Today marks two years of WineZag and that’s a pretty long time in blog years, I think. For me, the end of both of those blogging years forced unavoidable reflection and moments of reconsideration for the massive time commitment dedicated to transferring wine experiences into keystrokes. Truth be told, WineZag is so intertwined in my personal and business lives that I am not sure I would even know how to unravel it if I ever found myself shrinking against its workload.
Since WineZag launched on May 3. 2009, I have personally and virtually come to know scores of smart and talented wine peeps, tasted thousands of familiar and new wines, established a serious tasting group in Boston, exponentially advanced my personal wine knowledge, attended more wine industry events than I ever thought I could make time for, put the lessons of WineZag’s social content creation to use helping our company build the largest social media marketing service for SMBs, launched a wildly successful social media conference for interior design bloggers by observing the winning Wine Bloggers Conference formula, and the list goes on. As if this was not enough to convince me of the ongoing WineZag return, this week I stumbled across three energizing points of information that helped me power through bud break and into WineZag’s third vintage.
1) Yesterday Steve Heimoff acknowledged Jeff LeFevre of Good Grape: A Wine Manifesto on his move beyond wine blogging, marked by the first Good Grape wine column at Forbes.com. Jeff is one of the finest writers in the wine blogosphere, but the point of Steve’s piece underscored the benefits of creating content and developing a voice that manifest themselves outside the actual blog. Everyone that blogs about wine, or anything for that matter, has some personal goals attached to the activity. For some it’s monetizing the blog. Others are simply leveraging a creative outlet. For many, it is a way to build a personal brand, like Jeff has, to launch into related but new activities that fulfill monetary or other personal goals. I started WineZag to learn how web content creation works so I could transform a traditional media career, share some information with a widening group of people that looked to me for wine advice, and to shake some writing skills out of hibernation. Steve’s post was a timely reminder of why WineZag works for me.
2) I found myself at the Enobytes blog, a good place for valuable wine information. I landed on a post from January that somehow escaped my attention until this week. It garnered more than 100 comments from some of the best writers. The post actually took a ridiculous position about wine writer certification as a qualifier for writing about wine. Pamela suggested professional journalists that write about a topic without advanced education and certification in that topical specialty are less fit to write than fully credentialed professionals. She thought that all wine writers should be required to be certified. Of course, this is all contrary to public demand and consumption for authentic content that is now proliferating across the web. While many of the people she recognizes in her post are certified wine professionals that I regularly taste wine with, the best traditional and new media wine writers I know are not certified. My friend Rich, who I taste wine with regularly and is certified, left one of the hundreds of comments:
…Certification and/or gaining knowledge through experience is up to each individual and based on their willingness and drive to learn more. Writing well is either learned or innate. Whether or not someone has a full grasp or handle of what they write about has little to do with their ability to convey meaningful ideas and emotions….
Without exception, the blogosphere’s best writing is laced with streaks of reverberating authenticity. The social web is a channel for authentic expression of hard working writers’ passions and a place to expand their networks and learning. It’s not a pulpit for authoritative lecturing; that’s a fast exit strategy. It fosters the kind of writing I like to read and create, and participating with WineZag is simply my celebration of this new forum. Pamela’s misfire at Enobytes was excusably funny because she engaged in writing about something she did not have any advanced credentials in (media and journalism) and unknowingly proved to herself that it was ok to write about it. It created a platform for dissension that proved you do not have to be lettered or accredited to write about topics you are passionate enough to chronicle. Pamela’s opposing viewpoint on wine writer fitness, and its ensuing conversation, underscores exactly why I am drawn to WineZag and social media participation.
3) There was a recent recap at The Drinks Business of the social media portion of the DB 2011 conference. Tom Harrow of WineChap, the man and the site for inside tips on wine lists in London, New York, and Hong Kong, was one of the panelists. Tom is noted as one of the most followed and influential wine content creators in England. Tom summed up the energy of a following and how authenticity creates success on the web:
…Bloggers have personalities, often silly but catchy names, and they don’t always need the knowledge of an expert or the fluidity of a great writer to be able to blog well, but to get noticed you do need a distinct personality….Getting noticed is not necessarily about being good, but it’s about being followed, for example, on Twitter. It’s not about talking to, but rather talking with people. We don’t just offer answers, we pose questions too…
While it underscores how Pamela missed the mark in her Enobytes post, it also went straight at the reasons I invest the little time I have left after family and professional career into WineZag. I have been noticed and it has fostered a network that feeds my learning and passion. I would create even more content if I had the time, and would relish the nourishment it would create. So here is my little secret. When the kids are done with school, and my media career no longer feels fulfilling, I have WineZag. Can you ask anything more of “retirement” than a path to human connection, authenticity, education, creativity, and wine appreciation? It has to be better than my miserable golf game, so here’s to another year.