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A note to new readers, and old ones too



With readership of my blog exploding, I thought this would be a good time to let newcomers know a little more about me and my background.

First, some numbers. (All of the following statistics are reported by my web host, Newtek Web Hosting, a company I’m very happy with. I know that their numbers vary, sometimes significantly, from numbers reported by other third party sources that purport to count metrics (such as Google). I’ve never been able to account for these discrepancies. Maybe some smart tech-oriented person out there can explain it to me!)

– Over the past year, daily visits to my blog have risen from around 4,000-5,000 to 7,000-12,000 and occasionally as high as 14,000.

– In the same time period, monthly unique visitors have gone from around 55,000 to 135,000, and continue to rise.

– My readers also are increasingly international. While 61% of page views are from the U.S., the remainder are mainly from, in descending order, China, Brazil, the Ukraine, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany and Canada.


Following my recent nomination for Best Overall Wine Blog, I’ve been getting comments and private emails from lots of new visitors. It’s to them–to you–I’d like to introduce myself.

I began blogging in May, 2008, because I wanted to join this important new chorus of voices in a free, independent and dynamic format of communication. I had no idea how to blog, what to say or even if anyone would bother reading my blog. But I figured that if I could write strongly and honestly, people would like it. (“If you build it, they will come.”) I think I found my “voice” (as writers say) early on, and once I did, I became comfortable with it. I like to think that readers appreciate the opportunity to get inside my head in a way that may not be possible with other well-known wine writers who take a more ivory-tower approach and who may feel that being transparent and real somehow jeopardizes their reputations.

I don’t do wine reviewing here, because that’s what I do at Wine Enthusiast Magazine. There is no direct connection between my writing here and at the magazine. They don’t compete; each venue lets me express myself in a different way.

Longtime readers know that I fell in love with wine when I moved to the San Francisco Bay area to go to grad school in the late 1970s. I quickly became involved in the wine scene, which was largely an underground one: Even in San Francisco, wine was not as popular as it is now, and one had to seek out like-minded wine lovers. Very early on, I began hosting tasting seminars for friends and co-workers, and what I lacked in formal knowledge I more than made up for in passion. I learned a great deal from reading. Hugh Johnson, Michael Broadbent and Harry Waugh–all Brits–were my favorite writers. Their style (however you want to describe it) influenced my own, which I think of as formal yet relaxed, intimate yet thoughtful, friendly and non-intimidating–and certainly, well-written. I can sometimes bring in an element of good old American snark, a tendency I have to watch.

My “beat” at Wine Enthusiast is the California wine scene, mainly the coastal areas from Napa-Sonoma in the north down through the Central Coast to Santa Barbara. I have been stunned to watch the progress these regions have made, in the quality of their wines. It’s been tremendous to witness this over the last 20-plus years, and it remains a privilege today to visit these places and see so many hard-working, dedicated people determined to make their wines ever greater, even as a new generation supplants an older one.

I fell into blogging quite by accident, but in retrospect it’s one of the most wonderful things I could have done. The blogosphere and social media in general have exploded in recent years, and being part of this burgeoning revolutionary movement stimulates my intellectual and creative juices. I feel lucky to have one foot in this brave new world and another in the more traditional world of print journalism. I’ve never been one to believe it’s an either/or situation. I think print and digital can happily co-exist, and will co-exist alongside each other for many years. (It’s kind of like the way radio and T.V. co-exist. T.V. didn’t kill radio, like many predicted, any more than it killed the movies.) I don’t think paper is going away. A younger generation is discovering the joys of turning actual pages in the magazines they read, and there’s mounting evidence that the 24/7 addiction to all-things online is fading.

A big thanks to my readers, old and new. Every time someone tells me they start their day with coffee and, it feels like a blessing.

  1. Steve, congrats on the great numbers. Your effort to publish on a daily basis is amazing. Good luck with the WBAs. I know we often disagree on opinions, but I am also one who usually starts my day with coffee and your blog and look forward to seeing what you have to say.

    As a side note, though radio may not be dead, it is dramatically different than it was pre-TV. It is still changing with the advent of streaming radio online. Yes, TV, radio and the silver screen continue to coexist, but each evolves as technology changes. Same can be said about traditional and new wine media…

  2. doug wilder says:

    Eerie. I just made an espresso! Great traffic for one of the few blogs I read. I voted for you!

  3. Steve,

    It appears you are using QuantCast to also measure your traffic. I have found this to sync with Google Analytics pretty well.

    I suspect the wild discrepancy between the numbers your hosting company is providing and those you see in GA and QuantCast involve the bots and spiders that invariably crawl your site. I’ve used Google Analytics alongside SiteCatalyist, which is hyperaccurate, and they tend to show extremely similar results.

    Google Analytics is the gold standard and should be the most accurate numbers available to you, while QuantCast will provide valuable insights about your audience.

  4. you’ll be happy to know i racked about a dozen barrels before heating up the coffee and tuning into and it probably goes without saying that i think you’re writing is excellent. you rawk

  5. george kaplan says:

    Funnier than Hosemaster, more provocative than Feiring,more soulful than Sam, and a better writer than Johnson.( Hugh that is)
    Not yet of course, but trending,

  6. Steve, congrats! I love your posts, both the quality and volume, like others have said, I enjoy the consistency of knowing there will always be something new when I check in. That said, I think your real ability shows through in the quality of commenters you attract, their insight, and your stewardship of them and their comments – you keep it clean, don’t stoop to responding to trollers, and must delete, or not allow, many, many, posts. To me, that’s what makes stopping in to read so pleasurable: none of the typical internet venom and anger. Those types of places are few and far between in the internet wine world. I really appreciate your work, professionalism, and commitment to keeping it clean.

    Oh, and Doug, though I am not a subscriber, I really enjoy your writing (what is posted and free) and your reviews. Really solid stuff, all the best to you as well.

  7. Steve,

    Please permit me to add Oz Clarke to that list of great British wine writers. He plus those you mentioned should be on everyones’ MUST read list.

  8. Tom Barras, yes Oz CLarke is a great writer, but when I was coming up in the 80s he wasn’t around.

  9. Dear James, actually I don’t delete many posts. Maybe 5 in the history of this blog. I do get a ton of spam, though, which thankfully my readers don’t have to wade through. Thanks.

  10. Michael Kennedy says:

    Steve, Thank you for giving some background to style and your mentors. I too read Broadbent and attended many wine tasting in Washington, DC with Harry Waugh. The most memorable was a tasting of ’75 Bordeaux’s. It was the first and only time I tasted Ch. Petrus. His insights and notes that night were amazing.

  11. Thanks Michael Kennedy. Let’s lift a glass to ole Harry!

  12. STEVE,

    REGARDING . . .

    “I don’t think paper [print journalism] is going away. A younger generation is discovering the joys of turning actual pages in the magazines they read, and there’s mounting evidence that the 24/7 addiction to all-things online is fading.”


    Excerpt from the Los Angeles Times “Business” Section
    (October 10, 2005, Page C1ff):

    “Black & White and Read by Fewer”


    By James Rainey
    Times Staff Writer

    In a recent e-mail chat about the future of their business, several young New York Times reporters concluded with dismay that most of their friends don’t subscribe to the newspaper.

    . . .

    A Media Management Center study reached an even more alarming conclusion regarding younger readers — estimating that by 2010, only 9% of those in their 20s will read a newspaper every day. . . .

    Excerpt from Wall Street Journal “Opinion” Section
    (June 26 2013, Page A15):

    “The Young and the Bookless;
    Many of my college students hadn’t read for fun since ‘Harry Potter.'”


    By Danny Heitman
    [a columnist for the Baton Rouge Advocate]

    As I start another summer reading season, I’m worried that few of my recent students will be joining me in reading for fun.

    This spring, in addition to my primary job as a journalist, I taught my first college writing course. It was a class of 16, most of them freshmen. They were sharp, engaging and curious students, but I quickly noticed that much of their writing didn’t display the kind of familiarity with English that comes from reading a lot.

    For my first quiz, I included a bonus question asking my students to name the last book they had read for fun. More than half of the students listed one of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, titles most popular with middle-school youngsters. The answers suggested that most of my students hadn’t read a book for pleasure in nearly a decade.

    I was saddened to learn this, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. A landmark 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts noted a sharp decline in reading for pleasure among young people. The number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure increased to 19% in 2004 from 9% in 1984. According to the report, almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for fun.

    When the NEA study appeared six years ago, I convinced myself that the young nonreaders identified in the report were probably mediocre students with little aptitude for language arts. But meeting my own students — smart young people who were trying to write English without reading much of it — made me realize that the grim numbers about America’s reading habits have real faces among some of the best and brightest members of the next generation.

    . . .

    ~~ BOB

  13. STEVE,


    From Wall Street Journal “Markeplace” Section
    (June 24, 2013, Page B2):

    “Gauging Investor Appetites for Print Media”


    By William Launder
    “The Week Ahead” Column

    Not as many consumers buy newspapers as they once did. Several major corporate newspaper deals [read: “for sale” auctions] moving forward this week will test how much appetite investors have left for print media.

    . . .

    Driving these deals, one way or another, is the collapse of the newspaper print ad market over the past few years — which shows no signs of stopping. U.S. print advertising fell 55% from 2007 to 2012, according to the Newspaper Association of America. A further drop of 6.2% is expected this year, and a 6.8% decline next year, predicts Magna Global, a division of IPG Mediabrands. Another media agency, ZenithOptimedia, expects total ad spending on newspapers to fall 8% annually in the years ahead. At that rate, the total market for print newspaper ads would be reduced [by nearly 80%] to less than $10 billion over the next decade from $49.3 billion in 2006.

    While digital advertising is growing, it was just 11% of total ad revenue in 2012, according to Newspaper Association data. Magna sees it rising by more than 14% next year — a growth rate that is still too low to fully offset the print declines.

    . . .

    Aside from taking steps to cut costs, publishers are trying to offset the ad declines by boosting subscription revenue, including by raising print cover prices and charging for full access to websites if such “paywalls” weren’t already in place.

    . . .



    ~~ BOB

  14. Steve,

    Not to be a complete killjoy, I will leave you and your readers with some levity:


    ~~ Bob

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