I just got back from the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. I initially thought this conference held July 22-24 could be populated with a slew of arrogant, snot-nosed millenials who really know very little about the subject. And while there was a smattering of those lovely cranks I wanted to pinch like an annoying child, the knowledge base of the 300+ attendees at the Wine Blogger’s Conference was pretty impressive. In fact, I walked away with a large handful of like-minded friends as well as a new appreciation for the burgeoning wine region of Virginia (in part II of this post).
The first night, I had the pleasure of a dinner invite from the (then, future) 2011 Best Industry Blogger, Tom Wark who writes Fermentation. Some of us knew each other, most didn’t, as we talked shop, pontificated about the future of wine writing, and discussed how to promote and make money in such an overcrowded medium. And, of course, imbibed plenty of wine. Most of which the attendees brought to the dinner, despite the offensively high $25 corkage fee. Most impressive wine that night? Cornerstone Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain in Napa. Too bad it’s $75 and thus out of reach for the vast majority of wine consumers. Sigh… Napa. At least this one is worth the price.
The biggest hubbub that I heard down the hallways and in-between the lines of discourse at the conference was the lack of money being generated by wine blogs. Basically, no one is making a living on their online writing. Some are paid writers in “real life”, some sell stuff and others try the advertising route with the chintzy likes of Google and Amazon. In a show of hands in a room of 325 people, only one person (that I saw) raised their hand when asked whether their sole income source was their blog. And that guy was retired so, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t count.
Which made me wonder… are wine bloggers not raking in the revenue because the critical medium isn’t respected? Are the advertisers not willing to throw cash into the untested waters of wine blogs? Do bloggers simply want to get their thoughts out there, hopefully reaching more than 100 people beyond their circle of friends and family? Or is it that bloggers, who work full time and have families, don’t have the time to devote to generating revenue beyond the piddly Google Ads trickle? In my case, it’s the last one, but I’m curious to see what others think.