Wine Writers vs Wine Writers

Wbc 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.


13 Responses

  1. ChrisO Vintuba - June 25, 2010

    Great post Tom. I especially agree with the quote ” all wine bloggers are wine writers, but all wine writers are not wine bloggers.”
    Looking forward to seeing you at WBC10

  2. George R Perry - June 25, 2010

    Wishing I could be there at WBC10 with you guys, but a great post about bloggers and “writers”.

  3. 1WineDude - June 25, 2010

    Tom – GREAT take and explanation. I feel like I just got a history lesson on wine blogging, and I was even kind fo part of the history! Bravo!

  4. Alfonso - June 25, 2010

    The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in Napa is $475…
    Sorry I couldnt be there, had to stay back for a Congnac kickoff with Ludacris

  5. Alfonso - June 25, 2010

    Cognac, that is…where’s my prooof reader? Oh wait, I’m just a blogger 😉

  6. PaulG - June 25, 2010

    All wine bloggers are wine writers!?!?! I guess if you take the definition of a writer to include anyone with a basic command of the alphabet. But how many are actually competent journalists?

  7. JohnLopresti - June 25, 2010

    Times change. Would Sophocles enter an online dramatist contest by typing a world class play glossed with links to images? Would Dylan Thomas even show up at an online blank verse poets “slam”? Some folks nearly that excellent currently are at the wineblogger conference taking us one more step into the future of communications.

  8. WineMindshare - June 25, 2010

    Great post. I, too, agree with the quote “wine bloggers are wine writers, but all wine writers are not wine bloggers”.
    Wish I could be at the conference. Maybe next year.

  9. Tom Wark - June 25, 2010

    Im defining writer as someone who publishes information for an audience. There are good and bad writers…everywhere. But what should be interesting about my definition of “writer” is what it says about the revolutionary nature of blogging technology.

  10. Samantha Dugan - June 26, 2010

    That definition sounds more like a typer than I writer. I think that some of the “strife” between wine writers and wine bloggers is the word “writer”. The word itself is vague, but I think most people would consider a writer someone that is paid for their work. There are loads of people that write, (write beautifully even) that do not receive compensation for what they produce…they write well but are they writers? Tough to say and I think that when everyone that types calls themselves a “writer” it can kind of devalue or give the feeling of devaluing those who are in fact paid for their words. I think if wine bloggers, (of which I am one…not a wine writer, a blogger) would just call themselves wine bloggers rather than wine writers it could go a long way in smoothing out the crinkled undies.
    This in no way implies that wine writers write better than some bloggers, not at all in fact but being published is one thing, self publishing is quite another. I say this as someone that has a very real passion for words and writing but for now, well for now I call myself a blogger…proudly.

  11. Thomas Pellechia - June 26, 2010

    Tom, maybe it’s time to stop generalizing, in either direction.
    How 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 online. 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.
    Plus, what are your thoughts on those of us who are both print writers and bloggers, but who maintain a certain uneasiness with the latter for reasons of quality?
    Believe it or not, some of us have been playing with computers since even before COBAL was the language of choice–we aren’t exactly Luddites, but we may be concerned about what Sam points to: devaluation of a craft.

  12. Taylor Eason - June 29, 2010

    As a wine writer/blogger/drinker, this post, and especially the comments, are telling. I’m a freelance (paid) wine columnist who also blogs, tweets, posts. The definition of someone like that eludes me. Thomas asked “What’s the change?” and I have to agree. People are still stating their opinions about the topic (ideally, ethically and not as winery wonks), waxing humorously and trying to get their name out there as an “influencer” or “authority”, simply on a different medium.
    But maybe the main question here is: What do bloggers want? Respect… which is what is happening now. To have that many people come together (I was unable to join in but followed it voraciously on the blogs, FB, Twitter) in one place to talk about such a tiny fraction of the consumer consciousness is pretty fantastic (or foolish as some might declare). And the fact that companies were trolling the attendees for candidates speaks volumes to the naysayers. Wine binds people together, as it binds a meal, and maybe this is just the beginning. I hope it is… it’s a fun ride.

  13. Golf Instruction - June 29, 2010

    Really good post. This can apply for some many other writers of a particular subject. Now a days anyone can create a blog and write decent content without any previous writing experience. This is what happens when mainstream media in no longer in control as is the case now.
    Any golfers play Wine Valley Country Club when they were there?

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