27 August 2010

The Not So Endless Summer

Visiting a zoo (such as my dear beloved Memphis Zoo) in the summer can be an interesting experience. Even the animals that are accustomed to hot weather prefer to take it easy during the day, and those that prefer colder climes retreat to air conditioned enclosures. For instance, a few years ago I snapped this photo of a female Pongo abelii who decided the best move was to just nap in the clover. As a fellow great ape with red hair, I know how she feels.

In addition to the long, hot, miserable summer we've endured here in the southeastern quarter of the United States, various winebloggers around the country have found themselves wondering, "Where are the comments?" "Is anybody reading?" "Should I admit that I'm dropping ice cubes in my Chenin Blanc?" Summers are always a little dry as folks go on vacation, kids are bugging them all the time, and various responsibilities of life eat away at time. Plus, the heat and humidity can sap the gumption of the best of us. "I've been meaning to comment on your blog, but every time I sit down on the couch with the laptop I zonk out within fifteen minutes. Also, I love wine but right now an ice cold Coors Light is about as much as I can handle."

Over the years I've noticed this summer drought of communication, and it's easy to read some of the lack of enthusiasm from other bloggers. How do you keep it fresh and interesting? How do you maintain readers without resorting to repeats or gimmicks?

I'm thinking that next summer I'm going to devote a day a week to random odds and ends. Maybe some short fiction, maybe some humor, maybe I'll fantasize and design some Chateau Benito wine labels, maybe post a dozen links to my favorite summer songs and explain where I was when I first heard them. There's a lot of debate over the border between writers and bloggers, but to do either well you have to want to convert ideas to text, and care about what you're doing. The joy of this particular format is that you can write about whatever you want. The weakness is that few take that opportunity. Nobody challenges you to step out of your subject area or comfort zone. There's no teacher that assigns you 500 words on the color green or an editor that needs you to review a Swedish death metal concert when you've been covering city council meetings for ten years.

Fear not, this blog isn't going to turn into wistful musings on my time playing catcher for a church league baseball team, and I'm not going to replace wine reviews with funny pictures of cats with amusing captions. I'm examining the idea that these dreary summer months might be better spent recharging the batteries and exploring some experimental territory. I've got a hunch that you'd see some pretty spectacular wine writing in the fall.


fredric koeppel said...

i agree that generally visitors to the blog fall off in the summertime, but that hasn't happened this year. July turned out to be the best month on BTYH and August will be even better. I don't have an explanation.

Benito said...


Glad to hear your site is going gangbusters--I don't have solid data to back up the above musings, it's just based on some conversations with other bloggers and noticing a reduced posting rate over the past couple of months.

I've switched to following wineblogs through an RSS reader, since some are updated regularly and others are trickling out one post a month, and it's the easiest way to keep track of it all.


Samantha Dugan said...

Mine is all funky. Page hits are higher than ever but comments are in the crapper. Can't explain it and honestly I've grown weary of trying to figure it out. It is tough, least for me, when our only reward or payment lies in the comment section, the knowing that someone read and either liked or hated what you spent your free time doing. I had to just stop thinking about it and keep plugging away, least for now.

Benito said...


It can be frustrating at times. I still keep up with each of your updates and love the site as always. I feel bad for the bloggers who've petered out--sometimes you'll go back and check an old site, and the last post is from eight months ago and there's a bunch of "Where are you?" comments.

Dale Cruse recommended spending more time commenting than writing; I try that at times, but it can be hard to come up with comments of substance on a regular basis.


Thomas said...

I have commented on many blogs but then began to pare down to the ones that don't make me feel like a pawn and are willing to engage in a real back and forth.

Summer vacation always slows things down, but so does the November to January holiday season, the back to school week, the Easter period, the economy, the weather---get my point?

As for the remnants of vinofictions: it took me a few years to finally figure out that mostly, there aren't enough people who want to read a blog that challenges prevailing wisdom. I grew tired of talking to a crowd small enough to fit in my Honda, so I figured I'd write the little story that I'm writing just for fun, and to also use it as a log to see if there isn't a book in there somewhere. I'm always a writer, no matter what I do--even when blogging ;)

Incidentally, i know I'm on the right track with the new vinofictions direction because now i have even fewer readers!

Benito said...


Thanks for the insight--it's interesting to see how many different views there are on this one minor topic. Vibrant discussions are always fun, but sometimes there's just not much there to discuss. "Hey, I like cab franc too!"

I know my site explodes from October to January 1 as people are looking for gifts and wines to serve with the various holidays. It picks up again in February, and tends to do pretty well through the spring.


Kimberly said...

Aaah, comments, comments. The times I get the most are when I write something totally off-topic of wine or food. Like when I wrote about the movie "Crazy Heart," or that time I wrote about Yoga Nazis.

Which tells me that either A., my readers don't find my food and wine stuff interesting enough to comment on, or B., the food and wine stuff just doesn't naturally lend itself to generating comments. But I know B is not necessarily true, cuz some of the food blogs I follow get 40 or 50 or even 100+ (if you're Orangette, for example) comments per post. Per post, I tell you.

I spend lots of time reading and studying about blogging and social proof and engaging an audience, and lots of other blog-related stuff, so I get that there are lots of "lurkers" out there who read but never comment, and I'm a lurker myself on some of the denser and more serious wine blogs I follow, b/c I don't always feel qualified to comment on those.

I read somewhere once in my endless hours of studying the whole blogging thing, that one shouldn't focus too much on comments, b/c it's not really an indication of how well-read or well-liked a blog is. But I gotta say, I need, or at least I want, the validation! Does that make me desperate? Hmm, I'm gonna think on that. . .

Michelle said...

I like cab franc too! Wait...

You're right it is hard to be a regular commenter if you don't have anything that particularly adds to the discussion. But I do like to comment, even if it's just a simple one from time to time to let the writer know I'm still reading and enjoying their work.

And of course, I would love to get more comments on NFM. I had a comment the other day from a girl who wanted to share some information about a new apartment building downtown and she added, "I love your blog...I read it religiously". Blew me away. That's the kind of thing that helps me keep going even when feel like I'm writing to myself.

Benito said...


I'm happy to see you're back in the swing of things after your little vacation earlier this year. And I'm glad you got to the bottom of the "Losers" mystery. :)
I was at a family gathering in Murfreesboro this past weekend, and I was surprised at how many faithful readers I have among my relatives and my grandparents' friends. They don't comment or e-mail me, but they were complimenting me on posts that I'd mostly forgotten about, and had a lot of interesting questions.

I've even met a few readers here in Memphis who like the site but feel too embarrassed to comment--scared of saying the wrong thing or captured by that unfortunate anxiety that goes along with wine appreciation.


Benito said...


I've historically been terrible at predicting what would be a popular post. I've worked for days on a post only to have it ignored, and then I'll toss up something silly and it gets linked all over the world.

It's a weird web out there...