Questions and Change Brought On By Wine Blogging
Occasionally comments on this blog come in the form questions, rather than statements. However, most often those questions are along the lines of "Who the hell do you think you are." Rhetorical at best.
However, very occasionally I get real honest to goodness questions that deserve a real responses.
Thomas Pellechia, a long time wine professional, excellent wine writer, blogger, and all around semi-curmudgeon, recently asked me a question in connection to a post about wine writers v. wine bloggers. Thomas asked:
exactly are wine bloggers "in it together and making a change to
something that has existed for decades."
What's the change? Tasting notes and opinions (especially the
baseless ones) read the same to me in print as they do on-line. I really
want to know what you believe the "change" is: more voices? more smarts?
more and better information? Fill in the blanks for me, please. You are
too general with your analysis.
Certainly one of the changes, as Thomas hints at, is that bloggers have brought far more baseless tasting notes and reviews into the public wine sphere. That's hard to argue with. Of course they've also brought a lot more superb tasting notes and reviews.
But consider this other change: Bloggers have created more "unique bodies of readers". This is another way of saying there are more voices, but it also means that there are more audiences for members of the trade to pay attention to. It's not so difficult for a blogger to create a national discussion among hard core wine lovers and the wine trade that may never have emerged had there not been a blogosphere. This is important because it remains a fact that the trade and the top wine buyers frame the way wine is discussed.
Also, wine publicists like myself ignore these new voices and their audiences at their own peril.
It is also a fact that wine bloggers are playing an important role in promoting social media as an outlet for the average consumer to take wine into their own hands. They tend to be chronic tweeters and Facebookers and have for years now been encouraging a democratization of opinion.
And it's important to consider how the wine blogging world is playing a role in the ongoing reconsideration of the value of content in the wine writing world. What is a professional writer's product worth to a publisher when consumers of wine information can find huge swaths of wine information on the net for free? Thomas Pellechia likely knows, as do other long time wine writers, that it is becoming more difficult to be paid for their work as much as they did just ten years. Many believe the reduction in the payment that comes to professional wine writers has to do with the emergence of free media (read: Bloggers). Interestingly, all I hear is that subscriptions are up at the well established wine magazines. Yet, in many cases, payment is down.
But perhaps most important is that bloggers have brought political commentary to the world of wine writing. It is extraordinarily rare for the major wine publications and wine journalists at newspapers and magazines to take hard and fast positions on the political issues within the wine industry. And why should they? Their mission has long been to bring commentary on wine, winemaking and wine regions to the world of wine lovers and the wine trade along with reviews. They write for all elements of the industry and the consuming community and these publications neither achieve their mission nor deliver the objective product they should deliver when they take a stand on controversial political issues.
Not so for wine bloggers. Most bloggers launched their publishing career with the simple goal of adding to the discussion without restraint. It has been bloggers that have been primarily concerned with taking positions on issues of direct shipping, the three tier system, self distribution, blue laws, and other issues. I believe that the politics of wine, of which there are a great deal, have been best explored over the past 5 years primarily because of bloggers.
I think these changes just scratch the surface.
It's entirely legitimate to make the case that the changes that have been brought on by bloggers aren't so good. I'll listen to those arguments. But it's hard to argue that bloggers have not brought on change, and important changes at that.