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An argument for chaos and spontaneity in blogs


Michael Wangbickler, whom I know chiefly through his work at the winery P.R. firm of Balzac Communications, last week in his blog gave advice to wineries that are thinking about blogging. “Before starting a winery blog, here are a few things you might want to keep in mind,” he began. Then he asked them to answer six questions:

1. What are your goals?
2. What is the subject?
3. How often will you post?
4. Who is going to write it?
5. How will you promote it?
6. How will you measure it?

It’s a thoughtful piece that I’m sure will be tweeted and considered by many people. But I also suspect that some winery folks who have considered blogging will read it and think to themselves, “Wow. I’m not sure I can answer any of those questions.” Then, feeling depressed and defeated before they even begin, they abandon the idea of blogging, probably forever.

When I started this blog (less than 1-1/2 years ago, although it seems like forever), I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t have answered any of Michael’s questions, either. In fact, I’m not sure I could now! Let me try.

1. What are your goals? Well, it’s hard to say. To be read, for sure. To have fun. To be able to express myself, in writing, in a way I can’t elsewhere. Since I’m not selling anything, I have no goals along financial lines. So I can’t even say I actually have a “goal” when it comes to my blog. Some things that I do are goal-less; I do them because they’re part of my daily habits and they provide interest and an outlet for my energies.

2. What is the subject? I can’t answer this either, other than to say the subject is wine, or the wine industry, or things connected to the wine industry. You see? Already I’m getting mixed up. Come to think about it, the subject of this blog is actually me.

3. How often will you post? This is easier to answer. Five days a week. I knew that when I started, because Tom Wark told me you have to post five days a week if you want people to visit your site, and I believe almost anything Tom says about blogging.

4. Who is going to write it? This is also an easy one. My blog is written by the president/CEO/janitor/chief bottle washer of my company, me.

5. How will you promote it? I never considered this from Day One and still don’t. I’m a horrible self-promoter. I’d rather stick pins under my fingernails than trumpet myself. A year ago, in a posting, I asked readers to please vote for my blog in the American Wine Blog Awards, and I was so embarrassed afterward, I never did it again. So any success my blog has experienced has had almost nothing to do with promotion.

6. How will you measure it? I didn’t think about this either when I started. Nowadays, certain metrics have been brought to my attention, and I do have some bookmarks I look at every once in a while to see how many visits, etc. my blog has. I’m happy to see the numbers continue to rise month after month, and there’s lately been a spate of articles that put me among the most widely read wine blogs in the U.S. But I’m also superstitious. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Pride goeth before a fall. I know that one of these days the numbers will stop going up, and I don’t want to suffer when that day comes. So I’m not big on measurement.

I blog as though each day were my last on earth. I blog because some people say it gives them pleasure to read my blog and that makes me happy. I blog because I love to write. I blog, sometimes, because there’s something I have to say, and, sometimes, because there isn’t. I blog for the same reason the trees outside my window grow. Blogito, ergo sum.

Hence my headline: “An argument for chaos and spontaneity in blogs.” With all due respect to Michael Wangbickler (and keeping in mind that he’s advising actual businesses, not home-bound hobbyists like me), I’d advise would-be bloggers to toss the business plan. I don’t have a blueprint everyday when I blog. It’s how I feel that day, what I’m thinking about, what strikes me as I achieve consciousness, what excites me on the edge. If you scheme out a blog with the mechanistic precision with which you construct, say, a bottling line, your blog runs the risk of having all the warmth and charm of a bottling line, e.g. with no humanity. Better to keep it (as we say here in the streets of Oakland) real.

  1. I know Mike pretty well, and I’d imagine he’d have a different set of questions for pros and hobbyists to answer vs. wineries or companies when it comes to blogging. As you point out, they’re different animals.

  2. As a blogger without a goal, I agree–with this caveat.

    If you are running a business and want to start a blog, you better be anything but spontaneous. It’s ok to sound spontaneous; it’s ok to seem irreverent; it’s ok to have that light voice; it’s probably good to have someone else write the blog who can effect that voice. But a blog for a business is to promote the business–truth or even just plain honesty has a way of pissing people off and you can’t piss off customers too often without getting a payback.

  3. I agree that when just starting a blog, you may not know many of the answers to Michael’s questions. But I believe that over time, as you are looking to take your blog to the next level – and the next one after that – these questions not only should but must be addressed.

    I may not have been able to answer those questions when I first started, but I sure can now – and I encourage you to do the same!

    1. What are your goals? To establish my wine credibilty while maintaining my irreverent tone.

    2. What is the subject? Whatever I enjoy putting in my mouth.

    3. How often will you post? As often as possible.

    4. Who is going to write it? Me. Easy.

    5. How will you promote it? Via linking, Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes Digg and StumbleUpon when the content warrants it.

    6. How will you measure it? Primarily through Google Analytics, FeedBurner, and Twitalyzer online. I am still considering offline measurement.

    Every person and every blog is different so your answers may be wildly different than mine.

  4. When it comes to a blog as personal as yours, I think all of your answers make sense, Steve. You do it for the love of it. Unfortunately, blogging in business isn’t always from love of expression as it is a love of promotion. Michael’s questions speak directly to that point.

  5. Dale,

    I’m curious:

    How do analytics measurements tell you whether or not you are succeeding at the specific goal of establishing credibility?

  6. Dylan, IMHO, even if somebody is blogging for promotion or to sell a product, it’s got to be from the heart. It’s got to be real. But I do recognize the difference between a personal blog and a business one.

  7. Morton Leslie says:

    Wangbickler’s list is the standard list that any marketing consultant dredges up to justify their existance. You are to pay them to figure those things out for you; maybe write and maintain it for you. And no one will read it because it is BORING, self serving and common PR drivel.

    Far better for someone with a sharp mind, interesting ideas, and good writing skills to just lay it out there for no particular reason other than they have something the want to get off their chest. And if they don’t write often, that’s okay we have rss feeds to alert us.

    A good example, not on wine, are the infrequent but well written posts of Fred On Everything. Fred is an American exiled in Mexico, ex-marine, soldier of fortune, and crime reporter who drinks Padre Kino tinto and is happy with it.

  8. When I started back a million years ago, my only goal was to bring our Twisted philosophy to the world in a new and hopefully somewhat effective way – a little like the Playboy Philosophy columns of the 60s, only not nearly as profound. How else was I going to stand out amongst 1000s of other wineries?

    However, today I would agree that a winery starting into the greater web beyond their ecommerce site, would do well to consider more carefully where they focus the efforts. When I started the blog there weren’t many alternatives, but now the best approach may very well be to forgo the blog for other platforms. It all depends on what is best for you. And ay, there’s the rub…

  9. Thanks for this post. Makes me feel a little more optimistic about blogging. I, like you, don’t have much of a plan and do it primarily because I like to write, but there are days when I think, why am I doing this? What do I really have to say? Guess the answer is there isn’t always a clear answer. Just write it out.

  10. Very good post, and comments, thanks everbody. It’s put me right on the spot, because I’m neither one thing nor the other, but somewhere inbetween. Last year, before I started my blog, I hummed and hawed for months and months, thinking about business plans, stategies, goals, etc but eventually I just got fed up fiddling around and went ahead and published. It’s been a year more or less now that I’ve been blogging and I learn new stuff every day. I’m now in a much better position to publish a commercial business blog and webpage along with all the social media. Like the above comments say, it depends on what your blog’s about and on your needs.

  11. Steve:

    One other thing. One of the key things to maintaining a successful blog is sending checks of $100 to me on a weekly basis. This is fundamental to maintaining a good and successful blog.


  12. Thanks Steve. I’m flattered that you read my blog, let alone have anything to say about it. This has been a very good discussion, and I just wanted to clarify a few points.

    1) This was, indeed, intended only for those folks at wineries considering a blog. I would use a different yard stick for a hobbyist or wine writer/reviewer. Though, I think it wouldn’t hurt to ask these same questions, even if the answers are different.

    2) Like El Jefe says, there are now a whole lot of winery blogs out there. If you can’t come up with a compelling reason to start one and a commitment to maintain one, there are probably better ways to spend your time and money.

    3) I take exception to Morton Leslie’s assumptions. I write my blog for very much the reason that Dale writes his. To establish credibility and hopefully share a little bit of knowledge with people who need it. I don’t expect everyone to have a need for or be able to afford my services. Also, I didn’t say that everything had to be polished and free of personality. In fact, that is exactly what I caution against. If your blog is uninteresting, why write it?

    Thanks again.

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