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Changing of the Guard in Wine Media
— An Essay on the Rising Influence of Online Wine Criticism —
The center of gravity in wine media is slowly shifting. That, of course, assumes a very liberal definition of that term — one that includes not only internet news sites and weblogs, but the more interactive technologies developing and arising from the more static structure we've come to associate with online information retrieval. There is an unspoken assumption among the darlings of traditional print media: those who take advantage of the democratization of expression and communication that the internet has afforded aren't true writers or broadcasters — they're merely hobbyists. The attitude is tacit and lurks just below the surface, but it's nevertheless omnipresent. However, the reality is that there has been a giant sleeping among the ever shrinking and more rapidly scurrying Lilliputians of the newspaper, magazine, and perhaps even network television industries.
That giant, the Internet, is gaining consciousness, strength, and soon a formidable sense of coordination and power otherwise known as Web 2.0, the likes of which the ropes of mass media will eventually fail to monopolize and subdue. Showing an especially intriguing skepticism for the decentralization of knowledge that information technology has afforded the rest of us is traditional wine media. There's a bit of a struggle underfoot, and interestingly, there's been very little open and candid dialogue about it. How much longer can we pretend that the Web isn't viably competing with, and ultimately threatening to replace, traditional media as the source from which enthusiasts gain their wine knowledge?
Showing an especially intriguing skepticism for the decentralization of knowledge that information technology has afforded the rest of us is traditional wine media.
Since the beginning, the gathering and periodic dissemination of information has been in the hands of the few. This has historically made sense, since the process has depended entirely on the physical distribution of stacks of paper to people who were interested in staying abreast of current events or becoming informed on any one of a nearly infinite number of topics. But as firmly entrenched as this mode of knowledge retrieval is, in human history as well as in the infrastructure of modern civilization, it's inherently passive. The information on a printed page isn't dynamic; it cannot be easily cross-referenced or compared with that found elsewhere in the same document or other sources; it doesn't allow for instant marking or searching of key words, names, or phrases; it cannot be easily sent to any number of people all over the world in real time; and it doesn't allow for efficient and widespread reactive dialogue.
The internet as a medium, on the other hand, allows for all of those things — as well as permutations thereof that lend a kind of synergistic versatility to the manipulation and consumption of information. But none of this, per se, is news (pardon the pun). What is noteworthy is the fact that these interactive qualities and features are making the online medium grow exponentially both in power and relevance, and will be upon what hinges its evolution (superiority, perhaps?) over traditional media. One domain in which see this quite prominently is social media. In the area of wine, organizations like the Open Wine Consortium, Wine 2.0, Cruvee, and Snooth are prominent examples, along with the use of more generalized tools that a great many wine enthusiasts and neophytes have embraced, like Twitter and Facebook. Wine is even getting poised to enjoy its own search engine, through Doug Cook's Able Grape. This becomes exponentially more significant when we take into account the fact that the wine industry, at its core, is not technological, but agrarian.