Turf Wars

If you get paid to do something you love - be happy.  If there are people out there who are so inspired by what you do that they seek to emulate it, then be flattered.  If if turns out that the people who emulate you (and do what you do for zero pay) end up doing a better job than you, then learn from their example.  However, if your ego prevents you from recognizing that someone out there, who is not a professional, can not only do your job better than you can, but can also do it in their free time, it might make things a little uncomfortable. 

There are plenty of political blogs that offer more in-depth articles than CNN or MSNBC and that are run by teachers or waiters in their free time.  There are a slew of music blogs on the web that showcase new artists in a far more effective way than Rolling Stone or MTV.  It would only seem logical then that blogging would make its way into the booze world where there is never a shortage of personal opinion.  While it's true that some bloggers may not have the same professional standards that a journalist might have, it doesn't mean that what they're saying isn't important.  Again, these are amateur writers who are probably hurrying to whip out a post while sitting on the toilet before work.  They aren't getting paid and they have plenty of other things to do.  It's their passion alone that drives them to do it.

It's natural, though, for a bit of animosity to form whenever one side feels that its turf is being infringed upon.  Older actresses resent the younger, less-wrinkled starlets who get all the roles they used to get.  Drug dealers are constantly murdering one another for the use of city block.  Heck, we've even seen examples of other whisky merchants getting a bit uncomfortable when a certain wine store began importing their own exclusive whiskies too.  There is a competition going on for the ever-shrinking attention span of our world and the room of voices is only getting more crowded. 

While I kind of relish my pressure-free role as a blogger/retailer, other whisky writers do this for a living.  There's bound to be a bit of tension between them and the guys who do it for fun if the latter begins to take readership away from the former.  I've been monitoring this phenomenon for sometime now with utter fascination and recently the action has been a bit heated!  A group of whisky bloggers known to me recently tackled this issue here in an interesting online discussion.  The Whisky Advocate (formerly known as the Malt Advocate) has also written a few articles concerning this subject recently and has received several interesting letters to the editor from some not-so-flattered bloggers (see the new issue of the Whisky Advocate upon release).  It's a hot button issue among the online whisky community and I'm really not sure where it's headed.

I'm kind of in the middle on this one, so I'm going to mostly stay back and watch how it unfolds.  I'm not really a blogger as much as I am a promoter.  I won't write about any product unless K&L plans on carrying it, so I'm not a great source of booze news unless it has to do with our store.  However, I like doing it because it's simply a fun outlet for my internal feelings.  The fact that other people read it is still shocking to me, but I'm grateful nonetheless.  Having read an advance copy of the new Whisky Advocate issue, I must say that there is a big difference between the quality of their writing and most of the pieces I read on hobbiest blogs.  The new articles are in depth, the photography is beautiful, and the information is fresh.  On the flip side, however, they have access to distilleries that bloggers do not.  They get access to samples that bloggers do not.  Who's to say that the right group of bloggers couldn't do as good of a job if they had the same resources? 

The reason why the Whisky Advocate has the access they do, however, is because they've shown a dedication to whisky writing at the highest possible level.  Anyone who wants the same type of treatment needs to hold themselves to the same high standard before they start complaining about a lack of resources.  When a writer has shown that they can provide a new and interesting take on whisky, the industry will respond - either positively or negatively, but it will respond.  In my mind, it's all about passion, effort, and time.  I'll admit that there's something humorous about reading blogs that only repeat information that has been written a million times already, but that's the age we live in - everyone gets a voice.  What's important, however, is that the people with the loudest voice don't try to talk over the people with the quieter ones.  Nobody likes the blowhard in the room, even if they're the expert.  Take it from me - I would know.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll