Wine Writers vs Wine Writers
Beginning today the third annual Wine Bloggers Conference begins here in Walla Walla, Washington. I'm 3 for 3.
I date the advent of wine blogging as an active pursuit to 2005 when more than a few got their start. It only took three years for bloggers to determine they needed a place to gather once a year and confer. What strikes me is that in the nearly 100 years prior to the first wine bloggers conference, there was never a "wine writers conference." (Some will tell you that the Professional Wine Writer Symposium in Napa Valley, begun a few years ago is such a conference, but at $1500 +/- it's not too inviting) I think if we can explain why there has never been a real wine writers conference, while a wine bloggers conference got off the ground so quickly, we might have a pretty good answer to the question, "What's the difference between a wine blogger and a wine writer?"
Let me say out of the gate that I believe all wine bloggers are wine writers, but all wine writers are not wine bloggers.
I don't think there has ever been a sense among traditional wine writers that they were doing anything new. And they weren't. Wine writing has been happening for centuries. Bloggers, however, do have a sense that they are doing something new (maybe even changing things) and this has led them to band together…or at least to be aware of each other. Knowing you are doing something new and being aware of others doing the same thing has instilled a sense of camaraderie among the wine blogging community.
The path from camaraderie to conference isn't a long one.
I think it's also true that once you have a contingent of folks who believe they are in it together, it doesn't take long for them to believe that there must be folks who AREN'T in it with them. For bloggers, that seems to mean that traditional wine writers aren't with them and this has caused some degree of an "us v. them" mentality, among bloggers and non-bloggers.
That same type of camaraderie has never existed among the traditional wine writing fraternity.
I actually have proof in the form of data that demonstrates that non-blogging wine writers have a certain disdain for bloggers. There are any number of reasons why this might be the case. The most prominent reasons are they don't think most bloggers have the chops and they associate the relatively recent difficulty in sustaining a living as a wine writer to the forces that led to the emergence of bloggers: new technology and the adoption of that technology by consumers.
All this leads to traditional wine writers considering the possibility that they are in descent while bloggers are on the rise. And they may be right.
So in the end it is Attitude that separates wine bloggers from writers; the attitude that they are in it together and making a change to something that has existed for decades. Non blogging wine writers don't' feel this same urgency and never have.
Bloggers also feel a different kind of urgency that the typical, non-blogging wine writer. The best Bloggers feel an urgency to turn their generally unpaid pursuit into some sort of career path or at least into a venture that aids another career path. While I've noted an urgency on the part of non-blogging wine writers, that urgency is one that makes them question their own career path. It's becoming more and more difficult to make a living at wine writing just as it is becoming more and more difficult to make a living at writing in general.
Maybe it's time for non-blogging wine writers to have their own conference to explore their situation and confer on ways to stabilize the economics of their career choice. But I have to wonder if that conference wouldn't be dominated by bloggers who show up determined to demonstrate that they are the future of wine writing.