Friday, September 23, 2005

Robert Parker in decline.

There's a review of a new Robert Parker biography over at Slate — it also features podcast content. (For non-oenophiles, Parker has long been considered the leading wine critic in the world. His reviews have shaped the success or failure of entire vintages.) While the biography sounds like an indictment of both Parker's role and palate — smug, pompous Parker has always been an easy mark — I think there's a larger media story that the authors may have overlooked.

Parker's decline won't be hastened so much by his aging tastebuds but by the new, emerging web. Today, there are countless very good blogs that offer reviews of different wines. The result? My palate no longer has to match Parker's — or the critics at The Wine Spectator, for that matter. I can find a reviewer who seems to share my taste in wine — less fruit bomb, more nuanced. So while I might agree with Parker half the time, I can find a reviewer I'm likely to agree with 90% of the time. It's not hard to figure out who is more likely to shape my purchase decisions.

Micromedia is making the soap box much, much bigger. Instead of room for one or two opinions on it, there's space for thousands. Smart marketers will find a way to be a part of the ones that make sense for their brands. Sometimes it's going to be an uber-critic like Parker — but there will be many instances when another voice is better.

Traditional communications is about telling people something. Going forward, we'll all need to figure out how to be a part of the right conversations.

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