The future of wine writing? Here’s a scary scenario
“[T]here is no doubt that around the world, the financial sustainability of being a travel writer in particular, is in severe doubt.
Publishers say that they are awash with copy and articles and that they do not want any more pitches and on the other side of the fence, writers say it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive commissions or for work to be published and paid for.
At the same time, the per word rates have plummeted…”
So says the website, e travel blackboard, in announcing that the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (which I’ve never heard of, but it seems legit) is sponsoring a $1,000 scholarship for any “writer who aspires to enter the field of food, wine and/or travel writing.” In addition to the money, the winner gets to go on the IFWTW’s 7-day Conference at Sea cruise through the Caribbean next January. Sounds good; I’d enter, but one entry requirement is that you cannot have made any money already through writing, so that eliminates me. But, hey, you aspirational bloggers? Go for it.
Anyway, that part about travel writers hitting bottom frightens me. Wine writing and food writing have always been closely allied with travel writing (which is why there’s an International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association), so if travel writers are in trouble, what does that bode for wine writers? We (bloggers) have assumed, almost automatically, that wine writing will continue to be a viable career into the future. Many bloggers and others have simultaneously assumed that this writing would be on the Internet, rather than on paper (although I’ve expressed my doubts about that), but either way, the working assumption has been that there will always be wine writers and that some of them will do quite well.
But what if the travel writers are those canaries in the coal mine, the first ones to sicken and die when the air becomes toxic and is no longer capable of sustaining life?
The writer of the e travel blackboard article also had this to say:
I have just returned from the USA, where the situation is much worse than in Australia, with masses of untrained and unprofessional writers…claiming to be travel writers, bugging airlines and hotels for freebies to go on trips to apparently write, providing very average results, if any at all, while seriously damaging the reputation and credibility of the profession of travel writing and making it impossible for professionals to operate. Of course, less scrupulous publishers like these “writers”, because they end up with articles for nothing. The writer [is] happy that they have had a “free holiday”.
If you substitute the word “wine” for “travel” in that statement, it might just summarize a certain segment of the wine blogosphere. (Please, please all of you who are scrupulous and honest and do it for the love, DON’T accuse me of tarring all wine bloggers with the same brush! But you know that there exist some “untrained and unprofessional writers…claiming to be wine writers” out there…don’t you?)
I guess this gets back to the Twitter/Facebook social media model of “everybody’s their own critic” and “friends listen to their friends, not to some distant critical God.” That’s fine. Democracy in action and all that. But if there are fewer and fewer paying magazines and websites, and more and more wine writers doing bad writing, then simple logic dictates that the economic future of wine writing is pretty dismal, in the long term.
People used to make a living as milkmen, gas streetlamp lighters, town criers and all sorts of other jobs that no longer exist. Could “wine writer” be as anachronistic as those someday?