Did Wine Blogs Die Without a Funeral?
Below is a chart produced via Google Trends. It depicts the relative interest in the term “Wine Blog” over time based on Google search queries.
As you can see the relative interest in wine blogs has been waning now for a good six years since interest peaked in 2009. What happened? Whatever happened did not only happen to wine blogs. It has happened to blogs in general.
What happened was social media.
Above is another chart produced by Google Trends showing relative interest in the search terms “Blog”, “Twitter”, “Instagram”, “LinkedIn” and “Pinterest”. I haven’t included “Facebook” in this Google Trends chart because its interest is so much greater than all the others that it produces a chart that has lines running along the bottom bunched together and unreadable with a line for Facebook at the top.
THE MIGRATION TO SOCIAL MEDIA
The point is that those who had been showing interest in blogs, including wine blogs, have migrated to social media. This is not to say people have lost interest in wine. Rather, they have demonstrated that their interest in wine has always been one that is driven by community. While blogs once better served wine lovers as a source of community, today social media does this far more effectively.
It is also a comment on the relative numbers of wine lovers interested in short form vs. long form explorations of wine. Given the nature of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn and Instagram, and given the migration of interest toward those platforms, it’s pretty clear that a “blurb-driven” form of communication is preferred over a more expansive form of communication.
SUBSTANCE VS. BLURBANCE
Does this mean the blog is dead? No. What it means is that the readers of blogs tend to be far more interested in a deeper more substantive exploration of wine than those who turn primarily to social media for their wine-related interactions and content. I know this sounds like a disparaging way of putting things, but I’m not meaning to be disparaging. I’m meaning to be factual.
Joe Roberts, publisher of the blog 1WineDude and one of the more successful and prolific wine bloggers, came to a similar conclusion when I asked him if he thought wine blogs were in decline:
“I certainly have noticed a lower amount of engagement overall in terms of comments on wine blogs, but that’s something that I predicted over three years ago; I think the discussions about wine blog posts have largely moved to the larger watering hole of Facebook. That’s not necessarily a negative thing. I also think (and I am speculating here) that wine blogging has matured and slowed down a bit, chiefly because its most visible and influential members are getting older; they’ve more responsibilities, less time to blog, etc. That could be a negative thing, if the space isn’t infused with more passionate “new blood” in its wake.”
Joe may or may not be correct concerning the “maturing” of wine blogging’s most visible members. It certainly fits in my case. The more important concern for members of the wine industry is what does this mean for their marketing and communication efforts?
APPLYING OLD RULES TO A NEW REALITY
The most basic rule of marketing communications is that you must know how your audience desires to be communicated with and communicate with them in that manner. I think that with regard to wine, it’s pretty clear that a good portion of people interested in wine want to learn, communicate and commune via social media platforms. In fact, I’m pretty sure they expect this whether they are entry-level consumers or mature consumers or whether they are members of the wine trade who want to communicate with each other in a collegial or B2B fashion.
This isn’t news. But it does beg the question, what is the role of wine blogs—that apparently old form and less desired form of communication?
My colleague Julie Ann Kodmur recently suggested that what’s happening is the “silo-ing” of blog consumption. Where once people perused a number of wine blogs, today they stick with and are loyal to only a few or perhaps even one wine blog.
WINE BLOGS AND AUTHORITY FIGURES
This is undoubtedly correct and it means that identifying those blogs with the greatest readership and authority is as important as ever for those looking to see where the more substance-oriented wine communities are choosing to indulge their interests, be they recreational or professional.
One thing is certain. There are not nearly as many serious wine bloggers today as there were in 2009 and 2010, the heyday of blogging in general and wine blogging in particular. For the marketers and publicists, this makes your job easier. Identifying the serious wine communicators working in the blog format is easier to do today. It’s also more likely that these people will continue to take on more recognized authority as time goes on if they choose to keep up their work. And it’s equally true that these folks are far more likely today to find paying gigs outside their personal blogs — if they choose to.
Is it possible that people are still reading wine blogs at the same numbers, (or greater) but are using the social networks of their friends as the gatekeepers of quality?
I know that my wine article discovery mechanism is mostly Facebook and Twitter today, because my knowledgeable wine friends are sharing the blogs that they read.