Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Shill in the Making? | February 26, 2010

Analytics suggest that my “unique pageviews” are down. My number of Twitter “followers” has flattened. Facebook “fan page” uh, “fans”, are stagnant. Alexa.com shows that my site is not as popular as other regional wine blogs. Comment quantity on posts is not where it was last week. AdSense revenues are…well, were they ever good?

Big deal, right? We all got into wine blogging for fun. For the thrill of sharing our unique perspectives on a subject as infinitely subjective as wine, correct?
No! Well, yes, but I’m an insecure middle child constantly seeking attention and approval (see how I slyly shifted blame over to my parents and their family-building techniques? Slide me some skin, psychology). Basically, there’s no good reason for me to stress about this stuff. I got into this for the love of writing, and the love of food and wine. But, as soon as I see anything drop off (usually the normal ebbs-and-flows of website traffic), I get crazy-introspective, and- lately- the burning question to myself has been:
AM I BECOMING A SHILL?
Has [extremely] mild success as a wine blogger gone to my head? Did I go from once “doing this for the people, by the people” to “goon of the marketeers”, thus alienating the honest-to-goodness, blue-collar, wine-drinking, blog-readin’ public, resulting in my recent, neurosis-inducing drop/stagnation in meteoric growth? Perhaps. Let’s take a look at the symptoms:
1) Hardworking blogger makes good. PR firms notice: Okay. Yeah, I’ve gotten a few samples lately. Every drop of wine I used to write about was sourced from my moth-ridden wallet. Suddenly, a couple intrepid importers and marketing folks want to “take a chance” on a heartwarming story of the wine drinker who became a blogger who became a certified specialist on the stuff. So, what began as a voice-of-the-people evolved into a voice-of-the-free-samples (at least in my own mind). Most readers don’t get free wine samples. Losing touch with the regular Joe…
2) Slovenly blogger accepted as part of the “trade”: I’m never gonna have the opportunity to taste 80+ Cru chateaux of Bordeaux. If the chance presents itself, I’ve got to snatch it, right? I mean, if the readers- of whom I am a mere contemporary- are to respect and idolize (tongue firmly planted in cheek) my views, then I need to have an opinion on everything they may taste. But am I pulling a shill move to write about the experience that they cannot share (without an extremely fat wallet)? I don’t know. It reminds me of a recent conversation that I had with my pal Hardy Wallace, when he was said that we should just write and not worry about influence, because wine bloggers don’t have much anyway. Thanks, Hardy. Which brings me to my next point, er, piece of incriminating evidence:

3) Name-Dropping: “So, I was hanging out with Gary Vaynerchuk..”
“Hey, yeah, Hardy and I were just palling around- as we often do, being Atlanta wine bloggers and all..”
Big-headed, ass-faced Hollywood-wannabe-types always name-drop. Sunuvabitch. Obviously trying to increase our credibility with the “famous”, thus increasing our “marketability”. Despicable.
I don’t really know Hardy Wallace that well, and I don’t want to pretend that we’re best friends. He treats you like you’ve known him forever, and he’s a tireless in support of Atlanta (and other) wine bloggers. But until we spend that weekend at a hunting cabin with a bottle of whiskey, it’s a name-drop.
4) The ultimate low…Merch: See Facebook pandering below.
Pimping anything with my blog-namesake on it in the name of the almighty buck. I’m going to throw up from shame…
So, it’s crossroads time. Have Joe Herrig and his [actually not very] popular “Suburban Wino” food/wine/leisure sports blog jumped the shark?
Maybe. But, I don’t know for sure. Yes, the samples are cool. But I didn’t get into it for the samples. And, I’ve been fortunate enough to be approached by folks with no pretense. Here are the wines. Give them a try. Write about them if you want. If you like them, great. If not, that’s fine, too (obviously smart folks who realize that any publicity is good publicity…wondering why they came to me for “publicity”). This is a win-win situation. It allows the marketeer to get some pub, while not hamstringing the blogger into false-praise fed to a readership that has no loyalty beyond the writer’s honesty. And, yes, perhaps it is “unrealistic” for the average folk to have access to all these wines, but at least a source is created from whence they can pick and choose. Similar situation when it comes to events, wine dinners, and trade shows. Plus, I still write about experiences out of my own pocket. And, in all cases, I think I’m giving an honest opinion. Forgive me; I’m just not very mean by nature.
As for the name dropping? Always a douchey move (sorry, that’s the only adjective that I felt fit there), but we lowly grunts want to provide validity to what we’re saying. Align that with someone the reader knows and trusts, and maybe it gives us one more day with that reader. Hopefully, any of my sparse name-drops are only used if they are/were credible.
Merchandise? Lowest of the low. Unless I’m giving it away. Then, I’m just creating another opportunity where human beings will- inexplicably- do anything for a t-shirt.
And if the designs are cool, then selling isn’t so sleazy, huh? It’s not like I’d be selling this:
Nobody wants to be a sell-out (well, most people). But, we’re all vying for our little piece of cyberspace. I’d like to think I’m doing it the way I did it a year ago. For fun. And for the few appreciative readers who stop by. In the end, it’s all about you. If I’m slinging a bunch of bullshit, you’ll quit reading. Simple as that.
On that note of no bull and all honesty, I ate an oyster po-boy tonight….
…just seeing how many people read all the way through. Sláinte!
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