June 12 2009
In the realm of the online world where the level of sympathy ranges from disconnectedly concerned to, “Glad it’s not me,” I find myself feeling genuinely sad after reading that wine writer Alice Feiring is on the cusp of discontinuing her blog, Veritas in Vino.
Usually a blog’s death is slow and painful as it slides into a catatonic state of neglect before dying of loneliness, with a commensurate amount of final mourners.
Rare is the occasion when the plug is pulled, Kevorkian liberation regardless of circumstance.
Yet, Alice intimates just that – imminent blog death by her own hand.
In a blog post on the 10th of June, Alice recounts an exchange she had with another professional writer who bemoans the devaluation of the writing craft. Alice, herself a lover of the long form, where research and cultivation of the art of telling a story is respected and valued with a monetary return for the author, is beginning to chafe at the chutzpah of Editors offering little more than exposure and nothing that comes close to affording a baguette and a glass of vin de pays, le Americain style.
As she notes on her site (excerpted):
Think of it before you jump all over us. The popularity of the blog has reduced writing to a 500-word postage stamp norm, and usually given away for free. For free. While a digest of words can be a fun exercise in craft, the indulgence the 2000- to 5000 word article was nirvana. Yes, the fee was great, but the process was the thrill and one that we exercised our chops for. And often took a pledge of borderline poverty before, because it was worth it. But now borderline is the real thing. Words and writers are no longer valued. Is it because of the blog? Oh no. For sure. But now the expectation is words are free.
I get a few requests a week for categories and topics readers would like to see here. I ask them, that’s great, but would you be willing to pay, $30 a year for it? Invariably the answer is, oh no. Not willing to go there yet.
And so bloggers who have jobs that pay the bills other than writing, please take no offense. No offense is meant. But this is a lament, from those of us who have bet our lives on the written word, whether the subject is art, music, politics, literature or wine, our lives are changing. And this particular blog is close to retirement.
But yes, I will clean up business, I’ll spill you about Austria, and there are a few words about Muscadet and a few more points to hammer before shutting the store. And then? Who knows.
It’s not hard to understand Feiring’s perspective. A writer who has spent her professional life cultivating a body of work and a point of view is suddenly and swiftly asked to give the milk away for free from Editors who sit on high using the rubric of “traffic” and “exposure.” This, coupled with thoughtful wine writing assignments, which are becoming as scarce as “value” wine articles are becoming plentiful, makes it hard to justify why a writer would continue to do their craft without separating from the morass of hobbyists.
Surely, a coroner who dispenses free counsel nights and weekends would excise that task if his practice suffered as a result, particularly under the weight of CSI TV show enthusiasts.
These are easy dots to connect, a writer largely does give it away for free in the digital media, particularly when blogging, so the translation is, “if you do it there, why not do it here.”
However, Feiring isn’t just another no name writer seeking a check for lifeless words that are fed into the daily maw of information consumption.
No, she is a singular voice that represents a singular point of view in American wine.
And, as she well knows, every cause needs a champion. She might be just the champion to herald in a paying complement to the larger pay-to-play wine outlets, Advocate, Spectator and Robinson.
The answers are available, too. Her web site could use a refresh with something akin to a navigational structure, and she could, indeed, charge for her content, adding the things that readers want to see – categories, topics and the longer pieces that fit into the paid work and the blogging that is akin to giving the milk away for free.
Simply, I’m not ready to bid adieu to this writer online, relegated to searching for the random byline in Saveur or The New York Times magazine.
No, this is a writer I’d be willing to pay for.
So, I humbly ask of Alice to reconsider and implore her to make an investment in her online writing. Redesign the web site, double down your efforts and tackle the challenges that face wine writers and, yes, charge for it.
I’ll be your first subscriber.
In doing so, not only might she save the world from Parkerization, but she might save wine writers, too.
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