What wine blogs can do for you?

Liz Thach, Wine Business Professor at Sonoma State University wrote a synopsis of a wine blogging study done at the university; her report appeared at winebusiness.com (link below).

Ms. Thach starts her story with an emphatic yes to answer the question whether wine blogs have an impact on wine brands. She recommends that wineries pay attention and then she produced a list of what wineries should be doing. But before getting to the list, she passed along some astounding information.

There are more than 700 blogs devoted to wine (and the blog count continues to grow). She got that information from a list that Alder Yarrow compiled a while ago for his blog, vinography.com.

What about overkill? At, say, 1,000 blogs (it’s coming) and with 52 weeks in a year, how much duplication and contradiction do you think is possible? The wine print magazine world never came close to approaching that kind of influence.

The many wine blogs out there today come in approximately 14 languages with English accounting for most of the blogs.

After developing sampling criteria, Thach’s study group followed 222 blogs for a content analysis. It turns out that blogs fall into several categories. By far, the top category (by number of blogs) is wine reviewing. There are far fewer blogs by wineries than either wine review, wine and food, and wine education blogs. Wine business, winemaking and viticulture, and “other” blogs are the three bottom on the list—vinofictions likely is at the bottom of that category; someday, I’ll discover the secret to titillation.

Less than 50% of the sampled blogs included advertising. In her report, Ms. Thach dutifully noted that bloggers have discussed the ethics of accepting advertising from brands that are reviewed. She did not, however, give the outcome of the discussion. The report mentioned that the 222 blogs in the study managed to name more than 800 different wine brands over the course of the study.

Thach is a business professor and so her report focused on the business angle of blogs for wineries: how best to capitalize from their existence. Mainly, she claims that wineries with especially small PR budgets need to monitor blogs because there is a following of consumers and that’s good for advertising on blogs.

The professor gave another reason to monitor blogs, which has to do with the “Wild West” atmosphere of the blogging world. Thach called it “democratization of media.” She pointed out that there are bloggers who may know what they are talking about and there are bloggers who may not. The latter group can hurt with negative reviews and comments. She doesn’t mention it, but bloggers without knowledge can also pass along a lot of misinformation.

Not long ago, Wines and Vines Editor, Jim Gordon, addressed the issue of blogger knowledge. He urged bloggers to become responsible by gaining knowledge before spouting off. On that subject, I know exactly what he means. An awful lot of people have a tendency to tell others how to grow grapes and produce and market wine without spending an ounce of energy to study the subjects beyond what they drink, what they are told, and what they choose to believe.

Ms. Thach ended her report with a list of seven things wineries need to do to stay on top of the wine blogging explosion. They are common sense suggestions and probably aren’t being done by most wineries because they are time consuming plus, they are connected to a technology that many wineries have yet to understand.

As I read the report, I wondered what I would have done in the days when I operated a winery had I this opportunity to monitor, and to attempt to control, the message being spread about my wines. As I thought, I could not help pondering the monumental danger that lurks with the citizen-generated social media revolution. There’s a kind of blackmail quality to having judgment passed on a product or brand by people who may or may not have knowledge or smarts, let alone taste. And what about those who may have an agenda of their own?

If I operated a winery today, I would definitely want to monitor the blogging world. I would be quite afraid of the impact it could make on my business should some nut garner enough nuts to follow the lead and start a massive negative campaign, maybe because I refused to send free wine, or because I pissed off someone’s brother at my tasting room. This kind of thing happened to a California sparkling wine producer, and I read a news report that it might have been a disgruntled family member who started the negative online campaign.

In any case, it looks like the academics are getting a handle on what blogs and social media can do for wineries.

Does anyone know of an academic study to determine what all these blogs can do for wine consumers that isn’t already being done?

The Thach study

If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
August 2009. All rights reserved.

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