Can a “multiple contributor” blog make money?
It was good to read yesterday’s Good Grape blog, which offered a fantasy model of how a wine blog might make money. Good Grape argues for a “team blogging approach.” He points out that the Web’s top blogs (Huffington Post, for example) all have “multiple contributors, and…[are] on an advertising supported model,” like a traditional print magazine.
Good Grape says that, were this model applied to a wine blog, it could make money, through advertising and by charging subscriptions, like Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and Jancis Robinson do. Such a blog would be, in theory, so content-rich, interesting and absorbing that eyeballs would flock to it and so would advertisers. (Think of the Sunday New York Times.)
Good Grape’s fantasy is to find a Rupert Murdoch (as the investment angel), hire Jay McInerey (“Bright Lights, Big City”) for the Hunter Thompson-esque writer, and bring on Paul Lukacs (“American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine”) as editor. Spending Murdoch’s money, he would acquire other sites to diversify content.
Here’s my take, which is a bit more realistic than Good Grape’s in that it doesn’t need a billionaire to breathe it to life. My site would contain:
- my wine reviews, of course
- my daily column
- other reviewers, preferably those who disagree with me, and preferably on video (which Gary V. has proven to be an irresistable part of a successful blog). (By the way, I’m going to make another wacky video, similar to my last one, only this time with Wilfred Wong, from BevMo, in which we disagree over a wine and end up having a slugfest.)
- guest opinionators. Joe Roberts has a standing invite. So does “Morton Leslie,” whoever the heck he is. I’d find writers abroad and in other states to broaden the site beyond California
- guest winemakers on technical issues, starting with Greg La Follette and Greg Brewer, two really articulate guys who are also good writers
- wine-and-food pairings, on video, from top sommeliers, and also from Karen MacNeil, if she’d do it
- the latest wine news, through various feeds
- live reader participation through a chat room
- book reviews
- a web cam of a working winery. How many people have ever actually witnessed the entire process, from harvesting grapes to bottling wine?
- links to buy wines, foods and other stuff referred to in the site
- lots of links to interesting sites
There are probably other pieces that could be added; readers are free to make suggestions. Still, as interesting as such a blog would be, I don’t see it making much money. Everyone who participated would want to get paid. And blog advertising will never, ever command the high prices that print advertising has (like, tens of thousands of dollars for a page). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only way to make money from blogging is to get real famous, and then become a sort of bon vivant, a la Andy Blue, who gets hired to be an emcee and commands high speaking fees (and also writes wine books). The current model — one that’s been good to me, of a (relatively) well-paid wine critic/writer who works for a single print publication — is dying.
E&J Gallo this morning announced they have purchased the Las Rocas brand of Spanish wines from European Cellars, the U.S. representative of Bodegas San Alejandro cooperative, in Spain’s Zaragoza region. (Las Rocas is one of the Bodega’s brands.) As Las Rocas’s marketer and distributor, Gallo will bring in two Garnachas, one for $12 and a Vinas Viejas (old vines) for $18, starting in April. A spokesman for Gallo said, “We’re excited about Spain in general and we think Garnacha has a promising future and tremendous value,” and added, “This is an extension of our footprint in Spain.” Gallo already imports Bodegas Martin Codax, a Rias Baixas Albarino that retails for $15.