Traditional wine writers and online wine bloggers marked the passage of time together at the 5th annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland. Like a multi-generational wedding event with families and friends on both sides of the aisle, these professionals shared their expertise and co-existed in respect. Too much? Well, that’s how it felt to me as a first time participant.
So I attended and survived #WBC12. This included attending all sessions, field trips, wine tastings and extracurricular after hours activities; and doing PR work and event organization for 3 clients, tweeting for one AVA, guiding 2 bus trips, promoting a winery association and myself. The ramp up to completing all of this was almost 2 intense months of 6-7 days per week. I came out of the conference with immense enthusiasm and respect for the writers I met. I developed some new friendships, and observed how ‘online’ can bring people together ‘offline’ or face to face (it often works the other way in wine marketing!).
I believe I also got some answers to questions I posed in Part 1 of this article, thanks to sessions led by Tom Wark, Joe Roberts, other industry services professionals, and keynotes by Randall Grahm and even Rex Pickett. Here are a few things I learned:
- Why do Online wine writers matter? They matter because they exist, and many bloggers are great writers and create quality content. It’s as simple as that. Not to mention that small wineries need exposure wherever they can get it, and potentially have more access to online wine writers than traditional journalists.
- What about their survivability? The transition to an online advertizing focus continues for businesses, and consumers are now more comfortable transacting online and willing to pay for quality content on the internet.
- How will they monetize their writing? Joe Roberts (#1WineDude) held forth on the principle of not giving anything away. Monetization options include selling advertizing on blog sites, affiliate ads and links, publishing eBooks or hard copy publications (i.e. Rick Bakas), repurposing blog posts to paid publications, and consulting to support online writing and also as a lead in to other projects and positions.
- Can they organize in an effective way? WBC12 was sold out for the 5th year in a row with a wait list of over 100 hopefuls. Conversations and commitments to attend WBC13 have already started. Discussions about promoting wine writing online and debates as to its viability are continuing. Social groups have been setup to continue the conversation.
- What assures their continuation and relevance in the wine industry? The internet has democratized wine writing and many more writers now have a voice. Also, blogging is very cost effective. Tom Wark pointed out that the owner of the blog writes, edits, publishes, curates content, sells advertizing and promotes their own publication. I’m a sales and marketing guy, not a writer, and even I have a wine industry blog!
- What are the pressing and ongoing issues facing bloggers? Monetization, need for integrity and editorial responsibility, establishing ethical and educational standards, providing ongoing training to improve wine knowledge, etc.
Online wine writers matter because writers are storytellers regardless of the medium they choose (offline or online). Selling your brand and telling your story is what wineries must do to compete in a vast sea of floating bottles.