Yesterday, Joe Roberts wrote about one of the most commonly cited criticisms of wine blogs. An argument that many critics use to support their claim of wine blogs' insignificance is that blogs do not move consumers to buy wine and are thus useless to wineries trying to sell wine. I have no idea how many people use my blog to make purchase decisions, and frankly I do not care. I do know that I have purchased wines based on recommendations from other blogs, as well as recommendations from traditional wine publications (Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, et al.). I buy wine for many different reasons.
If a writer is concerned that their recommendations "move the needle," in terms of wine sales, then he or she is more concerned with their own inflated view of self-importance than anything else. I know more than a few such individuals who cite how many people read their publication (digital or print) and how a score from them moves pallets of wine. I don't care about that. To look at the topic from a different perspective, I want to examine (briefly) if selling wine matters to writing a wine blog. Why look at the argument that way? Because some people seem to think that is the number one goal of blogs and social media in general.
I don't read wine blogs strictly to get recommendations. Sure, occasionally a wine that someone wrote about will intrigue me enough to buy it. But maybe I don't buy it, but simply research a winery or region with which I am unfamiliar. Likewise, I don't write about wine intending on people buying what I tell them to buy. I write about wine because I find wine fascinating. I want to share this thing I love with others. To me, that is the raison d'être for wine blogs. Obviously, wine publications that focus their efforts into buying guides have another goal in mind. I don't link to wine-searcher.com so that you can find where to buy a wine. I link to winery websites so you can learn more about a winery, if you choose.
I do think that buying and trying wines are important activities for consumers (well, by definition those are activities that make one a consumer!). But if a wine I mention provokes you to buy a different wine, then I've accomplished my goal. I want to make people explore the vast world of wine in which we all live. Having my readers think about wine in a new way, or trying a wine that neither of us have heard of is more important to me than telling a winery that an article I wrote about their wine led to X number of dollars in sales for them. Wine sales shouldn't matter for wine blogs to those that really care about both. Turning casual wine drinkers (or even non-wine drinkers) into wine enthusiasts (or further exciting enthusiasts) by sharing a love and a passion for wine should be the value proposition of wine blogs
A comment on Joe's blog really struck a chord for me. The reader said, "Blogs may not sell wines, but the people who read blogs most definitely buy wine." That is an indisputable fact, and something that really should be celebrated. In the U.S., more people are reading about wine, writing about wine and drinking wine than at any point in history. In the large scheme of things, it doesn't really matter where people get their wine buying recommendations. Many wine consumers don't read wine blogs. Many wine consumers don't know the what AG, JL, JM, JR, JS, RP or SH mean. Many do. Sure, individual wineries want to know how to most efficiently use their limited resources and should find the best marketing approaches suited for them. But for people to argue that wine blogs as a group offer little value because sales cannot be directly attributed to a blog post is one of the the stupidest things I've ever heard.