With all the discussions about communicating wine that are taking place of late, there’s one factor I don’t see mentioned very often. The elephant in the room is this:
As more wine media is created, there isn’t a concurrent growth in the consumption of this media.
That is, there are more and more voices, but not many more ears. There’s an imbalance in supply and demand, and as winegrowers throughout the world have found out to their cost, increased supply doesn’t create increased demand on its own. [It could be argued that because people are busier than ever, the actual market for wine media has shrunk somewhat in recent years.]
It’s thrilling that, through the internet and social media, there are so many newcomers talking about wine. And some of them have a lot of talent. They deserve to be heard. Before the internet they wouldn’t have had a way of finding their audience, but now all can play. That has to be a good thing. [On a personal note: the internet has made it possible for me to make a career communicating about wine, whereas 20 years ago I would never have found a way in.]
In the last year or two, we’ve also seen a number of established print wine journalists turn to the web, with varying degrees of success.
Wine communication on Twitter and Facebook has also grown significantly, and there have never been so many (and such good) active wine blogs as there are today.
So we have a situation where there’s a large imbalance between the amount of wine media being created, and the capacity on the part of readers and viewers to consume this content, making it very hard for newcomers to generate an audience, and virtually impossible for online writers to monetize their content.
The solution? I wouldn’t want to go back to the bad old days, when only a few got to play. I’m much happier with the current situation, where the low barrier to entry means that anyone with talent has a chance. It’s a shame, though, that there are some very talented voices out there who are lost in the crowd a bit, and don’t perhaps get the audience they deserve.
I think people just have to do the best job they can. If you write an exceptional wine book, it will probably sell. If you do exceptional wine videos, you’ll grow an audience. If you have a compelling blog, your pageviews will begin to climb. Be generous in your social interactions. Don’t behave badly, or try to ignore or knock the ‘competition’. Share link love. Don’t be an ass and use ‘rel-“no follow”‘ tags on your outbound links. Don’t obsess about your search engine rankings – instead concentrate on your content. Develop your own message. Decide whether you want to be niche, or mainstream (there are benefits and drawbacks with both approaches).
Beyond this, perhaps there is need for some sort of wine media aggregation, with high quality content delivered from one source. Like a newspaper or magazine – yes. These already exist, but I don’t see many examples of consumer wine magazines delivered well on the internet.
If someone could find a way of delivering compelling aggregated content in a way that makes it easy to access this content, then I think it could succeed in generating significant traffic. At the moment, I think the best option for users to access good content is by using Twitter and following the right people. In some ways, Twitter has replaced RSS feeds.