dale, Gary V’s the next Robert Parker, in my humble opinion… I did a blog dedicated to that concept. You can just search on his name and see that entire posting. I love his youth, his approach is pure and purely his own, and he’s speaking to a younger crowd that’s anxious to hear someone with the same vernacular. (More power to him… He’s great.)

    This also goes back to what Joon just wrote about:

    “…more interested in wine, poetry, or any specific pursuit will inevitably do more research, read more, and participate more frequently on public forums. If anything, I think the proliferation of wine blogs is a good indicator that wine is broadening its appeal among the masses.”

    To which I’d add, the masses are also broadening. “This isn’t your daddy’s wine world anymore.”

    I’m delighted that my young adult children have also discovered the wine world that led me into this business, and now has each of them also gainfully employed. They – along with most of you – are the next generation of writers, winemakers, viticulturists, and you’ve all got a similar passion. It’s a great movement.

  13. Nancy says:

    Hi, Jo! Brilliant blog. I like reading them mainly because all of us subscribe to different stuff, so it’s a great way to keep up on what’s been going on that I might have otherwise missed.

    As far as writing, I question the benefit to the winery I work for – are there any consumers reading it? That’s who we need to reach – as opposed to someone like Tom Wark – for him all this industry networking makes perfect sense. Same thing with Twitter. It appears to me that mostly it’s composed of links to whomever’s new blog post or some RSS kind of deal. Yet, I keep tweeting away because Gary V and others rant that social media is the future of wine sales. But I wonder. Vanity press?

    My best to you, Jo! Nancy

  14. Jo says:

    Vanity Press… There’s a great title. Let me think on that one.

    Best to you, too, Nancy.

    Thanks for your opinion on your blogging for Goose Cross. I’m thinking that your loyal fans enjoy the insider info. — jo

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