Are Wine Magazines Shattering on the Vine?

This is a great question that’s could be more hyperbole, than fact, from where I’m sitting in my marketing chair. I’ve placed images of magazines with this blog entry, to give you a bird’s eye view of what magazines I have to track, as soon as they’ve been released. If any one of them mentions one of my clients, I need to know and inform the client. This also doesn’t even take into account newspaper critics or wine reviewers who print their own newsletters in hard copy, for which there’s an even much larger number.

I’ve been a proponent since I entered this business (15 years ago) that everyone has a palate… Some are more prominent than others, but we all know how to taste, and know – better than anyone else – what tastes good to us personally. I’m also showing you all of these magazines, because each one is very important in my day; and like my clients, they’re all on equal footing…

I just read Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff’s blog, in a story he calls, “Parker, Laube and me.” It was in reaction to another blog by Jim Preston, where it was written, The old wine media is shattering!

I had to comment on this, because Jim Preston admits he’s only been in the wine business a year, and he’s offering a service with his Website for people who want to plan wine road trips. His former background is working in Silicon Valley.

What he’s written is based on a year in the business, and from conversations he’s had with winery proprietors who are frustrated with wine magazines.  Jim’s a vendor, so he’s not had experience with wine marketing teams who are engaged in strategic planning. His perspectives are coming from owners who haven’t yet been featured in a wine magazine; otherwise, they’d not feel that kind of frustration. I feel confident saying this, because I’ve worked with so many who have had their features, and still anxiously wait for the next one.

People love to pick up a magazine and read his or her own story. And, for writers, there’s nothing – okay, almost nothing – more pleasurable than holding a magazine which has one of your published stories inside of it. My day came when The Wine News went way out on a limb and broke away from just writing about Wine News, and published my story, Cat O’Wine Tales. It was worked into bigger picture – integrated pest management – but I had two pages of text and photos, and began my credentials for being able to tell wine stories. Instead of being about Cab, it was about Cats… Off the track, as I now am, here.

BACK ON MESSAGE: As a wine professional who sits in constant wine marketing meetings, no one’s ready within the business to give up their interest in wine magazines and the people who write for them.

Also, the real proof would be to look at magazine printing production numbers.
Shattering on the vine? The magazine images on this page are the ones that I have to keep up with for wine reviews.

Wine magazines haven’t reached market maturity segueing into market decline. They are, however, segueing into also having an on-line presence. This metamorphosis shouldn’t give us the logical inference that magazines are shattering. It just means that we’re undergoing changes of growth and development. Some things are changing, though… I don’t have to print tons of press kits anymore, because all of that info’s now on winery Web sites, but not all things are changing…. I still have to create the original press and/or trade kit and PDF it, so it can be uploaded to the Web.

Go visit the newsstands at Barnes & Noble. There are hoards of magazines that are being printed, and still more in the conceptual stages. Search on line for a magazine, and pages upon pages are listed for where you can buy subscriptions on line.

I also know that the need for them won’t be drying up any time soon for wine marketing departments, who thrive on stories and endorsements from not only Wine Enthusiast, Parker, and Wine Spectator, but also from newspaper people of major consequence (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, LA Times… the list goes ever on). Then, there’s also Food & Wine, The Tasting Panel, EveryDay with Rachael Ray… the list is huge.

In wine sales, it’s imperative to be able to talk about what so-and-so said about such-and-such. This is also besides talking about the winery’s story, who the proprietor is, the winemaker, wine making styles and principles.

We live on third party endorsements; otherwise, Tom Wark would never have invented his wine blogging awards. If you care about your popularity, you’ll covet this award, just as wineries covet a great score from Steve Heimoff, and everyone else.

Another thought… My experience – because I also work with winery proprietors every day… Winery owners are more frustrated, because their own story hasn’t been printed in the magazines, yet, versus anything else. We all operate on ego… Imagine knowing that you’re all that, but no-one’s written about you yet.

Unfortunately, they’re behind a long line of wanna-bes, so that won’t happen soon.  Someone once fired me, because he didn’t like his score in a magazine.

Marketing a “winery” is a completely different animal than marketing “wine”… Completely different. Step outside of a tasting world, and the inner workings of a wine company has a complex infrastructure.

The berries are still plump on the vine over here, and by the time we’re paperless, I’ll be in a rocking chair watching wine bloggers become the new shooting stars of the wine media; and I’m thinking that they, too, will have published stories in print, as well as on-line.

9 Responses to “Are Wine Magazines Shattering on the Vine?”

  1. Jim Preston says:

    I spent 15 minutes typing up a nice reply but it was lost when I clicked Submit. Oh well, no time for more.

    – jim

  2. admin says:

    I hate when that happens!

  3. John Roddy says:

    Good points — and of course many of those magazines in concept phase are about wine and wineries. Our publishing company is launching a regional one about NW Michigan and anticipate a great audience for the publication mirroring the explosion in interest in the region as a wine & food destination.

  4. admin says:

    You’ve got a great winery – Shady Lane Cellars – that I know about. I’m really enjoying the cool climate wines that are coming from Michigan! Good luck with your magazine… And, you’re proving what I believe to be true; magazines are still emerging, and not shattering…

  5. Jim Preston says:

    Jo’s comments mostly support my observation that the wine media is shattering. Notice all the different types of media, and mediums, she needs to monitor, and she isn’t including Twitter, all of the blogs, email, and text messaging, which are not just different mediums, such as a cell phone, but the type of media and the consumer for that media is different.

    Most wine media is moving away from a few mainstream magazines and Jo’s photos all over the post above reflect a tiny share of that shattering.

    In the future personal media will be very important for many if not most buyers. It is word-of-mouth on steroids. Some may be informed by old wine media but that share percentage will drop like a rock.

    Remember that the customers for old media are the advertisers. They haven’t figured out how to monetarize new media forms yet but that will happen, and soon. Most of the old wine media will wither on the vine as the revenue scatters.

    The old wine media magazines will still have readers but the advertisers will reach them with media that is cheaper, faster, interactive, and more targeted. It is still primitive now.

    Jo will have a business but it will be harder and should pay a lot more. 🙂 The winery PR and marketing consultant of the future be monitoring and interacting on the Internet to a much great extent.

    The current old wine media writers will probably keep writing. Their readership may even go up. However, as you see now with blogs, the consumer will decide which content providers to subscribe to. The old wine media editor is history. That editor will be replaced with a new concept. (I’ll discuss this some other time.)

    Jo mentioned that I have only been in the wine business for a year. That masks a major advantage I have. I’ve worked with dozens of industries and hundreds of companies around the world. I’ve worked in over 50 disciplines in life. I’ve been in tasting rooms and around the wine trade for over four decades.

    This gives me far more conceptual tools to work with than folks who spend their whole lives in a few disciplines. Billions more potential concepts.

    Remember that most major innovations have come from people outside a discipline who solve problems that the professionals didn’t recognize. Happens all the time and I’m doing that frequently elsewhere.

    During my field work for Wine Questers.com I found lots of problems to solve. So Wine Questers changed direction and is a platform for winery tasting rooms to market directly to tasters. It is faster, cheaper, easier, and more flexible than other methods.

    Jo posts that the vintners I heard complaining are actually upset that they haven’t been included in some article. I never detected that. I found typical business issues that would make sense in any industry.

    Some trade blogs note that Wine Questers is about planning wine tasting road trips – our consumer pitch – and they consider my media post to be off-topic for me.

    The Pros aren’t understanding what they are seeing because they making associations with what their trade is all about. That is a good example of why major innovation generally comes from outside the industry.

    Finally, Jo makes the common mistake to associate old wine media with printing and spends much effort to defend the longevity of printed media. Others think it includes the “old” wine writers. Nope.

    Old wine media are the giants of the wine world that have had major influence in the industry. They printed but that is just the medium. Put their content on Web pages and nothing much changes. They are being replaced by new technological plus conceptual frameworks. Some older elements will survive, some won’t.

    I studied the great media philosopher Marshall McLuhan in the late 60’s and 70’s. Great to see many of his thoughts finally reach reality. Thanks Jo for bringing this topic up!

    – jim

  6. admin says:

    You raise some very interesting points.

    I, too, have had a smattering (versus shattering) of careers, from director of a cosmetology school (hairy), to Girl Scout Day Camp (scary), to broadcasting, to wine… The same disciplines have been used each time; breaking into a new industry has had lots of lessons, and lots of people telling me how off-the-wall my innovative thought were (at the time, but later proved to eventually become mainstream, just ahead of their curve). So, I can’t cut you short from your observations.

    Shattering, in the sense of where all the wine talk is headed, is reflected by these images… It took so long to build this blog entry, I must be crazy, but surely am not lazy.

    And, yes, you mentioned all the electronic ways that people are now finding third party endorsements in the electronic world about wine.

    Perhaps I didn’t totally understand your “shattering concept fully.” If grapes are shattering the grapes are going to be problematic. Maybe that’s where I veered off. I think I was thinking too literally as it relates to the wine industry, and not the wine magazine industry.

    I wonder if I’ve stayed too long at the party?

  7. I doubt you stayed to long at the party. More likely you just showed up early. Reading your thoughtful comments and looking thru the links on your site highlights you are tuned into both the old and new.

    Perhaps by agreeing on the simple goal of helping consumers advance their wine enjoyment, we all win.

    It was not long ago we had a .com bubble that was suppose to shatter old consumer shopping habits.

    The new is just another method for wineries to tell their stories. They just have to step up and do it rather than rely on getting published. Not better. Just different.

    Did you ever read this article about the importance of telling your own story?


  8. admin says:

    Good story. I’ve been thinking about writing a blog entry that shows where PR fits in a marketing department. I’m learning that most people don’t understand the dynamic, and that PR is an occupation that fits into a marketing department, not one that stands alone.

    It’s one thing to be a writer and tell peoples’ stories in press releases. It’s another to understand the perfect marketing fit for the benefit of all.

  9. mydailywine says:

    I have also been working as a wine sales and marketing professional for 12 years. I am a 38 yr old woman. I will not renew my WS and WE subscriptions this year. They have become obsolete for me. Online reviews and social media are perhaps not replacing the old school print media but are quickly capturing market share.

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