On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog

In case you didn’t know already the clock is ticking on the life of the printed word, especially as it relates to wine writing. This is a timely look at blogging, wine-style.

I have noted in the past the growth in digital wine resources available on the web and the number of active professional and amateur wine bloggers continues to churn. Note I didn’t say the number continues to grow. Most amateur bloggers start with a flurry of activity and soon lose interest and their blog goes into hibernation. Nonetheless, for many of those bloggers who persevere and develop a following the quality of their efforts evolves in a most impressive fashion.

As WVN migrates full-time to the blogosphere it reminds me of some of the factors that have kept me away from this space.

Consider:

The caption for this article refers to the most reproduced cartoon published in the New Yorker magazine (according to Wikipedia). This cartoon shows a dog sitting on a chair at a desktop computer where he is typing while speaking to a second dog sitting beside the desk. Dog 1 says to dog 2, “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.”

This cartoon was drawn by Peter Steiner and was first printed in the New Yorker in July 1993. Steiner was ahead of his time and his creative piece has spawned an array of like-minded cartoons including the drawing of a man sitting dejectedly at his desktop computer with his wife saying to him “Maybe nobody goes to your website because it’s all about you”.

Between dogs impersonating as sages and struggling self-indulgent webbies there is a ton of noise on the internet and it is a difficult place to navigate if you seek original, informative and reliable content.

An event that is growing in its scale as the blog phenomenon continues to flourish is the annual Wine Bloggers Conference. This year’s event will be held in Santa Barbara in early July and will attract some 400 bloggers from around the world. This will be the seventh edition of the conference and the agenda covers a wide range of wine and food themes as well as topics such as search engine optimization, social media for the wine blogger and a panel of professional print writers (!).

Leading to the event the conference organizers conduct a survey of bloggers. This survey takes the pulse of the wine blog space and provides some interesting data on who these people are, their motivations and their degree of success.

This year’s survey has not yet been published but the 2013 survey report was titled State of Wine Blogging Report. 256 bloggers responded to the 32 question survey and of these the majority were citizen bloggers (people like me) along with some small business owners and corporate bloggers.

Responses came from all over the world with the US, Canada and Europe representing the bulk of the respondents. 62% of respondents were male and 64% were under 50 years of age.

The background of bloggers was split with roughly 48% coming from a food or wine background and approximately 43% having a professional writing or editing pedigree.
44% of the respondents were experienced bloggers with over 4 years of blogging on their odometer. On the other hand 25% of the bloggers had been posting of less than 2 years.

An amazing 3% of bloggers post updates several times a day. 24% update their site 2-3 times weekly while 31% blog once per week. The rest are less frequent in their rate of posting.

As for content 76% of bloggers post wine reviews, 71% write wine stories and 67% write about wine travel. Food and wine pairing content ranked 4th in this category at 66% while 48% of bloggers write about wine business.

Wine was the motivating interest for 82% of the bloggers in the survey. Other motivators included To have a voice (51%), To create a name for myself in the world of wine (45%) or Writing is my passion (39%). Note, more than one response option was offered in the survey for this and the previous question.

How do bloggers measure success?

• The most important measure was personal satisfaction: 80%
• The second most important measure was number of unique visitors: 63%
• A crowd of responses indicated number of shares, number of links and number of comments were all valuable measure of success.

To generate traffic to their site bloggers use social media to a significant degree with 84% of respondents using Twitter and 75% using Facebook. These two channels are considered more effective as drivers of traffic generated than either LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest or Google Plus. Many bloggers are very effective at attracting followers with the average number of Twitter followers recorded at over 3000 and a media number of over 1600.

Social media are affective as sources of traffic with the average number of unique visitors among all respondents reported at 5380 per month and the median at 1475 per month.

Despite good traffic volumes 70% of bloggers report no monthly revenue and another 18% recording less that $200 per month. 3 survey responses reported monthly blog revenue of over $2000 per month. For those bloggers who report revenue the largest number generated earnings through freelance writing, advertising sales, brand promotion for clients and sale of books or e-books. In all cases these respondents succeeded by building a credible blog presence which enabled the blogger to create sources of off-blog income.

The final question probed what has changed since respondents started blogging. The most notable change is the growth in use of social media, along with increased use of photography. A third area of change is the increased consumption of other bloggers sites.
This takes me back to my point: there is so much content on the blogosphere that you could spend all your waking hours checking out sites. In the meantime a great way to get a glimpse into the variety and quality of this growing arena is to visit the website for the annual Wine Blog Awards where you will find the finalists across all categories: http://wineblogawards.org/. The Awards are sponsored by the same people who host the Wine Bloggers Conference. The Awards were founded in 2008 by Tom Wark, the host of the blog http://fermentationwineblog.com/, one of today’s most sound and informative blogs. There are several categories up for grabs and the Awards site has a link to the blog spot for each finalist in this year’s awards. There is some wonderfully creative material out there…

After last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference Tom Wark observed “The term blogger will more and more come to take on a pejorative meaning in the next few years as it continues to be the term associated with an amateur who should be taken lightly.” (http://fermentationwineblog.com/2013/06/top-10-things-i-learned-at-the-wine-bloggers-conference/).

With that comment in mind, perhaps the way to wrap this piece is with another New Yorker dog/internet cartoon caption. Two dogs are sitting on the floor having a chat. One says to the other, “had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking.” (September 2005).

Woof.

à bientôt…
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014.

 

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Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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