jamie goode's wine blog: Communicating about wine: the way forward

Friday, April 03, 2009

Communicating about wine: the way forward

[Thinking out loud]

The old model (1):

Vertical communication. Expert shares information with consumers. A bit like teacher in front of the class. One way transfer of information. Medium: magazine articles, books, newsletters.

The new model (2):

Horizontal communication. Writer is on a journey and takes others with them. Conversations, with dialogue between writer and reader. Medium: blogs, social networking, some websites (although you can have a website that works along the lines of the old model).

In the new model, the writer acknowledges that some readers will have more expertise than them in some areas. It removes the distance between the writer and the reader, and is a more open, honest and interesting way of communicating about wine.

Does this mean books and magazines are dead? No, there will still be a place for them, but I think the style of writing will have to change. The vertical transfer of the expert's knowledge to the reader is going to diminish in importance and appeal.

At the moment, I think we're in transition. Many readers are used to model (1) and so publishers using this model will still find an audience...for now. But it will be a shrinking audience. The challenge for commercial publishers will be to adapt their revenue stream to fit model (2).



At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A curious note - isn't the whole objective about communications some potential change in the recipient (wine consumer?)Using the Rogers model about why as a consumer I should listen to you (potentially change)

a)Relative advantage - what's in it for me
b)Compatibility - does your information fit with my needs
c)Complexity - is your information useful
d)Trialability - how easy is it for me to test your expensive bottle? or even find the bottle you refer to?
e)Observability - once I try it, do I agree with your notes or am I left puzzled

So at the end of the day it matters little whether I discovered you on the web, in a broadsheet, or in a relatively expensive specialist magazine. It is not the medium but the message!

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Steve Borthwick said...

I think the medium is absolutely critical; how can I do a casual search for something across physical media that I don't actually own yet.

It's all about ease of access and getting the information to come to you; rather than you having to expend effort to seek it out, the old days of manicured corporate "happy talk" in glossy magazines is over IMO, consumers are just becoming too savvy for that.

There is always resistance to change, that is human nature, but I think in terms of marketing your model #2 has passed the point of critical mass and is now expanding exponentially, it's just a matter of time.

At 4:52 PM, Anonymous Arthur said...

Not all that glitters is gold.

I think that model where "the writer acknowledges that some readers will have more expertise than them in some areas" is precarious.

Critics of blogging say it is inferior to traditional journalism because Ė aside of questionable quality of the writing, it lacks some expertise, experience in fundamentals of the topic to substantive authority. Of course, I have read respected journalists' writings which included glaringly erroneous information. Still, I believe that you can inform with authority AND have a conversation.

The other pitfall of this "journaling the journey" approach is that it is susceptible to being manipulated, misinformed and thus misleading the reader. It does not happen all the time and in all instances, but I cannot shake the sense that some in the wine PR field see wine blogging as uncritical and unquestioning mouthpieces for channeling their brands. This is something all budding Model#2 wine communicators should guard against.

Social media communication is populist and has a proletarian appeal. It may seem like a solid model. And it can be, so long as those operating the media platforms display at least a modicum of journalistic principles and a solid understanding of their subject matter that goes beyond the superficial, end-user appreciation. If all things that have viral and populist appeal were solid models for a secure path forward, then the G-20 Summit would have had a very different focus this week.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Don said...

I know this is the wrong forum for this, so sorry for that.

Jamie, how about doing what you can to have "The Science of Wine" released in a Kindle edition.

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Brigitte Armenier said...

Jamie, in describing verticality as education, and horizontality as communication, then what do you express as the geometry of their relationships to one another?

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Warren Edwardes said...

On communicating, how come there isn't a search feature on this blog. There is a lot of content worth looking for.

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Warren - you can always use Google. In the Advanced Search, there's a place to put the domain you're searching within. You can enter it into the normal search field - eg. if you Google for "warren site:http://www.wineanorak.com" then there are loads of entries!

With regard to Horizontal vs Vertical, I suspect I'm a diagonal kinda guy...

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Warren Edwardes said...

Great. Thanks Alex.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Michael Pollard said...

Iíve been thinking about the topic of acquiring an education in wine recently as well. For most folks it will be a rather informal experience Ė very few of us have the time to devote to formal qualification unless we view wine as a career.

The most important point about learning anything is asking the right question. That may just be the academic in me, but itís the metric I use. And that means in todayís world that I donít subscribe to any one individualís knowledge base as the holy grail but rather seek out the avenue that might hold the information I want. Books, magazines, video, the internet, etc. all play a part. It is rarely discussion with individuals unless Iím talking with a winemaker about his/her wines or a distributor/retailer about the wine market; the exceptions are the few formal tasting courses I have done because I was thirsting for knowledge. General conversation about wine such as over dinner or at informal tastings has never been a fountain of knowledge for me, but rather a source of (understandable) confusion given the great diversity of taste preferences.

Religiously following the wine story of any one individual is never without boredom; are there people who have watched every episode that Gary Vaynerchuk has recorded? Boredom is also one of the problems with blogging. I think a lot of people (me included) have forgotten that a blog is more an online refection on one personís interests than a source of knowledge. Hence its never going to be on topics that have universal appeal. This is why I have reverted to checking blog accumulators like that on WineBusiness.com, and selecting topics of interest from among the blogs listed.

So no, I donít think that horizontal communication will be the future medium to distribute information about wine; an exception may be wine forums but these always develop into cliques of one sort or another. The only thing that is a given is that the world of wine is not static and there will always be something new to learn. The problem will continue to be finding sources that are knowledgeable.

At 7:31 AM, Blogger Nerval said...

An important topic. Thank you for addressing it Jamie.
The idea of horizontal communication is an appealingly egalitarian one. However there are several tricky points. One is that the level of knowledge od the broad public is steadily diminishing. When you say "some readers will have more expertise than authors in some areas", I think it is overoptimistic. Very few readers will have the expertise of a good author in the field of wine, let alone history, literature or philosophy, where the level of education has fallen so much in all Western countries in the last decades.

Education is about passing knowledge from top to bottom. You learn from those who know, and those who know represent an authority (even if temporary). Education is about aspiration and respect for authority.
This is not to say that authors should look down on readers. Respect should be mutual. But horizontal conversation / dialogue is best suited to emotions or experience, not knowledge.

We are equal in taking pleasure from wine and in how it can enhance our everyday life, and that is a great topic for horizontal communication on wine blogs, forums or at the dinner table.
If you however want to explain while Vinhao is an underestimated grape or how terroir influences the diversity of Sangiovese, it will be difficult to avoid vertical communication.

The ideal is to have a multidirectional stream of vertical communications from competent authors so that the reader can get a broad base of knowledge and build his/her own competence.

If at the end of the day we only have horizontal communication, competence will be equalled to incompetence, many communications will become iterative (as they already have) bringing nothing to out base of knowledge. We will write / talk just in oder to write / talk, not learn (or share knowledge). Some of us might feel better but it is arguable whether Vinhao will benefit.

Best, Nerval

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks all for some brilliant comments - in fact, much more insightful and useful than the post which prompted them.

At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Brigitte Armenier said...

Well, this leaves my question unanswered. Fine, but then once again Jamie, why asserting, "as a scientist," that the "biodynamic dynamization cannot work by the mechanisms claimed by the proponents"? For, as a direction in space, what is verticality? Or what is the meet of two planes in non-Euclidian geometry? Or when observing the biodynamic stirring processes, or else our social forms: culture, politics, and the economy, how conscious are we of our own quality of observation? What is our own theory of knowledge? Will we be looking at the measurements only? Or also at the dynamics? Static thoughts or dynamic thinking? Water may be transparent, but it is never still. So how do we bring our consciousness to something that is moving constantly? Be it water, or communication...
David Bohm for example answered with the "Dialogue." And the biodynamists stir their preparations.


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