Posts Filed Under wine blogging
One of the criticisms most often levied against wine blogs is that they don’t “move the needle” in terms of wine sales.
Let’s forget for a moment that where I come from, coverage that costs me next to nothing for a product that results in even a handful of additional sales (and additional exposure) – that I otherwise would never have seen – counts for something.
The crux of this criticism is that coverage of wines on the virtual pages of wine blogs does not result in materially meaningful and/or measurable differences in the purchase volumes of those wines. Presumably, this is in comparison to similar mentions in print media (however, it’s worth noting that I’ve yet to see any hard evidence in the form of real data to support print media coverage having a sales bump effect, but I have anecdotal evidence from some California winemakers showing that it does not, as well as some from small producers indicating that some wine blog mentions have in fact increased DTC sales… which I can relay to you privately some day if we ever meet and you buy me a beer…).
The counter argument is usually a combination of two things: 1) that it’s extremely difficult to measure the impact of any media coverage on wine sales, regardless of the type of media, and 2) it’s the aggregate of blog and social media mentions (outside of concentrated special events, promotions, and the like) that amount to an increase in mindshare and small, one-consumer-at-a-time sales that otherwise wouldn’t otherwise have happened. In other words, wine blogging and social media mentions result in a stream of sales that are aggregated from tiny, rivulet-like trickles in combination, and so wouldn’t generally amount to a perceivable spike but do, in combination, make a difference. [ For an example of these arguments, see the mini-debate generated on this topic generated in the comments section of one of my recent posts here ].
I can now supply some data in support of that counter argument, by way of one example: namely, 1WineDude.com.
While I will not supply exact numbers (only because don’t have permission from all of the parties involved to do so), I can give you approximations that I think lend some credence and strength to the counter argument, though I strongly suspect it will be ignored by the wine cognoscenti, who have in my experience demonstrated a severe allergic reaction (sulfites got nothin’ on this!) to facts, data, and evidence if those things do not already support their own already-entrenched beliefs…
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The ESC Dijon Bourgogne (Burgundy School of Business) has recently wrapped up its three year study of wine blogging worldwide, the results of which have been released in a free whitepaper titled World Wide Wines: Digital Writing on Wine.
This is important not just because it sounds like The Scorpions’ kick-ass live album World Wide Live, but because the ESC Dijon Bourgogne study is the longest and most comprehensive view of the wine blogosphere ever attempted. Is it perfect? No (Exhibit A: calling Paul Mabray and I – now in or forties – the “younger generation of wine bloggers;” maybe compared to the average age of the wine guys writing for traditional wine media outlets…). But given its scope, its incorporation of other important wine blogging studies, and its length, this is as close as we’ve got to a litmus test on the global state of wine blogging.
For me, the most telling and pertinent results of the study come in pages 23-26 (more on that below), in which the study adds further proof to the idea (or what we should now probably consider the fact) that there is no real difference between wine bloggers and wine consumers.
Think that wine bloggers are “wasting” time by talking to one another, and don’t reach “real” consumers who spend their money on wine? Sorry, you’re harboring an antiquated view that doesn’t stand up to common sense, the laws of statistical averages, or the data offered in ESC Dijon Bourgogne’s three year study. If that’s still your view, then maybe you should just go renew your membership to the Flat Earth Society instead of seeing the study details I’m about to present…
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While I was in Portugal in May judging at the 2013 Wines of Portugal Challenge, I met a well-spoken and well-studied former Luftwaffe pilot named Axel Probst, who now provides one-on-one Port consultations (seriously, there’s a business for this in Europe, apparently).
Axel looks every inch like an air force pilot: well-mannered, calm, fit, nice hair, strong chin – the works (see pic in the list of judges from the competition). Like me, at forty-ish he’s semi-retired into the wine biz. I took to referring to him Axel as Herr Port (get it…? Mr. Port… Airport… former pilot… okay, you know what, go screw yourself!).
The reason I’m mentioning Herr Port today: in getting to know Axel and talking about his odd landing (ha!… sorry…) into the wine biz during my recent week in Portugal, is due to a realization on my part. Axel’s story is similar to many of those who have made up the list of finalists in the Best Single Subject Subject Wine Blog category of the wine blog awards through the last few years (though none of them are former Luftwaffe pilots, as far as I’m aware). It was the radiation that what all those just-mentioned souls have in common is actually the key thing when it comes to building authority on the topic of wine from the ground up. And it amazes me that so few people who say that they are interested in turning their self-published forays into wine coverage into something more serious are doing it.
These things are, for sure, more marathon (insert awesome `80s prog rock soundtrack here) than sprint, but if I were starting up in the wine world online tomorrow, and wanted to build an authoritative brand in as short amount of time as possible, here’s exactly how I’d go about it…
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