From Dictionary.com 1. capable of being believed; believable
2. worthy of belief or confidence
When I started my blog a few years ago, I never really thought about credibility. I figured I was just writing, putting my thoughts and opinions out there for the world to look at and take for whatever they’re worth. Isn’t that enough? After attending the Wine Bloggers Conference on credibility headlined by Steve Heimoff and Tracy Rickman I am not so sure anymore. Michael Wangbickler of Cavemanwines.com taped the whole session and can be seen here.
I would say that “most” wine bloggers get their start in the blogosphere out of pure hobby, as an outlet for an obvious passion about some topic, in my case wine. Writing daily musings about tastings, local happenings and tasting notes about the bottle of wine they had last night with dinner. At this stage do you need to think about credibility if you are just writing your opinion, in a glorified version of a digital diary? I never thought so!
But what about when you start to receive emails from wineries and wine clubs and public relations departments, wanting you to review their wine on your blog. Is this the tipping point? At this moment should you start to consider yourself credible in the wine world?
I don’t really know, as I said I never really thought about the issue. I figured that if a winery wanted to send me wine, they obviously read my blog and think I know or at least I sound like I know what I am talking about. A good portion of the banter in the credibility seminar circled around responsible wine blogging and what defines credibility in the wine world.
If you receive wine for a sample and you review that wine on your blog without a disclaimer that you received it for free, is that irresponsible and dare I say unethical? For myself I always post when I get a bottle of wine as a media sample, and others just explain so in the “about” section of their blog. But what if they do none of the above, is that wrong, or does that take away their credibility?
Defining credibility in the emerging wine blogosphere seemed to be a touchy subject as well. In my day job, credibility is defined by how many letters you have behind your name on your business card. (MS, PhD, etc.) A few things were thrown out as possible ways to judge credibility for a wine blog, such as readership, number of posts, or logarithms calculating the effect of a post on wine sales. But no one could really settle on what if any of the above really defined the whole story of blog credibility.
The best part and the scary part about a blog, wine or other topic, is that anybody can start one. It is up to the reader, whether it be my mom or a winery owner, to decide if I am the right outlet to talk about their product in the public domain.
Just my rambling 2 cents!
Credibility is something you gain by not losing it, you can’t really tell someone how to get it, that takes time to get, but that you can lose in a nanosecond. And letters after your name do not make you credible (I’ve known some pretty un-credible PhDs), but they can sometimes get you in the door quicker…
Yeah, I don’t know the answer either. I would just remind the hard-core credibility camp that at the end of the day, we’re just talking about wine here. We aren’t recommending medical treatments or anything as critical as that.
I guess there is concern among some that the less credible blogs bring the whole wine blogging community down and make it harder for those who would make a career of wine blogging to monetize their blogs.
I don’t really think that’s as much of an issue as some might think. There are tons of imitators of Pro Blogger for instance, but I think readers are quite capable of separating the wheat from the chaff. Besides, some readers may actually prefer a blog that someone else deems “less credible” than Blog XYZ. That is the beauty of blogs: There are hundreds of different voices to choose from. In that sense, I don’t really believe there are any “incredible” blogs.
As far as credentials go, I think we are trying too hard to homogenize a diverse community. A certification is great for someone who really is interested in critical analysis of wine, or who is just personally interested in training their palate. However, that isn’t the focus for all wine blogs, and it’s certainly not the focus for most blog readers. Besides, there are really plenty of resources for consumers to go to if they just want a neat and tidy wine score.
I think the real value of wine blogs may not be easily monetized or quantified but that value is in raising the volume of voices out there that are saying “you don’t have to be locked into drinking only high-scoring wines.” It’s okay to try, and even enjoy something outside the 90-100 pt range. It’s okay to find the beauty in an ugly wine, and equally okay to be unimpressed by a pretty wine. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to taste.
Sorry for the essay. 😉 Thanks for posting this! ~becky
Well said, and I agree completely, especially on the PhD thing!! 🙂 I was just saying that is how it is judged where I work, not that it should be. 🙂
Thanks for the comment, I think your first on my blog!
Thanks for the “essay” Becky. Very good points! And I can see the side of the story, that uncredible bloggers, if there are any, can bring down the group.
And your right, and I say this all the time, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to personal taste.
Thanks again for the great post.
Since everybody’s idea of credibility is different, there really can be no yardstick that we all go by. I’m sure there are people who think that Robert Parker isn’t credible either. As you said, it’s in the eye of the beholder. If people don’t think a blogger is credible, why would they visit their site? I think credibility gets determined by natural selection. If people are listening to ya, you’re probably somewhat credible!
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I said during the credibility seminar I co-moderated that I don’t think credibility is a very important metric for a blog’s success. When a blog becomes successful, it automatically becomes credible for a simple reason: You can’t argue with success!
Steve Heimoff, Ph.D., M.D., D.D., M.A., M.S., B.F.A., J.D., M.B.A., M. Ed., and yes, I have my plumber’s license!
Interesting post–thanks for your observations as I missed that session.
As someone coming from the literary (and academic) community, I am comparing notes from there with issues here.
There is a debate in the on-line poetry community too about what to do about poor blogs–there is a lot of really awful poetry out there and some people complain that it pulls “serious” poets who blog down. (I just had this argument with a poet today actually).
It is almost assumed that if you review a book you re’d it for free. I don’t remember ever seeing a reviewer mentioning who paid for the book or how it got in their hands. Just because you get something for free doesn’t make it good!
The good writers and the blogs which offer readers what they want will eventually be found by readers. My blog includes wine along with everything under the sun and the stars, yet one of my top blog posts with over 700 page views is about a wine.
Readers come to my blog for lots of different reasons, and often come away with more than they had expected. Just because my blog isn’t exclusively about wine shouldn’t mean that my opinion is relegated to the dump bucket. If someone criticizes it for being naive, or unsophisticated, I’m ok with that–I’m still learning and not writing for people who know a ton more than me.
thanks for starting the discussion!
All of the PhD’s I know are 100% credible. Doh! There goes mine!
Can it be bad if someone seems too credible to be true?
I’m with Erika on this one. I’m not sure I understand yet why this tends to turn into a discussion about what all wine blogs should do. Everyone’s standards might be, or really, are different. As long as your readers keep coming back, it seems like you must be doing something right.
Who knew that you were secretly Joe the plumber!! 🙂 You’re right you can’t argue with success. But who is the judge of success? ANd does it matter? (who the judge is)
To me, since I am an approval seeker, I look to my peers to judge. Some are in the wine industry, some are not, but when I started getting emails outside of my blog posts asking for wine recommendations I thought I had reached acceptance in the “wine blogosphere”.
Thanks for the comment Steve!
Hey Erika and Megan
Yeah I don’t know why it is a discussion of what all blogs should do or be? I hope the tone of my post was that of question and confusion to the whole topic. As long as readers keep reading my blog, that is what I am shooting for. If not, I still am writing about something I love and that is the whole point. Right?
Thanks for the comments.
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I think you forgot to mention the money part. Not can any one create a blog but ‘also’ make money from it.
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