Two very thoughtful pieces, one written by wine blogger Tom Wark and another one by Steve Heimoff, are telling the story I’ve also been watching unfold, as clients continue to narrow their wine samples releases down to those wine writers who remain in power.
Unfortunately, there’s a hierarchy of who will and does have influence in wine writing that was put into place, long before any of us were born and started wine blogging. It started in the 1920s during prohibition, and if there’s been any change since then, it’s become even more tight. So, the new advent of wine bloggers, which began when Alder Yarrow launched his site in 2004, only took five years to peak. What a blink in time…
Besides… we’ve entered the stage of oligarchy
- Wholesale houses continue to absorb other big companies; ergo, the giants continue to own more and more shelf space.
- New to the scene: there are wholesales that are demanding that if you want to present your wines to them… and they’d better have scores in the 90s to do so… you must PAY them a presentation fee.
So, pay to present and have scores, or just sell directly, wineries…
The Millennial generation of wine writers are not included in anything that helps a wholesaler to place wines on the shelves. They’ll straight up tell you so. So, what does this do for the legions of wine bloggers who have gone back to their day jobs, while continuing to stay current? Not much, unless they’re buying off the shelves from what wholesalers are putting there. This is precisely what an oligarchy does… it dictates. It’s very expensive to buy directly from a winery and millennials are still paying off student loans; if they have to buy, it’s what the wholesalers want them to buy, not a small production artisan wine.
So, back around
It has become harder than ever to have any budget conscious vintner choose to send samples to anyone, except for the established wine writers. If they write for one of the top 12 wine publishers, they’ll get the samples. Otherwise, it’s a bust… the free flow has pretty much dried up.
Also, consider Facebook and other social media outlets. It doesn’t take much time or commitment to share a quick thought. It’s much easier to say in sixty words or less what has been tasted, how it tasted, and maybe even what you had it with for a meal… with a shot taken from a smart phone to accompany the text. (Is my Nikon really becoming a dinosaur, gone the way of my SLR cameras? Sigh…)
And back around come the wine PR people, who can now return to business as usual… or kept at it – which was NOT easy to do, in the blizzard of who’s who.
Tom Wark (Fermentation) shared the Google Trends graph that shows the decline, in his story: Did Wine Blogs Die Without a Funeral?
“As you can see the relative interest in wine blogs has been waning now for a good six years since interest peaked in 2009. What happened?”
And he does mention more social media resources… There’s only so much anyone person can do. To sit and write 1,000 words a day, as non-billable hours… Yeah, you can see that it would become a chore before long. For many, it was only five years.
Include all of the above that I’ve written and it then become part and parcel of what has happened, in my professional observations. It’s not just consumer interest dying out. Current consumers are now following who they like, so they don’t have to search on “Wine Blog.” I don’t think that reading blogs has completely gone away. I still have about the same people reading my blog for the last 10 years. People come and go, but the numbers are still constant for this blog.
I love what Steve Heimoff wrote: Pffft! That’s the sound of the wine blog bubble bursting
When blogs were young, they were the hippest, sexiest thing in wine writing. That’s the main reason why I myself started blogging, in 2008. I saw the rocket ascending towards the heavens, and I wanted a front-row seat to go along for the ride.
But all the while, I doubted the glowing predictions on the part of many wine bloggers that wine blogs were the journalistic and reviewing wave of the future. I knew that was false. I said as much—and got body-slammed by the wine bloggers who didn’t like my message. Hey, hate the message, not the messenger!
There are a lot of factors, which I trace back to Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s now a very social media world. The end result?
- A few serious wine lovers, who are also serious writers, have emerged.
- Also, wine writers who used to have a day job – and the papers laid them off – have found self publishing to be satisfactory, as they’ve also met the challenge by reinvested themselves otherwise with wine related offerings.
- Wholesalers and disintermediated retail outlets – like Costco – are still dictating which wine reviews and publications will be the scores which will allow the wine to be sold to them and line their shelves. If you don’t have a score, Costco is very unlikely to carry a wine, for instance.
- Therefore, wine companies are no longer sending out copious samples, because the return on the investment just didn’t pay off, where wine blogger were concerned.
- Mentions are great, stories are greater, sales are the greatest return on an investment.
Lots to think about, and now I have to go make some money writing… Adieu