Why You Won’t Make Money With a Wine Blog

Vinted on August 12, 2009 binned in commentary, wine blogging

I love writing about wine.  And I often encourage people who love wine to blog about it, since it’s so easy to set-up a blog, and it’s such a great way to record your thoughts, feelings, and observations as you travel your own personal ‘wine journey’.

Sometimes, when a wine lover that I know gets a bit more serious about their quest for wine knowledge and for wine blogging, I get asked questions about how they can monetize their blog, and what type of money the can expect to bring in via their blog.  The conversation usually goes something like this:

Them: So… what kind of money are you making on 1WineDude.com?

Me: Not much.

Them: Really? Like, how much is not much?

Me: Like, almost nothing.

Them: Really?

Me: Really.

Them: Oh.

[ insert awkward silence and disappointment ]

For reasons that I find difficult to comprehend, some people tend to think that wine blogging can become a source of direct income. If you’re one of those people, I’ve got some bad news for you.

You’d better be passionate about wine if you want to blog about it, because monetary reward is not really going to be part of the pay-off for you. 

Simply put, you aren’t going to make any serious money from wine blogging…

Let’s take a look at why this is the case:

1) In a large part, earning direct income from a blog – any blog – is a function of advertising.  And advertising is a function of traffic.

In other words, it’s a bit of a numbers game – if you want to make coin via your blog, you need traffic.  More traffic = more advertising = more lucrative advertising rates.  Low traffic usually means low earnings.  Simple, sad, but true.

2) Wine blogging is NOT a high-traffic niche. 

Sorry folks, it just does not compare with blogs about self-help, or tech blogs.  This is probably best demonstrated by way of an example.  Below are some website traffic numbers from Compete.com that compare two of the biggest wine blogs on the global interwebs, Alder Yarrow’s Vinography.com and Tyler Colman’s DrVino.com.  I threw in 1WineDude for good measure (I make no pronouncements as to whether or not Compete.com has totally accurate numbers, but they should be close enough to reality for use in our example).  As you can see for the snapshot, their traffic smokes mine:

Now, let’s take a look at the wine blogging big boys compared with a very popular tech blog, like Lifehacker.com:

Our boys don’t even chart in comparison; Lifehacker gets something like 167 times the traffic.  Bottom line: if you want monstrous traffic (to lead to monstrous ad revenue), you’d better blog about something other than wine.

 

3) You don’t have the hustle! 

It sounds a bit harsh, but it might also be true.  To get a feel for the monetization of wine blogs, I spoke with Cincinnati-based blogger Tim Lemke, the mastermind behind CheapWineRatings.com who recently gave a presentation on blog monetization at the 2nd annual American Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma (you can read Tim’s entire presentation here).

According to Tim, advertising revenue (or, rather, lack thereof) isn’t just a function of wine blogging being in a low-traffic niche:

“Yes, wine is a relatively finite niche. But most wine bloggers, myself included, are half-assing it.

If someone wants to really make money as a wine blogger (or a blogger on any topic) they need to put up several new posts every day. Not 2-3 per week, not even just 1 per day, it takes tons of good content to be successful.

You made a comparison to LifeHacker and they are doing 20+ posts per day. While they may have some traffic advantage with their subject matter, they are busting out a ton of content. WAAAAAYYYY more than most wine bloggers. They’re doing more content in a day than most wine bloggers do in a month.

So, yes it’s hard to make money as a wine blogger. But it’s hard to make money as a blogger in any niche unless you totally bust ass and create a ton of killer content.”

The old adage remains true: Content is king.  And to be successful, you need to hustle and create a ton of great content.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however – your wine blog can still be a vehicle into many forms of indirect revenue, such as selling eBooks, consulting, or landing writing gigs.  For more on all of that, check out Tim’s monetization overview.

Now – get hustling!

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Dan G


    How true. For fun I started blogging on wine and then the extra added benefit might be to make enough each month to buy a nice bottle. Up to $3.25 Whoooooo Hoooooooooo! in earnings from google!

    • 1winedude5036


      Starting for fun, out of your own passion, is the best way to do it, I think.

      Look at it this way – we wouldn't say that people shouldn't play & record their own music just because they're not professional musicians, or say that they shouldn't start a blog about music just because they don't play or don't work as a critic. Wine isn't any different. Just don't expect to make money from it! :-)

  • Andy's Goode Life


    Hey 1WineDude, I find your thoughts here interesting. My questions would be more geared to understanding what *readers* (and hence the "potential customers") would be attracted to when they come to a wine blog?

    This would be the key question someone needs to answer before going after wine as a niche to earn money. Simply put, if you want to earn money online, there needs to be a certain business sense at the onset.

    Obviously I know (still) nothing about the wine industry in the States and if it is even possible to sell wine products via a blog setup. If this is possible, then it all boils down to your point three: hustle. You do not need to have high traffic to make a decent living. But you *do* need to have the right readers: the buyers of whatever products/services you sell.

    That is the joy of the computer realm these days: Longtails. Find them and find ways to market (seo + smo) and monetize them and you are on your way.

    Keyword and market research — um — "pare" those with blogging and social networking and you might find the sleeper of the vintage….

  • 1WineDude


    Great points!

    • Andy


      Thanks… if only I knew a bit about the industry… and how people tick who look for wine stuff online… then I could make a killing!

      There is something to be said for passion. I believe that passionate people with a small dose of seo/smo know-how can also go places online.

  • 1WineDude


    You could write an eBook! :-)

    • Andy


      We could do a JV webinar on how to leverage smo for monetizing your wine blog! You have the wine chops and I can wing the tech stuff… (you crack me up!)

      • 1WineDude


        Yeah but if we say "You can't" then it would be a very short webinar, right? :-)

        • Andy


          Give a lady a platform, she can talk for hours *she smiles*.

          (Wonder how small this stream gets if we keep replying to each other?)

          Having jumped into the cold water with the Murphy-Goode action, I discovered that I am not the only one who is ignorant of some key information. All though my ignorance is 100% in the field of any and all things "wine" — there are many who could truely benefit from some solid smo lessons (don't get me wrong, there are some –not even few– who have amazing smo chops who were applying).

          One area which I found very little information on was "niche wine marketing". There are a few sources out there, but nothing to sneeze at. This is astonishing, especially if you consider the awesome blog content in the wine blog-scene.

          I mean, you have some great story tellers out there…

          • 1WineDude


            Maybe it wraps to the back of the virtual page if we keep going… but since it's virtual, we can;t turn it over!

            Great point about the niche marketing. Wine PR folks – are you listening???

  • @MacMcWong


    Thanks, 1WineDude – excellent article/reality check, plus "hustle harder–*really* harder!" close. Good stuff!

    (And the comment that reminds us all that we have to think about *why* somebody would read a wine blog, and then take the next step – why would somebody read *my* wine blog? is critically important.

    Mac
    who is still trying to figure it out
    savvytaste.blogspot.com

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks – well-spoken, sir!

  • Andy


    I remember seeing a video of Gary Vaynerchuk talking about getting up at 3 or 4 am to work his blog (passion) and then go to his day job (also wine related but no longer his passion) and hustle, hustle, hustled his way to the top.

    I believe in that message. IF you don't mind the colourful language, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhqZ0RU95d4

    • 1WineDude


      I do as well.

      BUT…

      I don't believe in his message that you can "monetize that sh*t" – not entirely, anyway, for the reasons I posted above…

  • Dylan


    I appreciate the realism laid out in this post. It's almost impossible to compete with the amount of content being produced. However the quality of your content at the highest frequency you can produce can lead to other possibilities. As mentioned, a wine blog is a great platform for up-and-comers to display their credibility. After an established reader base is made, a few key posts can lead to paid speaker requests and even an outlet for promoting other writing, like books.

    • 1WineDude


      One thing that a blog can do, for sure,is help to build your on-line "brand." And that *is* worth something – it's an opportunity, and what you make of it is up to you.

  • Tim


    Wait… did I say that? Oh, yes I did. And somehow, I'm still half-assing it. If only I had the time/discipline to post more frequently AND improve the quality of my content, I would. I'll keep pushing myself, and I encourage everyone out there to try a little harder to do a little more too, whether they're wine blogging or doing something else.

    Nice post, Joe.

    • 1WineDude


      You said it quite well, my man!

      Like anything else, I suppose it's a balance. You need to define what *you* consider success to be for your blog, and then be willing to do what you can to achieve that success. I'm quite happy with the success of 1WD after I factor in the balance of an IT career, music schedule, and family – I'm not prepared to overly neglect any of those for the sake of the blog, for example.

      • Tim


        Indeed, success is in the eye of the beholder. I'm not retiring from the income from my blog anytime soon, but it does well commensurate with traffic. At the end of the day, I dedicate "part time job" time to it and I get part time income from it. At least it's a job I enjoy. ;-)

        And I'd agree, that you're successful with 1WD… you do a great job here.

        • 1WineDude


          Or the eye of the blogger :-).

          Thanks for the kind words, my man!

  • @suburbanwino


    I thought the $40 of Adsense money I made i the 9 months my blog's been up was a sign of things to come! That's almost $0.15 a day! At this rate, I'll be able to retire in a scant 55,000 years!!!

    • 1WineDude


      Wonder what tax-deferred IRA interest you'd rack up at the end of the 55K years… think of the compounding!!!

  • Bill Bartmann


    Cool site, love the info.

  • MadFishWines


    If you look at the wine blogging scene today, there are hundreds of entrants chasing the attention of a niche audience. These people have both a passion for wine and the tech savvy to know what a blog is.

  • MLMPLAYBOY


    Great Post! You might end up being the next Gary V. :-) I love the line “Low traffic usually means low earnings. Simple, sad, but true.” sometimes you have to tell it like it is. Thanks

    • 1WineDude


      ML – thanks. I don’t think were ever going to see another Gary V…

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