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Blogging is growing up

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If I’m reading the tea leaves right, and I think I am, the wine blogosphere has entered a new phase. It’s realizing how self-referential it’s been, is growing uneasy about such navel-gazing, and is frankly understanding it can’t indulge in masturbatory behavior forever.

The wine blogosphere, in other words, is wondering, Now what?

Much of the content of wine blogs has been about blogging itself: its meaning, future, ethics, how it fits into social media as a whole, how to monetize it, how old people don’t understand blogging, how print journalists are jealous of blogging’s power, how revolutionary and democratic blogging is making everything, how thrilling it is to go to a conference and be treated with respect by winemakers, how the MSM is looking over its shoulder, etc. etc. etc. There were elements of truth in all of this and, for a while, these issues deserved to be aired and debated.

But what about wine? That was then; this is now. The switch, as I perceive it, is that bloggers themselves are starting to realize they can’t just blog about blogging anymore. The topic — dare I say it — is getting tired.

(And before anyone points out the irony, let me admit that, yes, today’s blog is about blogging!)

Blogging about blogging is like print wine writers writing about wine writing instead of wine. Imagine if Hugh Johnson had written, not “The Story of Wine,” but “The Story of Wine Writing.” Not as many people would have bought it.

This is a natural and welcome phase for bloggers. They no longer have to prove their worth as a new medium. Instead, they need to sustain their readership, capture new readers, break new ground and show that they have something to say.

One thing that should help lift wine blogging to higher ground is the indisputable fact that more wineries are reaching out to bloggers, including sending them samples. This will give the bloggers more interesting things to write about, including more frequent and in-depth wine reviews. There’s nothing like real tasting and reporting, which is hard work, to take your mind off yourself and give you a wider perspective.

Speaking of work, one aspect of this that hasn’t been written about much is that, when it’s done diligently, blogging is work. I think bloggers know you can’t just throw something up there once or twice a week in a slapdash manner. If a blog deserves to be read, it seems to me it should be well-researched, substantive and informative.

Another interesting and welcome aspect of this new phase is that you can actually suggest social media may not be the be-all and end-all without the bloggers jumping on you like a nest of angry hornets. Jamie Goode (a major blogger himself) recently did, in his post, called “Social media – let’s not over-sell it.” If I’d said that a year ago, I would have had death threats and my name would have been mud all over Twitter. (Well, it probably will be, anyway.)

One of the best wine bloggers, Joe Roberts of 1WineDude, a few days ago quoted himself from an interview he gave Tom Wark at Fermentation:

Tom: Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?

Joe: I think as a whole bloggers need to move on from this topic, actually. If this topic was a play, it would be written by Pinter and would involve the lead characters doing a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, Old Testament style.  And furrowed brows – a lot of furrowed brows…

I infer that Joe himself thinks it’s time to move beyond blogging about blogging and get on with it. In fairness, most of the blogs I read seem to be on surer footing than they were a year or so ago. Of course, navel-gazing will probably remain part of wine blogging culture for some time to come, because blogging is such a fascinating development. Even the mainstream print media likes, on occasion, to put itself on the couch and analyze itself.

People talk about Blogging 2.0 in all manner of ways. I think the real meaning of Blogging 2.0 is that bloggers are rolling up their sleeves and getting down to the hard work of coming up with good content.

  1. I think we must read a very different set of wine blogs. I monitor over 500 that are regularly active and many more that only post once every time the yellow moon is full on the third even numbered Thursday of a month ending in “e” and while there are a few that seem to blog endlessly about blogging, most of the rest have simply been writing about wine, winemakers, vineyards, wine books, etc., for the 3 years I’ve been monitoring the wine blog world. With perhaps a post about blogging here or there. If you are writing solely or even mostly about what wine blogging is, means, or anything else focused on such things, who is your audience outside of other bloggers and perhaps some wineries who are trying to figure that out themselves?

  2. Thanks, Steve. I appreciate the kind words.

    I’ve taken heat about writing about blogging instead of about wine. And I am sure much of the heat is legit. But, I’ve noticed that a fair amount of the 1WD audience are ‘consumer bloggers’ – wine consumers who are blogging about their own personal wine journeys – and those folks *want* me to write about wine blogging. So in that way, some of the blogosphere is a bit unique when compared to MSM, as a direct result of the very low barriers to entry, etc.

    I’ll tell you what – you nailed it when you said blogging is hard work. Whenever I post an article that readers don’t think is up to snuff, I hear about it. I love that aspect of blogging (though at times it’s hard on the bruised ego! :-).

    Cheers!

  3. Wine blogs pull in eyeballs when they explore the innumerable issues that emerge in the wondrous and wacky world of wine. Tom Wark’s effort is considered numero uno by hits, I think. He never writes about wine as such; that is, he never reviews wine. Alder Yarrow does it all, with great finesse, and has a signficant following. Inevitably, such issue oriented sites, like this one, will touch on blogging: its import, status, warts, etc. But the more interesting stories, like the topic of medals that Alder and Joe wrote about, cover the culture of wine in the anthropological sense, as well as the politics and financial situation of vino. No print publication can do this with so much interactivity.

  4. I have to agree with Sonadora. I think if you were to take a random sample of blog posts from 100 wine blogs, you might have 10% of the content in the vein that you’re referencing. Might be even less than that. But, regardless, it’s a small percentage overall.

    And, when it does happen, I think it’s mostly as a reaction to the MSM guardians … and usually presented as a counter-balance against broad strokes. This post being a good example of broad strokes.

    Just my $0.02 cents and worth less than that.

    Respectfully,

    Jeff

  5. Amen to this post, and I hope you’re right in your assertion that blogging is growing up. I, too, have written this week about this subject on my blog, despite the fact that I told myself when I began the blog that I would not engage in this debate. Alas, my ire got the best of me. (You’re welcome to check it out, of course. I always appreciate feedback.)
    There are certainly some very good bloggers out there, (I wholeheartedly agree with three you mentioned by name, btw.) who are thoughtful, knowledgeable about wine, and able to make connections to the bigger picture, and I hope their numbers will grow.
    As for the future of wine blogs 2.0, in addition to “growing up” and focusing on creating good content, I believe it should be each blogger’s goal to improve the quality of his or her writing as well. After all, even with all the bells and whistles available, the basis of any blog is the words written upon it. Sometimes that’s easy to forget in the rush to get a post up and then promote it on Twitter and make a follow up video or podcast, but it’s true.

  6. Good post Steve.

    Also agree with Sonadora.

    But I also enjoy analyzing wine blogging and media trends. These are interesting times.

    So although I enjoy reading about wine itself, I also like to read about the industry. And btw I’m flat out convinced that wine alone is not exciting, compelling enough in its own right (except in very capable hands) to make great daily reading – hence the need to introspect / extrospect?

    Two more points: 1. Blogging = Work. Absolutely. 2. Wine industry + Theater industry share a lot in common when it comes to social media.

  7. Clinton: Interesting observation that “wine alone is not exciting, compelling enough in its own right (except in very capable hands) to make great daily reading.” Wow. I might even blog on that!!

  8. Blogging is writing. When will that be accepted?

    Of course, blogging is work. Writing is work. Welcome to the real world.

    Bloggers have every right to be treated as writers, accepted as members of the writing fraternity, welcomed the way we were when we started.

    Not all of the bloggers are going to make a living at this profession. Many don’t want to, but the that do will soon discover that wine writing is not a lucrative profession unless your name is Shanken or Parker. The successful writers, and there are dozens, make a good living but do not are not getting rich–except maybe Steve Heimoff who get sent money by all of us because we appreciate his blog so much we pay for it voluntarily.

  9. What I have found is that there are writers whom I like to read, just like certain columnists in newspapers. For example, if Jeremy Parzen wrote for the LA Times I would read his columns. But he blogs and there is where I go to hear his voice. If Eric Asimov blogs or writes an article, I am going to read it, because I like the way he looks at his world and relates it to the reader. And so on. Same for you Steve. For my tastes, it’s less about the delivery vehicle or even the technology, it’s about the voice.

    Nice post, thanks!

  10. Wine Blogging 2.0 has been talked about for quite a while. The goal should be to improve the quality of the content, while creating enough mass to draw readers, rather than making them play hopscotch across the internet looking for the good stuff. One way to do it is to invite the best writers in the wine blogosphere, accept their best stories one at a time, and ask them to team up with an editor to produce the very best quality possible.

    One of the biggest differences between print media and the blogosphere is the lack of editors in the latter. Even the best wine writers are better when they work with editors.

    We are trying just such an experiment at PALATE PRESS: The online wine magazine. [Yes, it's a shameless plug, but we really do consider the project an experiment in Wine Blogging 2.0, just the subject Steve is talking about here.]

  11. I’m excited for the transition because, I, like many of us, just want some perspective. We live enough in our own minds and know how we view the world alone. It’s others we’re interested in. Why is it that you see something completely different when we look at the same thing? Why is it that you see it the same way, but describe it so much better than our words could provide? Let the strong perspectives commence.

  12. I’m with Alfonso. It’s not only the content, but the voice–about 99% of which is what writing is all about. Even the boring subject of blogging about blogging can be made interesting by a skilled writer with a compelling voice.

    One thing that doesn’t seem to get much mention is the level of duplication connected to the wine blogging world.

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