Wednesday, October 3, 2007

WSJ Interviews The WineBlog Advocate

There's been much talk recently about the increasing influence the WineBlog Advocate is having over the wine blogging world. All that talk gained the attention of another influential publication, the Wine Scoop Journal (WSJ). The following is the transcript of an interview WSJ conducted with the WineBlog Advocate's publisher, MonkuWino (MW).

To clue in the uninitiated before we get started, though, the WineBlog Advocate is an online independent subscription publication dedicated to the review of wine blogs around the world. Each information-packed issue reviews numerous wine blogs, assigning point scores ranging from 50-100, as well as incisive commentary to support the numerical rating and give readers a taste, so to speak, of what to expect.

Now here's the exclusive interview:

WSJ: It seems that the popularity of the WineBlog Advocate has grown by leaps and bounds since its introduction not that long ago. A very steep growth curve, it is.

MW: That’s true, it’s steeper than the increase in prices of Northern Rhone wines over the past years.

WSJ: To what do you attribute this amazing increase in readership and subscriptions?

MW: Isn’t it obvious? It’s the American infatuation with points – with assigning scores to things and ranking them. I perform a great service, recommending the readable and weeding out the unreadable. People love that kind of thing.

WSJ: In your opinion..

MW: In my opinion, yes. But that’s the beauty of it – most people want to be told what to do. They don’t want to take responsibility for their own actions so they depend on me to do it for them. And I deliver.

WSJ: And what if they feel you’re not doing a good job?

MW: First of all, I make it known that my points system is not a substitute for reading the comments I make about other people’s wine blogs. And of course all reviewed blogs are there for anyone to read to see if I am spot on or way off base.

Besides that, do you think most people are going to risk swimming the other way and going against my ratings and assessments? There’s safety in numbers, you know. Who’s going to argue with you if you say you agree with the “92” I just gave a wine blog? Disagree and people are going to call you on it - ask you why and what your credentials are. And then you risk possibly exposing your lack of literary perception and judgment. Swim with the pack and the odds are in your favor.

WSJ: There are dissenters, nonetheless. Those who complain about inaccessible blog sites because the servers are overloaded. You drive too much traffic to them. They can’t even read the highly-rated wine blogs anymore because of a “server too busy” error message.

MW: (chuckles) Supply and demand. There’s not enough Corvettes, either. Car lot too busy, too!

WSJ: And another complaint. There’s talk that you are encouraging a sameness among wine blogs. People write to please your tastes to get the points and in the process are compromising themselves. You seem to like the big, full, and rich blogs that have gobs of content- the ‘brass knuckles’ type of blog, where subtlety, if any, is lost on the reader.

MW: And my subscribers have the same tastes, obviously. It’s give the public what they want. If they like to read nothing but those kinds of blogs, which I happen to enjoy, then my service is doing them a service by pointing them in the right direction. No use letting them waste their valuable time and bandwidth on thin blogs with sparse content.

WSJ: Even, as these dissenters point out, if the ‘gobs of content’ on your highly rated blogs are positively National Winequirer-esque in nature? Lots of over-the-top content that hammers the audience on the head and really says very little?

MW: Even so.

WSJ: If I may, another voice of dissent expresses fears that many of the highly-rated wine blogs will become fee-based sites. In fact, a few are already doing so.

MW: Again, my job is to call them as I see them. I can’t do anything about the law of supply and demand.

WSJ: Conversely, your low-rated wine blogs, or the wine blogs under your radar, seem to be suffering. While they offer what many call “original” content written not to please anyone but to be a statement of the blogger, they are receiving very little traffic. Their blog hosts, such as Google’s Blogger sites, are threatening to shut them down for lack of traffic or else begin charging them for displaying content. Isn’t that going to repress individualism – one of the main reasons for blogging in the first place?

MW: Again, I am only posting my observations. It’s like anything else. A store offers what people want and they make a good profit. Another store might offer quality merchandise but it isn’t what people necessarily want. So it suffers and eventually either it changes the product mix or goes out of business. I have nothing to do with the stores and nothing to do with the blogs.

WSJ: So you don’t think there’s anything wrong with bloggers deliberately changing their content and writing style just to please you, and as a result wine blogs continue to undergo a homogenization process?

MW: Demand is demand. If it wasn’t so, they wouldn’t change. They want hits, they’ve got to compete. They’re changing because society demands they change. It’s evolution.

WSJ: So I understand as a result of the huge success you have enjoyed, other 'copycat' wine blog rating/ranking/review sites are popping up all over the place.

MW: That’s not right. My attorneys are on it.

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