The Responsibility of the Wine Blogger
I thought that since my original site, "Fermentations" with an S is now officially closed down today, I’d say a few things about the process and experience that led to its demise. There were lessons learned and observations to be logged.
As for the basics of the situation, it’s pretty straightforward. "Fermentations: The Daily Wine Blog" was begun November 30, 2004. It was a project I’d undertaken simply to find a venue for writing on topics that interested me and which I thought would have value to others interested in the wine industry as well as in wine in general. It satisfied both expectations. By the end of October 2005 readership has increased significantly, I’d made a number of new friends…many of which were fellow "wine bloggers", I’d had the chance to view from the center the development of a new and expanding trend in wine communications ands I was having fun.
At about the same time the owner of a gourmet food and wine store called "Fermentations" contacted me through her lawyers and insisted that I stop using the name "Fermentations". The owner is also a lawyer. Specifically, I was asked to "Cease and desist from any use of the Fermentations (TM) mark in the manufacturing, marketing, sales or any other use of the Fermentations mark with the products and services of the undersigned."
A fairly reasonable request given they owned the "Fermentations" trademark. Of course, my concern was that a change of URL’s would significantly decrease my readership. I suggested an ongoing ad for the Fermentations store on the wine blog. Perhaps we could get even more traffic their way, I’d keep the readership and all would benefit. There would be none of that, said the lawyers. There is thing about trademarks. Even if you own one, if you don’t defend it its validity is in jeopardy.
So, I suggested, OK…I’ll change the URL and name of the site. But I asked for a few months to effect the changeover. I figured, after it being out there for nearly a year, a couple months wouldn’t hurt them. That too was dismissed out of hand. They gave me less than two weeks to comply.
So, I resigned myself to compliance with their request. Still, upon making that decision I kept thinking, wow…what a niggardly attitude they bring to the table. But then I started thinking. Yes, it will take me a bit of time to regain the kind of readership that results from having built up significant status within the search engines based on content that had been cataloged over a year’s time. Yes, it will be hard to get all my RSS subscribers to transfer to the new domain. However, doesn’t all this mean something? Doesn’t it mean that the wine blog community is and can make a change to the way wine education is obtained and the way the wine lover gets their news and information?
I started to think about many of the other wine bloggers out there. That group inside a group that is really dedicating themselves to delivering interesting, useful, timely information and the impact they are making. If an owner of a small shop in Central California can feel threatened by a blog that is simply offering up commentary, I’d be willing to bet that those dedicated wine bloggers out there are making an even bigger impact on a far larger number of people than they suspect. And it struck me….this is how it happens.
Over time, something that once seemed small and fringe actually becomes something big and mainstream, something of significance. The pleasure we wine bloggers take in writing about, thinking about, then in delivering the ideas on wine and the wine industry is wonderful for us. But, we should not dismiss or fail to think about the impact we do have now or the impact that is likely to result in the future. That means taking very seriously what we do. It means responsibility should be at the top of our agenda. It means that if our goal is to publish good information that will have an impact, and it will, then you must always think like a publisher, as well as an individual wine blogger. Don’t take what you do lightly.
Those of us who really love doing this, those of us who post frequently and with care, those of us plan to keep this up will find that in the near future our efforts will be watched very closely by a lot of people…a lot of very powerful, important and influential people. Let’s not disappoint them by not taking ourselves seriously. Let’s take seriously the development of this new wine publishing format. Because those serious wine bloggers, and you know who you are, are defining this new medium and what it is capable of doing for the wine industry and the wine lovers and wine drinkers.