Wine bloggers risk becoming "dinosaurs" unless they become more professional hears DWCC

Wine bloggers and communicators need to raise their game and become more professional or risk becoming “dinosaurs” and out of touch not only with the wine trade but with the consumers they are trying to talk to.

That was the stark warning issued at the Digital Wine Communications Conference in Montreux yesterday by a panel of experts analysing the future role of wine bloggers.

Louise Hurren says bloggers need to

Louise Hurren says bloggers need to ‘grow up and pro up’

Wine bloggers need to understand what value and reputation they have to be taken seriously, warned Louise Hurren

Louise Hurren, who runs her own marketing and PR consultancy, said it was time for bloggers to “grow up and pro up”. To succeed as a blogger in the future you have to “put your business hat on” and treat your blog in the same way anybody else would behave in a full time job.

“You need to be professional about it,” she stressed. Set up a schedule of how many times you plan to post new blogs and stick to it. Treat your blog as seriously as any published magazine does and post regularly and “not when you feel like it or can be arsed”.

She also urged bloggers to understand and recognise their place in the wine industry and ask themselves what value are you offering and  not just what you can get out of it.

Hurren also gave an insight in to the cost involved in taking bloggers and journalists on press trips and the expectation there will be that on those that go. She estimated the average three day wine trip might cost up to 1,000 euros a head and if a blogger accepts an invitation there will be an expectation they will produce something on their return.

“How many bloggers actually understand how the wine trade works?” she asked. “If you don’t understand how the industry works, how can you write about it.”

She urged bloggers to start reading the main wine trade publications like Harpers and understand the business of wine and not just how it is made.

 Robert Joseph

Robert Joseph

Robert Joseph

Robert Joseph, the wine commentator and critic who also runs his own blog, said too many bloggers were essentially covering the same ground, and not standing out from each other to be worth reading. He questioned, for example, how many bloggers had even written about the recent accounting scandal at Tesco and the implications on the wider wine industry after the suspension of Tesco’s head of wine Dan Jago.

He said bloggers could be split in to three camps; the self-funding, rich blogger who are effectively “keeping a diary in public”; the blagger blogger who just like going on trips; and the blogger who is actually paid to write posts and lives in a separate commercial world.

Hurren said perceptions of bloggers within the trade have changed considerably in the last seven years. Back in 2007 she would find it very hard to convince a wine producer to invest in bringing a blogger over on a wine trip. They would not see the value in doing so. By around 2010 bloggers had become “accommodated” within the trade, if not exactly fully embraced.

But then around a couple of years ago certain bloggers suddenly became very fashionable and moved to “rock star” status and “we were worshipping at the altar of the blogger”.

But now the jury was once again out on the role of the blogger. “To avoid being seen as irrelevant or a dinosaur you have to work at how to manage your reputation,”  she explained.

Evelyn Resnick, media consultant, argued there was certainly a place for bloggers providing they were adding value, and were “influential voices” on social media as well as their own blogs. She urged wine producers not to take bloggers “for granted” and for them to take them as seriously as wine journalists and they need to be “seduced” so that they will write about you.

She called for a healthier, more professional relationship between producers and bloggers.

Dr Damien Wilson, head of the MSC in wine business at the Burgundy School of Business, said  the early days of blogging were “healthy” and were informative and interactive, but are they still serving the purpose from when they first set out? “Are they creating discussion, are they creating a voice to be heard?” he asked.

Readers' comments (15)

  • Certains journalistes anglo-saxons sont aussi arrogants que les Bordelais et Robert Joseph chante toujours la même chanson et ses lunettes sont celles d'un dinosaure :-) les blogs naissent et meurent... le mien à 10 ans et se porte très bien merci... bien sûr il est écrit en français et ça n'intéresse pas nos chers voisins... que j'embrasse

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  • C'est quoi être "professionnel"?... Se fondre dans le moule des jounalistes "accrédités"?... C'est de l'humour "so british", non?...

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  • Magnifique !
    Des leçons de journalisme (sujet-verbe-compliment) dispensées par une attachées de Presse, le tout dans une réunion subventionnée de marchands de vin déguisés en blogueurs. Si ce n'était pas Halloween, je dirais que c'est Carnaval…

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  • Wonderful ! Splendid !
    When a PR, a Press secretary gives you lessons in journalism!

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  • I think some of these readers comments are....how do you say in your beautiful language.....merde!

    Hooray for free speech!

    :-))

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  • I am not a wine blogger, but I have been wondering how someone would not notice numbers not matching up, if margins in the UK wine trade are as thin as they are.

    http://hoofin.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/the-tesco-profit-misreporting-scandal-and-dan-jagos-commentary-another-interesting-find/

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  • Nous nous excusons sincèrement que des communicateurs internationaux dans un pays neutre - la Suisse - aient eu la témérité de discuter les sommes que les vignerons français dépensent sur les blogueurs et les autres journalistes et critiques.

    Pour clarifier, Mme Hurren est un anglaise professionnelle qui a été choisie par des producteurs du sud de la France pour leurs aider a gagner la notoriété - et peut-etre des ventes - en dehors de leurs pays. Elle connait bien son boulot.

    Je suis très content que les blogueurs français ci dessus aient le temps d'écrire ces commentaires, et de démontrer leur ouverture d'esprit.

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  • I wish I'd been there to hear this debate! I think one problem is that the medium (i.e., a web log) is being confused with the intent.

    If your intent is to write as an 'amateur/wine lover' and to express yourself with idiosyncratic abandon, than that's OK. But that intent probably won't help producers to sell their wine.

    They must sell wine to make wine. They invite communicators on trips because they think that you can help them.

    If your intent is to connect wine consumers with wines that, in your judgement, are worth experiencing, then that's an intent of value to wine producers. And, if your judgement is persuasive, credible and influential, there's a business case for investing marketing budget on hosting you.

    The intent of a 'professional' journalist is something different: they are being paid to produce good writing, to strict standards of impartiality, and to a defined editorial style. Wine is just the way in to the writing.

    Many 'amateur' wine writers are every bit as talented as the 'professionals', and I am so grateful that I am able to read them. I love the democracy of blogs, and how they enable gifted communicators to build an audience without the old 'official' endorsements. But professional wine writers will only go on a press trip with the intent of covering it at some point. I gather that's the point Louise was making, and it's a really important one.

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  • Well argued Sarah! The best comment so far!

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  • I'm very glad that this debate has continued outside of the conference centre. With four esteemed presenters on this topic, it was unfortunate to not have had such a colourful discussion in Montreux.

    Bien que je parle assez bien français, il me manque les nuances de votre belle langue. Donc, je vais m'exprimer uniquement en anglais pour qu'on ne vous vexe pas avec une phrase qui a une manque de la politesse ou des précisions. Je n'aimerai pas qu'on déclanche une guerre des mots au cause d'une imprécision.

    Egalement, j'invite tous les francophones à écrire en français pour qu'ils peuvent bien s'exprimer. On veut éviter les sites caché aux francophones ou anglophones. Les enjeux sont trop importants.

    From this point on, as the Antiblogging session organiser where Evelyne, Louise and Robert presented at the DWCC, I would ask that anyone posting here keep their comments topical, and non-personal. There are a number of excellent points raised in the comments above, but there are also examples of personal and professional insults, which are neither helpful nor appreciated by any contributor.

    I would ask that the site administrators DO NOT REMOVE such comments. I would rather see evidence of an intelligent, and receptive community of impassioned enthusiasts respond to such a request.

    The key point of this discussion is that a wine blogger writes publicly about wine. Because they write publicly, (and freely), their credibility of opinion is potentially very valuable to a wine business.

    Wine businesses use 'press trips' as a promotional tool, with the expectation of generating business as a result of that promotion. During these trips, the organisers (eg. the wine business, or a PR person) must then decide on the number of writers to invite in order to generate enough publicity, with the aim of selling more wine as a result. If the organiser is good at their job, they'll invite a blogger who would illustrate an interest or experience with the wine style/region/owner in their blog in any case. As such, there shouldn't be any concerns about significant differences of opinion.

    Louise Hurren (a PR person) called on bloggers to become more professional. I may be wrong, but I believe that from much of the discussion above, the word professional has been interpreted by some to equate with: 'buying a writer's opinions'. Certainly from what I saw and heard of Louise's presentation, what she actually explained was that bloggers need to be aware that they are accountable for the gifts and payments they receive from wine businesses. At no time did she suggest that bloggers should fabricate information in response to payment.

    During this 'Antiblog' session, the issue was raised about those bloggers who take the money (or hospitality), but don't do anything in return. With bloggers often demanding press trips, samples and invitations to wine events, all of this sessions presenters suggested that the bloggers are morally committing themselves to offering something in return for their requests.

    This topic was presented because wine businesses are increasingly suggesting that expenses spent on bloggers are not proving effective for generating enough revenue. Of course, if bloggers have an objection to having to defend their promotional value as a writer, they're free to not write anything at all. But only if they pay their own way to attend any of the above-mentioned promotional events.

    Unsurprisingly, at even a hint that opinions could be bought, there was a clarion call for the blogger's right to expressions of freedom. This is the key theme that I take from a number of the comments listed above.

    The only example I could use to explain why this comment might have been made above was because Robert highlighted a case where a group of bloggers had posted..... highly questionable content after having attended a press trip.

    Importantly, after he presented that example he also chastised these bloggers for having lost their credibility by blogging in such a way. So, Robert was actually endorsing, and reinforcing the importance of bloggers having free speech!

    Louise had simply illustrated how expensive such 'press trips' can be, and what the equivalent wine sales need to be in order to account for those expenses.

    So, let's just agree on the points that bloggers are valuable for their credibility, and free to write what they want. Therefore, what I would like to hear from all contributors is what a wine business should expect in return from any blogger who is paid in salary or kind to attend a press trip or other form of promotional event by wine businesses.

    Your thought, comments, disagreements, refusals and opinions are both welcome and encouraged. In any language!

    Disclaimer: no-one paid me to write this comment. I chose to do so simply because I occasionally like to read articles in Harpers. I do, however, submit articles for publication in Harpers Wine and Spirits from time to time. Sometimes these articles also get published. I am not paid for any of these submissions to Harpers. Would I like to be? Sure. But could I still then be called a blogger?

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