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New Wikio ranking for wine and beer

Drive By: Liquor, Wine, Beer
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Gastronomes no more, it seems wine and beer bloggers have something to cheer and cry over at the same time.

Starting this month (July 2009), Wikio, the news site, has decided to split its previous ranking of top “Gastronomy” blogs into separate food and wine & beer rankings. It means it will be easier to spot closely related blogs, but I must admit some fondness for the previous practice that helped to bring food & wine (& beer) blogs together where they should be (see a previous post here).

So, without further ado, here is advanced notice of the top 25 Wine & Beer blogs in the UK & Ireland for July, but remember to read on below for some thoughts and Wikio’s answers to some of my questions:

1 Spittoon
2 Brew Wales
3 Pete Brown’s Blog
4 jamie goode’s wine blog
5 The Wine Conversation
6 Stonch’s Beer Blog
7 Tandleman’s Beer Blog
8 Pencil & Spoon
9 Sour Grapes
10 Bubble Brothers
11 Bibendum Wine
12 Bordeaux-Undiscovered
13 Drinking Outside The Box
14 Bordoverview Blog
15 Tyson’s Beer Blog
16 Robert Francis Wine
17 Irish Wine Contemplations
18 Barry’s Wine Notes & Memories
19 Burgundy-Report
20 Taking the beard out of beer!

Ranking by Wikio.

First to some initial thoughts & reactions:

  • Wine 13: Beer 7 (not a bad balance)
  • There are at least 3 “merchants” represented in this list. These businesses have achieved a respectable balance of selling their own products and providing interesting and useful content, making them amongst the top wine and beer blogs. Well done folks!
  • Several of these blogs in wine and beer are written not just by enthusiasts, but by journalists and authors with traditional media credentials (Jamie Goode, Simon Woods, Peter Brown, Tandleman and Melissa Cole). The cross over to new media channels will hopefully be good for them, for the quality of content in the blogosphere and certainly for readers everywhere.
  • Now that food blogs have been taken out, we are left with just one female voice in this ranking, Melissa Cole at Take the Beard out of Beer! (what’s wrong with beards anyway?). That seems a little unbalanced.

If you’ve any more thoughts on the table, do let me know. Congratulations to those who figure in this launch report.

A Wikio Q&A:

So, what do I make of it in general? I had a few questions going round my head, so I sent them to Wikio, and here are some answers:

Q1: What is the most important factor in assessing a blog’s “Ranking”? Traffic? Links? Subscribers? What sort of things should bloggers focus on to raise their profile?

For our ranking the position of a blog depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. We count dynamic links, which means backlinks or links found within articles. So blogrolls and the like are not taken into account. Also the weight of any given link increases according to how recently it was published. The weight of a link also depends on the linking blog’s position in the Wikio ranking.

I must admit I think that link measures might be a little “self-serving”, indicating what other bloggers are reading, not what the readers are actually looking for, but I understand that as a machine-measures it works to some extent (it is important to Google for example).

In terms of raising your blog’s profile, therefore, it is more effective to be noticed by other bloggers, by leaving comments on their blogs, contacting them, working with them, etc. rather than employing traditional marketing techniques to build readership. Ultimately, if your content is good, I expect other bloggers will link to it anyway, but it does make you realise that ranking is still a schoolyard “popularity” contest to some extent.

Q2: How do you measure subscriber data? Is this not biased by including feeds to other networking sites (e.g. friendfeed)?

We do not measure subscriber data or traffic, just incoming links. We chose this as a means of measuring the most well-referenced blogs rather than necessarily the most widely read. Bloggers know the other blogs and discussions in their sphere of interest better than anyone, so a link from a fellow blogger is, we feel, a strong endorsement.

Again, it is a shame that ‘real’ indicators cannot be used for ranking. A blog’s subscribers and their loyalty over time, would be very strong measures of how ‘good’ a website really was at delivering value to its readers rather than how good it was at including content others might link to. However, I do prefer that it is not included until a reliable and accurate way is found to gather the same information for all blogs.

Q3: Does including a weighting for links from other top blogs not entrench a hierarchy and act as a barrier to new blogs?

Well it is not the case that a link from the blog in 4th place is worth more than the one in 5th place. Just that one from a blog in the Top 100 is worth more than one from 101st – 1000th. So the degree to which this affects the rankings is actually quite low, and is more intended to combat spam at the lower end.

The idea behind this more general principle is just that blogs that are higher up are generally more active and are more likely to have a better acquaintance with the subject matter, so they are more likely to link to things that are worthwhile. But as I said in practice this weighting does not make a huge difference and is actually pretty light. And it only takes effect on the first 100, then the next 900, then the next 9000 blogs etc.

What is more important and accorded a more calculated weighting is how recent an incoming link is.

I understand the need to filter out the spammers and aggregators. I still think that valuing a link from a subset of blogs creates an in-crowd that does work, in some way, to keep others out, but if the weighting is low, I suppose the overall effect will be minimal. I’d also like to see how well that system works as I have found sites like technorati to offer questionable statistics these days that vary from one week to the next.

Q4: Who really cares about rankings? Does it add value for bloggers or readers, or just drive even more traffic to those who are already successful? Is this just about vanity for bloggers?

The aim of the rankings is more just to provide an easy way for people to find quality blogs on a given subject. But of course we’re happy if people take pride in their position :)

Q5: What innovations does Wikio offer, or plan to offer, that would engage bloggers in these rankings – or is this just reporting and should we just get on with our blogging?

In fact, we are aiming to introduce a new feature so I’m glad you ask this! We would like to introduce expert bloggers in each field to help us enrich and maintain the rankings (and hopefully launch more new ones, too). We have just published something about this on our blog: http://blog.wikio.com/uk/2009/07/wikios-experts.html

We’d like anyone who is interested to contact us on info AT wikio DOT co DOT uk

I’m sure I missed lots of questions, but if you have any of your own, let me know and I’ll pass them on.

So, if nothing else, I urge you to not just read but to include links to your favourite blogs in your next posts, particularly to help support those who are starting out and are not yet in the top 100.

Of course, links back to this post would be MOST appreciated too :)

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Wine and Tech: Picturing a thousand words

Wine and Tech will be (I hope) a series of short posts on using some new technology to support the wine conversation

I have recently come across a number of innovations that are not directly related to wine, but which got me thinking about how they might be used to do fun, useful and social stuff with wine. I thought I would share some of these with you and see if they sparked ideas for you like the have done for me.


How good is your memory? Mine is awful. I’m pretty good with faces, but names are “gone in 60 seconds” (or less). In fact it is the same with wine. Some people can remember what a wine tasted like in previous vintages and minutely compare them from memory. Not me. So I was very excited to learn about EverNote.

EverNote bills itself as the way to “remember everything”. Essentially what it does it take your photos, documents, audio messages and more and not only store them, but index them so you can search and find them later. That isn’t revolutionary on its own, but you need to know that EverNote actually “reads” all the text in the pictures (yes, even the photos) and so you can search for the word in the picture, not just the name of the photo. How cool is that?

What does this have to do with wine? Well, it has always been difficult to capture all the necessary information from a label when you are tasting, especially if in fact you are in a restaurant or bar and not a formal wine event. It is so easy to taste something wonderful and promise yourself that you’ll remember it when you get home … and invariably you don’t. Now, a quick, subtle photo will suffice AND it will be easy to search for again even if you don’t remember much about it in future.

Again, this is quite useful for wine lovers who want to catalogue the causes of their inebriation, but how is this relevant to the wider consumer and the wine conversation?

What I love about the idea is that it allows the average consumer with a mobile phone & camera (and a data plan that allows upload to the web), to record their wine experiences and share them in a useful, searchable and standardised way WITHOUT having to join wine social networks. There are no tasting notes, unless they want to include them, and there is no need to even understand how to read the wine label. A photo, plus a tag such as “buy again” or “hated this” is enough.

Of course the system is much more powerful than I’ve described it, adding GPS codes, matching images etc, but you can explore that if you are keen.

I’m already playing with this and wondering how it might be useful to wine drinkers, so if you have any thoughts, or you use EverNote too, please let me know.

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TerroirVino and Vinix Unplugged

This weekend I will be heading off to Genoa (or Genova as our hosts call it) to attend TerroirVino.

TerroirVino is the creation of my friend Filippo Ronco, who has also established one of Italy’s premier wine resources, TigullioVino. I met Filippo when he attended last year’s European Wine Bloggers’ Conference and I was very impressed by his determination to create a whole series of tools for wine lovers and publishers. His business also covers an advertising network for bloggers and the Vinix wine social network.

TerroirVino is a conference and tasting. On Sunday I will be taking part in Vinix Unplugged, an unconference to discuss wine, food and marketing online. I will be on at 15:00 (I think) to present the 2009 EWBC (European Wine Bloggers Conference) and some of this may be streamed live here. Monday promises a wonderful array of top Italian wines as there are 125 exhibitors pouring their wines in the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa. Expect a few tweets and twitpics from me to make you all jealous.

I hope to let you know what exciting things are happening in Italy that might have an impact beyond that country, and hopefully also meet some of the marvellous range of Italian wine bloggers attending the event. Most of all, I look forward to sharing information about the 2009 EWBC with everyone.

If you are coming to the conference or tasting, please say hello – or even Ciao!

A presto amici!

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Wikio Gastronomy Rankings for May – Sneak Preview

So, this month it was my turn to give (and receive?) some link love to Wikio and Gastronomic Blogging Friends.

Somehow, and I honestly cannot say how, or why, I’ve managed to enter the rankings of the Food & Blogging world in the UK according to Wikio. All these rankings and their algorithms are a bit of a black box and who knows what affects the results, but they are out there and fun to track.

I have been given the chance to give a slightly early view of the latest update of the top rankings of UK wine, beer, food and related blogs, and you can read the top 20 below. The most interesting points of note, well, those that jump out at me (in the time available) are:

  • Pete Brown’s beer blog jumps from 54th to 7th. I’ve no idea where this blog might have been in the rankings before but this is a pretty impressive jump and a blog I shall be checking out.
  • A return to the top 10 for A Slice of Cherry Pie (an impressive jump from 13 to 5) – a place I’m sure Julia has occupied before
  • Bordeaux-Undiscovered adds to the list of top wine blogs and builds on last month’s impressive rise with another, entering the top 20

As usual, I’m a little disappointed there are not more wine blogs featuring here (to add to Spittoon, Wine Conversation, Jamie Goode’s Wine Anorak, Sour Grapes and now Bordeaux Undiscovered) but it is good to see more beer blogs joining the list. However, it is interesting to see that most of the top 20 are reasonably unchanged, so I guess we are either doing something right (or as I suspect, the system rewards those who are already succesful).

If anyone else spots any trends, or has any thoughts on the development or nature of the list, please do drop me a note.

1 The Guardian – Word of Mouth
2 Hollow Legs
3 eat like a girl
4 Food Stories
5 A Slice of Cherry Pie
6 Spittoon
7 Pete Brown’s Blog
8 The Wine Conversation
9 Cheese and Biscuits
10 World Foodie Guide
11 Tandleman’s Beer Blog
12 Stonch’s Beer Blog
13 spittoonextra
14 DOS HERMANOS
15 Domestic Goddess in Training
16 jamie goode’s wine blog
17 Ice Cream Ireland
18 Sour Grapes
19 Joanna’s Food
20 Bordeaux-Undiscovered

Ranking by Wikio.

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Mixing my business with your pleasure

Sarah's signed VIP pass
Image by teepoole via Flickr

I have a dilemma. As with many other twitterers and bloggers out there who write about the subject matter they also work with, I sometimes have some potential conflicts of interest. To be more precise, I face some situations that some might pick up on as conflicts in a traditional journalistic sense.

I agree that someone who promotes themselves as a journalist and wants to be seen as an objective reporter of facts and news must be very careful about what products or brands they become associated with. However, I don’t think all bloggers really are journalists. We aim to share news and facts, as we see them, but mainly we try to entertaining you, and have fun as we do it. If you like it, you can follow us, and if you don’t, you can easily stop. We bloggers soon get the message.

So, to the dilemma.

I often come across information about, or even help to organise, wine events, tastings, special offers and more. Some of these, of course, relate to the wines I represent in the UK (which I have chosen not to mention on this blog, but write about elsewhere) or at least to the retailers and restaurants that I meet with regularly.

Should I let you know about these offers through this site, or should I be very selective and avoid the potential of being seen to abuse any trust you have in me as a commentator on wine?

I’m not talking about spamming my readers with hundreds of offers and deals, but if I hear of something I consider interesting, or get the opportunity to suggest something I think readers might enjoy, should I mention it here and do this as openly as possible even if it involves my wines, or business partners’? The alternative is, as I have often done, to participate myself and report on it from the event, but it does mean others can’t get involved.

In fact, turning it around, should I actually be encouraging MORE people to create wine offers for you through Social Media? Of course, I’m not just talking about discounts, but about events that encourage the exploration of wine and support wine culture.

I’m hoping that as many of my readers are also bloggers, or wine trade professionals, you’ll understand the situation and have some advice to offer.

As more and more of the restaurants, wine retailers and wine producers that I talk to want to know more about the possibilities of Social Media, there will be more and more opportunities for this to arise, and I’d like to get a sense of whether I’m getting the balance right, or you feel I may be promoting other businesses too much.

If you want to keep it even more brief you could respond “Yes” or “No”:

  • Yes – let me know of interesting wine related offers (but don’t spam me, just the best bits)
  • No – concentrate on wine writing (and do more of it) and let other sites promote the offers

… but a bit more explanation might help :)

Yours, in some trepidation for what I might be starting, your friendly neighbourhood @thirstforwine

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