Tag Archives: Wine Curmudgeon

“Monetizing” the blog: Is it worth the trouble?

monetizing blog
“Pay up, or never read about cheap wine again!”

How should the WC turn a profit on the money-losing blog?

Jan. 10 update: Thanks to everyone who emailed suggestions, kind words, and encouragement. I was especially surprised that so many of you said I was giving the blog away for free when I should be charging money for it. Wrote one reader: “l subscribe to Netflix, AppleNews+,and various financial newsletters, why not a wine letter?”

Why was I surprised? Because I’m a cranky ex-newspaperman and was taught that circulation is all that matters. Which, as so many of you noted, is a very old-fashioned and irrelevant concept in 2021.

So I’ll look at the best way to do subscriptions  and report back. And not to worry, it will include a discount for everyone from the blog who signs up.
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The end of 2020 marks another milestone for the blog – I’ve lost money on it for 13 consecutive years. Which raises the question: Is there any way to make the blog profitable? Should I even try?

The blog’s primary goal when it started was marketing, to get my name and work out among the wine world. If I made money with it, so much the better. The blog has done the former beyond any expectation. I’m continually talking to people who know the blog and who know what I do even though there doesn’t seem to be any reason they should.

But money? Not so much. Again, in the blog’s early days, that didn’t matter. I had a more or less thriving freelance business, supplemented by teaching and a little consulting. But the pandemic has put a kibosh on the freelance business, which had already been in decline. And the latter were always supplements, and never a way to make a living (and, for what it’s worth, haven’t fared all that well over the past couple of years, either). So yes, now it would be nice if the blog turned a profit.

Many of you, at this point, probably want to ask: “But what about all those ads, Jeff? Don’t they make a difference?” Yes, if you’re the New York Times or ESPN or any site that gets millions and millions of visitors. A half-million isn’t enough: I’ve never earned more than $600 or $700 a year from ads. That doesn’t even cover half of the cost of the site’s hosting service.

So that brings us back to “monetizing” the blog – it it worth the trouble? Because, in the post-modern, 21st century world of blogging, making money on the blog means doing one of a variety of choices that are less than appealing:

Sponsored content: Sponsors pay me money, I run posts they write to plug their products, and you may or may not be the wiser. “Oh, look, the WC found something nice to say about Winking Owl!” The surprise is not that I find sponsored posts morally reprehensible; I am who I am, after all. Rather, that so many wine sites that pride themselves on objectivity take the money and run the posts.

Premium content: Pay a fee to get special, subscriber-only content. The blog’s reason for being is to make wine accessible, so making part of it inaccessible to most visitors doesn’t make much sense.

Begging for money: It’s not called that of course, but that’s the result. Typically, there’s a button on the blog visitors can click to send money. Or there are sites like Patreon, which all the really hip sites use. Neither sounds like me, does it?

A paywall: The Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate have paywalls. Enough said.

Pay to go ad-free: This is the least annoying of the choices, but it raises more questions. How much do I charge? How much will it cost to set up? Will anyone care?

Hence, nothing will likely change, and the blog will continue to limp along financially. Unless, of course, someone else has a better idea? You can leave a comment or send me an email.

Blog holiday update, plus the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame schedule

scheduleYour holiday blog schedule, plus when the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year and $10 Hall of Fame will appear

• The blog’s Christmas and New Year’s wine suggestions will appear on Dec. 21 and Dec. 28. The December mini-reviews will appear on Dec. 24 because of the holiday. The blog will be off Christmas and New Year’s Day, though Dec. 25 will feature our annual Bruce Springsteen “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” video.

• The always popular Do it Yourself wine resolutions is set for Jan. 4.

• The 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year will post on Jan. 7, with the $10 Hall of Fame making its 14th annual appearance on Jan. 8. As always, you can email me with suggestions for either, or you can leave them in the comments. Check out out the eligibility rules here. Keep in mind the wine should cost less than $12 or $13, should be generally available, and can’t be a private label sold exclusively by one retailer.

Picture courtesy of University of Florida, using a Creative Commons license

The cheap wine versions of “A Christmas Carol” and ” ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

cheap wine
“Oh boy, the WC’s version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Who else but the WC could transform two holiday classics into something about cheap wine?

Yes, each of these has appeared beefore — but the holidays are about tradition, yes? So enjoy.

• From 2019: Scrooge discovers the ghosts of cheap wine past

• From 2018: “And I heard him exclaim, ere he typed out of sight. … Quality cheap wine to all, and to all a good night!

Photo courtesy of Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support, using a Creative Commons license

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite posts of 2020

favorite posts 2020
“I guess we’re gong to have to start giving scores, Churro.. All of the funny blog posts we wrote in 2020 fell flat.”

These seven posts weren’t necessarily the best read, but they were among my favorite posts of 2020

Welcome to the Wine Curmudgeon’s sixth annual year-end top 10 list, which is not about the most read posts. Or necessarily has 10 items. Anyone can do that. Here, where being contrary matters. we honor the best posts I wrote in 2020 that not enough people read.

Why not a best read list? Because Google takes care of that, as we see every year with Barefoot’s blog dominance. Rather, these are the posts that I enjoyed writing, thought were important to write, or both.

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite posts of 2020:

• I wrote three wine video parodies this year, and none did as well as they should. Spock drinking rose isn’t funny? Robin Hood kicking down the Trump wine tariff isn’t funny? Bruce Lee kung-fuing snotty wine judges isn’t funny? The parody posts never do well; I’m beginning to think the blog’s readers take wine much too seriously.

• Even though my podcast with restaurant wine guru Cara Klein at the start of the pandemic didn’t get big numbers, it could have helped make her an Internet wine star. After Cara’s appearance here, she showed up on a variety of other wine blogs throughout the year. As she much deserved — old white guys aren’t the only people who know about wine.

• In the mid-1970s, legendary wine professor Maynard Amerine warned us that price was no guarantee of wine quality. And no one read this post on this blog?

• The WC apparently doesn’t understand about turning a post viral. What’s not to like about good witches battling bad witches to save the soul of wine? Or do you want just want scores?

• I do know why the series of posts about Churro, the blog’s new associate editor, didn’t do well. A dog writing a wine blog, even as a joke? That’s awfully goofy. But it should have been done boffo business. Think about all the things it says about the wine business and wine writing.

More on the WC’s favorite posts:
Favorite posts of 2019
Favorite posts of 2018
Favorite posts of 2017

Wine Curmudgeon most popular posts 2020

popular posts 2020
“Churro, we need to find a way to boost blog traffic. Your being cute didn’t do much.”

The Wine Curmudgeon’s most popular posts 2020: Not necessarily about cheap wine, and a lot fewer visitors

What does one make of a blog about cheap wine when a majority of the most popular posts weren’t about cheap wine — or  were even wine reviews?

That’s where we find ourselves as the blog celebrates its 13th annual Birthday Week. Only four of the top 10 posts from November 2019 to November 2020 were sort of about cheap wine. And one was about as far removed from cheap wine as possible — a six-year-old post about the $300 Coravin wine opener at No. 10.

Ordinarily, I’d blame all this foolishness on our overlords at Google, whose search engine algorithm has more to do with sending visitors to the blog than anything I write. But the past 12 months also saw a precipitous decline in traffic, about one-third from last year’s 600,000 or so visitors. That no doubt also contributed to the bizarre top post results — fewer visitors exaggerates the importance of the posts that do get traffic.

So what caused the drop? The pandemic, almost certainly, combined with the U.S. presidential election. There were other things on people’s minds that didn’t involve finding a $10 wine that doesn’t taste like alcoholic grape juice. Even sites like Linkedin, which should be immune, may have had some traffic declines.

Which I understand. The problem comes if traffic doesn’t recover if and when we get back to normal toward the end of next year. What’s the point of a wine blog where no one wants to read about wine?

The top 10 posts of 2020:

1. The four-year-old “Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular.” This was the top post in 2019, as well, and was No. 7 in 2018. But it didn’t make the top 10 in 2016 or 2017, which makes no sense given how the Internet is supposed to work.

2. The Kim Crawford wine ad critique, which moved up from fifth in 2019. There are 38  comments, most very harsh about the ad; that’s not only a lot of comments for the blog, but that so many people agreed with me is also unusual.

3. The 10-year-old Barefoot wines (again) post was third for the second year in a row. How does a post that old get so much traffic? Ask our overlords at Google.

4. The residual sugar post was fourth, after being second for two consecutive years. This is something I am quite proud of, that wine drinkers can come here and get practical information to help them make intelligent decisions.

5. The Louisiana shrimp boil wine and food pairings post l call it my contribution to making the pandemic a little less difficult It’s also the first wine and food pairings post to make the top 10.

6. Ask the WC 1 — another pandemic-specific post, I think. It offers cheap cava suggestions, though why a seven-year-old post that was only partially about cheap cava is beyond me.

7. The 2020 $10 Hall of Fame. Long gone are the days when that year’s Hall of Fame was the most visited, and a couple of others would be in the 1op 10. Again, I have no idea why, and it’s more than a little sad.

8. Will the pandemic bring permanent changes to the three-tier system? This is self-explanatory — and  one of the few hopeful things to come out of this year.

9. A post about discount wine retailer Grocery Outlet. Which, hopefully, is coming soon to a town near you.

10. That damned Coravin post. I wonder if it’s because I actually discussed its value to wine drinkers, instead of fawning over it like most of the Winestream Media.

A few other thoughts:

• The $10 wine category was 34th for the second year in a year. Double sigh.

• The various five-day, $3 wine challenge posts dropped out of the top 10. The highest ranking one was 15th, and again, I have no idea what that means. One would think this would be a very popular pandemic-related post.

• My undercover, illegal interstate wine shipping post was 16th, which isn’t bad since it didn’t post until the end of July.

More about the blog’s top posts:
2019 top posts
2018 top posts
2017 top posts

The WC video redux: Holiday wine tips

Plus, opening a sparkling wine bottle in just one take

Yes, this post ran about this time last year, but I wanted to put it up again for a couple of reasons. First, it’s timely — and a damn fine job, if I say so myself. Many thanks to host Michael Sansolo; his show is “Shopping with Michael” for the Private Label Manufacturers Association.

The other reason? Because this was the only video we did as part of the PLMA’s private label wine project. Our goal was to convince U.S. supermarkets to do for private label wine what European supermarkets do — high quality and low price.

But the pandemic edged our effort to the sidelines. And, more sadly, long-time PLMA president Brian Sharoff died at the end of the spring, and it was his vision that started the project. Brian gave me a chance to work on it, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity.

So, I’m posting this one more time for Brian. He is much missed, and not just because he always made fun of my hats.

Birthday Week 2020 starts Monday

birthday weekThe blog’s 13th annual Birthday Week starts Monday, with our usual assortment of terrific prizes

Birthday Week 2020, the 13th annual, begins on Monday with five days of prizes for the blog’s readers. The daily giveaways are the Wine Curmudgeon’s annual thank you to everyone who reads the blog and visits the site, since none of this would happen without you. And who wouldn’t enjoy a  prize or two in the middle of a pandemic and recession?

Contest rules are here. Those of you who get the blog via email or RSS will need to go to winecurmudgeon.com and click on that day’s prize post to enter.

Each day next week, a prize post will run in addition to the regular post. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of the prize post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of the post — no email entries or entries on other posts, like this one. Unless the number is in the comments section of the prize post, the entry won’t count.

This year’s prize schedule:

• Monday: An autographed copy of Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwwest USA.

• Tuesday: Wine Not women’s slippers, which keeps your feet warm and is funny.

• Wednesday: A $100 gift card from Wine.com. Thanks to Wine.com, a long-time supporter of the blog and what we do here.

• Thursday: Four Schott Zweisel wine glasses, just like the ones the Wine Curmudgeon uses.

• Friday: Three autographed copies of the cheap wine book, just in time for the holidays.

Besides the prize giveaways, I’ll recap the past year on the blog — the top posts and the least liked on Monday, as well as my always insightful analysis about what it all means and the future of the wine business on Thursday. The blog’s Thanksgiving wine suggestions will post on Friday..

Picture courtesy of Comedy Card Company, using a Creative Commons license