The answer, apparently, is yes, if a recent academic study is to be believed. Researchers at the Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute found that wineries, and in particular smaller and regional wineries, could benefit immensely from blog-driven publicity.
What’s most interesting about the study (which apparently doesn’t exist on-line, but is available in summary here) is that it came to what I think is the right conclusion despite some serious problems. Even the authors realize that, noting that it’s almost impossible to get a handle on how many wine blogs exist.
It cites the Complete List of Wine Blogs at vinography.com. but that looks to be at least a year out of date. I’m not on it and neither is DrinkLocalWine.com, and the Vinography list is also missing a half dozen or so quality and important wine blogs that I follow. The other authoritative list, at alawine.com, was last updated in January 2009, so it’s not much help either.
More, after the jump:
So how do you a do a study when your sample is flawed? That’s problem No. 1. Problem No. 2 is that the blogs on both lists seem to reflect the Napa- and Sonoma-centric view of the rest of the wine industry. In fact, AlaWine says that the three regions that are most blogged about are Napa, Sonoma and California.
Problem No. 3 is that the study glamorizes wine blogging, which also seems at cross purposes with its conclusions that blogs benefit smaller and regional producers. Says the report: “It is important to note that the major way wine bloggers create revenue is through online ads, with professional bloggers able to make $20,000 - $30,000 per year in this fashion.” By comparison, I’m a professional blogger, and I’ll make $200 or $300 this year from advertising.
In other words, you can’t measure the importance of a blog by how much revenue it generates. One of the most important wine blogs in the country, which shows up on both the Vinography and AlaWine lists, is Alfonso Cevola’s On the Wine Trail in Italy. And it doesn’t make a dime.
So why do I think the conclusions are appropriate? Because stuck in the middle of the summary are two sentences that are more true than anyone in Napa or Somona realizes: “[W]e have entered a period of ‘democratization of media on the Internet.’ This means that anyone can easily establish a wine blog on the Internet. …”
And they have, and they are blogging about wines and topics that people in California don’t even know exist. The study noted that the number of wine blogs has increased from 1 to more than 700 in the past five years. My guess is that there may be four or five times 700, and many of them, like The Other 46, Vinobite, and Richard Leahy’s Wine Report, aren’t on the Vinography list but do exactly what the study’s authors say blogs are doing.
Time was, you had to be a wine geek or a cranky old newspaperman to do a wine blog. Those times are long gone, and these days, anyone can blog about wine. That’s the message that is important, and that’s the message that the industry needs to understand. Just because a blogger is a 25-year-old woman who works in a cubicle, has never been to Napa, and likes sweet Missouri wine doesn’t mean her opinion isn’t valid.