The big thing with professional content generation: how to make it pay. Since the advent of the internet, and the rise of the Google/Facebook duopoly, advertising money has been sucked out of traditional media, and the result has been a reduced demand for journalists and writers, and less money to pay the ones who are still needed.
I grew up as a writer alongside the internet. When I first got on the internet, in 1996, it was all shiny and new. I got my first paying wine writing gig in 2000, shortly after launching wineanorak.
Wineanorak’s model was to give away content and grow a large readership, while earning money from banner advertising. I managed to reach a large audience with free content, and I made enough from the banner advertising to pay my mortgage, without every going out selling the ad space.
The main wineanorak site: www.wineanorak.com
It became clear, though, that even with good traffic, banner advertising wasn’t going to pay a proper salary. This wasn’t my goal, though: although the income was welcomed, I realised that giving away content helped grow my reputation and then led to other work.
Other wine websites have gone down the paywall route, giving away a limited amount of free content, and then charging for access. This works for some, but I don’t want to go down that route. It drastically reduces the number of people who see your work.
I want to keep wineanorak free, because I want to get my work out to as many people as possible. I can make money other ways: books, lectures, consulting, judging wine and writing for other publications. And there’s also money to be made from (clearly marked) sponsored content on my website and social media feed.
If the material on wineanorak is free to access and is read by many people, then this makes me very useful to regional bodies and producer associations, because if they get me to visit, the message reaches a lot of people. It’s a site with a global audience, and everyone benefits. If I do a trip but then hide the write-ups behind a paywall, then the message only reaches subscribers.
The other model is to give content away and then appeal to the better nature of people, or the loyalty of regular readers, to make a contribution. I like this idea, although I don’t know how many people donate in these situations.
I think free-to-access is the way to go. Others have different ideas. But this model of giving high-quality content away works in my situation. Increasingly we are seeing content disappearing from the internet – if you have high costs, like offices and staff, then these need to be recouped. But that just leaves the road clearer for people like me offering professional, quality content for free.