“Which one of you is going to write the sponsored post for the .. cough.. cough.. escort agency?”
Where else would one have to fend off payola, college term paper scammers, and whores?
Running an internationally known wine blog may not bring much in the way of fortune, but it does demonstrate the perils of fame – even the limited sort of fame that comes with writing about cheap wine.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been barraged (well, sort of) with requests to “partner with” a variety of not inexpensive products. This happens because the blog’s demographics, despite its subject matter, are mostly as upscale as the wine blogs and websites that don’t write about cheap wine. Plus, my visitors seem to be a little younger than the other sites, and we all know how desperate the wine business is to get younger.
• A company that makes wine refrigerators wanted to give me one of their products. The catch? I had to write nice things about the $700 unit and include various links to make sure Google got the hint. I thought this might work as a giveaway for Birthday Week next month – the company would get its blog post, one of the blog’s readers would get the fridge, and I wouldn’t have to worry about ethics. Not surprisingly, the company wasn’t interested.
• A bunch of spammers wanted the blog’s readers to buy college term papers, essays, and assignments written by someone other than the students – what the New York Times has called “Cheating, Inc.” I assume, given the recent college pay to play scandals, that the spammers figured the blog’s demographics translated into parents and grandparents willing to shell out the hundreds of dollars these papers cost. Ah, plagiarism as a growth industry. …
• My favorite pitch? For whores. Who knew I spent all those years honing my craft so a “content development specialist” at a “California-based premium escort agency that caters to all your needs” could ask to write a guest post? I even had topics to choose from, including “10 Reasons Business Men Hire Escorts.” Why do I think I know the reasons, that there aren’t 10, and that we don’t need to run a guest post to figure that out?
? Full disclosure: The Wine Curmudgeon stopped writing about wine writing a couple of years ago; it boosted the blog’s numbers, but didn’t advance the causes that the blog believes in, like wine education. But this item, from Australian wine writer Max Allen, does matter for anyone who wants to be able to trust what they read: “When a wine writer threatens to sue another wine writer for telling the truth, you know things are getting serious. … Advertorial is masquerading as editorial. And our readers — the people we ?re meant to be writing for — are in the dark about it all.” This is something that has been bothering me for several years, and I touched on it in last fall’s birthday week essay. So Allen’s post is worth writing about, given its honest discussion about what’s going wrong — writers taking money from wineries; conflicts of interest that no one talks about because they’d have to stop doing them; and how content has changed in the digital age from something independently written to something written so it will sell something paid. Any wine drinker who cares about getting an honest assessment for wine they’re paying for should read it.
? Fewer mergers? One of my wine trends for 2015 was the continuation of something that started at least a decade ago — Big Wine getting bigger, buying up smaller companies. Turns out I may have been wrong, and not just about this year. A study at FoodBev.com reports that wine acquisitions worldwide were down by a quarter worldwide in 2014. Still, before the mea culpas, it’s worth noting that wine tied for sixth on the list of food and drinks deals in 2014, an impressive showing given its smaller size relative to the rest of the food and drinks business, like packaging, soft drinks, and dairy.
? No end to the slide: The beer business continues to slowly erode, which I cover on the blog because it ties into American drinking habits. SABMiller, one of the two companies that controls most of the world’s beer production, saw its North American sales decline two percent in the nine months ending in December. Which means the holiday season didn’t rescue the company. This is part of a long-term tend that has seen beer sales slowly decline since the beginning of the recession, as Americans shift away from beer, which has dominated alcohol sales in the U.S. for decades. So we shouldn’t be surprised by the growth in wine sales.