Did Wine Blogs Die Without a Funeral?

Below is a chart produced via Google Trends. It depicts the relative interest in the term “Wine Blog” over time based on Google search queries.

  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? Whatever happened did not only happen to wine blogs. It has happened to blogs in general.
What happened was social media.

Above is another chart produced by Google Trends showing relative interest in the search terms “Blog”, “Twitter”, “Instagram”, “LinkedIn” and “Pinterest”. I haven’t included “Facebook” in this Google Trends chart because its interest is so much greater than all the others that it produces a chart that has lines running along the bottom bunched together and unreadable with a line for Facebook at the top.

THE MIGRATION TO SOCIAL MEDIA
The point is that those who had been showing interest in blogs, including wine blogs, have migrated to social media. This is not to say people have lost interest in wine. Rather, they have demonstrated that their interest in wine has always been one that is driven by community. While blogs once better served wine lovers as a source of community, today social media does this far more effectively.

It is also a comment on the relative numbers of wine lovers interested in short form vs. long form explorations of wine. Given the nature of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn and Instagram, and given the migration of interest toward those platforms, it’s pretty clear that a “blurb-driven” form of communication is preferred over a more expansive form of communication.

SUBSTANCE VS. BLURBANCE
Does this mean the blog is dead? No. What it means is that the readers of blogs tend to be far more interested in a deeper more substantive exploration of wine than those who turn primarily to social media for their wine-related interactions and content. I know this sounds like a disparaging way of putting things, but I’m not meaning to be disparaging. I’m meaning to be factual.

Joe Roberts, publisher of the blog 1WineDude and one of the more successful and prolific wine bloggers, came to a similar conclusion when I asked him if he thought wine blogs were in decline:

“I certainly have noticed a lower amount of engagement overall in terms of comments on wine blogs, but that’s something that I predicted over three years ago; I think the discussions about wine blog posts have largely moved to the larger watering hole of Facebook. That’s not necessarily a negative thing. I also think (and I am speculating here) that wine blogging has matured and slowed down a bit, chiefly because its most visible and influential members are getting older; they’ve more responsibilities, less time to blog, etc. That could be a negative thing, if the space isn’t infused with more passionate “new blood” in its wake.”

Joe may or may not be correct concerning the “maturing” of wine blogging’s most visible members. It certainly fits in my case. The more important concern for members of the wine industry is what does this mean for their marketing and communication efforts?

APPLYING OLD RULES TO A NEW REALITY
The most basic rule of marketing communications is that you must know how your audience desires to be communicated with and communicate with them in that manner. I think that with regard to wine, it’s pretty clear that a good portion of people interested in wine want to learn, communicate and commune via social media platforms. In fact, I’m pretty sure they expect this whether they are entry-level consumers or mature consumers or whether they are members of the wine trade who want to communicate with each other in a collegial or B2B fashion.

This isn’t news. But it does beg the question, what is the role of wine blogs—that apparently old form and less desired form of communication?

My colleague Julie Ann Kodmur recently suggested that what’s happening is the “silo-ing” of blog consumption. Where once people perused a number of wine blogs, today they stick with and are loyal to only a few or perhaps even one wine blog.

WINE BLOGS AND AUTHORITY FIGURES
This is undoubtedly correct and it means that identifying those blogs with the greatest readership and authority is as important as ever for those looking to see where the more substance-oriented wine communities are choosing to indulge their interests, be they recreational or professional.

One thing is certain. There are not nearly as many serious wine bloggers today as there were in 2009 and 2010, the heyday of blogging in general and wine blogging in particular. For the marketers and publicists, this makes your job easier. Identifying the serious wine communicators working in the blog format is easier to do today. It’s also more likely that these people will continue to take on more recognized authority as time goes on if they choose to keep up their work. And it’s equally true that these folks are far more likely today to find paying gigs outside their personal blogs — if they choose to.

 

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15 Responses

  1. Austin Beeman - January 12, 2016

    Is it possible that people are still reading wine blogs at the same numbers, (or greater) but are using the social networks of their friends as the gatekeepers of quality?

    I know that my wine article discovery mechanism is mostly Facebook and Twitter today, because my knowledgeable wine friends are sharing the blogs that they read.

    • Jo - January 12, 2016

      I think this is a very good point. I think many of my contacts expect me to share blogs or content that is relevant and worth reading.

  2. Eric - January 12, 2016

    It seems like the Google trends graphs illustrate that less folks are using Google search as a means to finding blogs. Does this imply that less folks are finding and reading blogs? Social Media sites are now providing the platform where content is provided for users based on their preferences and the content their networks share. If you could see a graph of traffic brought to a wine blog through tweets or facebook postings over the same period of time, you may see that as Google searches go down, links through social media take off.

  3. 1WineDude - January 12, 2016

    Something else to consider, is that blogging is of course one part of the equation, as Tom points out ” it’s pretty clear that a “blurb-driven” form of communication is preferred over a more expansive form of communication.”

    Longer form content might be less popular, but clearly the independent sharing and communicating happening around wine is not diminishing.

  4. Alvaro - January 12, 2016

    Interesting but not accurate and without the juice that might come from it’s content. Most of the existing Blogs have Facebook Pages, Twitter, Instagram and other social media that are used to gather visitors to Blogs. Besides that who is still making searches for “wine Blog”??? or Wine Blogger???? Did you ever made that search to find a blog??? Hell no!!!! Who is still doing that today is out of time.
    However, I do strongly agree with your last sentence. If Wine Blogs “Dying” it easear to everybody understand who is who and who doing a good job. Producers, marketers and publicists are still the rsponsables for the non-Blogs still exist

  5. Pffft! That’s the sound of the wine blog bubble bursting | STEVE HEIMOFF| WINE BLOG - January 12, 2016

    […] ran the numbers to prove his contention. And there it is, in his first graph: interest in wine blogs, as indicated by Google Trends, peaked in 2009, and has been falling […]

  6. Bob Henry - January 12, 2016

    As markets mature, concentration among competitors ensues. Some times through mergers and acquisitions, other times due to ventures giving up the ghost.

    (Example: This past year saw a tremendous concentration of companies through M & A in the pharmaceuticals industry — all chasing ObamaCare prescription drug profits.)

    The result is often the formation of oligopolies in industries.

    Think about advertising-based printed wine publications found on the newsstand. (“Assuming” you can still can find a newsstand. As rare as outdoor coin-operated phone booths.)

    We have Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits. (And the occasional issue of Decanter if your newsstand owner is discerning.)

    An oligopoly.

    That trend is a portend for a “shake-out” in wine blog readership.

    Citing The Wall Street Journal “On Wine” columnist Lettie Teague’s (March 29, 2013) piece titled “Five Wine Blogs I Really Click With.” [*]

    “I spent the better part of last week doing something that relatively few wine drinkers probably do: reading wine blogs. Not just a handful of blogs here and there but hundreds and hundreds of wine blogs from all over the world. I read until I was absolutely blog-bleary; I probably totaled 10,000 page views.

    “I did this partly out of curiosity. I don’t read many wine blogs, and I wondered what I might be missing. What was being discussed? What wines, wineries and topics were hot? After all, people in the wine trade have called bloggers a powerful force, capable of challenging — perhaps even eclipsing — traditional media and conventional wine critics. I’m not sure if that’s true, but the numbers are certainly impressive.

    “There are about 1,450 wine blogs today, of which about 1,000 are nonprofessional endeavors (the rest are ‘industry’ blogs), according to Allan Wright of the Zephyr Adventures tour operator, who has organized the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in North America for the past five years. But most bloggers haven’t been doing it very long: ‘Only 18% of [wine] bloggers today have been blogging for more than six years,’ he said.

    “Most of the bloggers were doing it just for ‘personal satisfaction,’ Mr. Wright said, since the possibility of making money was quite small. Alder Yarrow, who writes a much-talked-about blog, Vinography, told me that he earns $12,000 to $16,000 from it annually, most of which comes from banner ads. Said Mr. Yarrow, who began his blog in 2004 and has a day job: ‘Monetizing a blog is very hard if you don’t want to sell products, sell advertising to wineries and therefore look like a shill.’

    “Most bloggers are more like Alice Feiring, a traditional wine journalist and blogger who has never made ‘a cent’ from her blog, the Feiring Line, which she started in 2004. (It’s one of the few that I read on a regular basis.) But unlike most other bloggers, Ms. Feiring has a newsletter; she has 450 subscribers paying $65 a year for 10 issues. ‘The blog was a soapbox; the newsletter is a mini-magazine,’ Ms. Feiring explained.”

    Alice wrote for Time magazine, and yet even with that formidable publicity platform she garnered “only” 450 subscribers to her newsletter.

    Wine Spectator boasts around 350,000 paid subscribers.

    (I haven’t checked the paid circulation numbers for Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits.)

    The Wine Advocate boasts between 40,000 and 50,000 paid subscribers.

    (I haven’t checked the subscriber count for Vinous — following Antonio Galloni’s acquisition of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.

    And I don’t know Allen Meadow’s subscriber count for Burghound.)

    The subscription model of media — sans paid media advertising — can only support an oligopoly.

    Self-evidently not 1,450 wine blogs circa 2013.

    Everybody else effectively works for free (collecting “psychic income”).

    [* As I recall, Tom’s blog gets indigestion from embedded links. Let me proffer this work around:

    http[colon]//online[dot]wsj[dot]com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323419104578376630145206770#printMode ]

  7. Bob Henry - January 12, 2016

    Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal “Opinion” Section
    (July 8, 2009, Page A15):

    “To Rake It In, Give It Away”

    Book review by Jeremy Philips

    “Free: The Future of Radical Price”
    By Chris Anderson
    (Hyperion, 274 pages, $26.99)

    It is easy to see why free is an appealing price for consumers, although how companies make money by giving stuff away is less obvious.

    In “Free: The Future of a Radical Price,” Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine and the author of “The Long Tail,” sets out to explain why free is an increasingly compelling business model.

    Mr. Anderson explains how the underlying economics of digital services make free business models far more widespread than they were in the analog world. Central to the new “free economy.” he says, are the “near-zero ‘marginal costs’ of digital distribution (that is, the additional cost of sending out another copy beyond the ‘fixed costs’ of the required hardware).” . . .

    Free business models, whether purveying digital products or tangible goods, are based on cross subsidy — that’s why you get a “free” mobile phone when you sign up for a long-term service plan. In the digital realm, the “freemium” model offers the elusive free lunch. . . . The free [product or] service is a loss leader (and cheap marketing) for premium paid services.

    Advertising is plainly the best known free model. You don’t pay for Web searches, any more than you pay for network television, because in both cases ads are attached to the product you are getting free. As Mr. Anderson notes, though, advertising can’t pay for everything online.

    If you have a BLOG, “no matter how popular,” the revenue from AdSense — a Google service that places ads on Web sites — will probably never “pay you even minimum wage for the time you spend writing it.”

    Of course, that’s fine for bloggers more interested in fame or influence than in money or for blogs (like Mr. Anderson’s own) that are loss leaders for more lucrative endeavors, such as writing books or making speeches.

    But if you have to earn a living from the Web, “free” can be a problem.

    . . .

    . . . As Mr. Anderson says: “It’s not hard to compete with free: simply offer something better or at least different.” People will pay for digital products and services that are genuinely distinctive and sought after. . . .

    [ Link: http[colon]//www[dot]wsj[dot]com/articles/SB124701229573408977/#printMODE ]

  8. ryan - January 13, 2016

    Message not medium. Hence the name change of our conference. Blog? Twitter is a microblog as is FB, etc…whatever that means. In truth we’re talking about communicating about wine. There are more people than ever doing that. Who cares if they are using a “blog” tool(I defy as always someone to define strictly what makes a blog a blog).

    The challenge today is what we discussed before: There are less silos to listen too. People can get their information from much more scattered and smaller trusted sources. The people I get my wine buying info from tend not to publish a lot, but they do influence heavily. With one VIber/Whatsapp/Messenger message I can get expert advice on a wine purchase from my network, directly or publicly.

    Beyond that wine bloggers still have not professionalized as Food and Travel bloggers have, seeing themselves as part of the sales process rather than some holier than though magic number bestower. Without a way to make money wine blogging has largely been a personal pursuit funded by the prestige some are lucky enough to garner from it and the consulting that results from that.

  9. Miquel Hudin - January 13, 2016

    I think it’s mostly a matter of time. With the financial collapse of 2008/09, it became quite clear that one had a derive more income from ones activities and putting a lot of effort in to a blog wasn’t netting all that much. Also, many of us with blogs write them along with a mix of writing for bigger publications. When I have an article due for Decanter or am finishing up a book, the blog falls off.

    But I think stating that there was a jump from blogs to social media in terms of wine is a bit of a stretch, especially as social media holds no actual content. In general, the attention span of the internet at large has gotten shorter as the audience has gone from the few to the many. As it’s become part of the life of the general public, bad habits have carried over from other facets of life. Before people were flapping around Twitter or Instagram, they were flipping channels on the TV and before that, skimming the front page of the newspaper. This is the hallmark of the later 20th and early 21st centuries and blogging is but one part of it. I recall in Idiocracy, that the most-watched movie in the future is just an ass that farts.

    I follow a good number of blogs still but am extremely selective and really only want more insightful writing which is also one of the reasons that despite readership seeming to fall, I want to have good quality for those who read more than 140 characters.

    -miquel

  10. Elizabeth Schneider - January 13, 2016

    What a great article! I’ve had a blog since 2009 but my main medium for communication is my podcast and as that has grown the blog has become a second order (or third or fourth order) priority.

    My gut, and I feel like you’re confirming this, is that the people listening to the podcast want to consume information via audio and are much less interested in reading reviews and educational information. Still, I’m really torn about the blog and what to do with it. It has hundred’s of entries and good traffic, and people are always asking if it’s dead or if I’ll continue blogging, so there is interest. But the time I spend writing posts often feels like a waste because I make no money off of it and I feel like my social media comments have more impact and are more dynamic because the community is so active with me and with each other.

    I still don’t know what the future of the blog will be, but it’s nice to see that my gut feeling about it being less significant or in need of a different strategy is supported by your research here.

    Thanks Tom, for always having great insight.
    Elizabeth (Wine for Normal People)

  11. F. S. R. - January 16, 2016

    Really nice article. I think there are a lot of interesting new wine bloggers, not writing in english, but refering to their own country readers, like here in Italy. Wine blogging is now more connected to social networks and Apps, but also more specific and targetted. I think there are a lot of amazing bloggers all around Europe who have the only one “defect” to write in their own language, instead of english, but if you really wanna know the texture of a wine country like Italy or France, you should search and read not so famous but passionate italian or french wine bloggers. I’m just taking “the wine” to my glass”! Ehehehe

  12. Interest In Wine Blogs Might Not Have Crashed As Hard As Google Trends Shows | Winopaedia - January 17, 2016

    […] of information and perspective that I decided to start my own. Within days of taking that decision, along comes Tom Wark’s very established Fermentation Blog asking if wine blogs have died without a […]

  13. Wine Blogging Is Dead! Again! Long Live Wine Blogging! | 1 Wine Dude - January 19, 2016

    […] Tom Wark recently asked me to chime in for an article he was considering for his blog, on the topic of whether or not interest in wine blogs was waning. I offered my views, some of which are quoted in his thoughtfully-considered piece. […]

  14. Erika - January 24, 2016

    It’s about publishing the BEST content for the reader. If the information is interesting, people will come to your blog to read it. If it’s not, they won’t. Simple as that!


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