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The tipping point for wine blog advertising is NOT EVEN CLOSE


A blogger wrote the other day:

Even traditional curmudgeons such as Steve Heimoff benefit from the growing wine blog trend, even as he disparages it. Several well known wine writers have at least explored, if not fully embraced, moving their wine writing to blogs. It’s our belief that, once the ad dollars show up in sufficient numbers (i.e. the tipping point), wine writing will move online with such speed that people will no longer bemoan the passing of print wine columns.

Sorry, but this guy is living in lalaland, and I don’t mean Los Angeles. He should have come to yesterday’s panels here at the Wine Writers Symposium, Alder Yarrow’s on monetizing new media writing (which I was on) and mine on wine writers, ethics and income streams. It was made abundantly clear on both that anyone who believes the ad revenue “tipping point” is moving with “speed” is completely out of touch with reality. When you surround yourself with ideology instead of perceiving with clear vision, you have lost the ability to say anything useful.

The people who participated in the 2 panels were a diverse lot. They consisted of famous bloggers, authors, editors, publishers, web wizards, technology experts, social media entrepreneurs, winemakers, chefs, academics and others interested in social media and who are ardent believers in its future (including me). But I don’t think a single person who was there — no matter what they thought or hoped when they walked into that room — walked out with any thoughts but these:

Ad dollars are not migrating online.
Ad dollars are not going to migrate online anytime soon.
There is no tipping point.
Just ain’t gonna happen anytime.

This was the take-home message, the bottom line, the irrefutable truth. It’s true not because I say it, not because I’m a curmedgeon, not because I hate social media, but for the same reason pigs don’t fly.

The reason ad revenue isn’t going to pour into wine blogs is because ad revenue isn’t going to pour into anyone’sblog in any field, much less a niche one like wine blogs. All the wine blogs put together have a readership that’s maybe equivalent to that of a top wine magazine. Ninety nine percent of individual wine blogs don’t have the hits or visits to generate $50 a month from ads if they’re lucky. No one can change the fact that wine blogs do not have the traffic to sustain ad dollars and are not likely to in the foreseeable future. Yes, the very top 3 or 4 make a little money from ads. But I believe they’re nearing their maximum, and nobody else is going to achieve their numbers for years.

I have reached these conclusions the old-fashioned way: through journalistic digging, mainly interviews. I know most of the top wine bloggers. I’ve picked their brains. They’re the ones who are pessimistic about making a living through ads. I also know a lot of top executives at the biggest wine companies. They tell me they’re not prepared to invest ad revenues online. If a big wine company won’t pay to advertise on a wine blog, do you think a little family winery will? And if wineries won’t advertise on a wine blog, who will? Microsoft? Nike? The NFL? Disney?

I mean, get real!

Hopes and dreams are good. They keep us going, waiting for a better day. But hope needs to be tempered by reality; otherwise, it descends into madness. Anyone who holds his breath waiting for the ad revenue tipping point to tip is going to suffocate.

  1. Steve, a lot of comments before mine I can’t read for time problems. I pass to say my opinion. It’s true: wine blogs will never get consistency ads. But, the fact is that if a winery want to invest on internet (and it has to invest if it wants to get visibility in the future) it has to invest on social media and not on ads. What generets more leads are blogs, facebook, twitter, not adverting on a wine blog. So, it’s better for a winery to start blogging itself, to enter the wine conversation. Ergo: wine blog will never get to much ads … but just to pay the hosting service …

  2. Dear Fabio, please read my blog today, where I address these issues.

  3. Sir Charlie,

    The marketing solution I offered was one where the wine blogger had tasted my sauce, liked it and wrote about it… What’s so wrong with that? You seem to be confused between the home blogger who loves wine and the guy who gives some rating and then sends me a packet of advertising material they want me to pay for. Sounds familiar? The difference you ask?

    One guy is doing it because he loves it (and should get paid out) and the other is a corporate lackey pumping out silly scores. If the guy online began placing my vino in some scoring system, then forget it! I’m not interested.

    Charlie, you represent the old model of wine marketing and you shouldn’t forget it. The wine bloggers probably have more love than dollars in their eyes anyways. They will help us small guys in the future.


  1. Wine Industry Talk Radio for the Social Media and Internet Generation « Wine Biz Radio - [...] Apparently, I got Steve Heimoff’s dander up. [...]

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