whither blogging?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The most read, most honored (can you say Top 9!) bloggers, by and large, are guys who jumped in early and kept at it. They were first, they were guys, and they were doggedly consistent. Mazeltov! Good for them.

The other thousand or more “wine” bloggers, young and old, plod along, doing it for whatever personal reasons apply, and perhaps hope to attract an audience commensurate with their (perceived) skills.

I am one of those, with a caveat or two. First and foremost, I have earned a living wage for over 35 years by writing. I still earn a living wage by writing. The blog may be a freebie, but most of my work is paid for, and it buys me a comfortable living. Very few bloggers can say the same.

Secondly, I truly don’t care about “page views” or “metrics” or any of the other stuff that obsesses so many bloggers. I don’t check the numbers, never have, don’t care. Come if you like; if not, ok by me.

What is the future of blogging? I can’t say for sure, but it seems inevitably to be destined to fade. There is a surfeit of free information about everything these days. No matter how interested you may be in wine, in wine writing, in blogging... there are only so many hours in the day. How much time can you spend reading this stuff?

Personally, I live on the computer, and I read a lot of wine blogs, articles, columns, and on and on. But I barely scratch the surface of what’s actually out there. And God forbid I should have another interest or two in life, that I’d like to pursue to the same degree. Well, actually, I do...

So blogging will have to remain, and probably more than ever become, a matter of the heart, done for personal reasons, to satisfy some inner need, or desire, or quest. Readers are the frosting on the cake. You read my blog? I’m thrilled. But how many of you are there? Not a clue. Ultimately, I do it for me. And I believe that is true for all but those “Most Influential 9 Bloggers In The World.” And maybe even some of them...


Tom Wark said...

And you do it well, Paul.

The thing is, I think many wine bloggers, popular and not so popular probably do it for the same reason: for personal reasons, to satisfy some inner need, or desire, or quest. Where did I read that???

What's interesting to me is not that most bloggers type for a relatively small audience. What's interesting is that no one using the blog platform has emerged as a really significant player in the world of wine media and criticism. I expected that to happen by now. And it may still happen.

Still those who discontinue their efforts will probably be those who expected a certain amount of recognition to come their way as a result, but found themselves disappointed.

Charlie Olken said...


I have often wondered what causes folks to blog. And I am still wondering.

The problem with simple answers is that they do not apply in so many cases as to be almost useless by way of explanation.

A guy like Ken Payton at Reign of Terroir blogs because he thinks there are serious things to be said about wine--a topic he loves. He is not a professional in the wine biz, and he does not need the money. Hollywood takes care of that. He is not one of the top 9 according to VinTank, but that list, as much as I like the author, is too easily criticized to be taken as a measure of anything but who starts with the largest audience.

What about guys like Alder Yarrow, Joe Roberts, Jeff Lefevere. All outsiders, all winelover, all with a fair degree of success and earned and deserved credentials as professionals (folks who derive a living in part or in whole from writing). They each came in as winelovers enticed by the notion that the Internet allowed them to have their says.

There are a thousand and more like them. Those others are less widely read, some like Pamela Heliganthal (apologies to Pam if I have misspelled) did have professional credentials to start as did others, but they are not moving up as rapidly as did Joe, Alder and Jeff, but their motivations are, as you have said, driven internally.

Many on the list of top 9, however, are not driven by unmet need or desire for new ways of speaking. They are paid to write their blogs. It is part of their contract with their employers. They write blogs, but their hearts are in their columns, not their blogs.

I know why I write a blog. My publishing realm is always under attack from the bigger publications, and I see blogging as a way of having a bigger voice than my publication gives me by itself. And I have discovered that I can editorialize more completely on the Internet than I do in print. The lack of immediacy in a monthly or bimonthly publication is one reason why blogging is so satisfying to me.

You and Steve Heimoff have day jobs as professional winewriters. I do not see how blogging helps you much in that pursuit, but I am guessing that you, like me, enjoy having a different kind of voice on the Internet than is possible in our publications with their long lead times and limited real estate for free-flowing thoughts.

Sorry for the extended comment, but obviously your post was of such great interest that the words just flowed.

Paul Mabray said...

Just for the record, we think you are an amazing wine blogger and one of our favorites to read.

Huge fan of yours as well.

PaulG said...

Tom, you raise a good question. Why have almost no bloggers been able to migrate to trad media? Possibly because so many of them spend so much time berating it?! But let's face it, all media is in flux, and all the old options, whether print, broadcast, recordings, books... etc. etc. are not only insanely competitive, they are also becoming so cluttered with cheap (often free) internet-based media that the job/income opportunities are fewer and fewer. Charlie, thanks for your long and thoughtful post. One correction - I do not have an actual day job. I am pure freelance all the way. But I do love the immediacy of blogging, the feedback, the give and take, and the fact that I can express myself without regard to the inevitable limits of a newspaper or magazine. Paul - nice to know I'm on your radar. Maybe you meant to slot me in as #11? Or maybe... you don't go to 11...!!!

Meg Houston Maker said...

Paul, I concur that the majority of bloggers seem to be motivated by passion for their subject matter over economic drive.

We differ, though, in our views about readers. To me, the reader isn't icing on the cake, the reader is why I write, and who I'm writing for. I've noticed that when less experienced writers forget about their readers, their prose becomes self-indulgent, disjointed, and prolix—or simply turns into a rant.

So while an experienced writer like you may be able to produce a readable piece effortlessly without heed to readers' responses, a less mature writer might want to proceed with more caution. To put it bluntly: passion is a good motivator, but proficiency is a prerequisite.

PaulG said...

Meg, I was speaking strictly of my own personal approach to blogging. I write for publication at all times with the reader in mind, the reader's presumed interests at the core of my research, and most of all with a genuine desire to provide real value in exchange for the reader's time. The blog is the one thing I write that is really for me, and if anyone else is interested, that's great. I don't know about the effortless part tho'...

Peter Rosback said...

Well, Paul, we love your writing and your playing. Keep both up!

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