The Case for More Wine Columns

PaperIf I'm not mistaken, fewer daily and weekly papers and fewer consumer magazines are publishing wine columns; at least fewer than 10 to 15 years ago. The reasons for this are surely myriad, but most important is that circulation for newspapers is falling, along with revenue from display ads and the bottom dropping out of the market for classified ads. This leads to fewer pages to fill with content and stuff must be cut. Often, wine columns of the stuff of cuts.

Yet, I think a compelling case can be made for the return of the wine column, in both newspapers and general consumer magazines.

1. The Demographics Are Right
The wine drinking demographic is a desirable one. Wine drinkers tend to be higher income, have disposable income, and buy a lot of related products such as gourmet goods, vacations and restaurant services. Attracting this kind of demographic to one's pages can't hurt the search for advertisers

2. The Wine Column is Perfectly Suited for (the new) Newspapers
With newspapers no longer a near singular source of hard news, they have moved to providing analysis and information to keep readers. Wine columns are perfectly suited for such content requirements. The weekly wine column gives those looking to newspapers for entertainment and information what they are looking for.

3. A Food Section Isn't Complete Without Wine
No one interested in putting food on the table and reading about the same does so without also putting a beverage on the table. Wine is the beverage of meals. It's the first beverage we think of when we think of a meal's accompanying beverage. The very idea of excluding wine as subject matter from food and dining sections is simply irresponsible.

4. Wine Columns Present the Perfect Venue for Exploring New, Local Emerging Wine Regions
If local media won't explore, cover and explain local wine industries, who will? One of the most important developments in the American wine culture is the expansion of wineries and winemaking in non-traditional areas: Texas, Illinois, New Mexico, Arizona, New England, the Eastern Seaboard. Everywhere new wineries and wine industries are springing up. Locally penned wine columns are probably one of the only media outlets likely to cover their development and promote their successes.

5. There Exists Ample Talent to Choose From for the Job of Wine Writer
Local bloggers, local wine experts, local wine retailers, not to mention nationally known writers and wine bloggers are all available to pen columns in local newspapers, local magazines and national magazines. Writing talent and wine expertise is not an issue. Editors could have their pick.

6. A Wine Column Could Mean Much More to Editorial Content Than Just Wine Reviews
The subject of wine is one that dovetails and integrates elegantly with other subject matter that also needs coverage. Agriculture, small business, retail and tourism are all important areas of interest to readers that also intersects with wine and that could, in the hands of a good writer, all be explored under the rubric of a wine column.

7. The Long Tradition of Wine Criticism Deserves Wide Exposure
The craft of winemaking and its liquid results have been a source of inspiration for thoughtful critics for at least a century or more. Like those who made a career of evaluating the current world of art, dance, architecture, literature and film, wine critics fall into this same, legitimate tradition of seeking meaning in arts and craft. The beauty of wine is that this critical tradition is more comfortably embraced by the average american that the generally esoteric commentary currently published in the areas of art, architecture, literature and otherwise. In other words, newspapers and magazines can meet their quota of exploring culture by hiring someone to tell us what that new merlot at the Piggly Wiggly tastes like.

While I believe that wine columns make most sense from a business and editorial perspective for daily newspapers, I'm sure they also make sense for America's general consumer magazines. It's a travesty that the New Yorker has not used its verified good taste to host a monthly wine column. In addition many of the very popular "women's" magazines are screaming out for regular wine content. Add The Atlantic and Harpar's to the list of national magazines that have a readership deserving of intelligent wine commentary.

Whether the wine column will make a comeback is unknown by this blogger/PR guy. Trends start, wane and return and wane again. However I do know that editors who dismiss the utility of the wine column are making a mistake.

8 Responses

  1. Clint Stark - December 2, 2011

    I agree with all your points; reading a creative, intelligent wine column is a wonderful, though increasingly rare, experience. But I fear we’re in the minority in the pursuit of this past-time. From my experience there is not enough demand to justify the cost of producing wine columns. With declining revenues in traditional media you cite, thanks to Craigslist (killed classifieds) and blogs (like Fermentation!), wine and theatre/arts (even worse business case than wine as I know all-too-well) are among the first to get cut. USA is all about the G6, for better or worse: pop culture, gun-toting athletes, left/right… and Romney, of course.
    I’d rather continue to see what we’re already seeing: the rise of new media.
    Wine commentary, opinion, reviews, from blogs, and social media are frothing with personality, and far more interesting to me than traditional columns.

  2. J.A. Kodmur - December 2, 2011

    Yes, from your lips to the ears of publishers…well said, Tom.

  3. Tom - December 2, 2011

    I totally agree about newspaper food sections. They’re also missing a great opportunity to have wine, beers, and cocktails paired with some of the recipes. I usually only see it for special occasions, and of course the ubiquitous what to drink with turkey. And the business aspects of wine are totally ignored except maybe in California.

  4. Sean Mitchell - December 2, 2011

    I agree with what you are saying, and I personally read and enjoy newspaper wine columns. But I guess the informational merits of a wine column that you have identified are now available, largely for free, in the various wine blogs and regional information websites on the internet. A wine column therefore, while undoubtedly useful as a means of offering paid employment to wine writers in a time when the wine blogging model is still working out how to be paid for undoubtedly good content, may not be as useful as it once perhaps was, at least insofar as a source of information. That said, it’s probably not hard to foresee that the demographic for a newspaper might be wider than a demographic willing to search the internet for wine content, so perhaps there is some advantage in it.

  5. Laura Ness - December 3, 2011

    Thanks, Tom, for expressing this well-stated opinion. Indeed, the world of wine deserves more exposure, scrutiny and explanation, and there is plenty of room for lively, engaging commentary to accompany an equally vibrant and fascinating topic!
    In veritas,vino!

  6. adamjapko - December 3, 2011

    I publish high end local luxury magazines in 6 “B” markets. As a wine blogger, would love nothing more than to use a few of our monthly pages for steady wine content…. All your points are good, but you have left out one killer reason we shift to different vertical market content….better local ad support. If national brands and local trade spent more in local mags and newspapers, you would see more wine content in local media outside of just major markets. Unfortunately, physical distribution has become a loss leader that needs to be chased by advertising revenue.

  7. Blake Gray - December 3, 2011

    The congregation preaches to itself.

  8. The Sediment Blog - December 4, 2011

    Just to agree with Adam Japko from a UK perspective – it’s quite simple. Wines rarely advertise.
    Run a car column, you get car ads. Run a movie column, you pull in ads for movies.
    Run a wine column…?

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