Just heard the news that the erobertparker.com wine forum is to go subscriber-only (see the announcement at http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/). While I can understand the reasons for this, I think it’s a mistake. The move to hide material behind paywalls limits the number of readers, viewers or listeners, and in any form of media, eyeballs (or ears for some?) are the currency. You really want as big an audience as possible. I’m not sure that erobertparker crew have ‘got’ web2.0 at all.
But aside from this, it probably signals the beginning of the end for the wine bulletin board. When I first started discussing wine online, back in 1997, the place to be was the Wine Lover’s Discussion Group. It felt exciting and vibrant, and there was a nice community feel. I learned a great deal, started a few fights, and through it met some great wine people.
In time, the WLDG fragmented, and people went off and discussed wine elsewhere. The UK wine forum has been, and still is, a civilized place with a nice community feel. But it’s alone, now. Wine Berserkers is good, but defines itself somewhat by what it is against (the erobertparker forum) than what it is. The erobertparker forum, moderated by Mark Squires, was the largest online community of wine nuts, but it had a tendency to be a rather fractious place. For a few years, now, these online bulletin boards haven’t been as interesting or dynamic as they used to be.
Times change. These days, online fora are being replaced by social networks – a sort of distributed model of communication, which is hard to control (so big media treat it with suspicion), but is actually more vibrant and compelling. Twitter, Facebook and Blogs are where it’s at if you want to connect with fellow wine nuts online.