One of the staples of my recent speaking gigs to wine marketing types has been that wine, having achieved extraordinary success in the USA in recent years, are now a big target. A small example:
During a speaking gig at Taste Washington, I remember seeing the beer brand stands at the event and laughing to myself. Someone next to me at the time (who was involved in the organization of the event) asked me what was amusing me, and I answered “the beer stands.”
“But why are they funny? They’re great sponsors!”
“I’m sure that they are,” I answered, “because this is one of the cheapest and best ways for them to steal wine customers that I have ever seen!”
I’ve been preaching (let’s call it what it is, after all) for the last couple of years that everyone is going to be gunning for wine: beer, spirits, coffee, pretty much all beverages. That’s because once you reach the top – which wine has, in a very real sense, done – everyone can see more of your ass, and it becomes a nice, large, juicy sales-acquisition target.
For the impatient: the bottom line is that the a declining US wine consumption has been totally predictable for the last 3+ years, and the efforts required to reverse it have been around for just as long, and (it’s absurd that I even need to type this next part) it’s not the fault of the changing wine buying demographic for wines under $20.
For those wishing for more detail: we now have two interesting canary-in-a-coalmine examples to consider that suggest that is actually what is happening….
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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.
Alive, though maybe not totally well (image: Grape Collective)
As to whether or not I agree with
Tom (my bad – see comments) those that might consider that wine blogging has “died without a funeral,” I think we first have to ask ourselves if wine blogging is inherently different from other niche blogging topics. If we accept that it isn’t (in the same way that, say, DVRs aren’t inherently different from one another – they all basically do the same thing at the core, which is record broadcast video media), then Tom is also asking if niche blogging is dead.
To which I would say, No, it’s not dead.
This is the kind of question that gets posed periodically (go ahead, search it) when we see dynamic informal institutions, like online communities, do what they do, which is change (wait, you really expected this stuff to stay static forever? duuuuuude…. wtf?!??).
We shouldn’t mistake community maturation and the movement of engagement discussions from blog comments to Facebook, Instagram, etc., as a lack of interest in the sharing amateur content about wine (which is what blogs inherently are about – sharing info and opinions). Just because one outlet (longer form blog posts) isn’t as popular as another (image-centric, short updates on larger social media platforms) doesn’t mean that people no longer care about the core thing: sharing wine online.
They do care. A lot. There is no lack of interest in sharing content about wine (to wit: see just about any recent stat from Vintank on online wine mentions). And where that content is being shared, influence and money (in terms of what people who read and participate in those updates and discussion will buy) will often follow (though, maddeningly, in ways that are difficult to track, but that’s not the fault of the platforms themselves).
Anyway, if wine blogging is actually dead, then someone forgot to send that memo to Grape Collective, you also recently quoted me in dear-gawd-TMI-bro! fashion when they interviewed me for their “SpeakEasy interview series with influential bloggers.”
“I’m not dead yet! I think I’ll go for a walk!”
Hey, speaking of popularity contests…
Another top-100 list was recently published, only in this case it’s (thankfully) not about wine blogs, but about wine sales: Wine.com’s annual Top 100 wines, chosen strictly by sales numbers (as they put it, “While many publications rank wines based on the opinions of their wine critics, we wanted our customers to be the judge, voting with their wallets…“).
I’m probably going to get flamed for typing this, but the top ten in the 2015 version of Wine.com’s 100 does NOT make me weep for our vinous huminty. Quite the contrary, actually; while it’s not going to polish the tastevins for most of the hipster sommeliers out there, I think that the 2015 Wine.com 100 speaks of general good tidings in terms of the How/What/How Much when it comes to wine consumers parting with their hard-earned cash…
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