Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Living the Wine Information Revolution

This week there has been a flurry of stories both on blogs and in print media that emphasize the growing importance of consumer reviews and wine blogs in getting out the message to consumers about their wine options. (Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People)

First, Tom Wark's must-read blog, Fermentation, reported some poll results that asked readers if they had ever bought a bottle of wine because of something read on a blog (68% say yes), and that a whopping 85% of the respondents felt that wine blogs were as trustworthy as any other media. When the full poll results are released, I suspect that they will contain even more startling and encouraging news for wine producers, marketers, and bloggers.

Then, the news started coming out of the big wine and technology symposium in Napa. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that speakers including Wine Library TV's Gary Vaynerchuk and Max Kalehoff of Buzzmetrics, told wine executives that if they were not embracing the power of technology, then they were going to lose out. Big time.'s Rachel Nichols emphasized that CGM (Consumer Generated Media, i.e. wine blogs like this one and all those Wine 2.0 sites) are becoming a considerable force in shaping consumer decisions. This morning, Tom Wark voiced skepticism regarding the ability of all the burgeoning Wine 2.0 sites that are trying to harness the power of CGM to survive and make money in the future.

For me, the issue of whether or not a start-up company can make money collecting CGM is somewhat beside the point--though I understand that its an issue for the start-ups! Like most bloggers, I'm not trying to make money at this. Like most bloggers, I started this lark because I thought it would be an organized and efficient way to share my wine finds with friends and family. I never suspected so many other folks would subscribe, read daily, and comment on what they had read thus vastly improving the quality and scope of what I can offer as a single wine consumer in a world of wine consumers. Like most bloggers, I am now hooked on the genre because I get so many great tips from other consumers just like me.

Blogging has brought changes to my wine life. I now get the occasional press pass to a trade tasting, and the occasional bottle of wine gets sent to me for review consideration. I accept these perks if I feel I can use them to get more wine reviews to readers. I also get lots of requests for advertising on the site--all of which I refuse. We're all inundated with advertising, so I can't see how that would improve the GWU$20 experience for anyone. And I seek out wine merchants and wine sites that share wine CGM with me. Just today I posted a review of a wine that I bought from WineQ because of the customer reviews. It was just as good as I expected it to be.

Wine bloggers and the people like you who read and comment on them (CGM) are in the vanguard of a wine information revolution. Here's the proof. I did a Google search for Four Vines, an up-and-coming Paso Robles vineyard that produces great zinfandel and other wines. In the ten top results, I found the vineyard's own site, a Paso Robles wine site, some wine clubs, the Wine Spectator, and 3 CGM sites (Jerry Hall's WineWaves, Good Wine Under $20, and Cork'd). In the Press Democrat story hotlinked above, Kalehoff said that this kind of CGM content power is evident for nearly every wine you search for on the internet. Try looking for some of your favorite wines. Do they turn up CGM information in the top 10 results? That means a lot in terms of marketing power, which in turn means a lot to producers in terms of sales.

We are living in a wine information revolution. You and I are fueling it. How cool is that? Vive la revolution!


Anonymous said...

"Like most bloggers, I'm not trying to make money at this. "

This statement I don't think is true anymore. At one time it was, but today it seems everyone would like to make a little bit off their hard work. Or as in many cases, from winery blogs to bloggers who like what they do, people so hope to make money.

This new attention to wine blogs is great. With millions going to dinosaurs like Wine Spectator I hope more people start making small incomes from blogging so that they can tear down these antiquated behemoths. I Truly hope that wineries, importers, and glass companies to name a few, all start sending money to blogs and other social sites, thus regulating WS and others like them to nowhere land.

Richard Auffrey said...

While checking out a winery website, they actually acknowledge the importance of bloggers to their wine sales. They rate the impact second only to Robert Parker.

Sonadora said...

I also refuse ads. I feel they clunk things up and plus, I've gotten some bizarre ad requests. Such as the one for a rehab center..... :)

I read wine blogs more than anything for my wine reviews and info.

Anonymous said...

I wrote about this same topic. I'm not in it for the money, I'm in it for the wine!

Dr. Debs said...

Ryan, you bring up some very interesting points. I wonder,though, how you envision wineries, etc., sending bloggers money? From advertising? Samples? All of the above?

I love Core wine, and their attitude towards bloggers is spot-on, Richard. They're one of those wineries that you rarely see written up, but which has a lot of buzz--and that buzz is provided by bloggers like you and me.

But mostly I'm with Sonadora and Redneck. I'm not in this for the money. Some nice opportunities might come my way to write or do things because of the blog, but I want to preserve the blog as a fairly independent wine blog--not an advertising site, or a site to generate an income stream. But to each their own. And Sonadora, I laughed hard about the rehab center!!

Anonymous said...

any of you in this for the free wine...give a shout to info at domaine547 dot hcom and we'll get you something to sample [disclaimer: if we can legally ship to you and if it's not 5million degrees where you are].

Richard Auffrey said...

I am not really in it for the money either, though if an opportunity arises, I certainly would consider it. One such opportunity has recently arisen, where I may be writing a weekly column for my local newspaper. Though the column will focus on restaurant reviews, it will also deal with wine.

Orion Slayer said...

I have been learning about wine since last November. Actually tasting different wines is the biggest part of learning about wines. But sharing my tasting notes, reading about other people's notes and finding out about new wines is the second biggest part. That has been possible for me only because of great wine blogs like GWU$20, Wine Waves and Wine Library TV. Sites like WineLover'sPage have been a great resource too.

Thanks to all the bloggers! Liberte, egalite, fraternite (and boire)

Dr. Debs said...

JB--Generous offer, and I'm sure you'll get taken up on it (at least after the weather cools!).

RichardA, you've put together a formula that really sings for me. Blogging's value to most people is its independence (as the new survey over at Fermentation shows). There is a risk of losing some of our credibility if we become advertising- and sponsor-rich sites. But folks do need to eat, and I don't begrudge any blogger the opportunity to make money through their blogs if they want. It's just not for me.

I respect and admire the way bloggers wrestle with this and other ethical issues. I was dead against receiving wine samples until Fred Koeppel pointed out that if you disclose that you received the wine as a sample, and not every wine you taste is a sample, your readers will still trust you.

Like you, I am intrigued by the new opportunities blogging has given me like writing press releases for a restaurant, helping someone design a website, etc. I wouldn't have these income generating opportunities without the blog, but I'm not doing them THROUGH the blog.

And Orion Slayer, as ever,thanks for the words of support. Money and free wine aside, I think none of us would be doing this if we felt like there was no point. Readers like you remind us that someone is listening--and this makes me work all the harder to up the quality and consistency of what I do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention and props. I had fun at the Wine Industry Technology Symposium.
- Max

Anonymous said...

I won't take ads from wineries, though I've been asked. Even when I needed the money most, it felt wrong. I will take samples and try to disclose when this happens. Otherwise, their is no problem being independent, just as there is no problem trying to make a small living at it.

Joe said...

I just got back from France, so that Louvre painting struck a chord! I never knew I was CGM - like I needed another acronym after my name.
I have had the free wine pitch, but it is impractical in my legal jurisdiction. I would probably accept, I guess - it is rather expensive to review all these wines!
As for ads, I agree with Sonadora - they tend to clunk things up. With her 300 posts, I am not surprised the rehab center is calling!
Overall, I am not surprised at the influence of blogs. There are SO many grapes, SO many wines, it is very hard to find info on specific wines. I have not used blogs extensively to find new wines, but I have tried to branch out into some new regions/grapes with other blogger help.
Good post - Cheers!

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Max. Thanks for explaining what we're doing and how valuable it is to the folks in the wine biz!

Welcome back, Joe. How was France? The free wines are a help, especially at the end of a month! Moving is more expensive than wine, however, so you're probably best staying put!

Richard Auffrey said...

Congratulations to Dr. Debs!!! I just read the new 25th anniversary issue of "Wine & Spirits" magazine. Tyler Colman (of fame) wrote an article "The Five Best Wine Blogs" and Good Wines Under $20 is one of those five. Great news.

Anonymous said...

We're in an information revolution. Wine has a good seat on the bus, let's not lose it!

Wish I could have come to WITS, maybe next time...

Dr. Debs said...

RichardA--wow. Thanks for letting me know. This is the fall special issue, right? I haven't received mine yet but will certainly keep my eye out for it. Getting the nod from Dr. Vino only makes it better! And yes, el Jefe, let's not lose the seat and let's not blow it!