Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wine Bloggers’ Conference in the Okanagan Valley

One of the great things about studying wine bloggers is the opportunity to attend their conferences.  The combination of useful information, good food, interesting people and a wide variety of wines makes these events a yearly highlight.  This year I (David) attended the North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia.  Even though I have lived in Canada for over 30 years, I had never visited the Okanagan Valley.  The start to the activities did not seem too promising.  We were mustered in front of the hotel, allocated to a fleet of yellow school buses and told that our destination was the See-Ya-Later Ranch.  As we ground up a dirt road at the end of our journey some of those more used to the sleek tasting rooms of California and Europe looked decidedly dubious.  They need not have worried.  We walked off the bus to be greeted by flutes of champagne and a tub of oysters that formed the first of eight or nine food stations provided by local restaurants each paired with an Okanagan winery.  The low sunlight on the vineyards along with the view down the valley meant that not all the photos taken were of wine labels.  At the end of the evening the main problem for the organizers was herding everyone back on the buses.  The rest of the weekend continued in the much the same vein with close interaction with many of the local growers interspersed with informative sessions on a number of topics.

On the research side, and I was there to do research, I made connections with a number of wine bloggers, several of whom had only recently begun blogging.   There have been suggestions that the number and salience of wine blogs is decreasing, and certainly one can find numerous sites that have ceased, but both on-line and at these gatherings new, eager bloggers appear.  There certainly is greater diversity and specialization in wine blogs and many are associated with other activities, but the citizen wine blog seems to be alive and well.  There was also a presentation of some basic statistics from a survey of wine bloggers that was very interesting as their information confirmed some of our own findings, but did not agree with others.  They intend to repeat the survey so I guess I will have to attend next year’s WBC to see if these are consistent trends.

Monday, December 13, 2010

We Have a Winner

Cathy VanOrder of New York won the early bird draw for a $200 gift certificate at her favorite wine store. She has now collected it and both she and the wine store owner are happy. We have instituted another early bird draw with a $100 prize and a deadline of December 15. Everyone who completes the survey still goes into the final draw for the $500 prize.

We keep sending out requests for participation in our study and the responses come in slowly but surely. We have now heard from 93 blog creators and 53 readers, but are still stuck with the same 15 contributors. Several blog owners who have either posted our message on their sites or conveyed it to their readers through other social media have helped our efforts.

As part of this project I have looked at hundreds of blogs that have or at least claim to have something to do with wine. There are two really striking aspects that emerge from those that I have examined. First, there is amazing diversity. From pompous to irreverent, from strictly amateur to extremely professional, from beautifully illustrated to vanilla plain, from highly specialized to all over the map there is certainly a wine blog or more likely a dozen for any taste. The second feature I noticed was the amount of effort that people put into their blogs. Some of the amateur blogs obviously take a great deal of time and effort not just in the writing and presentation, but also in acquiring the expertise they demonstrate. Some of these people are connected with the wine industry, but others come from quite different professional backgrounds. Although we began this project with some basic academic questions about blogs, we have all learned much more than we anticipated through our research.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Launching the Survey

When we first began this project we expected to be collecting data within a few months. We got diverted by another study looking at how those in different countries view blogs, but now we are busy chasing down people to fill in our wine blog survey. We have mainly contacted those with wine blogs through email and the response has been quite gratifying. In our message to those with their own blogs we asked them to post our message on their sites and at least three of them have done so. Our message has also been picked up on Twitter a few times. The result is that so far we have 143 complete responses. The study is designed to collect information about people with three different levels of engagement: those who have their own blogs (we call them blog creators), those who read and contribute to others’ blogs and those who only read blogs. So far the break down is 76 blog creators, 52 blog readers and only 15 blog contributors. Obviously we are getting more responses from the blog creators because we address them directly and it appears that a high percentage of them are happy to oblige. The very low number of responses from contributors is a bit puzzling unless most of the contributors also have their own blogs which seems unlikely. In any case we will keep plugging away. Our goal is to have 300 respondents in each category so we have some work to do.

Part of our intention is starting this blog was to engage those who are interested in the effect of social media on the wine industry. From our interaction with bloggers at wine bloggers conferences and the responses to our emails, it is clear that there is a considerable amount of interest in how blogs operate and what makes them attractive. We will try to post an update every week or so to let you know how the study is progressing.

If you haven’t yet completed our survey (there is a $500 draw for those that do) you can access it at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SZ76K86.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The Idea

Wine Blogging has exploded in recent years and is used for a variety of reasons by blog creators, posters, and readers. What is going on and why are wine blogs so important? Why are there so many? Why do people create them, and what do readers get out of them? How are they shaping the wine industry?

We are group of researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada interested in the way people use blogs to communicate with each other and with the world at large. We are also passionate about wine appreciation, wine from different areas of the world, travel to taste wines, do research about wine, and read wine blogs. . .a lot! We’ve had a look at a growing number of wine blogs both popular and obscure to see what they contain and how they are presented. But the real question is “what do people experience when they access wine blogs? What do they take away from them?” To learn and share with you this information, we thought it would be best to hear directly from you, the wine bloggers. We have launched this site to solicit your thoughts and experiences on:

  • why you blog
  • what makes a good blog (or a bad one)
  • have wine blogs changed the way you relate to wine

These are just some of the general questions about wine blogging that we find interesting and think you will too. If you have comments about these topics or any other relevant wine blog issues, we would be glad to hear from you in a posting below.

Louise, David & Alex