On to the Wine Bloggers Conference!
I’m flying up to the American Bloggers Conference tomorrow early. It’s in Walla Walla, a part of Washington I’ve never visited, so I’m looking forward to this trip.
I’m a little nervous. I’ve spoken to big groups before, but this will be my biggest — 300 strong, I’m told. This is for the Friday keynote address. When I asked the organizers what they wanted me to talk about, they said, “Focus on this rift between some wine bloggers and some print writers.” I guess they want controversy. I also guess they chose me because I’m a print writer and a wine blogger, so that one-foot-in-both-worlds gives me good straddle.
We talk and talk and talk about the future of print, the future of social media, the future of wine writing, until we’re all hoarse. I can’t count how many panels I’ve been on or moderated that were devoted to these topics. And here I go again, not just in the keynote speech but in a panel on the future of wine writing they want me to be on. I think the plain and simple truth is that nobody knows the answers to any of these questions, because there are just too many unknowns.
I’ll talk about a lot of this in my speech, which I assume WBC will put online, and when they do, I’ll link to it here. So I don’t want to steal my own thunder by blogging about it today. I’ll just draw a couple broad brush strokes.
I think there will always be influencers when it comes to wine. I don’t know if there will just be a handful of them, the way it is today, or if there will be lots and lots of Parkers, maybe even in China or India. I doubt that anyone will ever out-Parker Parker, although maybe Gary V. will prove me wrong.
I also don’t know if there will still be important print magazines around, although I obviously hope Wine Enthusiast will be. A lot of bloggers say print is dead, but I don’t see how they can know that. It sounds like wishful, not realistic, thinking. When you look into the future, all you can see is what you can’t see (which sounds like a Yogi-ism). And I don’t know if there will be important blogs that influence vast numbers of consumers. There aren’t any today, discounting Gary, if you call him blog, which I don’t.
I don’t know if wineries will still be obsessed with having “social media directors,” but I’m willing to make a prediction: No. I think social media, or whatever it evolves into, will become a part of marketing, not a division in itself. I think social media experts will report to marketing directors.
I’m also a little nervous about going up to Walla Walla because, as many of you know, the bloggers and I haven’t always had the most cordial relations. I think most of the unpleasantness is in the past; at least, I hope so. I won’t know very many people at the conference, aside from some bloggers and a few P.R. folks who are supposed to be there. And I’m sure I’ll embarrass myself once again by forgetting the names of people I should know. That’s a lifetime bad habit I just can’t shake. So if I forget your name, forgive me in advance.
There’s a lot of talk already on the blogosphere and other online places about how the kids are going to be staying up all night, partying and drinking until dawn. Not me, unless something very unusual happens. I won’t define what “something very unusual” means, except to say it lies in the realm of fantasy, and in 22 years of wine writing and traveling, it hasn’t happened yet. It almost did, once, and that was also in Washington State, in Seattle; but it didn’t, and I still wish it had.
I’m sure there will be surprises. One of my fellow co-panelists, Ken Payton, from Reign of Terroir, already is talking about “a surprise announcement.” Whatever it is, you can bet that all those bloggers will be live-blogging and tweeting and everything else, every chance they get.
By the way, the Hosemaster of Wine recently blogged about me concerning my WBC panel. In it, he called me “the Justin Bieber of the wine blog world.” I’m sure that’s a reference to my boyishly handsome good looks and sparkling personality, not to mention the legion of teenaged girls who constantly follow me around. It’s a hassle, and so are the paparazzi, but hey, it’s the price of fame. And I love the money.