Corporate sponsorship for a wine blog?
I was talking with my friend, Jo Diaz, the other day. (She writes the Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz wine blog.) Jo is a visionary when it comes to blogging, social media and that fabled nexus where the wine industry meets the Internet. Jo, who runs the Diaz Communications P.R. firm with her husband, Jose, has thought more deeply about the future of blogs than anyone I know. During our conversation, she told me she now thinks that the way for a blog to make money is to attract corporate sponsorships.
Her reasoning is that, if a blog attracts enough eyeballs, corporations will want to be associated with it. They’ll pay the blogger money in order to have a presence, or, as Jo put it, “Give something popularity, and some company somewhere wants that face behind the name to further lend credibility to their product.”
People are cynical when a corporation runs its own blog (or Twitters) extolling its products, but apparently they’re willing to trust a third party endorser. This is the essence of corporate sponsorship. It’s similar to a celebrity with a high likeability factor, like John Madden endorsing Ace Hardware, or Ashton Kutcher pitching a digital camera. There’s an interesting article about this phenomenon on a blog, BlogCampaigning, in which corporate sponsorship of a blogger is defined as “great content, great conversation,” as opposed to “sponsored posts” written by that corporation, which are perceived as not so great. By coincidence, last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle reported how celebrity blogger Perez Hilton is attracting movie studio endorsements that pay him to blog and Tweet about their films. And the young blogger Jon Ray recently told his readers, in a post entitled My new blog…with corporate sponsorship, that a college lifestyle magazine, Study Breaks, “has offered to actually give me a paycheck for writing…”; their hope is that his cheeky, hip personality will lure young readers to the site.
This may work in the entertainment industry, but it’s not clear to me that it can succeed in wine. For one thing, why would a non-wine industry corporation sponsor a wine blogger? And if the blogger is sponsored by a wine company, then people might not believe he was being objective. This potential conflict-of-interest was expressed last week in the British drinks trade magazine, Harpers Wine & Spirit. In it, the authors correctly note that the wine industry must target “the technology savvy ‘Generation Y’” if it hopes to “secure its long term future.” But they introduce this important caveat: “However, the younger generation is likely to be cynical about companies targeting them with products via networking sites…these type of consumers were wary of recommendations by wine writers believing they are not ‘impartial’ and some how connected to the wine trade.”
Do you recall the news from a few week ago, when Jackson Family Wines announced that social media job opening for Murphy-Goode? (I blogged about it.) Well, Jo Diaz told me the entire wine P.R., marketing and advertising community is going to be watching that development with the greatest interest. Will it work? And how will the results be measured? If there’s a new model out there that can succeed for both the winery and the blogger, you can bet Jess Jackson has the resources to find it. (And congratulations to him for Rachel Alexandra’s stunning Preakness win.)