Friday Rant: Here We Go Again

This blog will reach its third anniversary in about a month. I am not sure of where that ranks among blogs in general or wine blogs in particular, but I would imagine that it places it somewhere slightly ahead of the mean. Most of the time I hope that my writing enables the reader to take her mind off her myriad problems for at least a moment or two to think about wine or at least have a chuckle. Every once in a while, though, something raises my ire, and I feel the need to rant a bit, and today it is about wine blogging. I have blogged about blogging before, much to the chagrin of some other bloggers, but…

Here we go again.

[By the way, I am not quite sure why blogging about blogging is met with so much derision, but perhaps that is a rant for another time.]

I try to read as many other blogs as I can and keep up with as much of the “industry” news as possible, but I know I fall woefully short. Recently, though, I did read a brief article recounting some of the content provided at the Digital Wine Communications Conference that took place in Montreux, Switzerland last month. I was not there, but I found an article about the conference on Harpers.co.uk with the following title:

Wine bloggers risk becoming “dinosaurs” unless they become more professional hears DWCC 

Oh boy, here we go again.

rantI know I shouldn’t, but every time there is one of these doom and gloom posts about the future of wine blogging, I take it personally. Why? I am not really sure. Can I say that the article was directed at me? No, but I am not really sure. After all, these commentators treat all bloggers as if they were the same (or at least classify them into a few categories), so what should I think?

At this particular conference (like others I have attended), there were several speakers at the conference that apparently had some “constructive criticism” for me (as a wine blogger).

First mentioned in the article was Louise Hurren, a PR and marketing type who stated that it was time for bloggers to “grow up and pro up”–which she clarified as the need for bloggers to be “professional about [blogging]” and treat it as if it were a full-time job.

If I had been there and heard this, I would have raised my hand high and asked one question:

“Why?”

Those of you who have spent a more than a moment around me have no doubt heard my favorite question, one that drives much of what I do: “What is your goal?” There is no real way of knowing how many wine bloggers there are (that would require first a definition of what a wine blogger is and I am not sure we really know the answer to that), but it is conceivable that there are many different goals why wine bloggers blog: the love of wine, the love of writing, a desire to share knowledge, hoping to eventually get paid to write about wine (good luck with that one, by the way).

For many of those goals, why would it be necessary to “grow up” or “pro up”? Many (most?) bloggers have a day job–one that pays far more than they could ever hope to earn blogging, and they might have no desire to make blogging their profession. They blog because they actually enjoy it. So why should they have to “pro up” exactly?

Don’t get me wrong. I take my blog seriously (perhaps it is not always evident, but…) and I try to produce good content that others might want to read, but other than for my own sense of producing quality “work” why would I need to “pro up” (much less “grow up”)? I do receive occasional samples, I have had a few meals and hotel rooms comped, but no one would confuse me with a “professional” wine blogger if they had a look at my tax returns (and no, I am not about to go 1winedude and publish those).

Another speaker, Robert Joseph (described as a “wine commentator and critic who also runs his own blog”) criticized bloggers for essentially covering the same ground. Over on Alder Yarrow’s site, Vinography, there is a list of wine blogs that is well over 700 sites long (English language blogs). Is Mr. Joseph suggesting that each blog focus on a different aspect of the wine world?

Come on.

Mr. Joseph also apparently classified wine bloggers into three camps: “the self-funding, rich blogger who are effectively ‘keeping a diary in public’; the blagger blogger who just like [sic] going on trips; and the blogger who is actually paid to write posts…”

Well, I am certainly not rich, I definitely do not get paid to write posts, and while I love going on trips, I have yet to get a free ticket to fly anywhere. So I can’t be the only wine blogger that wonders where I fit in.

I assume, based on my own experience and conversations that I have had with others that the vast majority of wine bloggers blog because they enjoy it–not many have delusions of getting rich–so why are others (usually non-bloggers or print media types) frequently trying to define (and redefine) bloggers by telling us how we should act, or insist on placing us into categories or boxes?

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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46 Responses to Friday Rant: Here We Go Again

  1. Good points. Many of the criticisms of wine blogging *do* confuse it with wine writing – by which I mean professional posts intended to be used as expert information. I am, of course, not claiming that blogging cannot also be professional “wine writing” and be used as expert information. But, many blogs are personal explorations. I think the readers of blogs can distinguish between their writers’ credentials, level of experience, intent, etc. People read them for as many and varied reasons as people write them. As long as their is no intentional deception going on, I fail to see the problem and don’t see the need for blog requirements. BUT – I really, really hate the “word” “delish” and I do wish there were an international law against its use!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Duff's Wines says:

    Right on, Jeff. This ‘constructive criticism’ from the wine media intelligensia is just another attempt to control the wine media and, in smaller part, the wine industry. What they mean is, “be more like us.” Don’t present different, competitive, present more of the same. And as far as getting paid? Really?
    I met an interesting past senior member of the wine media (name withheld) who said she left for retail because it was all a bit too prescriptive. And, despite the mantra to friendly-up wine commentary and information to grow the audience, they tried instead to convert the audience to their paradigm.
    I do believe that any ‘pro-up’ train has left the station already. The blogs I follow are professional enough in the figurative sense. Frankly, it’s through these efforts that the industry’s following will turn on, not drop out.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I could not agree more—the “wine media intelligentsia” as you put it seems to have realized that their monopoly on “wine writing” writ large is crumbling around them. They are the first to criticize wine bloggers for their unprofessionalism, particularly when it concerns junkets provided by the wine industry. I can’t help but think that they realize that for every such trip provided to a blogger, that is one less trip available to them….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. talkavino says:

    I’m completely with you, Jeff ( rare occasion! 🙂 ) – we blog because we enjoy it – that’s all there is to it. And as far as the [supposedly] Pros opinions are concerned – in a lot of cases, they say what they say only because they are put (or think they are) in position where they supposed to say something. But they actually don’t have anything of essence to say. Classifying all the blogs into 3 categories? Give me a break. “Pro-up”? Why? In a lot of cases we can say what we want to say because there are no money involved, so we can speak our mind. Oenophiles are passionate (read: obsessed) with the wine, and we simply try to share that passion with the world – in the best way we can.

    Like

    • Wait. I read your comment three times now and it seems like you actually agree with me…. I need a moment to recover 😉 I think you are exactly right—one of the reasons for the relative popularity of wine blogs is that the passion actually comes through. The print media tries to claim that they are objective, but there is no way they possibly can be—they hypocrisy is staggering.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fig & Quince says:

    I love a good rant! 🙂

    Like

  5. Jeff, With each post you continue to confirm why you are my favorite drunken cyclist. I appreciate the way you rise to the occasion of the rant and, in particular, blogging about blogging. (insert something about a high five here 😉 )

    In the spirit of fairness to Louise (whom I have met and believe to be one of the most gracious and straight-forward folks in this wonderful world of wine blogging), I was not at DWWC so I do not have the benefit of ‘context’ to the statement you quote, “grow up and pro up,” but you do raise a number of good points here, namely, “why?”

    Given the number of different reasons one takes to the interwebs to share his/her views about wine via a blog, there is no practical way to put us all in neat boxes, especially not three categories. And, since we likely all have different goals, I too ask “why” should everyone have to ‘grow up and pro up?’ To what end?

    And on the matter of the blogging about blogging to the chagrin of some — don’t give it a second thought. These folks are no better than those (elitist, condescending?) bloggers that label others who take a contrary view to group think as ‘sell outs.’ Oh the pain of chagrin and labels, eh?

    Please forgive me for any typos, offensive uses of commas and any subtext contained herein as I am replying to this post via mobile phone.

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was going to mention you by name, but I wondered if you would find this on your own. I had a hunch…. I have only been blogging for three years, but it seems like “we” are always being told how we need to act more like print journalists, and I am not really sure why. If any medium is soon to become a dinosaur, well, I know what I think….

      Like

  6. I’m in complete agreement with you! Blogging shouldn’t HAVE to be professional. At least know your grammar, and don’t type the whole damn thing in CAPS. Shit, I started my blog because I had something to say about something…anything.

    Blogs also shouldn’t have to focus on one particular sort of wine. WTF? That’s like asking Meryl Streep to focus on just one particular genre–tragedy awaits. Not to mention the fact that poor wine lovers will be left to hunt around 70-5,467 blogs to find what type of wine they are interested in reading about.

    Keep doing what you’re doing and tell those conferences to STFU. Hey! Maybe you can have your own conference!!!!!

    Like

  7. robinskone says:

    How about just blogging for the fun of it and because you like to write? If people enjoy what you have to say, that’s great. I like reading what other people think. Wine is fun — and everyone should have fun writing about it, reading about it and drinking it! You go, guy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Leslie says:

    Clap clap clap. I guess if those who criticize you/me/us want to pay a salary, they can give performance evals as well.

    Like

  9. So what kind of wine blogger am I? (Don’t answer that…)
    I read that article, too, and thought the same thing about the “grow up and pro up.” I’m wondering about the speakers’ motivations. If bloggers go pro, then I would think there’s more pressure to watch what they say, otherwise they risk negative impact to their livelihood. In that way, the industry and PR types can have some control over the bloggers. If a blogger doesn’t have a financial stake, there’s more freedom to write whatever the hell they want. In my case, it’s Lindsay Lohan.

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  10. Anne Hughes says:

    ‘Pro up’ sounds a lot like ‘Take yourselves MORE seriously’ which kinda’ contradicts ‘have more fun’, which sounds like the goal of wine tasting and sharing (hopefully the point of blog writing). To the fun-killers, let’s ‘Question Authority’ and toast ’em while running out and playing in the mud, maybe host a squirt gun/champagne party around a campfire and stay up all night telling ghost stories about haunted vineyards and the Scrooges of the publishing past. I’d go to that!

    Like

    • There is no doubt that most bloggers want to produce quality posts and most (if not all) would rather avoid sloppiness. But having said that, you are right–we blog because we like the freedom and the ability to find our own way.

      Like

  11. I agree with your ‘rant’. I write my blog for me. It’s not professional, heck it’s not even about wine. (But often times when I blog I do have a glass nearby) And in writing my blog if I, educate, inspire or entertain someone, then my blog is a success. And your blog is a success as I have enjoyed many of your posts. 🙂

    Like

  12. dwdirwin says:

    Whew, glad I’m small potatoes and plan on staying that way. I don’t have the emotional fortitude to be placed under that kind of scrutiny. Grow-up? pishaw, not happening.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ha! I don’t disagree with you, heck I write my blog about wine like a teen girl writes about One Direction (I will be 16 years old forever and I don’t care! Stop reading my diary! ) But I think the sensationalism of the title of the DWCC 2014 session “Anti-blogging: wine bloggers, go pro or go home!” was exactly that, sensational and provocative to attract attendants, create tension, and incite debate. Yes, it is über annoying, but based on the wine industry trying to grasp the value of their investment in the blogger community. Alas, I was not there, but in connecting the dots, I can share 2 separate conversations with wine industry PR professionals who questioned recent blogger engagements they procured for their wine clients. Both expressed disappointment. They were unsure if their efforts were effective as they could not account for any return on investment (ROI.) Did they sell more wine or gain brand recognition and love? Let’s admit it, flying people around, hosting them, giving and sending them wine, it’s very expensive. From their experience, some well known (who will remain nameless) bloggers were unresponsive, arrogant and at worse came at a great expense without any reciprocity. I explained to my new friends, after they paid the check, that the wine blogging community is as diverse as opinions about wine. Some bloggers are truly experts and some are enthusiasts (moi) but one thing that a blogger knows will kill their following is if they get the reputation that they can be bought because they were flown from winery to winery and sent copious samples. There is inherent risk in expecting a blogger to deliver on your expectations. (However, if Louis Roederer wants to fly me to Reims, pour jeroboam after methuselah of Champagne down my throat, heck, I’ll change the name of my blog to CristalWineCurious – moi ROI.) In conclusion, “Go pro or go home” is a statement I interpret about honoring your agreements, being transparent about what is mutually beneficial and defining our value as an asset to the industry. This will require bloggers to reconsider boundaries and accept or decline the advances of wine industry professionals with an honest assessment of your added value to their objectives. If the industry ultimately believes the wine blogging community’s existence is non essential to furthering their business we will continue to be independently wealthy, wine tourist who scribble away in our diaries. I’m kinda ok with that. Peace-out!

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    • I certainly agree with what you said, but I can’t really feel all that bad for the wine PR people since it seems that they often do not do their homework. I can’t count the number of times that I have been sent samples and thought “Do they even read my blog?” A few times, very few, the PR people have reached out before sending me wine and created a dialogue to see if I would be interested in reviewing a wine that seems to fly in the face of my general ethos.

      Junkets are expensive, I imagine, but again, I think the industry side needs to own part of the problem if it does not go well. Communication and expectations are the key and I am not sure how much of either they promote. As for sending sample, though, I would argue that it is a rather inexpensive way to promote a wine/brand/etc.

      Last, I have often wondered about ROI as there really is no tangible way to track it (other than affiliate links, I guess). Will what one reads on my blog move them to buy the wine? That is nearly impossible to track….

      Liked by 1 person

      • You make a very good point – the best approach for those who want to engage a blogger effort in their marketing strategy is to build the relationship with the bloggers before promising results to your client. I think most if these industry types also need to understand this community – i literally started my blog with that in mind so i coukd have a genuine understanding so I could provide quality consult to clients (in retail and apparel not wine oddly.) I think the best thing you coukd do if so inclined us to author a how to: “5 Ways To Engage A Wine Blogger – And It’s Not Plying Them With Wine” make sure you tag Ms. UK PR in the tweet. Xo

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  14. northernbike says:

    that isn’t really a rant at all, more like a very sensible point which is what the hell has what anyone writes on their blog got to do with this Hurren character

    I think you take your blog quite seriously, but not too seriously, which is what makes blogs often more interesting than stuff written to commisson, because there is a real human voice behind it and that is what we alot of folks want to hear

    anyway, must dash, I’ve had the cycling press on the phone all day asking why someone thinks they can have a cycling blog when they haven’t been in a doping scandal – I should pro-up apparently…

    Like

  15. Us plebeians will never fit into any box “they” want us to. It’s unfortunate, but that’s sales. They only care about demographics, and if we don’t really belong to one that they can manipulate, well… what can they do with that? Just keep talking about what you love in your language, who cares about “growing up” or “pro-ing up”. FFS.

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  16. Jeff, I think you are totally right about this rant. We tend to write about wine, because we enjoy it. As for making money from a blog, I think that is a pipe dream. Some days the writing is difficult to achieve, especially because I have given my self a self imposed schedule, just because that is what I want. I think I may need a glass of wine after reading your rant. Then again, I can think of very few professional raconteurs; Mark Twain, Henry Morgan and Myron Cohen are a few that come to mind, and wine was not their forte, but they may have enjoyed a glass or two. Keep up the great work.

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  17. Although I am not a wine blogger (I’m just another foodie blogger 😉 ) I feel your rant is justified. I write my foodie blog because I enjoy writing, and I enjoy cooking. God forbid I would ever “pro up” what the hell? Yes, I have a day job too, but I blog because I like it. Keep on blogging, Jeff!

    Like

  18. That author seems to not be aware that blogging isn’t a “job” for everyone, and many of us don’t want it to be. We do it because we enjoy it! Enjoy sharing our stories about great wine, and making that connection with others. Cheers to “small-potatoes” bloggers!

    Like

  19. chef mimi says:

    Ugh. I hate all doom and gloom people. But I thought you were rich…

    Like

  20. jimvanbergen says:

    As a working pro who was paid for many years to write about things I was an expert but not passionate about, I’d MUCH rather spend my personal time writing about things I AM passionate about.

    These days I’m in another side of my industry, not writing. I’m very well compensated doing what I do now, so let’s be absolutely honest: writing pays crap wages unless you’re in the top 3% and those are the TOP columnists or book writers. Everyone else in publishing eeks out a mediocre living, quite honestly. I could work for one of the big mags and have a much smaller lifestyle but be paid to travel to food & wine festivals, conferences, and attend more tastings than I do- but then I’d not be nearly as passionate about it, nor would I spend my hard-earned $ buying cases to share with friends & neighbors and really work the public level of wine knowledge and tasting, which is where the MOST number are people in our society are. Working for a big company would mean my articles would be read by those willing to pay for it, which is a much smaller percentage. When I have a dozen people over for a tasting, maybe two of them have read a wine magazine, blog (other than my own) or even the NY Times Eric Asimov’s latest.
    But friends of friends and friends of family and a ton of people who love wine read my blog and twitter feeds, and I get far more satisfaction and have turned more people on to some very fun wines.

    One final note: Louise Hurren’s statement certainly feels like a thorn in my side when taken out of context as a blanket statement. But I must also admit that I heard similar views while attending #WBC14 and maybe she thinks that without certain minimal standards, it’s hard to take a wine blogger seriously if YOU are the winemaker putting the $ up front for risk. There are surely more failed blogs than successful ones. Maybe she’s been burned by having a bunch of bloggers flake out on her and lost a client. Maybe she hasn’t seen any real, quantitive value from wine bloggers. Maybe Louise just thinks we need a regular publishing schedule, certain understandings of the publishing industry’s social mores, or to be accepting of our professional responsibility if we want to be treated seriously. That’s something to chew on, right? But if she’s somewhat right, then that bitter pill is not something I’m prepared to accept as doctrine, and swallow. Not now.

    Rant away, brother! Cheers!

    Like

    • Thanks as always for the comment JvB! I realize that Ms. Hurren’s reported comments were likely meant to aide the level of quality of all blogs, which I certainly support. It seems, though, that she assumes that wine bloggers write for the perks, which I think could not be further from the truth. All of us started writing with no perks and if they were taken away tomorrow most of us would still keep writing. It’s not about the perks it’s about the personal expression.

      Liked by 1 person

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