Where have all the Australian wine bloggers gone?
Anthony Madigan, Editor of Australian Wine Business Magazine (WBM), posted this in the The Week That Was (TWTW) on Jan 9th.
‘Whatever happened to all the wine bloggers out there? Remember a few years ago when wine blogging was the next big thing and everyone was predicting some serious competition for the likes of James Halliday, Max Allen and Tim White? Ha, ha, ha, those old blokes seem to have more power and influence now than ever before because, apart from Philip White, no one seems to be making any headway. Sure, there are a couple of bloggers that are attracting a dozen or so loyal friends, family and pets to their posts, but as for serious readership numbers, well, no, it just ain’t happening. Mass media still rules supreme. Young Jeremy Pringle was doing great things with his blog, Wine Will Eat Itself, before his tragic death last year, leaving a gaping hole in the wine blogging community. Dave Brookes seems to have given Vinofreakism away, and Patrick Haddock ‘The Wining Pom’ is focusing on his Newcastle wine bar; reckons there’s more money in selling the stuff than writing about it. Fair dinkum? Who is your favourite wine blogger and why? Who is starting to make waves? Anyone out there looking like following in the footsteps of young Pringle? Anyone we should know about? Tip us off’
Naturally I couldn’t let a cheeky statement like that slide, so I responded straight away. Mads published it in full too (and important to note that he’s a good supporter of bloggers, so no malice):
‘Just read TWTW and noticed the bit about wine blogs – you’re missing a trick there! While Jeremy (Pringle) is sadly departed, and Patrick (Haddock) is not writing much anymore there are plenty of good wine bloggers still out there. Stu Robinson (Vinsomniac), Steve (QWine), Sean (Grape Observer) and Daniel (the Wine Idealist) are all doing very good things, not to mention the brilliance of Ed (Wino Sapien) with even Yalumba recently kickstarting their blog after an extended hiatus. Oh and Australian Wine Review? Well, my little blog is turning seven this year and I’m definitely not slowing down. Nor is traffic for that matter – the “small circle of friends” is a bit facetious given my blog had almost half a million page views last year…’
My response highlights just a few of the people doing good things in Australian wine blogging right now (and I missed plenty). Yet it doesn’t address the key question – so what has happened? Where have the Australian wine bloggers gone?
To answer that, however, I need to make an important distinction.
What Anthony didn’t realise in that TWTW stir is that his question itself is wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘what has happened to all the bloggers’ and instead ‘what has happened to all the wine writers’. Not only is it a false assumption that bloggers and professional wine writers are mutually exclusive (many are paid wine writers too, like me), the problem is not just bloggers who are MIA, but wine writers in general.
Want some examples? Well look only at the rate at which even our top wine writers columns are shrinking (like Huon Hooke’s), being propped up by questionable retailer relationship (also like Huon’s) or just disappearing altogether (like Ken Gargett’s) leading to a whole swag who have left all together.
We can pretend all we want that ‘mass media still rules supreme’, however the stark reality is that wine writing is now anything but mainstream, and definitely not supported by the mass media. Instead, it’s a niche, dominated by a few main players (James Halliday mainly) and small publishers (though we still don’t know who GT Wine has been sold to), with actual writers scattered thinly, living on diets where wine writing is complemented with other non-writing work like running bars/restaurants, doing PR for wineries, writing content, or holding events. Pure wine writers are an almost non existent species.
Ultimately bloggers are just the thin end of the wedge – the (perceived) easy target. Instead, the purported demise of bloggers should be the canary in the coalmine, hinting of what is a broader malaise – the shaky future of wine writing as a profession in the country.
Sadly I don’t have the answers on how to make wine writing more viable as yet, and even less answers on how to make critical wine blogging a lucrative business, so all I can ask is that you stop by a few Australian bloggers who are still doing good things, and let them know that you give a shit.
Here are a few places to start (in no particular order):