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.


7 thoughts on “Wine Bloggers: You Are Only As Valuable As Your Audience Size

  1. First thanks for watching from afar as we discussed the new world of communications in Montreux.

    Second though: I call BS on your theory.

    Size is not the only thing that matters. If you write about Bordeaux futures and high end wine trading, your audience may be much smaller than someone offering the latest holiday wines in a newspaper: Different audiences with different sizes. Both have value to different people in different ways.

    Quality of your audience matters more. In a world where I can buy twitter followers for pennies(10,000 for 5£ right now on some sites), the quality is much more important than the numbers.

    First: Get good at what you are doing.
    Second: Build quality followers in your niche.
    Third: Worry about numbers.

    A blogger in a small town writing about the wines in the 3 local supermarkets does not need a big audience. Nor does a blogger for wines of some obscure backwater Italian villa. Find an audience passionate about that subject and cater to them. Bigger is not better, it can be, but it is not the ONLY thing that matters.

    Quality first. Then size.

    Beyond all this: We did talk about how to build audiences. We had a lot of sessions on this, from different angles, but from what I have seen so far, all of them talked about cultivating a valuable audience, rather than just running up numbers.

  2. Tom: You and I know it’s about the analytics of a blogger’s site. The dilemma is: How to quantify those numbers? There are various analytical sites that run some of those, but they’re all over the joint; who can you believe? Until the blogger-community (and they know who they are: See Wine Blogger’s Conference) somehow puts analytics into a true quantifiable and reliable database, all of us flack-types will be trolling in the dark as to who reaches what audience,; and in what numbers.

  3. Alan,

    Right you are. Interestingly, bloggers don’t have any incentive to disclose page view and unique visitor numbers unless they are planning to sell advertising and their numbers are impressive. The best that can be done is to choose an analytics provider and stick with it.

  4. Ryan,
    How have you been. I watched the conference mainly through Harper’s coverage, which I thought was very good.

    Of course you are right. Size is not the only thing that matters (did I really write that?). However, when I’m considering the impact and value of a media outlet (blogger, publications, newsletter, etc) it sure is the most important thing.

    If a blog that covers Bordeaux futures has 100 really important buyers reading it and that’s all, then the value of that blog is nearly nil. More importantly, what really good Bordeaux Futures blog is only going to have 100 reader?

    My question for your is this: At what Monthly Unique Viewer number do you think a wine blog slips into the category of relevance or importnace for the wine industry? 100 Monthly Uniques? 500 Monthly Uniques? 5,000 uniques?

    Another way of asking this questions is this: At what point should a marketer or publicist care at all about the blog?

  5. I agree with Ryan, Quantity is not as important as quality when it comes to establishing audience value. Here is an example: As publisher of a small, independent, subscriber-based wine review magazine a review I wrote of a California producer piqued the interest of a subscriber who is also a distributor outside of the US. He contacted the winemaker for a sample and liked it enough to order 40 cases. How many Twitter followers would I have needed to to do that? 20K, 50K? Quantity is great but without quality to drive engagement it is little more than empty noise.

  6. Doug,

    Certainly the quality or qualifications of a readership is important. In your case, there is one element of your readership that blogs don’t posses: They’ve given you money to read what you have to say. They are highly qualified readers.

    That said, if you had only 100 subscribing to the PDWR, It would not matter if they paid you. Here’s why:

    When you count up the the number of wine publications, wine websites and wine blogs that exist, we are in the thousands. Marketers and publicists can’t concern themselves with 1000s of publications. Some triage has to occur. And they certainly can’t offer samples to all those that review wines. Wineries and importers would run out of wine.

    So, how do you do this triage. If a publication, blog or website only has 100 readers per month or per issue, I really don’t care how qualified those readers are. I’m ignoring that publication. The fact is, if it has been around a while and only has 100 readers per month or issue, chances are they are terrible at what they do, let alone in marketing what they do.

    The best indicator of a useful wine publication, online site or blog is the size of its readership. Nothing else comes close to being as effective in gauging the quality (and hence of use to the industry) as size of readership.

    Again, as you say, there are qualifications to consider. Certainly paid subscribers is one of them. This is why a magazine that has only 5,000 readers but who pay, say, $60 per year is more valuable and useful than a blog that reaches 8,000 readers per month that don’t pay.

    I can count on probably 2 hands the media folks like you, those who are independent, professional publishers of newsletters that are valuable but have far fewer subscribers than many other writers. Few exist.

    Basing the value of a blogger on its readership numbers is cold. I get that. I’m a blogger too. So, I doubly get it. But I’m also a publicists that needs to, among other things, determine who I recommend to clients get offered a limited number of samples. If I have 50 sets of samples my client is willing to send out, and If I’m looking for the most influential group of media to send it to that is most likely to respond well to the samples, first thing I’m looking at is numbers.

  7. I come into the conversation from 3 view points.
    First, I co-founded (no longer involved) when I was Publisher of Business Traveler Magazine (travel blogs mirror the plethora of wine blogs).
    Then and still, I am a winemaker with my own label BX of Napa Wines (much lost in earthquake), always looking to find who is worth sending my very limited production wines to (Doug, I am sending my Oakville Pinot to you as you requested).
    Third, I’m now also Director of Business Development for and I’m looking for #s on audience sizes of bloggers in order to determine who to reach out to for partnerships.

    By the sound of it, I’m not going to find those numbers… Any advice or tricks to find or prioritize these blog destinations audiences?