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Happy birthday to you, Vinography!

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I want to congratulate Alder Yarrow and his Vinography blog on the occasion of its ninth birthday. That’s quite an achievement—to keep a blog going for that long. (By contrast, my blog is only 4-1/2 years old.)

When Alder started blogging, the concept of “the wine blog” must have been practically non-existent. I certainly never heard of blogs until around 2005-2006, when I was asked by Wine Enthusiast to write an article about them. I looked into the matter and found a bunch of silly, amateurish drivel—with an oasis here and there, among which Vinography was one. (Another was Tom Wark’s Fermentation and Jo Diaz’s Juicy Tales.

These early blogs changed the face of wine writing, of the way readers communicate with writers, and and of how wineries reach out to critics. In the old days, everything was top down: wealthy publishers owned print publications, hired writers to (more or less) hew to their philosophies, and the only way readers had of becoming part of the process was to write a letter to the editor that might or might not get published in 4 months. Not exactly the stuff of dialogue.

Now, through platforms like WordPress, bloggers can self-publish, without interference or influence from anyone except their own conscience. Readers have the opportunity for instant feedback (in my own case, once I’ve approved your first comment, all subsequent comments are published as soon as you send them in. No censorship on my part). This fundamentally changes the way wine writers operate.

For instance, it puts our activities under a magnifying glass—or maybe an electron microscope is the better analogy. I’ve been forced by my readers to explain every aspect of everything I do related to my job—to my pleasure, I might add. In this respect, blogging has demystified wine to a greater extent than ever before. By its very nature, blogging echoes wine’s essence: sharing, communication, involvement, collectivity.

The one thing neither Alder Yarrow, nor any other blogger, has yet figured out how to do is to make their blog profitable. This isn’t their fault: it’s an inherent limitation of the entire social media sphere, which simply doesn’t seem to lend itself to pecuniary purposes. This could change someday, but it’s hard to imagine. If smart people–and Alder, who lives in San Francisco and whom I know, is smart—can’t figure out how to take all their visibility and renown and translate it into dollars, then it may not be possible.

Which leads to the question, why continue to blog? Alder himself answered it: “Frankly there are probably better things to do with my time, but I enjoy it so much, and a large part of that enjoyment is knowing that other folks find it useful, entertaining, or simply just a reasonable way to pass the time.”

This may be hard for some people to believe, because they, themselves, have little inclination in their own lives to do anything for altruistic purposes. For some people, it’s all about the scramble for money, power, prestige. They miss out on the simple pleasure of doing something nice for others, without demanding to be compensated. Very sad.

I think that’s the best thing about the wine blogosphere as it is today. It’s really a very pure space. Not everybody’s blog is worth reading, and not every post on each blog that is worth reading is particularly insightful. But wine blogs have become the global village McLuhan envisioned decades ago, a place where everyone is more or less equal, where decisions are taken collectively, and where understanding is shared by the group in truly democratic fashion.

So thank you, Alder, for starting Vinography, and for helping usher in a great era!

  1. Well thanks, Steve! I appreciate your kind words.

  2. You are kind, Steve.

  3. Well said/written, Steve, as always. You are kind, as both Alder and Tom have expressed.

    And, congrats, Alder! You’re an inspiration to us all!

    Giving it all away – as in the blogosphere – does have its benefits, I’ve found, for long term profitability. New clients have found me through my blog. So, although they don’t pay me to put stories about them onto my blog (and, I don’t charge them for that time as billable hours, if and when I do write about them there), it has made Diaz Communications more liquid. That’s a hidden benefit that I didn’t see coming, being in the wine business and writing about the experiences that are evolving. It wasn’t a motivation, and still doesn’t motivate me, but has enriched my life.

    I see Alder and Tom in the same light. Alder’s writing professionally now, and Tom’s writing stories based on what he’s learning with his Specialty Wine Retailers Association group, much as I am with my PS I Love You group. We write about what we’re learning as we’re learning it. Blogging is a great way, regardless of not being paid, to get the word out.

  4. And here I thought the only important birth on this date was Dr. King’s. But maybe its part of his legacy that 50 years later bloggers and print journalists might also sit down together and feast at the table of brotherhood.

  5. Once again, Morton is the only one in the room that makes sense to me

  6. Alexander says:

    Have you ever considered the models of some of the major tech blogs (eg Techcrunch)? There’s lots of ways to make money from events, conferences, research, ads, and other models. Be glad to discuss further at some point. Obviously recognizing that size of audience ends up being a huge determinant of what you can do.

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