Friday, 13 November 2009

The future of wine writing (part two)

I've surfaced from the online coverage of winefuture hoping that no-one else has been listening to it. This is because I'm steadily coming to the conclusion that if things continue, wine writers won't matter and the ones that do matter might not be able to get themselves heard.

The main problem: we've all got to be friends.

Many people on Twitter (a self-selecting bunch, I admit) kept banging on about how all these new web tools would bring wine into a glorious new age. Everyone, from writer to marketer kept harping on about it. One person even talked about 'developing the future for the common good'. What does that mean?

Well it means that the all-encompassing power of the internet and its tools, such as the aforementioned Twitter, will be able to bring wine lovers into a great global community.

We'll just have one big chat about wine.

So who's got the most important voice? Well, whoever's got the best statistics. It's all 'hits' and 'unique users', which only shows that some wine websites have good search engine rankings. Although a good search engine ranking means more relevance to the subject in hand, it doesn't mean the writing is (a) any good or (b) objective. Because if wine estates got their websites right, their website should rank top in google when someone types in their name. Relevant? Yes. Friendly? Yes. Impartial? Probably not.

If I wanted to blow the dream that we can all be a happy, sharing community with wine in common, I'd haul up the example of Jancis Robinson. And she might well be more canny than most wine writers. Refusing to put the all-inclusive '#winefuture' sign in front of most of her Twitter posts, she ensured that anyone looking for (her) coverage of winefuture had to go to her Twitter page and did not participate in the general discussion. Assuming she had an audience it bizarrely restores some of my faith in the future of wine writers and their willing readers.

Some people really do have an audience. With producers like Randall Grahm leading the way on Twitter (he has a quarter of a million people following him) the idea that wine writers can use social media to communicate with consumers is, to all intents and purposes, over. If corporately applied, producers using Twitter will be able to jam the airwaves with endless, self-congratulatory dross (imagine it: "Lafite RT @MichelRolland Just put the microx bulb 2cm too deep in the Cabernet tank ROFLOL").

Talking of 'bigging yourself up', another theme was the importance of 'the human story' behind the brand, or the 'personal content' of its website. The subtext here is twofold: the product itself (what's in the bottle) is merely a cipher. What is important is the story that goes with it. If you think some of the dross on back labels is bad, brace yourselves - it's going to get worse. Wine may well be on the brink of entering the vacuous world of the cult of personality.

So if the quality of the product is of less importance, that everyone's voice is getting mixed up, and we're all trying to be friends, where does that leave (a) the future quality of the wines we drink, (b) those whose job it is to assess them and (c) how on earth we communicate about wine?

What's the solution? Well, I have to be honest here - there isn't one. If anything, winefuture perfectly illustrated the future of wine. In a mix of voices, some were good (interesting), some were bad (self-promoting), it was just impossible to tell which was which from the program.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, 27 July 2009

The end is nigh...bring it on

The internet and the imminent destruction of the world have always gone together. Remember the Y2k bug, the databases with all your details on them, conspiracy theories, terrorists on facebook, the badger song?

Here’s another one: the Murphy-Goode job.

For some bloggers, the jumping ship of one of their kin (Hardy Wallace) from independent online blogger to, essentially, well-paid PR for a winery, could represent the end of clear-cut, independent wine writing via social media.

Steve Heimoff argued that it was normal for big fish to subsume little ones; that powerful wineries could take over the blogging turf; that we could be facing a deluge of marketing passing as wine writing.

In a similar vein, 1WineDude wrote: “What we may be witnessing is not so much the rise of social media as an independent voice, but the wine industry co-opting it for its own P.R. and marketing purposes.”

Worried? Moi? Non.

There is currently so much poor wine writing on the internet that giving a horde of wine marketing execs access to twitter can only be good for the consumer. For one, wine lovers who lap the kind of antediluvian dross that passes as wine writing will go on doing so - where it comes from will make little difference. Two: the more astute drinkers will become more circumspect about what they read online. And three: this will only make us wine writers improve our game.

I could finish on some placatory statement like: but all wine writing is good and the more there is, the better. But I won’t. Cause it’s bollox.

Bring on the marketing revolution. Please.

Labels: , , , , ,