Wine Blogs: Same Old, Same Old
The finalists in the 2010 American Wine Blog Awards were announced today and they include a variety of nominees who are new to the finalist round. Having been involved in these awards for quite some time and having watched the world of wine blogs for longer, I've now come around to the position that wine blogs are indeed members of the "traditional" or mainstream media.
For many, including myself, wine blogs have seemed to live outside this idea of the mainstream media, a world thought to be inhabited by traditional wine magazines, newspapers, larger media conglomerates and those media outlets defined by their commercial interests. On the other hand, blogs, and wine blogs in particular, have been understood as upstart challengers to the American wine media defined by their less encumbered, individualistic and often singular voices.
This is not the best way to understand blogs, nor "traditional" media.
"Traditional" media has always had one defining characteristic: it DISTRIBUTED information in the same way that wine wholesalers distributed news. Wine Blogs do the same thing. Whether they make money or not, are owned and operated by one person in their pajamas or not, whether they are advertising vehicles or not, wine blogs DISTRIBUTE the news; they, like newspaper wine columns or the Wine Enthusiast and other magazines, carry the message that in large part originates with others.
Today, if you are looking for a line to separate media, then look at the divide between "TRADITIONAL" media, which distributes the news, and SOCIAL media, which allows direct communication.
If you are looking for a better analogy, Traditional Media is the Three Tier System while Social Media is Direct To Consumer sales.
This distinction is critical for marketers and consumers to understand.
While wine marketers have always used the traditional media to deliver their message to consumers, today marketers have the additional tool of Social Media to deliver their message personally. Consumers of media and wine need to understand this too. This distinction has implications not only for how marketers ultimately speak to their customers, but also for how consumers appreciate and evaluate the messages they are being asked to consume.
Blogs may have seemed different. After all, the peculiarities of blog publishing allow anyone and everyone to become a distributor of information. This has meant a number of new voices in the wine publishing world, evidenced by the blogs that are highlighted in the American Wine blog Awards. And the very fact that this new publishing medium has seemed to steal the thunder of long time wine media publishers also seemed to set the blog apart from the mainstream.
But when you step back and really take a look at wine blogging world today, it's absolutely clear that blogs are much more aligned with the likes of the New York Times, The Glen Beck Show, The Nightly News, The Wine Spectator and Connoisseurs Guide to California wine than they are with Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, Yelp pages or Link'd In Profiles.
Wine Blogs really are not part of the new, social media phenomena. They are, instead, easily identified with the world of information distribution.
That said, I urge you to go vote in the 2010 American Wine Blog Awards. Help identify the best voices in this new appendage to the traditional media. Some truly outstanding writers and bloggers are working hard to bring you the wine news, uncover new insights into the world of wine, and bring to light the character of great wine.