Wine Blogging of the Future?

Palatepress Today Palate Press launches.

This venture, called a blogazine by its editor W. R. Tish, attempts to coral some of the top blog voices in the business to produce not an aggregation of content, but a wine web site that delivers original content with a distinctly blog-oriented voice and perspective.

This is an idea that I've been approached with or consulted on by various folks, most of whom have in the the back of their mind the idea that some how, some way, bloggers need to find a way to monetize their efforts. I understand this concern perfectly well. Here's what I know about blog monetization:

It can only be accomplished around a relatively large and devoted audience.

I don't care what your monetization model is: subscriptions, ads, affiliate marketing, wine clubs. Without lots of eyeballs looking at your content no monetization scheme will work. This means one thing and one thing only: Palate Press and any other wine blog publishing effort must spend considerable time and effort marketing its content. 

Now, it's not as though this kind of online wine magazine idea hasn't been tried before. Some of you will remember, a remarkable and early on-line wine magazine-like effort rolled out and run by the New York times. It was superb. It failed.

Wine Review Online, started by long-time wine writer Robert Whitely who rounded up a number of top American wine writers and reporters, continues to this day. I can't speak to its monetary success. It takes advertising. And I see six or seven ads currently running. 

I wrote for a similar effort begun in 2006 called Wine Sediments, a "channel" on the "Well Fed Network" of collaborative blogs. There was extended the possibility of a bit of payment for my efforts. Nothing.

I'd love to see Palate Press go gang busters, attract a huge audience, be profitable and, in the process, bring a slight change to the on-line wine media world. Its line up of writers/bloggers is impressive. It's format seems reasonable. Time will tell if it can produce significant and regularly updated content, but for now I have no reason to believe it wont.

Still, I can't emphasize enough the poverty of the "Build it and they will come" strategy of on-line publishing. So much has been built already that the key now is directing the crowds though the maze of buildings to their destination. My hope is that Palate Press has at least one person devoted entirely to sales, marketing and public relations. My hope is that there is a certain amount of capitalization to sustain even a small initial marketing campaign.

13 Responses

  1. Ms. Drinkwell - September 10, 2009

    I like the idea of an online wine magazine with many different voices contributing but, like you, wonder if and how it will find a devoted readership. I checked out the page today (thanks for tipping me off to it, btw), and it looks like they have one ad running so far. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m glad to know it’s out there at least.

  2. Charlie Olken - September 10, 2009

    Did they send you a hat? If not, they have no chance of succeeding.

  3. tom merle - September 10, 2009

    I don’t know about monetization,and I wish the best to Mr. Honig and crew, but we need an aggregating site for best blogs; why write original material? OWC is the natural locale. Hope Joel can move in this direction.

  4. Laurel Lane - September 10, 2009

    We are old friends of Richard Gilmore. We hadn’t heard from him in over a year and are planning a weekend at the Russian River. We did a search for him and were terribly saddened by the news that he passed away last year. The house we are staying in is actually on the street he lived on and we were excited to hopefully see him. We wish we had known he was sick so we could have at least visited him. He never told us. We are trying to find Richard Gilmore with no success. Do you by any chance know where he might be? If so, can you forward my e-mail? We are concerned about him now too because we haven’t heard from him in so long. We appreciate any information you may have. It’s going to be a sad weekend for us but we are going to try to celebrate his life. It was completely coincidental that we would be in Guerneville for one and on his street as well. I think it was meant to be.

  5. Laurel Lane - September 10, 2009

    I’m sorry. I meant to say Richard Cartier.

  6. Thomas Pellechia - September 10, 2009

    Yes there’s a poverty in the promise of “build it now and they will come.” But as you learned, there’s also a poverty assigned to writers who work for only the promise of future pay from ill-planned and under capitalized start ups.
    Imagine a world where a start up winery can invest none of its own capital and get equipment and other suppliers to give it everything for free, with the promise of payment after the winery makes a profit.
    Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it?

  7. Dylan - September 11, 2009

    Right on, Tom. The only time ‘the build it and they will come strategy’ ever works online is for sites innovating into a new product category entirely. Creating readable content for wine is by no means a fresh category, and so, it’s going to take a little more work promotion-wise to gravitate the numbers necessary for monetization.

  8. 1WineDude - September 11, 2009

    I’m with you, Tom – I want this to succeed. And I struggle with understanding how it can succeed monetarily.
    David Honig’s take on this boils down to “hey, why not give it a shot” – it can’t hurt!

  9. Remy - September 11, 2009

    Interesting, sobering blog post, Tom. I indeed agree that “build it and they will come” is insufficient. The combined audiences of the bloggers joining in (myself included) can surely help, but it isn’t enough in itself.
    But certainly, Palate Press seems like an idea whose time has come. Whereas WineToday might have been ahead of the curve.
    We’ll see if quality writing plus timing plus promotion – and people involved are aware of that – can help it pull ahead and draw the eyeballs it needs.
    In the meantime, it’s fun, generating enthusiasm within the blogging community, and attracting an audience already. A good start.

  10. Tish - September 11, 2009

    Tom, I appreciate your comments for what they are: the reasoned thoughtss of a seasoned wine-loving, trade-watching blogger. Palate Press is without doubt a work in progress, but an earnest one. THis much I do know so far: there are lot of great wine stories to be written by talented, qualified writers–“professional” or not. I also believe that the capacity for readers to comment will give us an added edge to build a following. It will be…interesting. That I can assure you!

  11. Charlie Olken - September 13, 2009

    I have probably read this piece three or four times now, as well as what Tish has written on his own blog, The Wine Skewer, and it just struck me that the title of this piece is WINE BLOGGING OF THE FUTURE.
    I pretty much agree with everything in the content, but you have stated the title with a question mark, and I am here to answer the question. Unequivocally. No punches pulled.
    The answer is a very loud “No”.
    Palate Press is not blogging. It is journalism. By Tish’s own admission, it is a magazine. The only way to even attempt to justify it as a blog is that it is on the Internet and is free to read. By that standard, Wine Review Online is also a blog.
    All of which gets me to the heart of the matter. When blogging gets beyond the rank amateur, no advertising, does not worry about monetizing stage, it is professional. The standards of excellence that apply to us all apply to Palate Press. The standards of value added that apply to us all apply to Palate Press.
    Now, I don’t really care if it is somehow described as a blog. But, please believe me when I tell you that this is journalism and is going to be judged by that standard–even before it gets judged by whether or not it will ever make enough money to survive.
    Good luck to them, and to the many good people engaged in that new enterprise.

  12. Charlie Olken - September 14, 2009

    I am surprised that the arrival of Palate Press has not engendered more attention. While there is no surprise that some of the leading, unattached voices in the blogosphere should somehow be gathered together, it does surprise me that we have not heard more about it.
    This is a publication, not an amateur enterprise, and if it is going to survive and eventually gain a decent bit of market share, it will need to do more than it has in its initial roleout.
    These are early days, of course, and there is time for Palate Press to hone its message and sharpen the writing of its contributors.
    Still, where is the attention?

  13. fabio - September 16, 2009

    Hi Tom, I wrote for a bit on WineSediments, while I was writing for an italian wine blogs network: the differences where enormous! I learned a lot from the italian one (mine was a food/wine blog) on how to write on internet. They were really experts of the sector and now they are the first space of online information in Italy. I mean, creating an editorial project for internet is not simple, you have to know how to: tag, categories, strategy, social media, community, conversation, keywords, … It’s a lot and WineSediments didn’t have all this.
    In this case you don’t need to have only a wine knowledge, but to have a technical knowleg on how the online information works too.
    Let’s hope for Palate Press 😉
    Let’s hope for Palate Press

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