Marketing,Social media,Wine,Wine Business

If You Want to Monetize Your Wine Blog, Get a Job in the Wine Business

This has been my assertion, since Day 1.

I took this message to the 2009 European Wine Bloggers Conference. I emphatically made this statement in one of the sessions, when it began to be discussed, it didn’t seem to connect with most of the people.

“If you want to monetize your wine blog, get a job in the wine business…”

At the end of that session, a few people did come to me to tell me that I had hit a chord.

Do you know how we say, “If  I can just help one person, it was worth saying…”

Well, I had one of those moments, and I knew that the innovators were off and running. It was very satisfying.

I think I might have come off as eccentric to most of them present… I often do… And yet history usually bears out what I’ve projected.

Intuitive innovators are risk takers, and come to conclusions early on. That’s what gives them insight… Their intuitive fiction “gets it,” long before it’s scientific fact. These facts are based on extensive studies with noted results and figures, which all substantiates the inventor and intuitive thinkers. Meanwhile, the innovators are now off creating more work for the researchers and scientist.

If you don’t think getting a job within the wine business is how to monetize blog, send Robert Parker an Email, and ask him how he went from being a lawyer, to starting The Wine Advocate, to morphing into eRobertParker. Chances are that eRobertParker isn’t monetizing his life, but everything else he’s doing in the business is… eRobertParker is an extension.

Aha! An extension…

It’s just a matter of time, too, when those who are truly passionate about the wine industry will turn it into profitability. It’s not going happen while waiting for donations or advertising to catch onto their worlds, however. It’s going to be when they get themselves a job within the business, pay some dues, and then the world will be invited to learn about their day-to-day jobs. Yes, it will also have to be what the company wants to hear as their “day job” evolves, but these newbies will also be able to write more interesting copy on their own blogs that is within the text of their own journey.

That’s why this wonderful guy, Hardy Wallace, is able to just keep going with what he wants to do, versus morphing into the party line.

Hardy Wallace first gave it a spin with Jess Jackson’s Murphy Goode. When he was asked to stay on, he decided to try another angle with The NPA; a tiny winery in Russian River Valley that focuses on local, organic wine. He’s going to be writing/creating a webisodic series that will explore the land, people, and culture surrounding the winery. Hardy’s off exploring all the angles.

You’ve just gotta love it. This is so non-traditional PR and marketing, and that’s where it’s all headed with this new generation of PR wannabees. While the rest are still wondering how to monetize their blogs, others are already putting their “passion put to use,” quoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and becoming monetized… as we all must be in life, right?

Stay tuned for Friday’s blog…

I’m going to give you a classic example of someone whose light bulb just went on, about that which I’ve been saying for the past couple of years.

She’s looking for a job in the wine industry, and she already comes with a huge following.

There will be a perfect fit winery that already has someone at the helm with his or her own light bulb already shining brightly, and will see the massive potential.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

12 Responses to “If You Want to Monetize Your Wine Blog, Get a Job in the Wine Business”

  1. Alan Baker says:

    Jo, I gotta say that I am a bit stunned that this angle is news to folks but I do tend to wander through life assuming people see the obvious.

    I left a public radio gig in 2005, sold my house, and moved to Healdsburg CA cold calling wineries with the promise that if they gave me some work I would include those experiences in my blog and podcast at cellarrat.org. Coming from a broadcast background I was reporting on the winery beat through my podcasts specifically to figure out where I might fit in the industry. It just seems obvious that if you want to head in a direction in life you have to put yourself in the stream of events that will teach you your new gig the quickest. When NPR picked up my podcast for their Alt.NPR series, I could have easily tried to monetize the podcast and web presence but I didn’t start that project to sell advertising, I wanted to make wine. It was a means to an end. The tech and wine experience led me to a great job at Crushpad in the early years. And that hothouse startup experience combined with a few more years of winemaking experience led me and my partner to make the leap back to Healdsburg to launch our new winery Cartograph this spring.

    For those folks who want in their deepest hearts to be wine critics, then I think consistent good writing and marketing themselves is the way to go but it’s a crowded playing field, and few people do much more than support their habit doing that.

    And when a blogger hits it “big” and get a book deal or similar, they have to know that their world then turns into how to turn a buck selling books and placing articles. Writing is a tough way to make a living no matter what your discipline.

    I would have loved to have a winery pay me a cushy salary to come to CA and shoot some video but then I would have been doing their work, not mine, really. So Cheers to Hardy who had the guts to take the road less traveled, and to everybody else who can see opportunity and put themselves out there to explore what is possible.


  2. Ben Simons says:

    Great post! I think you are right on target. People like Rick Bakas and Hardy Wallace are great examples of what you are talking about. That is exactly my long-term goal. I want to be in the wine business, and my blog is part of the journey to getting there.

  3. Jo says:


    I was stunned, too, because it’s just a “go get a job” moment. People are so conflicted – on the surface – because they talk about wanting to be such purists. That only works if you have some other income… But then, if you’ve got the income, what’s all the hubbub… Take advertising, just like all other publishers have done since the beginning of a first newspaper, and get over it.

    It is what it is… a new way of doing business.

  4. Jo says:

    Good for you, Ben. A dream is a goal with a deadline… Sounds like you’re on your way. I wish you well.

  5. 1WineDude says:

    At the recent Pro Wine Writers Symposium, we discussed this topic at some length (you can hear me babble about it on the upcoming episode of WineBizRadio.com).

    During the Symposium, I was on a panel discussing how to maximize and monetize social media writing, and basically what I said was “build your brand, and then look for opportunities.”

    In other words, don’t concentrate on making a ton of money on your blog, because it won’t happen anyway. Concentrate on how to leverage your on-line brand into other ways that *can* actually make money (paid writing gigs, speaking engagements, wine jobs, etc.).

    Your advice lines up totally with my experience and what I was trying to impart on the Symposium attendees.

    And if I hear one more person say that bloggers should be happy because they get “paid” in “free” wine, I’m gonna scream…! 🙂


  6. Jo says:

    There it is…. You’ve captured the essence. Get out and do something about it, instead of wondering.

    When Jose and I were in radio, he was the front man (I was in the background there, too, doing PR), and everyone thought he was making a ton of money, because he was an on-air personality (program director in the background). If he didn’t get out and play music as a DJ, I don’t how we would have raised our three daughters.

    As a musician, Joe, you know that if you lived on that gig alone, you’d starve to death… Only a few breakthrough to mass stardom, and that’s all controlled by the industry… not so much destiny.

    It takes two jobs to live one’s life… One pays the bills, the other pays the soul.

  7. Jo- Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it.

    Thanks to Alan and Ben too.

    I’m at a great point right now. Dirty South Wine helped get me my job– The support of readers, connections, relationships, etc helped get me to Murphy-Goode, and Murphy-Goode helped get me to The NPA and living at Michel-Schlumberger, and The NPA and MS help me with Dirty South Wine.

    I don’t just want to blog about it, I want to be part of it. I couldn’t have done it w/out the blog.

    It is funny to think– 1 yr ago I was a laid off marketing / sales dude trying to figure out how I could make a living doing what I love… It worked.

    Thanks for the support Jo!

  8. Jo says:


    You’ll always have my support, because you’re the real-deal. You’ve got the heart and soul to get what you want and to get ahead with your life.

    I’m so delighted for you that you chose a path less traveled. You make up a small minority of people in life… the ones who dare, and who will always realize their dreams.

  9. Donn Rutkoff says:

    I agree also, the whining about blogs not being a good pay, well, go get a real job. You can blog in your pajamas. Big deal. Here are my 5 steps to making a living.

    1. Spend 40 or 50 hours a week on your feet talking to real live customers in a store with a cash register. (You say you like wine? Try to sell it at a profit.)

    2. Put away your poor attitudes about living, working, ordinary human beings who don’t know much about wine but drink wine and pay for it from their own weekly paycheck.

    3. Learn some science and actual chemistry.

    4. Explain to people what residual sugar does to their taste buds.

    5. Work real hard on English language skills.

    And here is a question? Have you ever heard of survey results that indicate consumers buy a wine based on reading the description? Do you ever see that behavior in wine shops? Or, do most surveys show that in-person recommendations are a strong factor in consumer purchase decisions?

    See you in the aisle, or out in the vineyard with pruning shears, or at the fermenters doing titrations.

  10. Jo says:


    Funny… first of all, I blog in my pajamas all the time. Having a home office is so lovely, at this stage of the game. (I take no offense to your line… I actually love it. Could be a great title for something… Serious.)

    1. Sales… That’s a really tough job, and once you’ve done it, you know real life. It puts hair on one’s chest. It’s such a competitive market. Ouch! And watch out the big dogs don’t come along and steal your shelf talkers.

    3. Oenology 101 was a real eye-opener, and only pealed away one petal on the continually opening lotus of what to do and the chemistry behind it. I asked Pat Henderson (Valley of the Moon winemaker how many enology classes he had taken, feeling like what I was learning was almost inconsequential. He took six oenology classes and three chemistry.)

    4. Wine components… the class that never suffers attrition, and actually grows throughout the semester. We learned a lot, but probably shouldn’t have been driving after class. We tasted, then we got social.

    5. Try Business Writing 101 with Jane Braynard… She’ll break the strongest back with about 20 hours of homework. You won’t have time for blogging anymore…. At least for that semester.

    Been in the isles, been in the vineyards with pruning shears, been on a sorting table, and it sounds like I need to be at the fermenters next season doing some nitrates.

    You’re talking real life stories, which build the foundations of knowing this business… and then, you’ve really got something to write about that will enlighten others who can’t be there for one reason or another.

    Thanks, Donn, for commenting.

  11. Great posting Jo!

    I remember very well the moment you came up with this line at #EWBC 09

    my favorite line in this whole fuzzy debate
    (with such great lines you should consider getting a job in advertizing;-D)

    I’m glad you bring it up again. it’s got to be repeated and repeated

    It is great 1WineDude and Hardy Wallace add their comments to confirm
    and I hope many get it

    I would simply add that some wandering wanabee winecritics blogging may find greater opportunities when concentrating on making a difference and build a truly personal audience (instead of imitating or only raising attention of wine pros)

    Because as it is true wine blogging is “a crowded playing field” I believe there’s still room for newcomers

    And new approaches to wine like gary’s, busurleweb.com or wineontherocks.com are not to be considered as exceptions

    there are still plenty of consumers not getting it about wine, relying on friends to choose, wanting a approach to wine that talks to them, that’s where I believe there is a market to grow

  12. Jo says:


    You’re so sweet to remember and support my belief. I had only “thought” it at the 2008 WBC in Santa Rosa, CA; but, as that year wore on, I began hinting at it. By the 2009 EWBC, I was ready to say it at my first available moment. You’re right… It needed to be heard, and now repeated as often as possible. For some, it will life changing.

    Advertising… yes… that IS what I do for so many, but done under the umbrella of PR. Persuasive concepts help me to help others, and catchy titles is how it’s done. Throw the line out there, and let the debate begin.

    I wrote a blog story about Gary V years and years ago, asking if he was the next Robert Parker. So many people now write that he is. I knew then what I know now… He is, for his generation, and that’s a good thing. Now, it’s all over the place. I’ve always had foresight… Some people are sent in that way.

    Yes, isn’t it lovely to have 1WineDude and Hardy to agree? It’s because they, too, were sent in that way… Leading the parade of the crowed playing field you write about.

    If anyone wants advice (My age allows me to be able to give advice now, without being a know-it-all… Age is wonderful that way), get a job in the wine business, don’t look over your shoulder to see who else is around you and surrounding you, follow your heart, write about your passions, write well, and you’ll get exactly what you deserve. Cream always rises to the top.

    [When I was a kid, before milk was homogenized, we’d walk up to the dairy farm and buy milk from Farmer Davis. He’d hand us a bottle, and before we could drink it, we’d have to shake it, because the cream has separated itself out at the top of the bottle. We’d have to reintegrate with the rest of the milk for a while; but allowed time, it would again rise. Its chemistry demands that it must.]

    Thanks for coming back into my life, Philippe. I remember you. Nice to talk with you, again.

Leave a Reply