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Am I certifiable?

There has been an interesting conversation going on for a while now, about how we measure wine bloggers.  This question is not without controversy and it sparks a lot of thought.  The folks at Vintank, and new powerhouse in the Wine 2.0 world, have even challenged us to create an experiment on how to measure the ROI of social media and blogs.

How exactly do we measure a blogger’s success or contribution to the webiverse?  That’s the key question that is being asked by many wineries and PR agencies as they strive to determine who they should send samples to, give special treatment to, and dole out perks to.

Should we have a Wine Blogger Seal of Approval?  Should there be some sort of credential?  I am divided on this issue.

A credential is a badge of honor.  Think of press credentials.  You don’t have to necessarily be a good journalist to get one, you just have to be a journalist.  That gives you access to crime scenes, events, and trade shows with the expectation that you will do something in return – report on it.

On the other hand, certification implies that your blog must meet a certain set of standard criteria in order to gain access to the elite group.  This is where i have an problem, as I don’t know how you create a specific set of standards for a group of people that are essentially writing Op/Ed pieces.  Yes, there are professional bloggers out there, in the likes of Alder Yarrow of Vinography.  However, the vast majority of bloggers are hobbiests with a passion for wine.  If i write something that you don’t agree with, does that make me wrong?  I hope not.  An opinion is an opinion.  I don’t have to like the same things you do.

The issues that have come up are one of access to a privileged elite of wine.  These benefits have been taken advantage of, much like in traditional media.  Clearly, a few bad bloggers spoil the merlot.

How do we prove our worth to these industry peeps that are we are worthy of the perks?  I am all for weeding out the leeches, those that write a post once and expect to get free tastings for 10 or free passes to every event.  The question is how do we accomplish this without being exclusionary?  The wine industry is finally starting to tune into the importance of the bloggersphere.  By placing barriers to access, aren’t we taking one step forward and 2 steps back?

Michael Wangblicker of Caveman Wines and Lisa de Bruin of California Wine Life have posted thier ideas on this subject as well.  Some of thier suggestions as well as mine are below, with my comments in red.

  1. Age of blogs – There is high turnover on blogs. An older blog may indicate that the blogger is here to stay.  This might be true, but an old blog might be stale.  This needs to be used in conjunction with other measurements to be effective.
  2. Average Number of posts per month – The more frequently a blogger posts, the greater likelihood that their audience will be larger.  This is true in general, but how do we set the bar?
  3. Other Social Media channels – Does the blogger have a good following on Facebook, Twitter, etc.? It may indicate that their readership is larger than implied by visits to the blog.  I think this is important for the bigger picture.  A blogger who is not hooked in to other social media avenues is not getting the full picture.
  4. By Readership?  This might be the strongest option, but i still question how you measure readership.  Do we need a central hits per day list?  If I post on a holiday instead of a weekday, will i be penalized for not hitting prime time?
  5. Quality of writing?  How do you measure this?  I think I am a good writer, but you may not.  This is too subjetive.  These guidelines have to be objective to work.
  6. Their own level of wine education?  Measuring bloggers on their knowledge of wine is putting the cart before the horse.  There are many bloggers, including myself, who started their blog in order to educate yourself.  Rating based on knowledge is going to increase the blogger vs. trad media war that is still going on and the elitism that is perceived witll be exacerbated.
  7. A Blogger Organization, such as Wineblogger.info, can be helpful in identifying those that want to be part of the bigger collective.  If you take the time to associate with such an organization, chances are you are more interested in writing and your blog than the free tasting at Winery X.
I’m not sure that any of these are the answer.  I personally don’t want someone telling me my blog is good enough to be part of the club, because that’s not why i blog.  The more technical KPI’s are tricky and somewhat difficult to ascertain, as the analytics tools are still being developed.  In addition, some people blog on a common site, and you cannot truly gauge visitors.
My feeling is that we need to be INCLUSIVE and not EXCLUSIONARY.  It is important to have open communication with the industry.  Clearly, bloggers don’t like people that give us a bad name any more than the industry people do but we need to figure out how to weed them out of the bigger mix without alienating the masses.
I’m curious as to your opinions!

Google

 

13 Comments

  1. Hi there:

    My, oh my. Much ado about nothing, me thinks.

    First, it’s incumbent upon the “many wineries and PR agencies” to determine which bloggers are worthy of their samples or freebies. It’s not up to bloggers to prove they (we) are worthy, unless, of course, they (we) choose to. If we are not worthy, then people won’t read us. Simple.

    Not all bloggers blog for profit. Some folks blog to learn, some to share, and yet others to establish themselves as some sort of industry (not just wine industry) expert so that they can get paid for other things. Many bloggers fall into more than one category. Many have more than one audience. I know I do.

    I blog about wine because I love it. And I want everyone in the world to love wine as much as I do. I've had this mad passionate affair with wine for some 30+ years, and boy has this relationship developed and matured—especially as the North American wine industry itself has developed and matured. I even have some technical training. But I do not blog because someone may give me a free ticket or two; in fact, I prefer to pay my own way to things so that I am perfectly at ease saying what I want to say.

    I charge for my wine writing in print media because it is a commodity, but I use my blog as a tool to help establish and spread my credibility as a writer in general and a wine writer in particular. And it works.

    As for accreditation or certification, any one person with a vested interest can get the ball rolling on that. So, unless you want a government body stepping in to establish and, more importantly, monitor accreditation or certification, I say it’s of no value.

    Just my two cents’ worth as I continue this evening’s sauvignon blanc-off between Kim Crawford and Oyster Bay.

    Salut!

    K.

  2. winebratsf says:

    Thanks for your input Kathleen!

    I agree with you. I think the press that they get is worth the few freebies given out.
    ;-)

    Can't wait to read about your SB off!

  3. Taster B says:

    I agree with all your points. I just realized that I have a dilemma: I used to have my twitter and FB accts wide open. Then I decided it would be prudent to protect my tweets. Now I realize that I've taken my addition to the conversation out of the search engine indexing which hampers the reach a LOT. *sigh* what to do…

  4. winebratsf says:

    Great point B!

    I made my Twitter conversation private, but only because I was getting a massive amount of SPAM followers. My blog however, still shows up in search results, which is the important thing.

    The other thing you can consider is opening up twitter for certain events, like TTL or WBC. That way, you are open for the important stuff, but still have to be approached if you want to be followed.

    This has worked well for me, and I still get 3-5 wine followers a day!

    Cheers

  5. Taster B says:

    Yes, yes! Great idea!

  6. Rob says:

    As part of the Wine PR machine, I completely agree that it is our job to determine which blogs are the best outlets to reach an audience. I've posted on a few other blogs about this, but my main point is that certification will only help PR people (and lazy ones at that). It is very easy to get a bunch of names and emails, put them in a massive list and press send every time you have a press release, even if no one on the list cares about the subject matter. What I like to think I do (and other PR people like me) is interact with bloggers to find ways to be the most helpful (and least annoying). I run my own blog, trying to better understand the challenges (like trying to make sure I have a post often enough!).

    Also, I wanted to express a thought about the other forms of social media. I use each in a different way. Twitter is my conversation tool, the blog is my journalistic tool. LinkedIn is for business. MySpace is… well, I got annoyed with MySpace. Facebook I use specifically for friends. I mean people that I have shaken hands with in the flesh and would feel comfortable having them see the absolute ridiculous photos of when I was in college. So, being plugged into all the social media is good, but there needs to be a certain awareness that if all we try and do is market ourselves through all the forms of social media that it really detracts from what social media is meant to do, which (in my opinion) is connect us with our friends and those we lost touch with.

  7. Hi Thea. Thanks for including me in the conversation. Here is my $.02 that I have posted on other blogs on this subject. While I agree that we need to be INCLUSIVE and not EXCLUSIVE, consider the view from the small winery. Wineries are presented with over 1000 wine bloggers. They are short staffed as it is. We all know that margins on wine are much smaller than other industries. Are wineries expected to engage and possibly send wine samples to everyone? That is a lot of wine, especially when you have limited cases to sell. I’m not saying that a credential is the answer, but there needs to be some way for these small wineries to know what the most important blogs are. You are absolutely right that it is up to us wine PR professionals to figure out our system. We don't expect bloggers to police themselves, as that is counter to the whole idea of blogging in the first place. But please concede that wineries need some sort of tool to guide them in their interactions with wine bloggers.

  8. winebratsf says:

    Thanks for your input Rob! I agree with you on the social networking aspects, I do compartmentalize my networks quite a bit, and have different IDs for work vs personal uses.

    I like your point about about finding news ways to interact wtih bloggers in a useful & meaningful way. That, I think, is the key. Right now, we are sort of swimming like mad to find the surface, and all we are doing is creating a bunch of chop. We need to find a way to smooth surface and float life rafts out.

    thanks for your input! These conversations are inspiring, and they open doors.

  9. winebratsf says:

    Hi Mike!

    you have a very valid point regarding the small guys. I completely agree that they are in a different position that a larger operation, and have more limited resources. However, as a blogger, I do not have the same expectations of them as a big guy. To your point, NO, i would not expect a 500 case winery to send me samples of their limited production wine. I would however, welcome (though not expect) the opporutnity to taste these wines, perhaps an access point that the general public does not have.

    This is something I have experienced first hand. I think you have a point – the question is just how to figure it out. I think bloggers need to be responsible enough (and most are) to not abuse the system. It is a problem of a few bad apples.

    Perhaps I am juts too idealistic, but in my view, I will pay more money for a small production "little guy" wine than a wine from the same vineyard by a corporate winery.

    But maybe that's my liberal ass talking!

    Anyway thanks for your input. I think these conversations are important and we need to keep having them so blogger, PR folk, and industry folk can see the 360 view instead of their little slice of the pie. There are always 3 truths:
    -Yours
    -Mine
    -Everyone Else's

    Cheers!

  10. Sonadora says:

    I prefer the anti conference to certification.

    And I'll say it again. Fun. Hobby. Spare time. Not my real job. On my own dime and own time. With no ulterior motive. I blogged before samples, waived tasting fees and everything else, and I'd keep doing it whether or not I got anything for it. Because I do it for myself and anyone else who stumbles across my little corner of the wine internet world. I never asked for any of those things….people sought me out.

    We're a very navel gazing kind of group aren't we?

  11. Sonadora says:

    Oh, and PS-everyone knows you're certifiable ;)

  12. winebratsf says:

    Sonadora,

    here here! While I understand the PR / winery point of view, there are very few bloggers who actively SOLICIT samples. Yes there are many who accept them, but going out and asking for them proactivly is different. If someone offers me a glass of wine am I really going to refuse it? Not likely.

    Cheers!

  13. winebratsf says:

    Well I was just checking. Wanted to get my street CRED!

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