Wine Writers and the Question of Jello vs. Pudding

Designing the recent survey I conducted that will result in the fourth American Wine Writer Survey Report since 1994, a question arose that needed to be answered: Is there any value in asking wine writers whether their work appears in print, digital or both?

I had to consider the question for a full 60 seconds.

As those 60 seconds passed I pondered whether there was a more useless question I could put to the wine writers that would respond to the survey. In the end, I decided that querying them on their preference for jello vs. pudding might be more useless. Neither of the questions appeared in the survey.

In the past two Wine Writer Surveys I’ve conducted (2004 and 2010), however, trying to determine if wine writers produced stories for print or digital or both was, in fact, an important question. The question would show the extent to which the Internet and digital publishing had impacted the work of wine writers. The very first survey (1994) didn’t contemplate the question.

Today, no important wine writing is published outside digital means, whether we are talking about journalism, commentary or book authorship. The takeover of 1’s and 0’s is complete and has been for quite some time. Printed books are in large part decorative items.

One new question that will be answered in the coming 2018 Wine Writer Survey Report is the extent to which wine writers use social media tools in their work. Note that I did not ask writers if they publish in social media formats. I realize that writers’ thoughts and ideas are commonly expressed via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. However, they rarely rise to the level of “writing”.

This isn’t to say that writers expressing themselves via social media have no impact on sales or opinions. I suppose they most certainly do. And some of the most illuminating “conversations” I’ve had about wine happened in the context of back and forth comments via social media. Still, there is little pay and little professionalism in Social Media. It’s doesn’t qualify as “writing”.

But this too may change one day.

The 2018 American Wine Writer Survey will be released in the coming weeks.

Posted In: Wine Media

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2 Responses

  1. S. Renée Koon - August 21, 2018

    I seem to remember writing a syndicated wine column for McClatchy News Service. My pay was 3 hours of overtime. The real pay was from the wineries themselves in the form of events and samples that kept my palate educated. These two things are what provided the content for many a story. Without them, a newspaper could not afford to pay the expenses to keep a wine writer’s palate up-to-date.
    Social media will find the “real” pay in the same way. The question is how do you measure the “real” results of the likes and hearts in terms of readership and sales.
    As we both know, social media lacks journalistic integrity and can hardly qualify as “writing.” However, does it serve the wine industry?

  2. Helena - August 29, 2018

    All good, Tom. Bloggers can be excellent or amusing or both or neither. Social Media does have its place, as do many different wine writers, in the true sense, who show integrity and considered opinion. The very best wine writers develop a band of ‘disciples’ and hardly ever get overly controversial without exceptionally superb reasons. And, of course, they ‘argue’ well.


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