Why Do Wine Blogs Need To Make Money?

by Tim Elliott on February 18, 2011

Connoisseurs' Guide to California WineThe Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine has long been a resource for consumers looking to find great wines from my native state. Founded in 1974, the publication was among the first I purchased when I first got into wine almost 30 years ago. My old green CGCW guidebook has long since been replaced by other wine pubs and I haven’t thought about the Connoisseurs’ Guide for a decade or more. So I was surprised last night as I read a post entitled, “Wine Blogging: Can It Survive?” on their blog, no less. This post was inspired by an earlier musing by Steve Heimoff.

After thinking about both posts for a bit, I wonder why most times wine bloggers are referenced by the wine writing establishment the issue of making money comes up? Most likely because they themselves would not do what they have been doing for free and are mystified why we choose to spend time blogging with little or no monetary reward. The irony, of course, is these same wine writers are using the blogging medium to syndicate their somewhat disparaging views about wine bloggers.

If you look at the wine blogging scene today there are hundreds of entrants chasing the attention of a niche audience who have both a passion for wine and the tech savvy to know what a blog is. The top wine blogs, according to the alawine.com listing, are mixed between pros like New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov, wine blog pioneers like Vinography, New York Cork Report and Tom Wark’s Fermentation. The only “new entrant” is 1WineDude who has been around for 4 years. But for the hundreds – or even thousands – of voices in the wine blogosphere there are really only 25 or 30 who have built online communities of any size.

So that brings me back to monetization. Even the very top trafficked independent wine blogs don’t produce enough clicks to make online advertising a viable source of income. Sure, they could make a few bucks here and there but the volume is just not large enough for anything significant. For the rest of us, the income might cover the server costs and some of our travel expenses but that’s about it. For some, just the access to the wine industry is enough with event passes and wine samples a nice perk. For others, such as the folks at Catavino and myself, outside consulting opportunities in the wine industry help pay the bills. But the vast majority of wine bloggers make little to nothing from blogging. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

What do you think?

via Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine

  • Paul

    There is something that is seriously wrong with wine bloggers not making money with their blogs (or trying to). If they don’t make money with it, it means that they earn their living doing something else. Yet, while not depending on money from their blogs, they take readers attention away from the so called “pros”. The “pros” need readers to earn a living, the more the better, so if you are not making a living from it… get out of the way! ;-)

    • http://winecast.net Tim Elliott

      I disagree with you Paul. It doesn’t matter what the motivation of the wine blogger is as long as they serve their readers. The best will always float to the top and some might even be able to make some money from it. A living, no; but some extra money to buy some wine, yes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/SonomaWilliam William Allen

      ‘Paul’ – you seem out of touch with wine writing, blogging, and the industry with a comment like “seriously wrong with wine bloggers not making money with their blogs ”
      and “the “pros” need readers to earn a living, the more the better, so if you are not making a living from it… get out of the way!”
      Guess how much most of the ‘pro’s make on their blogs? Their publications pay their salaries. Subscription based writing is dead.

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  • http://www.grapefan.blogspot.com Colin Smith

    In answer to your question Tim, I don’t think wine blogs do need to make money although it’s easy for me to say this as I have other paid work. I also don’t agree with Paul that my writing, started when I was studying for my WSET Diploma, takes readers away from those who DO need to make money.

    There is room for me and the likes of Ryan and Gabriella over at Catavino. In no way do my posts detract from what they write about. We may both write about wine but there are so many facets to this wonderful subject we will never both write about the same topic and certainly never in the same way, style being an aspect that makes some bloggers followed and others not.

    One big difference between you and me or me and Catavino of course is the amount of time they can devote to wine. I am sure blogging is a secondary activity for them in terms of time. However it’s a great “shop window” for their other work which I hope does generate income. If I thought my writing detracted in any way from them or anybody else serious about making money from wine I wouldn’t blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SonomaWilliam William Allen

    Most wine bloggers write for love. I have come across a few aggressive ways to make money with clear conflict of interests, ranging close to extortion. You’ll be called on it and your name shared with AVAs when I hear of it.

    On Ala Wine and other lists of ‘top bloggers’ like the one Enobytes published as Google ‘Top 100′. I know Ken personally, it says on his website it was “This page last updated: April 17, 2010″ The Google one was based on SEO searches for wine blogs and had blogs dead for quite some time.
    Both of these rank blogs, I know from personal chats with stats well below mine. I suck at SEO :)
    Point being there is no master Top Blog list.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you on both points, William. I don’t think there is anything wrong with writing about wine for little or no compensation as long as it’s worth reading. Those wine blog listings are also not right up to the moments and are a moving target.

      Thanks for your comments.

      • http://www.facebook.com/SonomaWilliam William Allen

        very welcome Tim and always a pleasure to read your work.

  • Girlbiker

    So I started a group about wine on my FB, and myself as well as my friends post.. its a lot of fun, but I would like to start a blog about my journey of ‘tasting along the way” I am a noone, just a person that discovered late in life that there is so much more then late harvest reisling…. do I have to be a someone for people to read and enjoy??

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oliver-Hunt/100002356856831 Oliver Hunt

    In a large part, earning direct income from a blog is a function of advertising. And advertising is a function of traffic. A blog can be an opportunity to make revenue but it’s all up to you whether you’ll use it as a vehicle of earning or solely focus on sharing your passion with wine.

  • Johnnie Larimore

     I just got back from the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. I initially thought this conference held July 22-24 could be populated with a slew of arrogant, snot-nosed millenials who really know very little about the subject.
    order bank checks

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