Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An editorial on wine blogging (WITH CORRECTIONS)

(please go to the bottom for Paul Mabray's response, for some of what I assumed here is not correct. They will not be charging for this service)

Tom Wark, of Fermentation, reports enthusiastically that Paul Mabray, of Inertia Beverage Group, and Joel Vincent, the founder of Open Wine Consortium, have started a new company called VinTank. What is VinTank? I will let them tell you:

The Internet has collided with the Wine Industry and the future is still being written how it will transform the industry. At VinTank we understand the key questions and help industry leaders formulate winning strategies. Whether you are a Web 2.0 company trying to validate your model, a large enterprise trying to interact with the wine industry, or a wine company trying to leverage the Internet for increased exposure and sales, VinTank will bring you the solution.


What does that really mean? Let me explain. You see, VinTank's goal is to take individual wine bloggers content and reputation, judge it, and then sell it. VinTank is going to decide which bloggers are worthy, and which are not. Do you want to be worthy? Do you want to be a REAL wine blogger, an official member of VinTank's "micro-publishing" empire? You have to fill out a survey. Then they will judge you.

Why is this necessary? Well, according to Tom:

Today, wineries and wine companies are struggling with whether or not wine blogs are worth addressing in their PR efforts, whether they should actually maintain a blog,... Where blogs are concerned, I think they must be incorporated into communications campaigns. But which blogs? Which are worth engaging.


Sounds great, right? Well, not really. You see, once the list gets written down, everybody on the list has a motive to shut down any new entries. Do cross-links start to disappear? If I'm in, are you out? You see, I really like your site, I think you have great photography and a unique and wonderful insight into wine and the wine industry. Unfortunately for you, I'm already on the list and I fear that if you get on, I might get kicked off. So, no cross-links, even though keep a complete list of Wine Twitters, with a continuously updated list of new blog postings, even though I run The 89 Project, a group effort with almost 50 bloggers.

Do you want to know which blogs are worthy, which ones are "influential"? Why? Do you want to know who to send samples to? Do you want to know where to buy advertising? What is the goal? You see, the blog depends upon the wine. Do you make a terrific wine that comes in under $20? Find Dr. Debs and her wonderful Good Wine Under $20. Are you a New York winery looking for exposure? Do I even need to tell you that Lenn Thompson at Lenndevours is your guy? Do you make wine meant for the cellar, not the table, and fear nobody will give your wine the decanting and time it needs to give hints of its potential? Come right here to 2 Days per Bottle. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of great wine blogs out there, many serving different readers and different palates.

Also, this effort threatens the honesty of wine blogs. If you're reading this here, you probably already saw what I said about tasting and samples, but let me repeat it:

Do you want me to review your wine? I would love to do so. But first, know what you are asking. Take a trip around the blog. See what The Little Wooden Guy, The Big Wooden Guy, and I have to say. We are not always generous or kind. And we WILL review your wine. Honestly. Every time.


Hmmmm. Do you think I just got a lot less "influential" for the PR types? Maybe I should only review wines I like. That might get me more samples, don't you think? Funny thing though. I still get samples, and they all tend to be darned good. Nobody sends me mediocre wine, probably because they know I will say it is mediocre wine. I don't know of any winery that wants The Wooden Guys posing like this next to one of their bottles:



You know what Tom, Paul, Joel, go ahead. Do it. Become the self-appointed arbiters of wine blogging, and in the process try to make a buck off what I do out of love of wine. I can't stop you. In the back of my ego-driven little brain I hope you pick me (PICK ME!!!!), because that is the nature of the beast. I want to be loved just as much as the next guy. But if you don't, I'm going to keep blogging. I am going to keep writing about the wines I like and the wines I don't like. And once in a while, even if I'm not "influential," somebody is going to come along and take my advice. Maybe they will save $20 they would have wasted buying something they would not like. Maybe they will fall in love with a bottle just like I did. It really doesn't matter. For most of us, it really doesn't matter at all. And for the ones for whom it does, for whom it matters a lot, perhaps even matters enough to effect their behavior, well, let me give you a little advice. Don't trust them.

Paul Mabray responded in the comments. In fairness to him, and to correct my own assumptions, I post his response in its entirety (I did not correct what I wrote above, as doing so would not allow this comment to be accurately reflected):

Thanks for your perspective and allowing us more transparent.

Once again, we are not taking a subjective approach to individual bloggers but to the channel as a whole. Our intent is not to say "so and so" is better. Our intent is to demonstrate the value of this channel for wine companies. Judging bloggers is not in the scope of our project. Analyzing the channel is.

In regards to wine social media companies, they will analyzed mathematically through a series of questions (other industries do this - Gartner, Forrester, etc). This also is healthy as wine companies try to make sense of the myriad of choices being presented. This is also healthy for the industry.

We are also not selling the information (THE REPORT IS FREE TO ALL). This have been made very clear on our site and in all our communications.

Again, we appreciate your feedback and we know that you'll actually be pleased with our hard work and analysis. If you have actual more questions I'd be more than happy to field them.

8 comments:

Paul Mabray said...

Thanks for your perspective and allowing us more transparent.

Once again, we are not taking a subjective approach to individual bloggers but to the channel as a whole. Our intent is not to say "so and so" is better. Our intent is to demonstrate the value of this channel for wine companies. Judging bloggers is not in the scope of our project. Analyzing the channel is.

In regards to wine social media companies, they will analyzed mathematically through a series of questions (other industries do this - Gartner, Forrester, etc). This also is healthy as wine companies try to make sense of the myriad of choices being presented. This is also healthy for the industry.

We are also not selling the information (THE REPORT IS FREE TO ALL). This have been made very clear on our site and in all our communications.

Again, we appreciate your feedback and we know that you'll actually be pleased with our hard work and analysis. If you have actual more questions I'd be more than happy to field them.

dhonig said...

Paul, thank you for a very reasoned comment in response to my rather hyperbolic bomb-throwing.

and remember, PICK ME!!

:)

Tim Elliott | Winecast said...

I agree with both sides here. Any attempt at identifying the most influential wine blogs will miss important parts of the conversation and wineries do want an ROI on their marketing spend.

The funny part is that wineries spend money now on things with no ROI but, because they have done this so long, they don't question it.

The fact of the matter is ALL wine blogs are influential because of Google. Once a wine is blogged, that review will be found by someone looking for it no matter if you write it or Alder Yarrow does. Google and other search engines are the great leveler and opportunity here. Not another list of the "top wine blogs."

dhonig said...

Yeah. What Tim said.

Daddy Winebucks said...

And like anything else, we tend to gravitate to those whose views we share or just simply enjoy, be they movie critic, TV Show writer or wine blogger. This is just another example of the recent death of newspaper reports that have people scrambling to see if someone (read: anyone) will pay for content as they now do with music. There is nothing bad about that but at the end of the day what's great about the wine biz is that technology tends not to be a leading factor in success...great post, Dave.

Jeff said...

David,

Good post. Nice counterpoint.

I think, at the end of the day, all wine bloggers start out blogging because it is a creative outlet. I did.

Then, it becomes, "wait a second, people are actually reading what I say." "Hey, wait again, I'm getting samples."

Suddenly, it turns more into a pursuit. It has for me. it's a hobby, but I also want to be as good as I can be at wine blogging and that means learning, adjusting, experimenting, etc.

I think the analysis of blogs as influential, etc. is rife for controversy and error, but other people do it, it just hasn't been done to a great extent in our little niche.

Jeff

Joel said...

Wow, I gotta pull my head out of my keyboard occasionally :)...

Hey, thanks for the post on the report, not entirely accurate but its a blog and I certainly can appreciate pumping out a post with a gut reaction.

As Paul said, we're not making money on this. And we're not recreating some "top 100" list like AllTop or whatever. Wineries are just overwhelmed with information to the point where their doing business as usual (because it takes too much time to sift through things in social media with too little return today so its a turn off). So the intention is to release some of the pressure from wineries' over-taxed staff and arm them with some info they can use for whatever.

Feel free to ping me on OWC (as a couple have already) about this. Yes, its going to be published for free. Its some research that we're doing for various projects and since it isn't proprietary information we're just going to go ahead and publish it.

Right now, wineries don't know even the basics - do you accept samples and/or ads? - and they're not going to ask 800 bloggers that question so instead they're not bothering.

Happy to keep the conversation going!! :-)

Cheers...

Brent Johnson said...

I'm going to have to disagree with Tim on his comment "The fact of the matter is ALL wine blogs are influential because of Google".

I think that all wine reviews on wines (posted by you or any wine drinker) are influential to potential consumers. But there are a lot of wine blogs and bloggers what aren't influential. They blog could remain stagnate, have irrelevant information on posts, break the congruency with the "marketing efforts" of the winery, etc.

I see nothing wring with showcasing blogs that "get it right" to establish a standard. A winery blog should be more than reviews, it should be a captivating marketing piece that helps connect the consumer to the winery, and ultimately creates consumer relationship that helps drive sales.