Social media: the latest, the bloggers thing, and expertise
There were some interesting articles in yesterday’s Wine Industry Insight News Fetch (Lewis Perdue’s online pub) having to do with social media. For starters was this literate and entertaining piece from Jeff Lefevere, at Good Grape, purporting to frame new developments in the digital sphere in their basics. I can’t say I completely agree with all his conclusions, because he studies this stuff a lot more than I do, so when he talks about (for example) Tumblr, I really don’t know, since I haven’t explored it in any depth. His comment that QR codes are “faddish” is the first I’ve read to criticize them that way: but I like it when somebody says that something that everybody’s doing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That curmudgeonly quality appeals to me. Ditto his knock of hashtags (“Snooze. Wake me when it’s over.”) My readers know that I’ve long felt that Twitter is overrated as a marketing or sales tool for wineries. If that’s what Jeff is saying, then he’s right on, IMHO.
Also in News Fetch was this opinion piece on “the whole journalists vs. bloggers debate,” zeroing in on the line between objective and subjective writing. The author, Aaron Holesgrove, is concerned that the advent of blogging has blurred the distinction, and he worries furthermore that this is a serious degradation in information dissemination. His solution? To treat true, objective journalism “as a utility,” i.e., the same way we regulate water, gas and electricity. They’re so important to the normal functioning of society that, in return for our allowing them to be monopolies, they agree to let society to oversee them. Aaron’s suggestion: “So, why not make journalists certified by a not-for-profit journalism body?”
This notion has been tossed around before. I think Tom Wark has weighed in. While I sympathize with Aaron’s concerns, I do think it’s unrealistic to expect such a “journalism body” to ever exist. It might make a little more sense in the world of high tech that Aaron inhabits than in our world of wine, where so much is subjective. But when it comes to ethics, and questions of crossing the line, catering to advertisers, etc., we’re never going to have complete agreement in wine writing, nor should we. These are lively topics for debate, and besides, wine writing and blogging are largely self-regulating. Whenever somebody crosses the line, it’s soon known, and that person usually comes under scathing attack. (Remember the Parker travel expense brouhaha?) So, no, we don’t need regulation in wine writing.
Finally, News Fetch included this article whose headline alone warmed the cockles of my heart. (What exactly is a “cockle,” and does the heart actually have any? Inquiring minds want to know.) That headline was “Two Studies Affirm Power of Reviews.”
Now, it’s true that the analysis mainly concerns online peer reviews (customer reviews a la Yelp, Facebook, etc.). But the study does not explicitly exclude expert reviews, so I think it’s fair to conclude that “reviews are now a critical and highly influential part of the online shopping process” whether they’re from “regular” folks or experts. The most telling part of the article, written by Greg Sterling, is “traditional advertising and brand messaging is going to be almost completely ineffective if the products or services in question are not intrinsically worthy.” This is because Greg assumes (and I agree) that the critical consensus around any consumer product, whether it’s wine, baby diapers or cell phones, is going to be determined by the product’s intrinsic quality. And when it comes to intrinsic quality, who better to pronounce on it than someone with expertise in that area?