Understanding the Paradigm Shift in Wine Writing

Paradigm shiftIt seems like the traditional, legacy media is dropping its coverage of wine at a pretty swift pace whether it be a pull back from wine coverage in Chicago, St. Louis or San Francisco. It points to a circumstance that every wine publicist and every wine marketer must accept and embrace: YOU ARE THE DISTRIBUTOR OF WINE JOURNALISM, WHILE THE JOURNALISTS ARE THE CONTENT CREATORS.

This, of course, never used to be the case. All the major media had good wine coverage and good circulation and distribution, assuring that if you or your client were covered, word would be spread by the folks who created the content.

Today, with the legacy media reducing their coverage and its circulation being gobbled up and cut up, there does remain a vibrant independent and largely new wine media that is exploring the subject on blogs, podcasts, online media and elsewhere outside what were the normal information distribution channels. However, few have much reach or circulation.

What this means is that the subject of the coverage (the winery, the importer, the distributor, the retailer, etc) must do the distribution.

That subject as information distributor model has a variety of tools at its disposal:

Your Email List
Your list of trade/accounts contacts
Your tasting room or Retail Store

If any of the many wine writers and commentators endorse your project, it must be you who gets that word out to those you hope will see it and take it to heart.

This is such a profound and certain and cemented shift in the way companies and concerns use third-party media endorsements that it qualifies as a paradigm shift.

Yes, there remain various media that, when they give you an endorsement, their distribution of that endorsement will get the job done and get their word out. But that list is shrinking on a daily basis. Perhaps this will change. Perhaps media companies with large circulations will return to serious coverage of the most important and refined and culturally significant beverage the world has ever seen. But don’t count on it. For now, you are on your own. Either be the distributor of the content created by the media or don’t count on good coverage having any impact at all on your brand and product.

The 7 Rules of Commenting on Wine Blogs (and everything else)

commentBack in the day, when questions were asked about how to interact with bloggers and how generally to interact on blogs, I always told audiences and clients that it will serve you very well to be an intelligent contributor to conversations on wine blogs.

This holds true today as very often consumers and trade mingle at various wine blogs and your presence there can not only introduce folks to you and what you offer, but can convince them you have something of substance to offer a conversation as well as a parched throat.

However, there always were and there still are good rules of thumb to follow when interacting on a blog as a commentator or interacting on any forum on the net.

1. Don’t Flog Your Own Wine or Winery (Or Service or Product)
It will come as a surprise to no one reading your comment that you think your own wine is fantastic. There is no good reason to remind them of this.

2. Don’t Try to Hide Your Affiliation With A Winery When Breaking Rule #1
What are the odds people reading your comments won’t discover you are just flogging your own brand? Really? Who puts down $1 on a bet in the hopes of making 10 cents back? It’s not a good bet. Folks will find you out and think less of you. And there’s no good in that.

3. Always Use A Signature in Your Blog Comments
The signature is that little thing that is usually always added automatically at the end of your comments that has your name and your affiliation with a link to the web page of your affiliation. That’s all you need to do to identify who you are and bring a little attention to what you do. If the signature isn’t added as a result of you registering with the blog or their commenting system, then manually add it yourself.

4. Think Before You Write
What you write is probably permanent and it’s likely your grandchildren will be able to read it when they are researching you on the interwebs of the future. So, basically, don’t be stupid. If you have nothing intelligent to add, don’t add anything.

5. Be Timely in Your Comments
Unless you really MUST have your say on a blog, try not to comment on a blog post that is old. Try instead to comment soon after the article is posted on the blog when the most people will be reading it.

6. Be Prepared to Follow Up.
If you comment, for example, that “Natural Wine is the Devil’s Juice” or something else equally provocative or controversial, be prepared for responses and be prepared to respond. Responding to comments on your comments is not only another opportunity to make yourself visible, but it’s a common courtesy. Don’t be a hit and run commenter. Oftentimes blogs will allow you to subscribe to comments, meaning you’ll get an email when someone else comments on the post. Use this service if you’ve commented and if it is available. Otherwise, look in on the post every couple of hours for the next day or so.

7. Be VERY Judicious Adding Links in Your Comment
It’s considered somewhat bad form to place a link in a comment that takes a reader of the blog away from the blog. However, if you absolutely must add a link to an outside source 1) make sure it is relevant to the conversation and 2) that it isn’t a self serving plug. An example of a self serving plug looks like this. “Oh, and by the way, I wrote about this subject on our very own TOM WARK ESTATE WINERY blog just two years ago…Please go read it.”

These rules apply not only to blogs, but also to the various community and discussion forums that serve the wine community and wine geeks who exist across the Net, as well as to commenting on news articles that allow the practice. The point is to make your point, make yourself known and not to make an ass of yourself and your company.

Wine Bloggers: You Are Only As Valuable As Your Audience Size

numbersBy all accounts, the Digital Wine Communicators Conference that took place recently in Montreaux, Switzerland left its wine blogger and wine writer attendees with a great number of interesting and provocative ideas for  to consider. Among the most thought-provoking idea I came across was this one, reported in Harpers and delivered by public relations professional Louise Hurren during a panel on the Future of Wine Blogging :

“[To succeed wine bloggers must] understand and recognize their place in the wine industry and ask themselves what value are you offering and not just what you can get out of it”

The communicators who heard this message most likely understood quickly and intuitively that there is only one answer to the question, what value are they offering the wine industry? But before I repeat that answer it is important to put Ms. Hurren’s advice in context. Additionally, she wanted to explain to the wine bloggers in the room the size of the investment that marketing and promotional sectors of the wine industry make in wine communicators. She discussed, for example, the cost of taking a blogger on a press trip as well as the expectations the marketers reasonably had when they spent the thousands of dollars on trips for wine communicators.

The takeaway of Ms. Hurren’s talk was that understanding how the wine trade works is an essential element in a blogger becoming more professional, which is a requirement for success as a blogger.

This is all excellent advice. But what I did not read in the coverage of her talk in Montreaux was the one and only possible answer to the question, “what value are you offering the wine trade through your blog”.

The answer is The Size of Your Audience.

In fact this is also the answer to the question, what value do commercial wine publications offer to the wine industry. The fact is, it does not matter how professional a wine blogger is. It does not matte how well a wine blogger understands the wine trade. It does not matter how interesting their ideas or observations are. To the wine trade the real value of any wine blogger is the size of their audience.

The more eyeballs that see what the blogger writes, the more valuable that blogger is to the wine industry that has one goal in mind: expose as many potential customers to their brand as they possible can. This is a somewhat cold, cut and dry way of understanding the work of the wine blogger or professional wine writer or commercial wine media outlet. But there is no other way to calculate the value of a wine media publication. If the most brilliant, the smartest and the most prolific wine blogger on the planet reaches 50 readers a day, their value to the wine industry is very, very small. Meanwhile, if the most incompetent wine blogger on the planet reaches 10,000 readers a day, then the wine industry will see great value in their swill that they produce.

If, then, it is the goal of a wine blogger to be of value to the wine industry, the advice I would have given the attendees at the recently Digital Wine Communicators Conference would be this: BLOGGERS: WORK ON INCREASING THE SIZE OF YOUR READERSHIP…IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS.


A Publicist’s Guide to the Difference Between Wine Writers and Wine Blogger

WinebloggerWineWriterThe recently completed 7th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara brought together wine bloggers from across the country. By all accounts, it was a rousing success. How do you know it was a success? Wine Publicists were there.

You can count on wine publicists showing up where the ink is. That’s a guarantee. But you can also bet that it hasn’t been lost on a single wine publicists both at the Conference and not at the conference that it was a “wine bloggers” conference and not a “wine writers” conference. This begs the question, what’s the difference?

So you don’t have to wait until the end of this post, let me proved the answer now: nothing.

If that’s satisfying enough, you can move along. But if you want to know why no wine publicists sees any difference between a wine blogger and a wine writer, stick around a little.

Here’s the bottom line: publicists are in the business of helping their clients tell their story, of finding media outlets that will communicate the uniqueness and their client’s brand and products, of seeking ways to tell a wider audience why their client is worth their time and consideration. We don’t care about the media outlet’s disposition: blogger or writer…it doesn’t matter. What matters is the the size, demographics and interests of their audience.

• A media outlet that serves 1,000,000 readers matters.A media outlet that serves

• 500,000 fifty-year old men with

A media outlet that serves 100,000 fifty year-old, wine drinking men will matter most

(Before we get into a sexism discussion, read who buys wine costing $50 or more)

Some wine bloggers have mused in a disappointed fashion that they and their peers don’t get the same attention as other writers; that the wine industry is missing the boat by not catering to the very enthusiast wine blogger community. The industry and publicists have nothing against wine bloggers. The problem is that very few of them have much of an audience to speak of size wise. It’s true that their audience happens to be very enthusiastic. Still, the publicist, having only so much time, will weigh the ROTI (Return on Time Invested) against the potential result. Do they pitch a writer at a 40,000 circulation daily or do they pitch the wine blogger with a much more wine centric audience of 500 readers per month?

Here’s the point. There is no Old Media. There is no New Media. There is only Media. And some of it offers a better return on the publicists (or winery’s) investment in time).