Wine communication: the elephant in the room


Wine communication: the elephant in the room

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.

20 Comments on Wine communication: the elephant in the room
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

20 thoughts on “Wine communication: the elephant in the room

  1. Hi Jamie – great post.

    I completely concur on all your points. There are so many “easy” ways to start producing content online, but the reason I started my site, was because I have a passion for wine. I am no wine expert but I am an enthusiast.

    The site that I started blogging on a few years ago really was aimed at being a wine site for those interested in wine, written by me – an enthusiast. At no point did I express an expert status and as such it has attracted other enthusiasts.

    I have a team now of people from across the world that are eager to help produce lots is valuable content for the site and all of them too are enthusiasts – are couple are experts – but on the whole, making wine more accessible is the main aim.

    The easy access comes with twitter, RSS to email, email mailing lists and facebook. People can choose to get it how they want.

    Lots more to come too!

    I think we are on the same wavelength – again great post Jamie.


  2. Good points, Jamie. You get the impression many wine writers write to wine writers only. Speaking to consumers on various occasions, I’m amazed how many of them never read anything about wine. They enjoy a bottle per day and are happy to come to a tasting, tutored or not, but are totally indifferent towards the online wine buzz. Getting these people to actually engage in wine communication is the biggest challenge. With these people on board ways of monetizing will be easier to find.

  3. We’re recent entrants ourselves – but we believe that, as people’s interest in wine has grown, so has their desire for different kinds of wine writing, from the technical to the purely entertaining. (We’re in the latter group, we hope…).

    Whether or not people’s capacity for media is finite, it’s hopefully always possible for creative minds to find approaches, specialisms or ways of writing which carve out a niche for oneself.

  4. I think the answer here is simple, and not restricted to wine media. Class will out. Quality will succeed, the substandard will fail, no? Just might take a while…

  5. Hi Jamie,
    Lots to think about here, as usual!

    I’m not sure “there isn’t a concurrent growth in the consumption of this media.”

    Perhaps it’s just the old way is not attracting new people. What I mean is, if the online newspapers can see the figures who read the columns, and the figures go down, is because the article is about wine or is because the person behind the column is not attracting an audience?

    If anything, I feel the more people know the more they want to know – and this is growing. It’s always interesting to read the letters section in old Decanter. They have changed so much over the past 20 years. They don’t need so much, “how to open a bottle of wine” etc. Things change. As you mention, twitter is one way. It will change again. This is the challenge!


  6. Well said, as usual, Jaime. There is great advice there for those of us in the wine blogging “biz.”

    I thought I’d mention a good compendium of online wine news sources and wine blogs that I turn to when I’m trying to catch up on things. It’s Alltop’s wine news page. Here’s the link: [url][/url]

  7. Couldn’t agree with you more. Recent article about the growing number of participants – did you see it – made me think yes, more people talking but not necessarily more people reading/listening to what is being said about wine (now that’s a run on sentence).

    To most consumers, I suspect it’s still just a beverage.

    Thanks for the great insight. Would love to connect.


    also liked your review of Alice’s book very much

  8. Good article.There is a lot of things written about wine, but with very little practical and usefull info for the consumer. They totally neglet that wine is made in the vineyard and most things are about the winery in general, the (famous) winemaker, and technical aspects vieuwed from the inside of the cellar, as if that is all that matters. Info about the varietal, history, soil, pruning……, and above all, Why it is done in such a way. Food and winecombinations and above all, Why , this wine should go with this or that.Writers should take more responsibilty for What they are sending to the reader/consumer. And if you are good at it , you will have your audience. “A leanding ear is half the job”

  9. Thought provoking, well argued and inclusive as usual Jamie. I like to think I match who you’re talking about here, and do have a small following, but am struggling to get that bigger audience while reluctant to spend a vast amount of time on my blogs and site knowing I get very little income from these sources. You might remember a company called WineSoft who launched a whole web technology and website system in 2001-2002, which they sold in to a few wine merchants while offering linked sites to a few writers as well, creating a fairly new kind of wine network. Their system allowed us to post pretty much what we wanted with links between the sites and those who were selling wine too, although we didn’t have to talk about just those wines available on-line. This could have developed into something really huge, but the owners pulled the plug after 3 or 4 years once they got their start-up costs back. Shame. There are a few pooled sites out there already, of course, that are trying to pull together wine words on the web, but the idea of an inclusive on-line magazine sounds great. Who’s going to invest in it though, even if just to pay somebody(ies) to set it up to start with?

  10. I would be happy to invest in this and assume it would not be too difficult to find a few more like me,with a bit of spare cash and a love of anything connected with wine.
    Just needs a well thought out realistic business plan,to get things moving.

  11. Is the idea that the contributing sites would essentially be standalone wine content sites (such as blogs) but there would be a sense of editorial in the aggregating site – a bit like “pick of the week”?

    Or would there be more of a “well here’s an interesting article…” with a link to a site that may be unaware of its inclusion (and possibly even hostile to the very idea!).

    This idea does have legs, I’d say. Would be an interesting one to discuss over dinner sometime. I might be prepared to contribute on the technical side.

  12. A timely piece as the number of wine related twitter accounts and newbie wine bloggers is going through the roof just now, myself included (in one guide at least). I couldn’t agree more with the key points, especially about sharing links, behaving “honourably” and not expecting to make any cash on the matter! I started mainstream and seem to be heading niche.

    PalatePress seems to have done a decent enough job of aggregating (good word Alex!) writers, but I find myself reading it less frequently than I should, so wonder about it’s greater readership levels. Having tie-ins between these types of meeting rooms and the media at large may be one way – non-exclusive sharing of wine articles across the mainstream media to expand audiences?

  13. Good piece. I like your move to video comparing 3 wines, quick and easy to follow. I’m not of the utube generation, but have no problem with short informative sound bites. But I prefer longer pieces like yours when written, some of the wine bloggers are not thought provoking and only quick tasting notes, without any depth, these I take a look and decide to favourite them or not, and you are right there are allot out there, many go stale pretty quick and post 1-2 a month these I drop pretty quickly.

  14. Very thought provoking article…I do agree that social media has put us little guys on the map. Without it would have been a struggle to get noticed. Keep these great articles coming our way… Thanks

  15. Great article Jamie!

    Thought provoking. I am a new blogger. I write for the consumer and try to incorporate useful tech information, apps o find for example, or tools to help me in my wine studies.

    My experience as a consumer is that there is so much information out there. I find people I like to read on twitter and the #wbc11 Wine Bloggers Conference helped me identify more.

    Would love to see a consolidated wine news magazine made up of bloggers.


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