Mediocrity on the Eve of the Wine Bloggers Conference
The upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference in New York’s Finger Lakes region has me excited; probably because I was unable to attend last year’s conference and I miss the gathering. But it also has provided me the occasion to think about the process of blogging and blogging about wine.
In fact, I recently took time to think again about what it takes to be a successful blogger and particularly a successful wine blogger (it’s not rocket science), and to assess whether I’m living up to my criteria.
1. You Must Blog Regularly (Me–>FAIL)
To me, a successful wine blog is regularly updated—at least twice a week, better if its four times per week. We can never forget that a successful wine blog is written for an audience, not for ourselves. Readers want freshness. They want something new. They want another tip. They want another idea. And they want these things regularly. I’ve failed to write regularly enough to be successful—probably no more than 1 post per week for the past few months.
2. You Must Write With Confidence (Me–>SUCCEED)
Nothing is more disappointing than a writer who hedges their bets by not being a forceful advocate for their ideas and beliefs. If you want to explain why Natural Wine fails as a category or why wine wholesalers are the enemy of consumers or what we should understand about the idea of terroir, you must not be ambivalent when you write. You must be profoundly confident in your opinion. I’ve never had a problem in this area.
3. Be Relevant and Timely (Me–> FAIL)
This is the easiest thing in the world to be when you blog. There are countless issues that arise in our culture and society that impact the wine industry. Linking current events, the current zeitgeist, the most interesting ideas being talked about to wine is the right way to make your readers’ broader experiences relevant to wine. Donald Trump…He owns a vineyard. Climate Change….grapes respond to the climate. Black Lives Matter….why are African-Americans less likely to drink wine? Think broadly and be relevant. I’ve not been writing regularly enough to begin to be relevant
4. Demonstrate Expertise in Specific Subject (Me–>SUCCEED)
It is extraordinarily rare to find an excellent wine blogger who is a generalist. The best wine bloggers have an expertise in a particular area (tasting, an appellation, a type of wine, an area of the wine industry, a form of writing) and push that expertise out into the world via their writing and blog. I’ve tried very hard to stick to business/marketing/media/political issues in the wine industry and have been pretty good at focusing on these topics over the past decade.
5. Write Decently So That You Can Be Understood (Me–>SUCCEED)
This goes without saying, right? No. If you are not confident in your writing ability, you shouldn’t be blogging at all. The idea is to communicate your ideas and your thoughts and your opinions. It’s not difficult to learn to write effectively and you don’t need to be Shakespeare, Matt Kramer or Gerald Asher. Just competent. I’m a fairly competent writer when it comes to being understood with the occasional typoe.
6. Read Your Peers Relentlessly and Consistently (Me–>FAIL)
Inspiration is almost always the result of careful observation. And bloggers writing regularly are always looking for inspiration. There is no better place to find that inspiration that from your peers. I’d wager a good 33% of my posts come from reading wine writers. Additionally, the more deeply we know the industry about which we write and the better we understand the zeitgeist of that industry, the better blogger we will be. Reading other writer will provide you with the industry zeitgeist. There was a time when I committed an hour a day to reading about wine. No so much anymore.
Those who blog about wine (the folks that publish their own thoughts, ideas and opinions almost always without compensation) are occasionally painted with the same brush that displays a poor picture of their competence. It’s a silly thing for anyone to suggest. However, there are good wine bloggers, bad wine bloggers and, as evidenced by myself of late, mediocre wine bloggers. The same can be said for those that write for cash.
This week’s Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes will be populated by a slew of motivated folks who blog about wine. Each of them can be better at their craft by focusing regularly on these basic rules.