Letting a blog silent for many months after years of writing posts several times a week and sharing thoughts with readers and/or friends was not an easy decision. Of course, I could mention the increasing pressure of work and of two teaching positions, speaking assignments in the US and Europe or the writing of a new book (in French – don’t get your hopes too high 🙂 ) but it would not be quite true. In fact for the last few months I was asking myself what I could write about in this blog devoted to new technologies and innovation in the wine business. It seemed that precisely the innovative and creative trek was slowing down in the US and in Europe. I felt frustrated and could not decide what to do. Well… I did not do anything…
Suddenly out of nowhere in the last few weeks a lot of news (good or bad depending…) and new trends came in my mail boxes and woke me up. Was it me – bored with what I was doing or really the financial crisis letting people drop their projects by lack of money? Whatever the reason life is back and I intent to share again some thoughts and news in this blog. I hope you’ll forgive me for letting you down and that we’ll be able to renew our links.
Let’s go back to work right now. Being a writer (in French and English) as well as a blogger and journalist I always paid attention to what was going on in the press. Today a couple of pieces of bad news came to my doorstep and got me thinking about digital writing: the great Quarterly Review of Wines folded it wings after 35 years of high quality wine writing and publishing. It was one of those perfectly thought out, beautifully written and researched magazines that was the pride of the international wine press. Why did it fold? There is no more romance in wine, says founder Richard L. Elia to decanter.com: “Beyond the usual explanations — upcoming retirements, the magazine world is in perilous shape, advertising is down, the digital age is king, out-of-state wine delivery problems — what initially attracted us to wine was the romance of it. […] Today, wine is often dominated by marketing and finance people, who measure their interest by numbers.”
Second piece of bad news: the Spanish wine magazine Sibaritas also folds. After 18 years, José Penin, its founder, stopped the publication to go online, as he explained to decanter.com : “The recession and the rise of online wine sites meant reader numbers dropped significantly in 2009. ‘To keep Sibaritas alive we didn’t want to cut the number of issues, or the content or contributions from our acclaimed writers, so we decided to make this painful decision’, said Penin.”
Romance gone, on line competition… Is it good news or bad news for the wine industry? It is always very sad to see great magazines fold whatever the reasons. But saying that the wine industry is dominated by finance and marketing people might be an overview of the situation. There are still millions of small quality oriented vineyards needing attention from the press. If corporations are very powerful in many industries, it is still marginal – as far as I know – in the wine industry – at least in Europe. Why not write about those wineries and wine producers? But I can understand that a life long project can exhaust somebody’s energy. And as Brian St Pierre told decanter.com, The QRW “seems to be going more from battle fatigue than that the crass bad guys are winning, but they leave the field with honour intact (and the fight goes on, I hope).” Thank you to the Quarterly Review of Wines for hours of great reading.
What about the on line competition? It is not so much a competition than a different world: the press does not talk to the same readers. A traditional magazine will reach to older people used to the print while the on line press will reach the younger crowds, widely connected to their cell phone. The rise of the tablets (iPad, Kindle and others) is helping the switch from print to on line. The online world opens tremendous opportunities to the press to re-think its editorial line, its style and its connection to its readers. Millions of tasting notes from consumers are now available on line: do they need (or wish) to have more tasting notes from wine critics? Should a producer pay more attention to wine critics than to consumers’ opinions? How could an on line magazine make use of this huge amount of data generously shared on line by consumers and amateurs? What is the situation of the copyrights of consumers on line?
This is just a few thoughts to flex my fingers and get my neurons back to work after months of “leisure”. Let me tell you how happy I am to be back!