Wine Blog Confessions

As the 2012 wine blogging season kicked off, three notable wine bloggers weighed in with wine blogosphere predictions, analysis, and reflections.  In the last month, Steve Heimoff, Tom Wark, and Alder Yarrow posted their opinions on the evolution of the wine blogosphere, sustainable wine content creation, and/or why they blog.  I regularly follow these guys because they write with authentically developed voices.  I can’t always relate to all their points of view, but the content is usually entertaining.

Heimoff heralded and pivoted off a recent Jason Calacanis claim that “blogging is dead and stupid people shouldn’t write”.  Heimoff suggested, as indirectly and gently as his style allows, that topical expertise is required to blog about wine and the new Web 3.0 environment will filter out marginal wine content creators and “sharpen the research and writing abilities of the bloggers who remain, making the wine blogosphere a more professional platform.”

Wark focused on “wine blog burnout” and that the “wine blog explosion was just that.”  Fewer launches are combining with increasing numbers of shuttered blogs to eventually consolidate authority with the remaining few “competent bloggers.”

Yarrow celebrated his blog’s eighth birthday (a formidable achievement) by looking back at the stages of the wine blogosphere’s development and how different classes of writers joined in over time.  He eloquently mapped the early lonesome days, all the way through a period where traditional wine journalists and critics started leveraging these new online publishing tools.

But Yarrow’s chronicle waxed personal; almost confessional.  He recalled starting Vinography to be more efficient with communications to friends seeking his wine opinions and also to figure out how blogs work.  He closed his post by genuinely admitting to continual blogging because “…some people knit, I write about wine. Sitting here in front of my blog is an aesthetic pursuit as much as it is anything else. I enjoy it infinitely more than watching television.”

Yarrow’s point of view resonates most; as if it came from a kindred spirit.  It helped me understand why Vinography content is so easy for me to appreciate.  Like Alder, I started my blog to more efficiently share wine perspectives with friends who always asked, and to immerse myself in web content creation so I could be a better leader for my content marketing and social media company, DigitalSherpa. Yarrow admits his ultimate pleasures come from the engagement that his content produces.  For me, wine blogging’s greatest rewards are the virtual and real life connections with people who share my passion for wine.  It expanded my network, advanced my learning, and mostly connected me with people that I never would have had the chance to meet.

Yarrow’s confessions also helped me understand where Heimoff and Wark are probably coming from with their orientation for dominance and consolidated online authority.  I am guessing that unlike Yarrow, me, and hundreds of others…they blog to advance their professional standing in the wine trade and with consumers. That’s just instinctive conjecture, and I am sure that both guys also feel the same jollies that bloggers without professional agendas do.  They each seem bright and smart, one a wine PR professional and the other a wine journalist and critic.  Blogging enables expanded professional postures and business outcomes.  It develops authority around regular remarkable content and pays large professional dividends.  My company does this for thousands of businesses; I know it to work just that way.

It’s no wonder that Wark and Yarrow track how bad bloggers are weeded out, a narrowing playing field, and consolidating web dominance.  They make livings in the wine trade and I respect their focus in that regard. Yarrow stays glued to the keyboard because he’s hooked on the engagement and what it brings.  Different worlds, same blogosphere.

I never intended to create the world’s next great wine community at WineZag.  Nor did I ever have designs on WineZag becoming a center for wine criticism; a new media player in the world of wine media.  I do it for me, just like Yarrow chooses it over knitting and TV. While Yarrow has accomplished more than any blogger would aspire to, it apparently came as a byproduct of more humble goals.  It’s completely sensible that Steve and Tom talk about expertise, dominance, and authority.  The disconnect I have is blogging for me is about the experience, human connection, or, as Yarrow puts it, “aesthetic” pursuit that squelches any other priorities like “weeding out the stupid”, establishing dominance, or consolidating authority.

I suppose that human connection will continue to combine with easy web creation tools, like blogs, to support a robust blogging community for years to come; made up of enough writers who really don’t care about dominance at all.

  • http://ancientfirewineblog.blogspot.com/ Jason Phelps

    It should be no surprise that I would follow you in this direction. This post makes me feel that your blog is the Vinography in my own story, personal, experience oriented and content that resonates with me.

    Last fall I was inspired by several food bloggers I read to re-visit why I was doing what I was doing. I realized I wanted to have all the experiences that my increased interest in wine, food and travel was generating, but I didn’t need to pressure myself to write about any, and certainly not all of them. So I stopped. My posting frequency trailed off as I let my feelings gel and when the time was right (Jan 2, a new year!) I shared this change with readers. Since then I’ve posted twice. You know what? It feels great.

    I am still out there having new and fun experiences, enjoying time with old and new friends without the pressure to write about it. There is something to be considered in the value of having those “private” experiences and conversations and keeping them that way. In other words, if you (anyone) weren’t there in real life I’m not going to try to blog all about it as if that would make it real.

    What do I expect is going to happen? The quality of what I do write (when I choose to) is going to go up and that those stories will resonate even more with those who do read. I can’t think of a more positive outcome to be added on top of feeling better about how I spend my time.

    Cheers!

    Jason

  • Tom Wark

    Wow…What a thoughtful post. Well done, Adam.

    I’m willing to bet the reasons various people have taken up wine blogging out number the digits on my, yours, Alder’s and Steve’s hands and feet. At least that is my experience from talking to and conversing with many a wine blogger.

    When I started blogging daily in 2004 I simply wanted a venue to express ideas and thoughts about my industry and try to start conversations. The ease of publishing that came with the blogging platforms emerging then made it possible. And it turned out that I was able to do what I wanted to do.

    This turned out to be good for my business as a wine publicist and marketer. Interestingly, I had no idea that would be one of the outcomes of me mouthing off in a blog. Who Knew?

    Today, I would quit my day job and just write a blog if it could bring me the income my day job brings. But alas….

    When I think and write about dominance or authority in the wine blogging world and in the wine publishing world, it’s an observation, not a desire. The removal of the bar that once folks had to jump very high to get over in order to let their voices be heard on issues of wine and the wine industry has changed everything in that world. Masses moved in and we discovered there were so many really great voices out there that could never be heard because publishing was so difficult an endeavor to break into. But with the rush to blogging, there has been a consolidation too. Some have risen to the top, some have not. As a student of the wine media, this has been fascinating for me and I suspect it will be. Watching it happen has forced me to think deeply about issues of perceived authority, the dynamics of dominance in publishing and the critical nature of marketing in a world where anyone is a publisher.

    In any case, interesting post. I enjoyed reading.

    Tom…

  • Anonymous

    Tom, thanks for expanding your thinking here. This topic of motivation and dividends around regular online content creation is a mile wide. I will just raise one more quickshot thought: Online content creators are way out ahead of marketers in building and reaching consumer mass—-but marketers will eventually catch up. One day you might be able to leave your day job for full time Fermentation.

    Magazines are to big Champagne Houses what bloggers are to Grower Champagnes. The power of authenticity and voice is replacing the homogenized mash up of content that media corporations call magazines with “positons” inside their competitive field. I publish a bunch of magazines myself, and have to admit that the audience and engagement opportunity available to marketers through vertically focused blogs rivals the anything available to them through traditional media. Marketers just need to catch up.

  • Anonymous

    Jason,

    Great for you that you line up with Alder, me, and so many others that create content as an extension of our passion, intellects, and aesthetics. If your pace adjustment works for you, it will work for the people that can relate to you. Knowing you a little bit, I can safely say that your authenticity is one of your most powerful and engaging weapons. Never lose it by becoming a slave to anything that feels unnatural. Like Tom referenced in the comment section, why you start a blog sometimes has nothing to do with where it eventually takes you. Just stay authentic and energetic.

    Adam

  • http://www.pullthecork.wordpress.com/ Travis

    Wow – I’ve never even considered aiming for some sort of dominance

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