The State of Wine Blogging—5 Years In.

I count 2004 as the birth year of wine blogs. Given that only slightly arbitrary date, the wine industry finds itself with only five years under it's belt of dealing with this somewhat chaotic, but impactful form of communication. And on the eve of the second North American Wine Bloggers Conference I have some questions and thoughts about wine blogs.

To this point the traditional wine media is not in jeopardy of being replaced by wine blogs as the go-to source of information. While there must be upwards of 800 wine blogs out there, the readers still tend to be early adopting, internet-savvy folks and industry members. More importantly, no single wine blog has emerged as a go-to, important voice in the world of wine for either consumers or the wine trade that is read in very large numbers. This must happen, in my opinion, before blogs can emerge as a dominant source of information. One voice must lead the way, attracting readers, who then give credence to the format, thereby creating confidence in the format and leading readers to others.

Why this important wine blogging voice hasn't emerged is likely a simple thing: The groundbreaking, informed, well-marketed voice is hard to find in the wine industry. As I look out across the wine blogosphere right now, I don't see any contenders for that position. This does not bode well for the advancement of the format.


Many wine bloggers understand that there is potential for generating advertising revenue from their blogs. I believe too that blogs with ads give confidence to readers. However, to generate serious advertising revenue it is critical that readership figures for the various blogs are available. They are not currently available. This fact has slowed down the development of the format and the lack of figures will continue to slow down its development as a serious format.

Not yet. At least not much. How do I know this? For one, it's very difficult to find any shelf talkers that actually carry quotes from wine bloggers. This might be a case of laziness and a lack of creativity on the part of marketers who have not figured out how to use the various reviews of wines by wine bloggers. But, I think it is more likely that marketers simple don't believe there is enough weight carried by any particular wine blogger to justify replacing a review of 85 points or more by a mainstream publication or a food pairing suggestion on the shelf talker.

No. I've met a number of wine bloggers. Few if any are prone to make unethical choices. They certainly aren't any more prone to make journalistically unethical choices than traditional media. Yet, wine bloggers talk a lot about this issue. Why? It's because ethics are primarily something that professionals think deeply about. That tells us something about the aspirations of the wine blogging community.

Not if they can't figure out a way to successfully use the work and words of wine bloggers as a third party endorsement for their brand, product or service that makes their brand, products or service more valuable and profitable.

66 Responses

  1. Jeff - June 29, 2009

    A number of the points you raise are excellent. However, I think that you miss a crucial point regarding the new format of media in general. And that’s that it’s accessible to everyone, and everyone can fling their thoughts out for the world to see. Previously, to get your opinion about something published, it was a much more arduous task and only the best/most-driven people got published. This led to the rise of people such as Robert Parker. He had a clear, strong voice (regardless of whether or not you like his opinion), and the drive to create his own opportunities in print/brand. There have always been people that took notes on a wine or a hobby or whatever and just kept them to themselves for private use. Sites like Word Press and Blogger have now allowed people via the internet to publish those notes (as an aside, it’s also easier to store information, access it, etc, than some info written in a notebook). What this has led to is a more fractured space because there is more readily available content.
    So will wine blogs take down traditional media? You contend that because there is no clear leader, that “this does not bode well for the advancement of the format.” Face it–the world has changed. While there may not be a strong, singular voice where people turn to for all things about wine, increasingly, the print business-model and pay for content model of the magazine/newspaper business is breaking down. More people are comfortable with more fractured media and more fractured opinions, and the world will continue to move in this direction–away from traditional forms of media.
    I also think it’s important to differentiate consumers of wine. There are two different ones in my mind. 1. The informed consumer/cognoscenti, and 2. the rest of the public who is looking for guidance (and is probably more point/price sensitive). The cognoscenti are much more likely to form their own opinions and do their own research–maybe turning to wine bloggers etc. The rest of the public is more likely to respond to advertising/shelf-talkers, etc. It’s only a matter of time before someone takes off on Twitter or creates enough of a brand to overtake the whole 90 point barrier. Maybe it will be Gary Vaynerchuk? Or someone similar?
    The old guard is dead/dying, and it’s time we admit it!

  2. Benito - June 29, 2009

    Let’s look at other industries that have new products coming out every year: cars and movies, both around 100 years old. Print publications for each still exist, but people have been quickly turning to online sources of information over the past ten years, whether in the form of looking up movie times, purchasing movies online, or arguing Ford vs. Chevy endlessly in forums.
    Wine is a much slower moving industry, with thousands of years of history and products that aren’t always ready right away. Would anyone buy a car with the warning, “It will drive OK now, but to really enjoy it you’ll have to keep it out of sight for 15 years.”
    The market for wine is a lot older and more resistant to change than a lot of other products that have found a more natural home online, but it’s not impossible. I think the biggest change will come in another 5-10 years, as the current generation of people 20-25 years old begins to grow interested in wine. This is the generation that has grown up getting all information online, and when they begin to seek out information they’re not naturally going to turn to books or magazines.
    And wine bloggers are going to look a lot different than the old white guys of the current wine establishment–more female voices, more minority voices, younger voices, more creative food pairings and approaches to loving wine.
    Random musings from a 30-something white guy who has been at this game for four and a half years now. 🙂 Y’all have fun at the Winebloggers Conference!

  3. Dale Cruse - June 29, 2009

    The idea that wine blogging doesn’t have an emerging voice is silly at best and disingenuous at worst. Wine Library TV boasts 90,000+ DAILY viewers. Robert Parker’s cute little newsletter has only 60,000 readers per MONTH. Gary’s appearing on Ellen, Jimmy Fallon, Conan, Jim Cramer, The Today Show, etc. and you’re acting like he doesn’t exist. You don’t have to like the guy, but don’t deny his existence.

  4. Tom Wark - June 29, 2009

    I love Gary. Know him well and work with him. But he’s not a wine blogger in any sense.

  5. Thomas Pellechia - June 29, 2009

    800-plus wine blogs sounds like a lot of competition. While competition is good, an abundance of it may cause dilution through saturation. Then there’s the small matter of the impact that good literature makes, but I won’t go there…

  6. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Shelf talkers quoting Jancis Robinson, Clive Coates, or Michael Broadbent cannot be found in the supermarket, either, not to mention Steve Heimoff or, sadly, Fred Koepple’s fine work. Indeed, when one sees a Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator shelf talker it is nearly always without attribution. I am not sure a wine blogger’s success pivots on that distinction.
    And on the one hand wine bloggers ‘carry no influence’, yet, on the other, one reads folks as different as Alice Feiring and Steve Heimoff suggesting that wine bloggers are undercutting paid work. Can it possibly be that the growing independence of the consumer’s palate, their personal relationship with a retailer, is what is really at work here? At least in part?
    Of course, the last pin to fall will be that of the three-tier system itself. Once that anachronism is swept into the dust bin of history then the rules of the internet game will be utterly transformed. Until that time we are stuck in this backwater eddy of uncertainty as to the future of wine blogging, endlessly asking the same questions, getting nowhere.

  7. Catie - June 29, 2009

    Personally, I do not think the “old guard” is dead/dying, however by their actions (recent foo with “Blobbers” via Parker and last year with Spectator’s restaurant award) you would think that they (Parker, Spectator, et al) think they are dying by their attacks on bloggers. Their defense mechanisms seem to be turned up high. Lately, the trend of those like Parker seems to be, “if you screw up and get caught, just blame it on the bloggers.”
    But here is something I am seeing that gives wine bloggers some credibility. About five years ago, when I first started blogging, winemakers and wineries could care less about what a wine blogger had to say, let alone that the blogger existed. Last week I dined with an out-of-town wineblogging friend who had just lined up interviews with some very high honored and esteemed winemakers who were willing to stop what they were doing to be interviewed. And like he explained, “It’s about the sign of the times.” Meaning: with the economy as it is, wineries are looking at other avenues, like wine blogs to get the word out about their wines.

  8. Dale Cruse - June 29, 2009

    Oh, stop it. He’s a wine video blogger. He creates regularly occurring wine content available on the Internet. His site features RSS subscriptions, comments, and more. He fits every definition of a wine blogger. To say he doesn’t splits the most minute of hairs.

  9. Tom Wark - June 29, 2009

    I disagree
    I don’t want to suggest there are no positive signs. There clearly are and your note about the economy is important too. Wineries (some) are indeed courting a small number of bloggers as are wine-related service companies and pr folks. In my view, wine blogging is one big wine blogger and a good marketing/promotional campaign away from becoming mainstream.

  10. Dale Cruse - June 29, 2009

    Tom, let me ask the question another way: How is Gary NOT a wine blogger?

  11. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Dale, don’t you sometimes wonder why Gary has no blog roll?

  12. Dale Cruse - June 29, 2009

    Ken, is that your definition of a wine blogger – one who has a blog roll? By that definition, if I delete my links page do I cease to be a wine blogger?

  13. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Dale, It was a simple question. Look to the right of our comments here. Tom’s list has always been among the most generous in the biz. I have made many new discoveries clicking his links. Vinography’s as well. So common and useful are blog rolls that I always notice their absence on some sites. A blog roll seems to capture in miniature the democratic ethos of our collective efforts. And the reciprocal link especially seems the cement of our odd fraternity.

  14. Tom Wark - June 29, 2009

    I think Gary is not a wine blogger in the same way that Charlie Rose is not a wine blogger.

  15. Dale Cruse - June 29, 2009

    Oh, well that clears it right up.

  16. JD in Napa - June 29, 2009

    Maybe there’s a little too much emphasis on whether GaryVee’s a blogger, or video-er, or whatever. He is the new voice in a new use of an old medium. What he is and what he does fits under the Social Media/Social Marketing tent, just as blogging clearly does. I can’t think of anyone else in wine who has used SocMed with greater impact than GaryVee.

  17. Tom Wark - June 29, 2009

    Wine Library TV is a platform for a remarkably smart and talented wine entertainer and reviewer. In my view, the blogging format needs to be distinguished from an entertainment channel. This is not to say that Gary does not represent a successful foray into the web 2.0 arena.

  18. Dale Cruse - June 29, 2009

    Tom, of course you’re entitled to your opinion, but it’s not one I share. When Gary first started his videos, he wasn’t very entertaining. Some argue he still isn’t. But I wonder at what point in your mind does a blog turn into an entertainment channel? Ten viewers? A hundred? A thousand? When?
    What Gary is doing fits any definition of blogging I’ve ever seen.

  19. Catie - June 29, 2009

    Interesting comments about GaryVee. Yeah, GaryVee may be a wine blogger, but he’s a wine blogger without a reciprocal blog roll.

  20. dhonig - June 29, 2009

    The wine makers seem to find some value in blog reviews, at least enough to post them alongside reviews from traditional print media. Sky Saddle is a good example, though certainly not alone.

  21. bricksofwine - June 29, 2009

    When one of our local newspapers closed up shop a couple of months ago, they had their reporters and columnists set up their own individual blogs. Obviously in a town the size of Seattle, two newspapers is one too many, yet the opinions and objective reporting from those sources continues to be valued.
    Even with the change in delivery methods, wine ratings and reviews from professional critics will continue to be valued. I wouldn’t be surprised if traditional wine media eventually moves more of their content to social media, video, podcasts and blogs. Given how slow the wine industy is in responding to change, I’m sure the move is still years off, but I no longer think it’s a matter of “if”, but rather “when” it will happen. Newspapers know this all too well.
    When this happens, it will only lend credibility to other bloggers and I hope that in turn leads to more information sharing and opportunities for business.

  22. Thomas Pellechia - June 29, 2009

    I find arguing over who is a blogger and who isn’t, or what constitutes blogging and what doesn’t, or who’s media is dying and who’s isn’t, or attacking Tom (or anyone else) who makes a comment about blogging and the media a sign of immaturity. If what we do as bloggers has merit, then we shouldn’t have to explain ourselves–just do it, persist, and if it has merit, it will shine; if not, it will die.
    What obsesses me is that I don’t think there ever were 800 wine magazines or even 800 wine critics before blogging, and that’s probably because the world never needed that many. So does the world need 800 wine bloggers? Right now, I cannot imagine why.

  23. Tom Wark - June 29, 2009

    I can’t imagine why either, Thomas. But “What’s needed” and “What is” doesn’t always come together in an elegant way, now does it.

  24. Thomas Pellechia - June 29, 2009

    Well, Tom, there’s elegant and there’s eloquence. When it comes to writing, I’ll take the latter…

  25. Jeff - June 29, 2009

    @JD In Napa. You’re absolutely right. Whether or not Vaynerchuk is a blogger is completely irrelevant. Whether you like him is irrelevant too. What’s relevant is that he’s the new paradigm. Not Parker, et. al.

  26. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Tom, a clarification. Where does this figure of 800 wine bloggers come from? Does it include bloggers world-wide? And inasmuch as some are not of a critical persuasion, don’t review wines, still others limit themselves to a specific region, an AVA or AOC etc. (how many Bordeaux reviewers, how many of Burgundy), some are wedded to travel, I often wonder what the thematic/subject breakdown really looks like.

  27. Arthur - June 29, 2009

    Dale and Tom:
    I am not sure why everyone is skirting around the fact that Gary uses his site to promote his store and personal brand – directly and indirectly.
    That may be seen as a contradiction to what some believe to be the spirit of blogging.

  28. Tom Wark - June 29, 2009

    What I’d like to see is someone attempt a good, in depth study or analysis of the wine blogging realm. Numbers, stats, influence, etc. It’s just not out there.

  29. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Tom, gives me an idea….

  30. Thomas Pellechia - June 29, 2009

    If you go to it lists the 100 top wine blogs. But it also has a feature to search the remaining 400 wine blogs.
    So that makes 500 wine blogs that this site claims exist.

  31. tom merle - June 29, 2009

    Maybe the point is that more bloggers ought to use the video medium when they are reviewing wines. That said, most web commentators shouldn’t be in front of a camera, and I’m one who thinks GV shouldn’t either, but then that special raw energy and “charm” wouldn’t come through in typed columns, online or offline….

  32. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Thomas, Yes. Quite right. But many no longer exist, I’ve found. Others haven’t updated for months. And the foreign language efforts are underrepresented, to say the least. Further, the methodology for gathering stats is a fatal weakness with respect to the ‘shine or die’ philosophy you hint at. The fact is a blog can both shine and die.
    Tom’s point is well taken. It might be something that a number of wine bloggers could work on simultaneously. Divide up the blogosphere by nation, language, subject focus, etc. I think this would be a great team project!

  33. Thomas Pellechia - June 29, 2009

    I’m wondering why a set of bloggers haven’t organized to create an online wine ‘magazine.’
    Lenndevours invites other bloggers into being a correspondent, although I question whether the blog has a relationship to journalism plus, it is dedicated to NY wine.
    Of course, the second after I typed this thought I realized that we are talking about bloggers, the essence of which is to “say it loud” and alone. Collaboration? What the hell is that?

  34. Steve Heimoff - June 29, 2009

    Agree with everything you said, Tom. The blogosphere may not like hearing it, but you speak the truth.

  35. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Steve, this must be why your name is in every Safeway.

  36. St. Vini - June 29, 2009

    I wonder if Gary V’s testicles ache now and then…? I mean, they must hurt at least a little with 500 wine bloggers swinging from them….

  37. Clinton Stark - June 29, 2009

    Good article. Fermentation is a daily read + Heimoff, although my brain hurts less with the latter.
    Disagree on point 1.
    A “single go-to” blog does not need to exist to validate blogging as influential and significant.
    In fact, by definition, blogging is about the voice of the people – disparate views, a multitude of opinion sometimes raw, and the removal of editorial and corporate obstacles.
    To have a single voice would be similar to the oligopoly of existing media, no?
    I don’t see a single go-to voice in other successful blog industries either: news, gadgets, entertainment, politics, etc.

  38. genevelyn - June 29, 2009

    What about an aggregate of several bloggers, each with their own area of expertise, writing as one? Could this work in place of a single voice?
    To explain…..I read your blog for industry news (and constant smack-down on the three tier system), Do Bianchi/Italian wine guy for Italian vino, and Dr. Debs for book reviews and and her thoughts on value wines. I appreciate each blogger’s knowledge but can’t imagine any of these guys being THE guy because of the amount of work involved to write outside of one’s comfort zone.

  39. Morton Leslie - June 29, 2009

    1.) Wine blogging itself will not take down print media, but combined with social networking it will. All print media is declining. People are reading less and less. That includes books. The gen x’er, y’er and millennial don’t trust the establishment. They trust each other.
    2.) Are the Cruvee numbers chopped liver?
    3.) Not singly, but in total blogs are a growing force. Just like CellarTracker someone will crack the lock. Probably by accident. It will come accompanied with video.
    4.) Ethics are not important. You can have incredible conflicts of interest and no one really cares except bloggers no one will read.
    5.) Yes, print media do not have the equivalent of an RSS feed.

  40. el jefe - June 29, 2009

    We started using blogger reviews on both our web pages and point of sale materials as soon as we could get some critical mass going (pun not quite intended.) Recently we’ve even enabled consumer reviews on our web site.
    What I look for in reviews is a clear, honest, and/or entertaining description of the product – a “why I liked it”. If it comes from Steve, or the SF Chronicle, or a blog – if it works, I will quote it. Nothing else really makes sense to me.
    I also think that talking about “800 wine blogs” in one lump is kind of like talking about “800 trees” – there are lots of kinds of trees! In fact, looking at the major blogs that I try to follow today, it seems like fewer are actually reviewing wines than used to be the case a couple of years ago. They’re covering a whole broad base of subjects and issues that don’t necessarily show up in the print media.

  41. Arthur - June 29, 2009

    Thomas, genevelyn
    I had suggested just such an aggregate online wine magazine before last year’s bloggers conference. But I think the idea was tantamount to herding cats.

  42. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    el jefe’s approach is quite reasonable, indeed, enlightened. Why not make it simple? As he writes “if it works, I will quote it.” What more needs to be said?

  43. Jeff - June 29, 2009

    Just an observation from Tom’s point #1 about no wine blogging voice emerging.
    There are a couple of folks who have become legitimate wine voices as a result of their blogs — one need look no further than Alder and Dr. Vino (and no, I don’t think Gary V. counts, either. He’s a Social Media phenomenon, yes, but he’s not a wine blogger).
    However, and this is a BIG however, as Tom Pellechia notes, blatant self-interest seems to rule the day — it’s not an indictment on anybody; the wine industry is naturally cooperative, but iconoclastic and wine blogging, by extension, is no different.
    I really thought ’09 was going to be a watershed year, but now I think you could post this same blog post in 2012 and some names will change, some iteration will occur, but the game will still be the same.
    Until somebody figures out how to make some money here, evolution will be slow, very slow. You can only do so much outside the confines of full-time employment with marginal investment.

  44. RichardA - June 29, 2009

    I agree that traditional wine media is not in jeopardy any time soon of being replaced by wine blogs.
    I think one reason for that has not yet really been mentioned. Wine magazines simply have the resources to review a vast amount of wines, which wine blogs generally cannot. As blogs can only review a tiny fraction of the wines, they obviously fail to completely meet the needs of numerous wine lovers. Until they can meet more of those needs, wine print media will remain very important.
    Consider that the Wine Advocate has over 135,000 wine reviews and Wine Spectator has over 216,000 reviews. On the other hand, Gary V. has reviewed a little less than 2000 wines. That is close to the number of reviews in a single issue of the Wine Advocate.
    So despite the number of people that view Gary’s videos, the number of wines he has reviewed limits his usefulness to the wine consumer population. And that is similar to other bloggers, who have only reviewed a relatively small number of wines.

  45. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    RichardA, the magazine format creates the impression of a completed thought, a finished concept. Bloggers, however, work day to day, updating continuously. If you take the sum total of wine reviews, commentary and general observations over a thirty day period, let’s take Vinography or 1winedude as examples, they easily produce the equivalent of a month’s work by the mainstream mags hands down. The real blind spot of the nay-sayers is the periodicity of established mags as opposed to the daily output of the better wine blogs.
    On any given day no blog can measure up to a mags exacting standards, as feeble as they may be. But over time? Bloggers will win every time.

  46. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Tom, sorry for taking up so much space.
    One last note before I drift into oblivion. I shall never yield in my enthusiasm for new wine bloggers. Fight the good fight;
    Tonight I’m drinking a ’99 Ducru Beaucaillou, a ’98 Leoville Barton. But I began with a Didier Dagueneau, his last Blanc Fumé de Pouilly. Good man.

  47. KenPayton - June 29, 2009

    Cheers to Tom’s generosity.
    I’ve nothing to lose by posting this.

    Tomorrow I’ll interview… well, you’d be surprised. Might just be the head of our fair state.
    Why do wine bloggers think so small? Get off your asses and work!

  48. Samantha - June 29, 2009

    Didier was a good man, a very kind, gentle, funny man that had a giant heart and mad winemaking skills. Young Benjamin Dagueneau is doing a fine job at the helm, big shoes to say the least…thanks for the reminder of a dear person that meant a lot to me.

  49. Thomas Pellechia - June 30, 2009

    Cats are much more docile than bloggers…
    I won’t get into names, but someone mentioned blogger names in a post above. I’ve been tracking one of those bloggers for a few months now, since the blog has been receiving a lot of PR. What I get from my tracking is a blog that is largely self-promotional and loosely instructive, but acutely well positioned to seem the opposite.
    To be sure, that person has talent. But I wonder if that is the direction blogging needs to go.

  50. Dirty / Hardy - June 30, 2009

    Shelf talkers? I’ve got em’ and they bring in the ladies! That’s some serious influence! ; )
    There isn’t a strong individual voice yet– Why? Because similar to what you said, if there has been anything or anyone groundbreaking, they have not focused or been successful at promoting / marketing themselves. For most, this isn’t a concern. What percentage of people out there are doing this for more than fun? 10%?
    For fun or not, to create greater influence, it is time for bloggers to make some leaps and take risks to develop more creative content.
    When it is all for fun? What do you have to lose?

  51. Ken Bernsohn - June 30, 2009

    If you go to and sign up for the free newsletter, you’ll soon discover “dead tree” magazines are in trouble,with traditional publishers trying to move to the web. People are getting more of the information they want (more wheat, less chaff) by going online and that includes blogs. However, as someone said, “The internet is the vanity press for the insane” and that includes some blogs on every subject blogged about.

  52. Fredric Koeppel - June 30, 2009

    Ken, thanks for the kind comment. Tom, provocative post as usual.
    Perhaps I provide a different perspective. I’m older than most bloggers (64) and I’ve been writing about wine for 25 years, the first 20 in a national weekly column, then, after that was canceled in 2004, on a now defunct magazine-style website, and since Dec. 2006 on my blog. When I launched the website, I naively thought that I could pull in enough subscribers (at $48 a year) to sustain the thing and make a little money. It didn’t happen; I never had more than maybe 35 or 40 subscribers and the site, in its best months, rarely logged more than 1,100-1,200 visits a month. This year, BTYH is averaging about 30,000 visits a month: OK, it’s not YouTube or Gary V or RMP. It also doesn’t attract advertisers, which I covet because that would help pay some bills. Should I get a Facebook page? Go on Twitter? I’m on record as saying that web social networking is a waste of time, but many people have said that these things are a necessary marketing tool. Marketing tool? Do I want to “market” myself? If I’m on Facebook and Twitter, will I get more visitors to BTYH and perhaps some advertiser interest? I don’t know. My point is that serious blogging about wine is fun and a lot of hard work; it requires not just tasting and writing but reading and research and dealing with images and so on. One would like to acquire more influence (though not necessarily to be the “definitive” voice), yet with hundreds (if not 800) wine blogs out there, the market is splintered rather drastically. The “top” 100 are the ones that matter, and yet to whom do they matter? what, really, IS the audience for wine blogging? My own confusion stems from the great realm of onrushing transition which we (American culture, the whole world) seem to inhabit and which there is no avoiding. The generations behind us (several generations behind me) are changing the world irrevocably; I will never give up physical books and print newspapers (though I was laid off from my newspaper job in March after 22.5 years, I’m still loyal to the medium) but the ether, the great nothingness charged with electrons, is where the future lies. Say what you will about Gary V (and I tend to agree with Tom), he was there, doing what he’s doing, first and he has made a great success at it. He may not be definitive, but he defines the new media.

  53. Charlie Olken - June 30, 2009

    A great debate and examination of the blogosphere. As an outsider to that world, and a traditional print guy who has slowly been transitioning to the Internet and will continue that transition, I find some great hidden gems in this discussion.
    –If and when someone finds a way to become heroically important on the Internet and financially successful in the process, by whatever means, people will take shots at him or her just as they do at Parker, Laube, Gary Vee, Tyler Coleman and Alder Yarrow.
    –If and when someone finds a way to become heroically important on the Internet, that person will also become part of the traditional media because that person will only succeed by writing well, publishing regularly, getting paid and being expected to contribute meaningfully. The definition of traditional media will expand, but that person will not be an enthusiastic amateur, a force for democratization or anything other than what Gary Vee has become.
    –Traditional media is not going to die standing still. It will make the transition as well. Ultimately, it will be very competitive with the rise from the ground up bloggers. Even now, the blogs that are most read are professional or nearly so. Tom Wark and Steve Heimoff are industry professionals. Tyler Coleman has a giant book deal.
    –Any combination of bloggers into a functioning whole becomes a magazine. Its existence on the Internet does not, cannot change that fact. No one speaks about Wine Online as a blog, yet, unless the BlogAZine (a term I have coined for what my rag will do soon) that the bloggers publish will have to compete head on with what WS publishes or WA publishes. Talking about existing media like Parker or Tanzer or CGCW or anyone else as if all of its parts were stuck in some time warp and were not capable of independent and forward-looking thinking is to dismiss their potential far to facilely.
    –Someone above observed that most of the bloggers are writing editiorials, not wine reviews. Nothing wrong with that, of course. We here are all reveling in the “community of voices” that the blogosphere has created for us.
    –The volume of wine reviews from the blogosphere, no matter how much it adds up in toto, is not comparable to the work of the existing publications. If one blogger ever gets to that point, he or she will be media.
    –Am I repeating myself? Well, if so, it is that I sense a very schizophrenic reaction here. I am a great fan of Bill Maher. He is somehow different from your average entertainer. But, he is a million-dollar a year entertainer. And wanting the blogosphere to turn into a big money deal while wanting the blogosphere to remain somehow the home of democracy is, it seems to me, a goal that is full of cognitive dissonance.
    And all this confusion, this mix of enthusiasm and self-examination, this burst of creative energy leaves us wanting more but not really knowing what more is. Are we all having fun yet? If so, enjoy it for what it is and do your best. The chickens will eventually come home to roost, and it will not matter whether GaryV is a blogger or Jim Laube becomes a television personality or Alice Fehring is the new Katie Couric because the good old-fashioned marketplace will decide for us anyhow.

  54. Tish - June 30, 2009

    The speed with which this post has drawn comments — without a major conspiracy/controversy — speaks volume. Plenty of food for thought here, Tom. Thanks for raising the issue so inspirationally in this post, and setting the bar high for all bloggers with Fermentation in general.

  55. Daniel Gonçalves Maia - June 30, 2009

    I just read your article and all its (50!) comments; you have quite a wine blog here!
    A few weeks back I worte:
    “…wine blogs provide what other media can’t and traditional media are in a struggle; wine blogs, no matter what they aim to (see The Wine Whore, for instance, and take a look at guy’s face, he really loves wine!) provide in general good and free info, sometimes, just “prostituting” themselves a bit, but hey, would you ask for the complaint’s book if a “professional” charged you only for… your room?
    Somewhere in time all wine blogs started from pure wine enthusiasm… wine passion! That’s enough for me. You decide which ones suit you best (even if a grate part of you actually wine blogs) and judge for more or less reliable content…
    As for me, I’ll just keep… learning…(…)”
    My blog: More of a portfolio of thoughts and updated news’ comments; an educating and cultural free service provided professionally, but relining on spare time; sometimes, a few tasting notes, other times a bit of humour and an interesting reading (at least, I try to…); I don’t score wines and the advertising money I got for 2 years blogging doesn’t pay a month of cable internet.
    I have 150 daily visitors but only 50 are real followers; 25% of my posts are in English, and I post 5 or 6 times per month (and had an half year break); I link to every interesting wine blog and very seldom post a comment in another blog (I prefer to write an article on a blog’s post in my own blog).
    So, my blog is a simple one… however, it is a matter of personal effort, enthusiasm and relevant content, and a public will appear from places you didn’t imagine existed…
    I think you may be missing a point here:
    The question regards to media on (thru) internet, no matter what form it takes (blog, blig, site, portal, podcast, video, television, etc.); and the fears this may spread among traditional media are its associated costs – “almost” free (as in “there are no free lunches”) – which determine its democratization (no matter how empty this word may be in our days, you understand what it really means).
    With optical cable internet and internet access widely spreading worldwide and with the spreading of media other than PC (phones and interactive television among many others); with the tendency for a small cost on all these: Paper tends to cease to exist or, better said, to exist in a very different extent than it does today…
    Almost anyone can grow to outstanding proportions in this “new (media) world” and blogs (and wine blogs) are no exception… whether the blog format is the best media format or not, the question is irrelevant and if it comes to that you can work it out; whether some (rich media) will reach the stratosphere in a blink of an eye and for others it will take a couple of years just to gather a small audience, that too, is irrelevant; if one wants money, spotlights, or plain diversion out of it, it doesn’t matter also; and yes, the “market” will balance, as it always does…
    What matters is that anyone can and it is “almost” free!
    Ethics and international regulations are what seam to me the real issues.

  56. Alfonso - June 30, 2009

    I don’t remember where, but I have seen shelf talkers touting Vinography comments

  57. Dylan - July 1, 2009

    I especially like the point you subtly raised regarding quotations of blogger reviews in wine shops. When wine bloggers have achieved enough notoriety to the point that this occurs it will be a testament to their rise in power.

  58. Nancy - July 1, 2009

    I understand that print wine media will look more serious than bloggers as long as the print media can review thousands of wines in comparison to the bloggers’ relative handful. However, suppose the wine-writing market moves beyond the idea that reviews are useful or even interesting? How many glorious issues of Wine Spectator/Advocate go glossy and untouched to the library used book sale — and always have?
    A wine blogger might have the tail of an idea there … and anyway, all this time — what about wine and food blogging?

  59. Jonathan Newman - July 2, 2009

    All good points, Tom. I think blogs are definitely the future as far as how consumers gather information and news, but I don’t think there will be a handful of wine blog leaders at the top (nor does there need to be).
    There are so many wines and so many wine topics, that the information on the web makes the customer king, and as wine consumers surf the internet they will start to follow certain bloggers they trust and whose commentary rings true with their personal beliefs about wine. The public will filter and support the bloggers who make sense and are providing a great service to readers.
    Jonathan Newman
    CEO, Newman Wine & Spirits

  60. Thomas Pellechia - July 2, 2009

    “…as wine consumers surf the internet they will start to follow certain bloggers they trust and whose commentary rings true with their personal beliefs about wine.”
    If we parse this statement, it seems that all you are saying is consumers will trust those bloggers who tell them what they want to hear or think they already know.
    Where’s the service in that activity?

  61. Director of Lab Cultural Affairs - July 2, 2009

    Tom, As usual your skills as a provocateur are impressive. But I’ll be honest, I don’t understand much of the discussion here. But if you really want to foment a substantive debate, I think you need to define some terms.
    What is a journalist? What is a consumer advocate? Is it reasonable to differentiate between the two? What’s influence?
    And mostly, for this discussion, what’s a blog?
    I’ve always said, I don’t blog. Which has always been about half true. Because for me, the definition is related to community and conversation. But I created a make-believe Lab and write fiction verite from the perspective of an invented persona. How do you dialogue with that? Btw, along these lines, I totally agree that Gary isn’t blogging; and I think I might also argue that Ken Payton doesn’t blog either. He’s a very good, if a little green, eager and earnest journalist who just happens to use blog technology to publish his work.
    I’d also agree with you about most of your observations on the state of blogging vis the traditional media. But I don’t think that’s traditional media is the benchmark. Blogging doesn’t aspire to be the future of Parker or Spectator (even if some bloggers do). Blogging is really an ongoing conversation amongst friends you’d never would have met without technology. If you want to argue that blogging will be effaced by more compelling social networking technology, I would agree whole-heartedly. But I really don’t think blogger quoting shelf-talkers is on point.
    I could go on at length to describe how the ongoing and discontinous/discontiguous conversation of wine blogs influences my buy decisions (80% of which happen online and are ignorant of shelf-talkers anyway), how “favoriting” like-minded tasters on CellarTracker is the real threat to traditional media. Or point out that some kid in Sunnyvale has, at least this month, aggregated content from me, DoBianchi, Brooklynguy, David McDuff, Peter Liem, Alice Feiring and others — and certainly proved the concept for an internet-based, blogger magazine that could compete with traditional media (cats indeed! Have a look at…
    But to go on only belabors a single point: How people communicate is always interesting. And it really doesn’t matter what they’re talking about.
    Another provocative post. I always enjoy my time here.
    thanks, Tom

  62. Director of Lab Cultural Affairs - July 2, 2009

    “Consider that the Wine Advocate has over 135,000 wine reviews and Wine Spectator has over 216,000 reviews. On the other hand, Gary V. has reviewed a little less than 2000 wines. That is close to the number of reviews in a single issue of the Wine Advocate.”
    For what it’s worth, CellarTracker should crest the 1,000,000 tasting notes milestone in the very near future.
    Even Leibniz couldn’t come up with a calculus that will save traditional media from a global community of reviewers.

  63. Cory Cartwright - July 2, 2009

    Sunnyvale? I’m in San jose, damnit. (Not much difference I guess). As for the issue at hand what you are starting to see is not a huge shift from traditional media outlets, but rather small niches of wine consumers that are slowly decoupling themsleves from having anything to do with traditional media outlets. This can definitely be seen with the reader base I have and the group of people I’ve assembled this month. Will it play a larger part in wine culture? Probably, but honestly there isn’t enough people who take seriously enough to even care about traditional media for us to have a huge impact. Even those people who pay attention to shelf talkers are going to be influenced more by the brand name on the stub than anything it says. So to anwer the question, i think the influence of wine blogs are more limited by the way people consume and purchase wine (quickly with little thought), the way it is distributed (spottily, try and find even the wines that Gary V recommends nearby before you forget them) and the fact that Wine Spectator, Advocate etc. carry more cachet than any specific thing they say. By the way the link above is broken, but our 31 Days of Natural Wine series is going on currently and we have some great contributors and since it relates to this discussion, here it is:

  64. Director of Lab Cultural Affairs - July 2, 2009

    I’m pretty hopeless. Can’t even do a proper hyperlink. Thanks Sunnyvale.

  65. Alder - July 4, 2009

    I didn’t realize it was an out-and-out war? I think the real question to be asked here is whether the INTERNET will supplant traditional print media as the primary channel for wine information. And the answer to that is almost assuredly so. Just ask any of the dozens of print publications (L.A. Times, Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Food & Wine Magazine, USA Today) that have laid off all or nearly all of their wine journalists in the last 8 months. Of course, this is not restricted to the world of wine. Newspapers and Magazines are dying, thanks to the internet. And partially due to the fact that people are giving away for free on the internet what heretofore has only been available for money on dead trees. Yes, I’m part of the problem.
    Sigh. Where are the hard figures on how many people surf free porn online? As soon as you figure out how to get that number, you can figure out what the readership is of blogs. With thousands of bit players (yes thousands, not 800) there’s no way to get this information, get over it. This is not the barrier to advertising investment. The barrier to advertising investment is the fact that the effort involved in placing ads on a hundred different wine blogs (even if you could) vs. the return in eyeballs doesn’t compare to a full page ad in the Spectator. Why advertise on a wine blog when you can get 10x the traffic advertising on Decanter.Com ?
    Dude, since when is a shelf talker the measure of influence (and yes, Vinography has appeared on several shelf-talkers, and my scores regularly appear on winery web sites right alongside WA, WS, WE)? You won’t find me arguing the point that my influence compares to such publications, however, it doesn’t. But, when I say good things about a wine, it sells. I have winemakers telling me this all the time. Some have even told me that only the new Parker score for their wine in an issue of the Wine Advocate has sold more wine in the space of a week than when I wrote about a wine (of course, cumulatively over the lifetime of that wine, there’s probably no contest).
    I’m POSITIVE that reviews on wine blogs are selling wine. A lot of it, and that’s how influence should be measured. And if a wine blog anywhere, ever, has caused a consumer to buy a bottle of wine that they wouldn’t have ordinarily, then YES wine blogs do have “any” influence.
    I throw up a little in my mouth every time this comes up. I think part of the obsession with such things is the fact that so many people (especially traditional journalists) have the impression that wine bloggers are an unethical bunch that folks have become compulsive about this. Like someone who is told that everyone thinks they have bad breath and starts brushing 4 times a day, carries a bottle of Listerine, and breathes nervously into their hand to check and make sure that people aren’t right.
    Only if they want to reach an audience of millions of wine drinkers who will never likely read an article in the “traditional wine media” ever.

  66. tom merle - July 7, 2009

    “For what it’s worth, CellarTracker should crest the 1,000,000 tasting notes milestone in the very near future” writes the Director. Blogs vs. MSM is really a side issue. The most significant trend, in all fields of consumption, not just wine, are consumer reviews aggregated and averaged, whether by the 100 pt. system 10 pts. 5 stars, etc. “People’s Choice” selections represent the true democratization, not posting individual personal impressions by those without credentials. The single observer is becoming irrelevant. Whether it’s Amazon or Verizon, companies are posting consumer ratings and rankings.
    Once CT adds its social media component, it will be the go to site to guide buying decisions.
    It should be noted that this same group assessment phenomenon, facilitated by the web, can also apply to critics, of course. Witness where, typically, 190 +/- movie reviews for a given film from recognized critics are sourced and then placed in one of two categories–fresh and rotten (links are provided to the original review). So “Up” gets a 95% favorable rating while Transformer pulls a 19% favorable.
    Still, it’s power to and by the people.

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