In Tom Wark’s annual American Wine Writer’s Survey, we learn that most wine writers are men over the age of 50. We also learn that wine writers working in print don’t, in general, like or respect bloggers. In fact, in identifying the greatest threats to professional wine writing, the wine writers surveyed zeroed in on three: the declining financial status of print publishing, the emergence of blogs, and “inexperienced wine writers.”
While the divide is on its face generational — wine bloggers tend to be younger and less experienced than print writers — it’s also an indication of the largely suppressed anger that wine professionals feel toward wine bloggers. Breaking into the wine business can be difficult, and most everyone goes through a period when they, in effect, suffer for their art. The terrible jobs they’ve all worked weeded out those not truly committed to the business. For wine bloggers, there’s no barrier-to-entry and thus no screening process. It takes fifteen minutes to set up a blog, declare yourself an expert, and start contacting publicists demanding free wine.
I’ve heard professionals all along the wine value chain complain that their incomes are affected by wine bloggers. The the not-entirely-unjustified stereotype is of self-declared experts who write snark for snark’s sake, amusing themselves and their tiny audiences while laying little bombs out there for search engines to find. Then, when someone considering a wine purchase Googles a brand, what bubbles up is a mixture of informed and uninformed opinion with little or no way for most people to decide which is which.
Adding insult to injury for print-based wine writers is this: online media are killing print media. Most wine writers didn’t start out as wine writers. They worked tough beats and wrote about wine on the side, often for no additional pay, until late in their careers they were moved over to the wine beat as a reward for decades of hard work. Now newspapers and magazines are cutting staff, and its the marginal positions like wine critic that get axed first, so it’s not surprising that the resentment seethes.
And it’s not just wine bloggers who make the ink-stained wretches crabby. They’re not real happy with wine publicists, either.
This group of employed writers was also far more critical of the public relations and marketing people they often deal with. In fact they were three times less likely to say that the work of public relations and marketing professionals was extremely or very useful to them than the average wine writer.
So if you know print-based wine writers, you might want to stay at arm’s length. You don’t want to get bit.
UPDATE: Wark comments on his own report here. And then his commentors comment on Wark’s comments, and then they comment on each other’s comments in a whirlwind of concomitant commitment to commentary.