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.
1. HAS OR WILL THE WINE BLOG TAKE DOWN PRINT MEDIA AS THE PRIMARY FORM OF WINE INFORMATION FOR CONSUMERS AND THE INDUSTRY?
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.
2. WHERE ARE THE HARD FIGURES ON THE READERSHIP OF WINE BLOGS?
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.
3. DO WINE BLOGS CARRY ANY INFLUENCE?
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.
4. ARE ETHICS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR THE WINE BLOGOSPHERE?
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.
5. SHOULD WINERIES AND WINE COMPANIES CARE ABOUT OR INTERACT WITH WINE BLOGGERS THE WAY THEY CARE ABOUT OR INTERACT WITH TRADITIONAL WINE MEDIA?
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.