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FRIDAY GETAWAY DAY
09/07/2012
Friday Fishwrap
Reports of Blogging’s Death Are Premature

By Charles Olken

Blogging got a good name before it got a bad name. Blogging was supposed to democratize wine writing, but it did not. Blogging was the future; now some think it is the past. As usual, the sensationalists have got it wrong again.

Jamie Goode, the important English writer and bloggist wrote, “Blogging had this golden age where people were happy to be defined as bloggers, and there was a sense that the blog was supplanting other forms of online communication. Blogging was cool, it was sexy, and it seemed to be the future. But the golden age of blogging has passed. We’re left with the sense that blogs have never really fulfilled their promise. Within a short time, I don’t think we’ll be describing people as bloggers any more, the way we have been doing for the last few years. Blogs will still be with us, and some will be very important, but they’ll not be centre stage.”

Tom Wark, in his brilliant blog, Fermentation (http://fermentationwineblog.com/), has been proving that good writing will never die whether called blog or not. He recently commented on Jamie Goode’s “discovery”.

Sayeth Mr. Wark, “Jamie Goode is only one person with one opinion, but it’s an opinion to take seriously as he is a serious writer. He’s right. Not too many years ago blogging, including wine blogging, did seem a little sexy and it most certainly was something new, if not the “future”. I further think he’s correct that the shine is dulling a tad. A dulling shine is not such a bad thing.

“My evaluation of the world of wine blogging centers around its utility, not it’s shine. For this writer and wine marketer, more and more I see the gulf between “wine writer” and “wine blogger” narrowing. In other words, the task of communicating the meaning of wine and explaining the significance of the wine industry is now being accomplished by a growing cohort of writers. Some are professional and get paid to act as a professional. Others are amateurs. Some are better writers than others. Some are more informed than others. Some have large audiences. Others small followings. But just like in the arenas of technology, politics, news, fiction, archeology and any other domain of things and information, the consumers (readers) are lumping together blogs, websites, newspapers and books into one thing: sources of information.

“The degree to which a blog, newspaper, magazine, professional writer or amateur writer can successfully convey useful, educational or entertaining information determines their utility to the reader.”


For my part, I have always disliked the seeming distinction between blogging and other forms of publically offered communication. It has always seemed to me that blogging, and more specifically, wine blogging, was journalism. The act of putting facts or opinions or just plain verbiage into print, is the essence of journalism.

The “coming together” that Mr. Wark describes is only, in my view, a recognition of this fact. Good writing, of the type that folks like Mr. Wark, Alder Yarrow, Blake Gray, Steve Heimoff, Samantha Dugan, Ron Washam have been producing has been part of the wine information scene from its very outset.

When blogs first began to exist, I wondered if my form of journalism, the kind people pay for, was dead. Turns out that it is not. In part, that is because of inertia–Connoisseur’s Guide had paid readers before blogging–and, in part because the product on offer here is one that many people find fungible.

Most of those who get paid for winewriting exist in two camps. Those write for existing, printed on paper publications. A few of us have transitioned to the Internet, but mainly because we do not rely on advertising but on subscribers for our revenue streams.

The folks who make no money, either directly or indirectly, run the gamut from professional to rank amateur. A few newcomers have found a way to make money on the Internet, but blogging has not been and is not going to be the pathway to fame and fortune, or even to free wine, for most bloggers.

Blogging is journalism. It provides information of all kinds, and it has enabled a few amateurs to become solid professionals. In that, blogging has succeeded.

But, blogging is not dead because it did not succeed financially the way many hoped it would. And blogging is not dead because the majority of it lacks large audiences. The only problem with blogging is that it can be terminally boring at times. There are only so many words and so many repeated topics that one can enjoy before going off to do other things. I feel the same way these days about the Sunday NYT. I love it, but I can’t read the damn thing anymore.

So, here’s to blogging. Enough people are now accepting that it is journalism. That does not save boring from being boring, but it does at least admit that there are journalistic standards to be applied at some level. That is a measure of success in the first instance, and proof that blogging is not going to go the way of the hula hoop and VHS at any time soon in the second.


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For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.

Comments

You Humble Me Charlie
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:9/6/2012 11:31:41 PM

Sir Charles, once again you have thrown my silly ramblings in with some pretty serious and talented writers and again I find myself red-faced and profoundly humbled. Thank you for that, your support has meant the world to me, way more than you can ever possibly know. We may not always agree, almost never actually, but I admire the hell out of you and get to puff out my chest each time I can honestly say, "Charlie Olken is ia dear friend of mine". So thank you for that too.

 

I find myself in an odd position with this whole writer/professional wine business thing. I am not a writer but I am in the wine business and do in fact get paid to write about wine, for the store. Now throw wine blogging in the mix and well, I'm an even bigger blurry line. Ron and I were just talking about this the other night, I am in a rather unique position in that I can and do sell a bunch of wine when I feature it on my blog but...there are a couple reason for that and I'm not sure any measure of talent is a factor. I am connected to a store and finally have a growing readership of people that shop at our store, so when I write something up, (which is rare and why I'm not considered by many a "wine blogger") I can see first hand the people that come in with printed out pages from my blog...that and there is a place they can go where they know it is going to be there. Very cool in for many reasons but I'm still unsure where it puts me as far as professional and writer goes.

 

All that being said, I don't think blogging is dead. Oh sure, it's wheezing and tired as hell but I think it is because much like Hollywood, and you said here, we are all cranking out the same crap and trying to sell it, (as it were) as something new when it clearly isn't. Remind me again what the defintion of lunacy is?! Add to that a new bunch of, "Oh, wouldn't being in the wine business fun!" folks that burst on the scene every few months all impassioned and full of "new ideas" only to find out, after a year of pounding away for no pay, that they too are just barfing up old ideas that everyone else has already done...yeah, wheezing, but those of us that do this, not for samples and junkets but for the true love of wine and that chewing in our belly that demands we tell people what we just had, how it moved us, why we need to have it again? We, much like any classic, we will be here for a long, long time. I for one am damn proud of that.

Woof!
by Alfonso
Posted on:9/9/2012 6:44:26 AM

Who said you can't teach an old blog new tricks?

Poodles et al
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/9/2012 7:58:17 AM

Alfonso, I am living proof that you can.

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