Why I’m Attending the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference
In October, the 11th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference will be held in Walla Walla, Washington. I didn’t attend the two most recent conferences after having attended the previous eight. I’m going to Walla Walla for a couple important reasons: 1) I want to investigate the state of wine blogging by observing and interacting with a highly motivated contingent of bloggers and 2) I want to network with and get to know those bloggers to whom I’ll be pitching stories. Plus, I’m a wine blogger.
There remains a very good definition of “wine blogger”: An individual voice writing for their own website. You could throw in some other conditions to the definitional pool, such as not getting paid, having a relatively small audience, making very little income from advertising, and organizing its content rather strictly by date. In addition, most will have relatively little experience writing on the topic of wine.
The interest in wine bloggers peaked around 2010, six years after I started this blog and after a steady increase in interest if you believe the data from GoogleTrends. Again according to GoogleTrends, interest in wine blogging bottomed out around the beginning of 2017. It may be on a slight increase today. I emphasize “slight”.
The decline in interest in wine blogging isn’t a result of a decrease in interest in what wine bloggers have to say. It reflects the fact that blogging (in all genre) is no longer the new thing. Between 2004 and 2010 the explosion in new voices that emerged via wine blogging was staggering and it led many to speculate on the continued impact that the mainstream wine media possessed. Today, blogging, in general, has matured significantly to the point where it is now a mainstream method of publication. The medium is no longer the message. The message is the message. And that’s a good thing.
Those of us who have been following and reading wine blogs since their start, we can look at a partial list of attendees at the upcoming conference and notice that no more than a small handful of those folks who started out blogging during the format’s peak time of interest are attending the conference. It’s understandable. On the one hand, many of these people no longer blog. Others may still be blogging, but no longer find interest in the conference. For many years the attendees at the Wine Bloggers Conference were a reflection of the strong camaraderie that existed among those who saw themselves as the tip of a new media sword. Today’s attendees are the tip of nothing. They are simply individuals devoted to wine and to writing about wine and educating on the topic of wine. This is surely a more consequential perspective.
The conference agenda recognizes this perspective by not just providing conference content on wine topics but focusing on how to write about wine and how to communicate about wine in an era that provides so many different vehicles for doing so. The conference is structured such that it endorses the idea that the message is the message.
There will be some relatively new and youngish wine bloggers at the conference who will, in the future, be influential voices in the world of wine media. I’m not entirely sure who these attendees are, but one of my goals in attending the conference is to find out. It doesn’t take much investigation to uncover who these folks are. You just have to answer a few questions: 1) how committed to writing and communicating are they? 2) How insightful is their writing? 3) How motivated are they to build an audience for their message?
And always it has been the case that wine bloggers have used the medium to raise their own profile with the intent of helping them gain entrance into the wine industry in other capacities, be it marketing, PR, hospitality, or in other roles. It’s a good move. The quality of one’s blog content can tell you a great deal about the quality of the person behind the blog: Do they have a deep understanding of their subject matter? Do they communicate well? Are they able to suss out unique insights on an issue that has otherwise been well covered? Can they commit to a project once they start? These are all important qualities to possess for a person who hopes to further a career in the industry and important qualities for potential employers.
My hope is that what I’ll discover in Walla Walla is that the state of wine blogging is strong, that the wine blogging field is filled with talented younger voices, and that the Conference continues to be an event that celebrates camaraderie.