This is the second in a series of articles this week about wine writing. Read the first article, “What’s next for wine writing?

I wrote yesterday about what I see coming next for wine writing. In that article, I touched on some of the technological and demographic changes that threaten wine writing.

Here, I write about another aspect that makes it difficult to have a career writing about wine. I’ll let Taylor Swift summarize. (I promise this will be my last Taylor Swift reference this month, probably.)

Yes, the harsh reality for wine writers is we are part of the problem. Why?

It has to do with who writes about wine. Today’s wine writers can generally be grouped into five broad buckets.

A. Hobbyists

Hobbyists are people who love wine and enjoy writing about it. Some do so in a very casual, informal way. Others do so in a much more intensive, deliberate way.

Similarly, some hobbyists put out a lot of free content on a regular basis. Some put out a little and do so sporadically. All hobbyists are, however, creating free content, as they are not monetizing their writing.

B. Aspirationalists

Aspirationalists are people who are extremely excited about wine and aspire to make a living writing about it. These people launch themselves into wine writing, accepting whatever work they can find, regardless of what it might pay. They are getting paid to write about something that they love! The small compensation feels like a start.

The dream for many Aspirationalists is that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow once they establish themselves as wine writers. Unfortunately, there is not, in part because there are always more Aspirationalists coming along willing to work for next to nothing.

C. Lifestylers

Lifestylers are people who write about wine because they like wine and enjoy the lifestyle around it. Lifestylers write about wine, but the money associated with doing so is of no concern to them.

Many Lifestylers are independently wealthy, have a significant other that is independently wealthy, or have some other reason why they don’t really need to make much money from their work.

D. Part-timers

Part-timers have one professional foot firmly planted in the world of wine writing. However, they also have one foot in some other career that pays the bills.

Part-timers do this, in large part, because they love writing about wine but doing so full-time is impractical financially. So they split the difference. They work a full-time career elsewhere and write about wine as a passion-driven side career.

E. Full-timers

Full-timers are people who are entirely financially committed to writing about wine. All or almost all of their income comes from writing.

A very small sliver of these people are on staff somewhere at a digital or legacy media outlet. The rest of this group is scratching and clawing as freelancers or perhaps are writing on their own sites. Many Full-timers also do some side work to increase their overall compensation.

Below, I show the four groups that do paid work in a single picture. (All apologies to Hobbyists.)

Of course, people can move between these five groups over time. I’ve personally been at various times a Hobbyist, an Aspirationalist, a Part-timer, and a Full-timer. Real talk, my wife might even consider me a Lifestyler, as she carries an overly large part of our family’s financial burden.

Overall, many people aspire to make a living writing about wine. The reality is that very few people are able to do it. Ironically, part of the reason is that most of the people who do write about wine aren’t concerned about making money. One can’t make a living competing against people willing to work essentially for free.

In this way, wine writers undermine each other, though doing so is not deliberate. Note that I am by no means casting shade on any of these groups. Rather, I am commenting on competing forces within the wine writing industry and what the ramifications are.

NB: I originally wrote this article to focus on people making money writing about wine. However, I updated it to include Hobbyists as well, as they are an important group.

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