This post is another one of my periodic entries focused primarily on the wine industry. If you are a consumer, you may find this of less interest.
I’ve been blogging about wine here for more than 8 years, as many of you know, all the while, working pretty hard at my real job to pay the bills and put food on my family’s table. Periodically (actually, all the time) I get asked, “so when are you going to give up that day job and become a full time wine writer.” My answer is always disappointing to most of these folks, who kindly are excited about me following my passion. I tell them a little bit about the economics of wine blogging, and then I vaguely reference the size of my mortgage payment in San Francisco, and that just about does the trick.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not hard at work trying to find ways to improve the financial performance of Vinography without compromising my objectivity and independence. I pass up plenty of opportunities to write paid advertorials, to advertise wine brands big and small (my wife punches me every time LVMH wants to buy a sponsorship and I decline), and I obviously can’t sell wine. Could I do all those things? Of course, and some bloggers undoubtedly do, but rightly or wrongly, I’ve decided that I have the most fun, and feel the best about myself trying to be as independent as possible. I do have to make some compromises along the way. I accept wine samples (with full disclosure), I go on press trips (only sponsored by government or regional marketing associations), because I can’t afford to pay my way for either.
Despite the rather narrow confines of my ethical policies, I continue to look for opportunities to produce some monetary value for all the hours I sink into this blog.
With that in mind, today I’d like to announce a new program in place at Vinography, and a new set of guidelines for how I will be operating my relationship with wine marketers and PR folks.
PAY FOR PLAY PR
Starting today, I will only be accepting press releases, event announcements, or PR pitches from agents registered in my PR database. Registration, which costs $25, can be done using this form.
In addition to the registration fee, I am asking for a payment of $1.75 for each press release, pitch, or announcement you choose to send me. Once registered, this amount will be automatically deducted from the credit card on file, which you will supply when you register.
Samples, of course, can continue to be sent, though I prefer to be asked before you send them.
In addition to the above, I am instituting a series of penalties that will be levied against wineries and their marketing agents for violations of this new PR relations program.
1. If your winery or your PR agency signs me up for your e-mail newsletter without asking my permission, just because you happened to get my business card at a tasting, or because you found out my e-mail address, I will automatically deduct the equivalent of .75 points from each score I give your wine. That means if you were going to score somewhere between a 9 and a 9.5 on my approximate ten-point scale, you would now score somewhere around 8.5.
2. If you send me samples according to my policy and then you e-mail me, call me, or SMS me asking me if I have received those samples, instead of just checking the damn tracking number yourself, I will charge you $20 per package. If you are not a registered PR partner, then I will deduct a full point from the scores of the wines when I review them. And you can be sure I will review them. With a vengeance.
SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE HOLDING HANDS
It’s taken me some time to work out the intricacies of this program, and to get my systems both set up to process the financials, and to deal with the transition period that will inevitably take place as PR and marketing professionals get used to this new system.
To ease that transition, I’ve contracted a Philippines-based call center who will be reaching out to 19,435 PR professionals who aren’t reading Vinography religiously every day, and are simply just blindly sending me press releases about the openings of new steakhouses in Orlando florida or the new acai berry cocktail mixer recipes their third-rate bartender customers have invented. Using Gmail based-filtering, all such press releases will be forwarded automatically to my call center team, and they will respond with a phone call to suggest participation in this new program.
I’m very excited about this program, both because of its potential to produce some modest additional income without compromising my ethics, as well as its ability to deepen and improve my relationship with the PR and marketing community.
This new program goes into effect today, April 1, 2012. I welcome your questions about it. Please add them in the comments below, so that I can respond publicly and everyone can benefit.