It is hard disputing the “wine blog burnout” that Tom Wark pointed to last month when he wrote “the movement to use the blog publishing format by wine lovers [is] waning. I see fewer new wine blogs launched. The retreat will be slow, but the retreat will be with us.” Why are wine bloggers losing interest, why aren’t there more entries, and how does this trend compare to other vertical blogospheres?
Following three days in Los Angeles organizing and hosting the sold out Design Bloggers Conference, I have a little more perspective on all of this. You read that right; not the Wine Bloggers Conference, but rather an event attracting one very good looking crowd of 350 savvy interior design bloggers. Since it’s my conference, and just because I can and want to, I take the liberty of integrating as much wine content as possible. Wine and design are like fitting puzzle pieces; both about good living and taste. We poured 350 glasses of Gimonnet and Geoffroy Champagne at 10am each morning. Celebrated wine blogger Hardy Wallace was along to give a talk on how he used video and blogging to change the course of his life. And, a cool group of sharp design and wine peeps joined me for dinner replete with the orange juices of Radikon Jako and Gravner Anfora, white acid from Donkey & Goat Untended chardonnay, and the funky old world nuances of Clos Rougeard. They were a glorious few days.
Unlike wine blogging, design blogging is on the rise. It’s a curious fact. More than 40% of our conference attendees have been blogging for one year or less and 2/3rds for less than two years. The design blogosphere is intensifying.
Design blogging is not any newer than wine blogging. But, there are emblematic differences between the two. To name one, when a blogger shares a wine image readers can not access nor appreciate the wine in the same way the author did tasting it. The same dynamic applies to shared text about a wine’s characteristics. Design bloggers share photography and imagery every day, often more than words, passing experiences and sensory touch-points around the web in photographic form. The photos are connection points, eliciting sensory reaction similar to the author’s. You can download colors and textures that turn you on, but it’s impossible to live-stream the aromatics of Clos Rougeard, Gimonnet, or Donkey & Goat. Here is an image including both wine and design to demonstrate the sensory and emotional joy you can have with design while pictures of the wine remain a distant and inaccessible mystery.
While chroniclers of the wine blogger retreat blame traffic traction problems, the audience picture reported by design bloggers attending the Design Bloggers Conference suggests very similar traffic levels to wine bloggers. So why are wine bloggers waning while design bloggers multiply? Maybe it’s something other than weak traffic after all.
Wine bloggers are hanging it up because they fail to connect with their audience. They overlook and underestimate authentic and humanistic ways to express visceral joy. It’s a two way street; bloggers create the right content and the community gives back through engagement. So many wine bloggers fail to give themselves up to their audience. They review wines with words, report on regional statistics, imply numerical scores, and summarize forays into wine country. I hate that my own content leans that way sometimes. The failure to connect the human element and wine experience is leaving a gaping hole in a large part of the blogosphere, draining engagement from the already dry tanks of retreating bloggers.
I knew this to be true when I spent time a few weeks ago with Steve Heimoff and learned that it was all about the human feedback and engagement that kept him focused and creating content every day for four years, only missing three days of posting. I cemented the conclusion while I listened to Hardy Wallace share his DirtySouthWine story with the design bloggers in Los Angeles; from laid off-tech executive to Murphy Goode contest winner to living the dream, now working for Cathy Corison, making wine in California. He talked about how he went beyond the wine and focused on the humanity attached to the wine experience. He stayed authentic all the way through, making fun of himself and anything else that made wine feel affected or too serious. For all that, Hardy was rewarded with an intense level of engagement that propelled him to create the video and textual content that helped him persevere through a risky time in his life.
It is never about the numbers nor audience size for the best of the web 2.0 wine writers. It’s about engagement, authenticity, humility, and the humanization of wine. Design Bloggers might have an advantage through imagery, but wine bloggers ought to take note and figure out their own individual paths to connection by humanizing themselves and wine.
Recommendation: For all you winos, here is a look at my favorite design blog called Quintessence, Living Well With Style and Substance. The author is an impeccable writer with outstanding graphic design talent. Best yet, she wrote about wine just about every Wednesday last year. Her treatment of wine is refreshing while being a valuable and good read. Check her out.