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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!