A few months ago I shared my love for watching how the wine industry and wine blogs have been growing. I feel that they are evolving and while they are behind some of the much more established niches like technology you can watch the parallels and how they are doing things differently. You can see the growing pains that these established niches dealt with and watch how the wine niche has adapted to these pains.
Recently there was a controversial thread on erobertparker.com that led to responses from all over the wine blogging world. I am not going to sum up all the arguments or debates because I think Michael did a good job of that here.
From my outsiders perspective I wanted to share some thoughts I had about some of the topics being discussed.
1) Wine blogging conferences are no different than tech conferences
There seems to be the accusation that because a lot of social media conferences based around wine are sponsored that people are being bought off. The accusations heighten even more with the notion that some bloggers are being flown into the conference from various different entities.
I don’t see what the issue is with conference sponsorship because sponsorship has been happening in just about every other industry for years and there is nothing wrong with it. Conference sponsorship isn’t exactly a foreign concept and for anyone to say that opinions are influenced because a certain company or winery sponsors an event probably rarely leaves their house.
Now bloggers being flown in is a little different but that segues into the next point.
2) Transparency issues
I don’t find anything wrong with a company flying in a blogger to an event as long as the blogger is transparent about it. As long as it is disclosed in your coverage that is fine. It should also be noted that because a company paid for your travel you don’t need to give them a positive review or a review at all. A simple thank you and a mention are fine.
Even if companies are paying you to review their wine as long as you disclose it you are in the clear. While this may damage your reputation because you do paid reviews (like people that do pay per post) at least you are letting your reader make the decision about how they view you.
I suggest that if you do take product from wineries, get travel, or anything of the sort that you create a policy page for your blog and make sure you disclose what you are doing. This cuts off any transparency issues off before they get started.
3) Old Media vs. New Media
Some of the discussion has centered around the battle of old media vs. new media and that the old guard is clinching onto an old way of doing things. I am not going to argue that this isn’t happening but I don’t understand in an industry where opinions are so subjective why they can’t co-exist.
I am not going to deny that having a refined palate is a skill but when it comes down to it people have different tastes. That is the beauty of all this social connection is that I can find people that have similar tastes or likes that I have. I can compare those tastes from a blog or a wine-rating site with that of a professional writer and make my own conclusions.
The old media needs to embrace this change that is already here and create ways to leverage their voices beyond the traditional means. Perhaps create a wordpress plugin or a widget that connects to your rating of a product automatically when mentioned in a blog. Kind of like Techcrunch does with their Crunchbase . Leverage your knowledge and reputation in this new world, don’t just sit there and bash it.
Like I said the growth and evolution of this segment really interests me. These growing pains and debates are going a long way to shaping the attitudes within the industry and eventually creating the unspoken rules of how the industry works.