Wine Writing in a Good Hand of Keys

The future of wine writing is on the line, but on-line. The wave of blogs and video-streaming is going to take on tsunami-like proportions, washing the magazines and newspapers away with yesterday’s fish and chip wrappings.
And here are two reasons.
First, media consumption via a computer or cell-phone screen has already ripped a chunk out of the once mighty print animal, and we ain’t seen nothing yet. Especially in South Africa, where real download speed still has to set in. Even Portugal is getting 10meg a second as a matter of course, if you see what I mean.
Look, I love print. Put I also like doing pottery. But hell, I’m not going to fire-up the kiln and make a plate every time I want to dish-up some coq au vin, am I? That’s practically what they did in them good old days.
Some Italian merchant in the 14th century wanted a picture of his mistress. So what did he do? Got some brush-wielding dude to spend three months painting the woman, that’s what. Now, would he have gone through all this hassle if he had a Canon digital in the bedside cupboard?
So all this talk of: “O, but there’s nothing like the smell of a new book” or: “The crisp rustle of the Times in my hands is the only way to start the day” is irrelevant, despite the quaint nostalgia it invokes.
Just try and think what you were doing with a computer in 1990 (if you had one) and carefully attempt to dissect the path the medium has followed since then to what it is allowing you today, especially that part where the world wide web kicked in.
The coolest thing about all this change is that it is happening, but no-one knows where it is going and how quickly the next trend develops.
About 10 years ago, Koos Bekker, MD of Naspers, promised his staff a cash prize if they presented him with a model of how money could be made from the internet. Well, if someone had thought of youtube or facebook they could have given it to Koos, who would have been able to sell it for a couple of hundred of million.
So yes, our habits of media consumption are being changed. Note: they are being changed for us, not by us.
Therefore, in a decade or so you won’t be reading a wine column in a newspaper, because there probably will not be a newspaper in which to read it. For magazines the situation seems even more dire. Specialist, low-circulation magazines, such as those on wine…in a cloud of smoke. Gone.
This is why wine, like other subjects, will soon be discussed, marketed and portrayed almost exclusively on-line.
The second reason why this is going to happen is a tad less general.
Publications on wine and those carrying wine-related news are doing a hara-kiri themselves. The reason for this is the commercial pressure currently causing the border between advertisers interest and editorial copy to be infringed.
This is not new, I just wonder if the general public knows to what extent it is being bullshitted.
When considering the booking of an advertisement, the relevant publication will more often than not make the offer to complement your advertisement with a free bit of editorial space so as to make the sale. Which means that the news I or a client forward to the publication is automatically deemed more “newsworthy” than that sent by someone who is not advertising. Newsworthiness, thus, flies out of the window.
Now, you can fool all of the people sometime, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Time and time again readers of various wine publications or newspaper wine supplements will point to the fact that the reason for a certain article appearing can only be ascribed to the fact that a related advertisement is carried on one of the other pages.
Of course, it works the other way around. Publications writing an article will have the temptation to telephone the subject of said article, hinting that the placement of an advertisement to complement the editorial would be appreciated and would further cement the relationship with the publication.
This obviously creates vast credibility issues. I know that, in many instances, editorial staff do share these concerns. However, the might of commercial motives renders their appeal useless. Mostly.
Having noticed these sweetening relationships between advertisers and editorial content, many readers are going to the web for their wine information. In 10 minutes you can pretty much have access to 15 wine blogs offering local and international wine writing to the highest standard. Why bother looking at a magazine advertisement to decide whether a potential winery looks like your cup of tanat? Just go to the website and have it all.
This is one thing the on-line community does offer ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ it all. At no cost. End of debate.
The future is therefore written, and it is not in ink nor on paper.
Editor

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