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Blogging different from print? Not according to this poll…of bloggers

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The Wine Bloggers Conference is slated to be held Oct. 24-26 in Sonoma, and I’ll be going. It’s my first participation in group blogdom since I launched this site last May and I value the experience.

Ever since I started paying attention to the wine blogosphere, I’ve noticed a current of feeling that blogging is somehow different in essence from traditional print — purer, more honest, less driven by concerns for advertising, profit and similar nasty pecuniary obsessions. This feeling is best expressed, of course, by bloggers themselves, as you’d expect from revolutionaries who operate outside the MSM box.

As one who straddles both worlds, I think that the similarities between blogging and print are more apparent than this view permits. Check out this “Feedback Forum” on the Wine Bloggers Conference website. It polled participants as to which among a list of possible breakout session topics they wanted most to attend.

Their choices reveal, not anything outstandingly radical or different about the wine blogosphere, but how its concerns are precisely those of print journalism. As of this date, here are the readers’ top 2 choices, with my commentary in italics.

- Increasing visitors to your blog. This is the same thing wine magazines want. Just substitute the word “subscribers” for “visitors” and “magazine” for “blog.”

- Making money from your blog. Duh.

I point these things out not to disparage blogging, although I do wonder if the Conference will address the topic of the ethics and practices of blogging, which I have recently called into question. I happen to believe blogging represents a wave of the future (although it’s unclear where that wave is taking us). But I don’t think blogging’s essence is fundamentally different from print journalism’s. It’s just a new medium, and if blogging is indeed something new, bloggers need to develop a set of ethics not only as stringent, but more so, than those under which print journalism operates.

  1. hi Steve – The fundamental difference between blogging and traditional print is what I am doing right now – posting a comment to your original post. This creates a conversation and a chance to create something that can potentially enlighten us both and everyone else who reads these words. That is the real power of the blogging medium.

    I look forward to continuing this discussion in October! (or here ;)

  2. Well please follow along this weekend as the first European Wine Bloggers Conference happens. We have participants from Australia, Canada, USA, Italy, Portugal, UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain and France. Oh and you can follow along live here: http://ewbc2008.wineblogger.info/ewbc-live-blog-straight-from-logrono-to-you/ We’ll be doing our best to keep you all updated from Friday onwards! Topics we’ll be discussing, include:
    Monetization and Integrity
    Wine Blog Writing vs Wine Print Writing
    Points, do they matter now?

    Hope to see you in the live blog and let us know what you think!
    Cheers,

  3. Hello Steve:

    The issue of ethics and wine blogging has been previously raised on the Open Wine Consortium, with some efforts to create a “Wine Blogger Canon of Ethics.”

    See: (http://www.openwineconsortium.org/page/page/show?id=2000748%3APage%3A35914)

    The efforts there are a beginning and it is supposed to be further discussed at the Wine Blogegrs Conference.

    Richard

  4. Steve, thanks for addressing this, as blogging ethics is exactly one of the issues that we will be addressing at the EWBC this weekend. As blogging gains more momentum, power and attention, there needs to be some standard that certain wine blogs abide by.

    What do I mean by certain? Not every blog needs to be bound by ethics. There is no reason why a personal blog that chats about his/her subjective opinion on a wine needs a code of ethics. However, an educational or ratings blog may need a code of ethics. Equally so, maybe there should be a set of ethics that are distinct for retail blogs as opposed to winery blogs.

    I think we need to be careful about making a blanket statement about all wine blogs regarding credibility and ethics, when there are clearly differences in what they each are trying to achieve.

  5. It’s an interesting topic. Curse you and your interesting topics keeping me from my blog writing! :-)

    At a high level the concerns of bloggers will very much mirror those of print media.

    The mechanics of it under the hood can be very, very different though – different enough that new paradigms might be needed for the ‘how’. Check out this thread discussion that I’m running at OpenWineConsortium.org for an example, in the reply left by OWC founder Joel Vincent:

    http://www.openwineconsortium.org/group/winebloggers/forum/topic/show?id=2000748%3ATopic%3A49865&page=4&commentId=2000748%3AComment%3A51008&x=1#2000748Comment51008

    Cheers!

  6. I think one thing to consider is that bloggers want more readers for reasons beyond money (I think).

    Magazines want more subscribers because that means more (paid) subscriptions, which can also lead to greater circulation and more (paid) advertisements.

    I guess you could also say that magazines and blogs have other things in common: writers, words, letters :)

    I think the differences are much more important than the similarities.

    Looking forward to meeting you out in Santa Rosa in October.

  7. If you add up the current total of votes, it’s 190. Each person voting was given 5 votes. So that’s 38 people who voted. I don’t know if that’s a statistically valid sample, as I’m not a math person.

    I also think it’s worthy of noting that not a single vote has been cast for developing a writing career from one’s blog.

    For what it’s worth I voted for Increasing the Impact of Wine Blogging and Changing the Wine Industry Through Blogging.

    I don’t care to monetize my site and would actually be disappointed if that is a session and nothing else is being offered at that time. Or, then again, I’d go use the time to scope out another Sonoma area tasting room…

  8. Morton Leslie says:

    Yes, we need New Rules! I propose that a person can have only one blog. Steve is hogging cyberspace doing two and as a professional commenter I find it difficult to keep my comments straight.

  9. I think the reasons that magazine writers write are probably pretty darn the same as the reasons blog writers write. Writers love to write. How cool is it that we have blogging so that we can experience more writing from more good writers do what they love to do?

  10. El Jefe, writing is better than sex. Well, most of the time.

  11. Steve, you are kidding yourself if you think you straddle both worlds. Your choice to blog under your own name was a decision to “blog” as “Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast.” You can not opt for the instant recognition and cachet of that personna (well deserved, by the way) and pretend to be anything else at the same time. Your posts on blogging reinforce this very simple fact, for you write not as a blogger, but as a mainstream wine writer critiquing wine blogs. That is perfectly legitimate, mind you, but it is simply not blogging.

    Let me give you a different example. Keith Olbermann often posts comments at Daily Kos, the biggest political blog on the net. When he does, reaction is far different that when a “regular blogger” posts. Why? Because he posts as Keith Olbermann, news and commentary personality. If he posted as John Doe reaction would be different.

    By choosing your own name as your on-line personna you automatically remove yourself from bloggers. You put yourself above them as a recognized authority, next to them by writing a blog, but never, not ever, as a blogger.

  12. dhonig, peace out.

  13. hi Steve – very true! However, the old saw “Even when sex is bad, it’s still pretty good” of course does not extend to writing…. cheers!

  14. Steve, if it’s any indication of the last two weeks, the world of wine bloggers will be happy when you take some time off from writing and take more time for sex.

    (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The opportunity was just too good to pass up.)

  15. Blogger ethics? Blogging standards?

    The time bloggers have spent discussing these topics confuses me. Why? Either you have ethics or not. If you rate wine- simply state your methodology (blind, not blind, wine submission accepted).

    BS, shilling, and and unethical behavior are pretty easy to spot. I trust readers would see these and move on.

    Maybe I’m missing the point here (which I wouldn’t doubt)…

  16. Dirty: I taste blind. I would never, ever agree to write something in exchange for being sent a sample. In fact I go out of my way to tell wineries that if they send me a sample they can assume nothing. I think the bloggers in question were so thrilled to be singled out, they allowed certain ethical standards to lapse. Understandable, maybe, but regrettable nonetheless.

  17. Conditions like this were exactly why I declined an offer to attend WE’s Toast of the Town in ATL this spring. (Not meaning to razz you. It was a PR Company communicating and setting the rules- Not WE).

    I was offered 2 tix– only if I agreed to write PRE and post event blog posts on it. Again, no talk of them needing to be favorable or positive- but still setting a requirement. The pre post request was hysterical, and though I have no ads, I was tempted to send them a rate card.

    I have some local food blogger friends that took them up on it. What a bunch of cheap hussies! ; )

  18. Dirty, I probably would have declined too. I didn’t know about that precondition.

  19. As an “old media” guy (or maybe it should be old “media guy”?) anyway – as someone whose written for newspapers, magazines, published wine books, done wine-related broadcast media, and (for the past 8 years) covered wine online, I’ve straddled about everything there is to straddle. The ethics question applies to any published critic in any field. When getting published itself presented very high barriers to entry, the ethics of the reviewer were pretty well vetted long before he/she made it into print. With blogging, there is absolutely no barrier to entry. It’s wide open. That means that each individaul must not only establish and observe, but publish their own ethical guidelines, as I have done on my website. Furthermore, with so many voices crying to be heard, finding an audience, earning their trust and respect, and holding their attention is far more difficult than ever before. That’s the real challenge to the pure bloggers. Those of us old enough to have “old media” credentials, like it or not, have a distinct advantage.

  20. Paul, I agree that each blogger needs to establish and observe his or her ethical guidelines. I think this current brouhaha suggests that the wine blogosphere is growing up — a needed stage in its evolution. It is engaging in a fierce internal debate, out of which I hope emerges a wiser, more professional blogosphere.

  21. Ethics are ethics, often self-defined and in self-defense.
    I’d like the wine blog world to address three things (before someone gets hurt):
    1. Simple credibility. Such as spelling the name and appellation correctly; checking conflicts at the source. This is problematic due to speed and no copy editor down the line. But that’s an excuse. It also creates a content credibility gap (for me, at least).
    2. Copyright I. Call it blogger self-policing. Steve, I see your notes and articles (and those of others) lifted and posed as a blogger’s or on a website. Contacting may result in removal; never payment. I see winery notes rewritten and posted as a tasting note (winery happy-does that person then get more wine? Or is it part of the winery’s marketing scheme?). But credible? Whether true or not, I immediately think “this wine wasn’t tasted.”
    3. Copyright II. Bloggers are publishers. Posting someone else’s material breaks the (sometimes grey) law. “Fair use” skirts this but there is no “5-second-rule” that says if you only print a little of it, it’s OK without authorization. Publishers are responsible for their publications. Copyright conflicts involve lawyers; lawyers cost money. Results are rarely positive. And don’t ever believe a major corporation would not go after you because you are small or naive.
    In the interest of healthy wine blogging, let’s talk about these things.

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