Tag Archive - blogging

Blogging can’t die

Blogging can’t die. Take the original meaning of the word blog; it comes from the contraction of “web” as in the world wide web, and “log” as in to log ideas, or journaling. Today, and forever, there will be people logging what they think about all manner of subjects that they are passionate about.

I recently saw the statement on Twitter that blogging is dead. Sorry, you cannot kill an idea (journaling) that has persisted since man first took quill to parchment.

Seeing that we work in wine and discuss wine blogs as part of our job, we should talk about what a wine blog really is.

If you understand the idea of blogging as an online journal and nothing more, you will see that the idea of there being A “best wine blog” is just silly. As is, frankly, any system claiming to rate “best wine blogs”. Who is the best “runner”? Usain Bolt, Haile Gebrselassie or maybe Fauja Singh?

People often accuse wine bloggers of not being professional. You’re right, sometimes they aren’t. We need our industry to understand that there are a variety of types of communicators who write about wine. A wine blogger who writes to tell the story of their personal journey in wine is not the same as someone who writes about wine futures. And they should not be held to the same standards.

Just because you have a degree, MW, WSET diploma, have written a book, or have been awarded every prize for wine literature that has ever existed, you are not a “better blogger” than anyone else. You can’t, by definition, be better. You can, on the other hand, be: More persistent, Better at Wine Rating, Better at Wine Science, Better at Wine Educating, Better at anything you wish to communicate about. But you are not better than another person who wants to discover wine and share that discovery with an audience, large or small, online.

The blog part is only the tool, or the physical means, used to log your content. I do believe Robert Parker would have been the first blogger if the software had existed at the time. He wouldn’t be the best wine blogger though. He might be an influential wine blogger in certain circles, maybe even indispensable to the industry. That said, I could argue that he is the worst wine blogger when it comes to recommending a wine to my parents. He uses language that they don’t understand and talks about wines that my parents are never realistically going to taste.

I happen to be the best wine blogger for my parents. I won an award for it. Really! Ok, so not really, but I hope to one day when my parents finally get around to handing out awards for meaningless family skills.

So, to all you people who think your wine blog is more important than another person’s: Get over it! You’re one of many. You may be the best in your niche, or for your audience, and for that I applaud you. The truth is that a blog is publishing tool. Go find a cool way to use it. Quit worrying about what other people are doing. There are plenty of audiences out there, find your own. Or if you have it, remember to give them what they want, which I assume is wine content. Publish it however you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. Have fun. Or don’t, I don’t care.

 

Update: I was remiss in not crediting the image. Tombstone image courtesy of the Tombstone Generator [Robert]

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Better Wine Blogging 101 – Using Photos Correctly

Night time Montjuic, BarcelonaRecently, a newbie wine blogger contacted me through Twitter to evaluate their post for general effectiveness. I promptly agreed, generally trying my best to help the community whenever possible, especially with someone new to the field. Quickly clicking on the link, I encountered 2 of the largest mistakes I typically see with new blogs, not to mention, 2 of the easiest things to fix. But when trying to explain how to remedy the situation, I also learned that they weren’t obvious to your everyday blogger. So for the sake of helping a larger audience, I thought I would post some best practices here.

Basically what I’m offering is some standard SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Nothing advanced and nothing tricky, just some best practices to make sure you are optimizing your site to get the most traffic possible. With a few simple steps, your wine blog, or website, can be more effective. The irony is that these simple steps are DEAD simple and can give you big results. So let’s start! Today, I’ll focus on images and tomorrow I’ll focus on links.

Images: Images are great for explaining ideas and giving context. That said, if you don’t optimize your image, Google and the web in general, won’t see it. The robots Google uses to read content on your site are basically blind. They are great at reading content but not at looking at images. Therefore, we need to help them out. All modern web tools let you add images easily, and most will also let you add some key elements to those images that help your site.

For the sake of explanation, I’m going to use the WordPress blogging platforms tool as an example. See the image below? When you upload an image to wordpress, it allows you to add a Title,  Alternate Text, Caption, Description and URL. They key pieces you should be fill out and be descriptive are the Title, Alt Text and URL.

  1. Title: use a simple description. If you have a wine bottle photo, the title might be the name of the wine. If it’s a picture of a vineyard, name the vineyard and be descriptive. Just titling it “Vineyard” doesn’t help anyone. Better to go specific “Merlot Vines – Chateau Bleu”.
  2. Alt text: This is the text that will show up on a person’s computer screen if their computer can’t load the photo, allowing the reader to understand what the photo is supposed to be. So building on ”Merlot Vines – Chateau No-Se-Que”, you might add here a description of the time of year: Fall, Spring, or maybe even the activity if any in the photo: harvest, pruning, veraison under way. In short, be descriptive.
  3. URL: make sure to link to the photos source or to the photo itself. This way you can credit the photographer, or you can link to a larger version which might help the reader to see the image better. I’ll explain more about why links are so important soon, but the truth is that the web does not exist without links. Make sure you use them!

How to insert an image into facebook

All that said, pictures make your posts look pretty! Thus, use photos that illustrate and help guide the story. A picture of a bottle is one thing, but a picture of the place the wine was made can be even better. Also remember that people’s faces can be very helpful. If you are talking about a person try your best to get an image of them.

Finally where do you get photos? Well you don’t steal them. Make sure if you post a photo you have permission first. It’s illegal to use photos that are copyrighted without permission from the photographer. A great tool you can use to find fabulous photos is Creative Commons. It’s a legally enforceable copyright that allows the artist/photographer to have their photos used in certain situations. I, personally, license all my photos this way, allowing you to use my photos as long as you do so non-commercially, and you give me credit.

Where do you find these? Well you can browse my photos here: Ryan Opaz’s Wine Photos on Flickr and you can search for other photos that are licensed this way here: Flickr’s Creative Commons Galleries.

Mind you, this is the short version of how to use photos in your posts. I could go on and on, but would rather you ask some questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you!

Cheers,
Ryan Opaz

Coming soon, linking for wine for wine bloggers…

Wine research through a distorted lens

Last week, an organisation called Wine Intelligence put out a press release concerning the apparent lack of trust consumers had in wine bloggers. I can only imagine it was intended to bait bloggers and commentators into some sort of argument to create headlines.

Ryan Opaz and I talked about it and found there were simply too many questions raised not to comment on it. We’re not sure how else to explain some of the conclusions from an organisation that is trying to sell a research report “worth” £1,300.

A clipboard

Image via Wikipedia

Let me start with the headline:

Independent bloggers are one of the least trusted wine information sources in the UK, USA and France, according to research published today, despite the growing importance of the Internet as a source of information about wine.

A headline worthy of tabloid newspapers, or even untrustworthy “independent bloggers”. Hardly the sort of interpretation that would make me trust an organisation that wants to sell me their analysis of the state of the wine “internet and social media”.

Who are these “independent bloggers”?

There is no explanation. Does it include blogs written by the same merchants that the “regular wine drinkers” apparently trust so much? What about the blogs published unofficially by their staff? What about the many blogs published by wine magazines, journalists, importers, wineries, and even research organisations? What about blogging wine personalities like Jancis Robinson, Tim Atkin, Alder Yarrow, Dr. Vino and others? No?

I’d love to see the definition, and the carefully vetted segmentation applied to the 1000+ worldwide wine blogs covered by this statement.

Maybe it is just intended to capture all those individuals who don’t happen to work in the wine business, have not gone through standardised wine trade education schemes, and happen to be writing about wine for their own entertainment and education? The folks who have no “borrowed’ trust and must establish themselves individually. In which case they seem to be doing pretty well to be considered at all and we should salute them!

If that is how they define bloggers then they must realize that these blogs are word-of-mouth amplified by technology platforms, and as such they are trusted by certain very important people – their friends.

What do you mean by “least trusted”?

According to the research, focusing on the UK for now;

1 in 5 regular wine drinkers in the UK trust what independent bloggers say about a wine, compared with the 50%+ who trust what they hear over the counter in a wine merchant.

AND

… just under half the wine drinking populations in [the UK and France use] the Internet for wine information and 16% using social media.

Let’s examine this.

If 16% of all regular wine drinkers “use social media,” they presumably mean that they are on Facebook, Twitter and (whisper it) read blogs. Let’s make the outrageous assumption that you can only trust, or not trust, something you have actually “used” – otherwise the view is not an informed one. The report is supposed to be about the sources of wine information, not the public perception of blogging as this would apply equally to anyone involved in it, not just the poor old “independent” ones.

I’d venture that the numerical similarity of “16%” and “1 in 5″ means that bloggers might actually be trusted by the VAST majority of those who have bothered to check them out.

In fact, even the headline 20% figure means that a great many wine consumers DO have some trust in bloggers, and if you were to look at particular segments of the population who are heavy social media users, you might even find that they are a MAJOR source of trust. Why be negative about something so new and still developing?

Isn’t it actually more shocking that consumers think that 50% of wine shops are lying to our FACES? Bloggers are publishing stuff for lots of strangers to read/watch/hear that they may never meet. These merchants on the other hand are on the other side of the counter, and half of what they say is either wrong or are lies! Apparently.

Market differences

In the USA, websites run by wine shops, newspapers and smaller wine producers are the most used online sources, while supermarket websites rank below Facebook as a source of wine information. The UK tells a different story with supermarket websites proving the most popular online source, whilst in France the brand or producer websites are the most important destinations for consumers seeking knowledge

Does this shock anyone? In the US the vast majority of wine is sold by merchants and wineries, virtually none in supermarkets. The UK market is reversed. The only shock would be that people didn’t trust the people selling them the wine – oh, wait, we did discover that above, but we prefer to bash bloggers.

We considered ignoring the release, but one or two industry news sources decided to pick up on the story and as these things can easily become “fact” (interestingly a criticism usually aimed at bloggers), we felt it might be worth pointing out some of the flaws in the argument for the record.

I’m only able to base my response to the press release, there’s no way I am paying £1,300 for a research report (especially one that promotes itself with inflammatory headlines), so I suspect that SOME of these points may be addressed in the detail. If so, I look forward to hearing from anyone who has read it, … if they bother reading any wine blogs.

Oh! One final irony …

This Wine Intelligence press release, and other reports, were published on a WordPress blog platform! If  the market doesn’t trust bloggers, by extension should we not be trusting this report?

:)

Robert McIntosh and Ryan Opaz

UPDATE: 07 Feb 2011:

Thank you to everyone for your comments, discussion points and feedback, we really appreciate it. Ultimately, the argument is not about research or how to write a press release, it is about perception of social media opportunities. I feel strongly that while other industries are adapting to take advantage of new ways of reaching customers, the wine trade will miss out if they don’t take it more seriously.

Separately, you might like to check out some of the articles that came out since we posted this, including a riposte by Wine Intelligence and some comments from a US perspective including some good research by @winewonkette

Wine Intelligence: Bloggers Bite Back
Vinography: Why trust a wine blogger
Another Wine Blog: Wine Intelligence admits Bias, Ulterior Motives in “Wine Blogger Distrust” Release

There will also be something in the printed edition (and hopefully online) of Harpers this week (10 Feb 2011) as I was asked for a small contribution to the debate.

Related articles

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MIA

my formerly cluttered desk
Image by evelynishere via Flickr

I’m increasingly aware that wine, a job, multiple social media channels, regular wine trade events PLUS events spawned by the creative well of my social media friends, as well as a real commitment to building a community around wine online, … plus a young family, … are not compatible with writing this blog regularly. At least not for me.

I’m sorry for those who feel I am not keeping up with this blog (I’ve had a few comments)

I do have a number of articles on the go (the draft folder is bulging) and SO many things I’d love to talk about, I just need an extra pair of hands, a few extra hours in the day, … and, increasingly, some help with the various media channels and daily tasks.

Of course, I’m HEAVILY involved in all sorts of social media every day so you can still hear my ramblings and make any comments you wish, but I thought I had better post SOMETHING to say that it is all ticking along. Honest!

:)

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Video resources for wine lovers and writers


As you will have noticed from my last post, and if you have been following me on twitter, I’ve been exploring some video resources as means to spread the love and culture of wine. I decided it might be useful to share some links, and some thoughts, on some of those I have come across in case you are thinking of doing the same. If you are, send me a link to let me know.

Here is a short list (it could be much longer) of resources I am either using or looking at, which I am arbitrarily splitting in two, plus links to videos I’ve made, or been involved in on each.

First, those video sites where you share pre-recorded (& hopefully edited) videos:

YouTube
Sample: Professional Wine Tasting

The BIG video site. It is a massive site with lots of reach, so a great place to upload your video if you want it easily available. However, there are some limitations. It can be a maximum of 10 minutes long, it is one amongst millions (and millions) and although there is a healthy community effect which encourages comments and votes, it can equally turn nasty and childish. However, any wine communicator ought to have their own place on YouTube to upload and share videos.

Vimeo (Sample: Bibendum Wine Tasting) & Viddler (Sample: The Road to Rioja)

I’m sure that their respective CEOs would give me a long list of their unique features, but essentially they offer the same service. A smaller, more focused community within the sites themselves, but more importantly, the opportunity to upload longer videos if you need to (which you probably don’t, by the way). One neat feature of Viddler is the opportunity for you and your viewers to add comments linked to specific points in a video. Worth checking out.

TwitVid
(Sample: The video above on this post)

I’ve yet to use this, but if you have a short video you want to share with your twitter followers, you can upload it to this site and have it sent out to your followers. I think this made the list (i.e. I became conscious of it) because it was one of the first to be available for the iPhone 3GS. There are plenty of similar sites out there, but the key is to upload fun, social content that pretty much anyone will enjoy.

The second category of video sharing sites allow you less scope to edit, but offer more spontaneity and in some cases LIVE streaming:

Seesmic
Sample: Enough is Enough

I’ll deal with this first as it is a bit of an anomaly. This is a more interactive site than those in the previous category. In fact it is more of a discussion forum with video, where the whole point of the videos are to begin conversations with other users who record their replies in video format.

I separate it also because in reality, it is a community in itself. Most wine consumers are not at all interested in recording videos of themselves, so users on here are mainly reaching out to a very specific community

12seconds.tv
Sample: Music to Pour wines by at tapas fantasticas

Now it gets fun. Think recording a video is difficult, you don’t know what to say, how to edit it, upload it and promote it? Well, don’t bother. All you get are 12 seconds of recording, and the site does the rest. Perfect for fun, trivia, quick insights, stolen moments (ahem), etc. Share your video with the 12seconds community but also take advantage of sharing through facebook, twitter, etc. Definitely one to try.

TwitCam
Sample: Guessing wines using video and twitter. Why not?

A new toy for me. No pre-recording or editing. You stream live (from you computer only at the moment I believe) and users can interact with you in a chat window and through twitter. As soon as you are online, it lets people know through twitter so you can have your own TV moment. If you have good relationships with followers on twitter, it is worth checking out.

qik
Sample: [still awaiting iPhone app]

A service that allows you to stream video from your mobile device (except iPhone for now, but that is about to change) straight to the internet, and then share it though social media sites. A great way for those who want to let their friends and followers into their daily lives away from the office and desks – such as vineyards or tasting rooms (but make sure you have wifi access).

EWBC

Finally, for now, something which will become more and more important as the volume of content grows, a place to actually FIND relevant content. The EWBC has partnered with 23video to create a place to view lots of video content about the wine bloggers conferences in both USA and Europe. Check these out then consider where, other than your own site, you might want to have your video “archived”. Think of it as a library or gallery of your work, where future consumers will find it.

I could have listed a lot more, but these are things I am playing with. What are your favourites?

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