A story about whisky bloggers I partly posted in Dutch before.
Ever thought of posting tasting notes on a daily basis with a fine dram as good company ? I never realized it existed but came to find out only recently.
Whisky bloggers are definitely in a different league. Posting blogs about at least four times a week and having a dram even before they even have written one single line makes them a different breed of scribblers. Trying to find out more about the psyche of the whisky blogger I asked Gal Granov (Israel), Chuck Cowdery (USA), Davin de Kergommeaux (Canada), Oliver Klimek (Germany) and Serge Valentin (France) to fill me in.
What’s the buzz or thrill with this blogging thing ? What is it that feeds the blogger ? I asked my multi bloggers, because a majority of readers might think it’s just about attracting attention. ‘For me it’s about sharing personal tasting notes and impressions’, senior blogger Serge Valentin says. ‘I started blogging with my Whiskyfun blog in 2002 and even before that I wrote whisky reviews in printed newsletters. ‘Getting attention is not enough to keep on going. The thrill comes from the whiskies’. ’On the other hand you can type whatever is on your mind’, Gal Granov adds. ‘To me the buzz is, finding out that people are reading your post. Getting comments from all over the world is extra cool’. ‘True’, Chuck Cowdery explains, ‘It’s always nice to reach an audience rather than just ‘writing for the drawer’ ’. Davin de Kergommeaux is keen on being the first to get new information or new analyses. ´I am very careful to make sure I have my facts straight before I publish’. ‘A buzz ? I feel I just have something to say and people out there are interested’ Oliver Klimek says.
Grasping the audience
Is there any urge or reason to capture an audience I wonder. Does the communicative aspect creep in somewhere along the writing line ? ‘Audiences are really very small´, Davin says,´There is a community of whisky bloggers and for the most part we are mainly talking to each other on our blogs. And there’s another thing: I never think about pleasing my readers’. A slightly different angle comes from our Israelian whisky connaisseur: ‘As time goes by, getting attention and hence more people getting to know you, is also a reason for me to post my blogs. The chance you are getting more info, new releases and other stuff is bigger’. ‘There’s always the communication with your audience’, Chuck says, ‘It’s always a loop, never a straight line; if you are not hearing the feedback, you’re not communicating’. Our Chicago-based whiskey writer takes it one step further ‘I certainly hope what I write will stimulate the reader to learn more’. My European neighbour from Germany is more aloof. After years of blogging experience Oliver knows his audience. ‘Never ask readership engagement questions from the ‘Blogging for Dummies’ guide: What do you think about this ?’.
If blogging tends towards a habitual form of addiction, what form of compulsion are we talking about ? Is it the stats or the exposure in general that keeps the blogger going ? ‘What I enjoy is knowing that seasoned whisky lovers and industry folks read it’, Whiskyfun owner Serge says. He finds satisfaction in returning readers. ‘They’re important. If they come back that means that the site is useful, although this quality of readership is hard to measure’. Canadian whisky expert Davin agrees ‘I really enjoy having quality visitors – professionals who read my blog’. A man who really is on the other side of the blogging screen is Patrick van Zuidam, master distiller at Zuidam Distillers in Baarle-Nassau, The Netherlands and creator of many Millstone expressions. ‘Whisky bloggers are in the front line when it comes to providing information. Although their influence on the consumer should not be exaggerated, they tend to dig in a little deeper than magazine writers’. ‘Indeed’, Davin adds, ’the misconception about bloggers is that they are influential. Most people who buy whisky never read a whisky blog’.
Blogging and writing
Is there a clear distinction to be made between blogging and writing ? And if there is, should there be a genuine concern that bloggers kill magazines as Terry Sullivan put it in his crie de coeur ‘The Blogger Menace’ ?[i] Is writing for a magazine still very twenty-fifteen ? No, blogging is bite-size, instant, lacks story line and has a short production time. So according to my bloggers we do not have to worry. For Davin de Kergommeaux, his blog is just an outlet, whereas writing for magazines is not.‘When writing for a magazine I have to comply with word counts, house styles, deadlines and other editorial needs’. It seems to be quite a different métier altogether. ‘Yes’ , Chuck Cowdery reassures, ’there is still a place for both. The lead time for magazines is still months, while blogging is virtually instant’. Serge’s pages in Whisky Magazine France are more about general whisky issues, rants and such. ‘Whiskyfun is rather more about tasting notes’. So, it’s the difference in style, content and appearance that will attract different readers.
An aspect that makes posting whisky blogs so tempting to do and can not be ignored is the extensive use of internet. According to Gal Granov there are more means to spread the whisky gospel. ‘I am heavily using Twitter and Facebook. It’s a great way to let people know you’ve posted a new review. A great way to create a buzz. A lot of people these days do not have the time or bother reading lengthy blog posts’. Chuck Cowdery agrees: ‘the essence of the world today is multi-channel communication, so you need to use as many channels as you can handle. The professional part of my Facebook participation is driving my reader to the blog’.
There is no guessing as to how many whisky blogs are filled every day. But it is a comforting thought that the bad ones last only a few months and the good ones are here to stay. And if blog posts do not make the world go round, they certainly have proved their right to be around.
Additional twitter accounts
Chuck Cowdery: @charleskcowdery
Davin de Kergommeaux: @DavindeK
Oliver Klimek : @OliverKlimek
Serge Valentin: @Whiskyfun
[i] A Lighter Dram, The Blogger Menace, Terry Sullivan, Malt Advocate Volume 20, Number 2, Summer 2011 issue