Stemming the Flow of Red Ink: Publishers’ wine clubs


The Wall Street Journal has one. And the New York Times. Playboy Magazine too.

We’re talking about wine clubs; the newest revenue stream for struggling publishers.
Readership is down. Advertising is going the way of the web. Online content has been resistant to monetization.

What’s a news organization to do?

Newspapers and magazines have turned to selling wine as a new way of generating revenue from readers. There’s nothing new about the business model. Classified ads were the traditional way for publishers to take advantage of the communities they created. With subscriptions dwindling and the advent of free Craigslist classifieds, a diverse group of publishers has applied the same principles to wine clubs.

Most wine clubs maintain their integrity by operating independently from news, criticism, and editorial, although archived articles and reviews are made available to club members. The media companies select the wine and manage multi-channel promotions through their own platforms. They partner with mail order outsourcers that handle the order fulfillment. Regulatory authorities have yet to give their blessing to these alliances in which unlicensed parties profit from the sale of liquor.

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have been duking it out in the wine business since last summer. The Journal jumped out to an early lead with its steeply discounted Discovery Club. The New York Times, in an embarrassing case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing, announced the launch of its wine club on the same day that an advertising brochure offering membership in the Wall Street Journal’s club was inserted in home subscribers’ copies of the Times. We know they are desperate for the ad revenue, but still…

The USA Today Wine Club is a decidedly populist venture. It relies on a panel of USA Today readers to choose its offerings, promising no bottle will cost more than $12. Playboy Magazine has gone in a different direction selling high-end, limited edition wines. The label for each release features a different vintage Playboy magazine cover that has been ‘specially selected to represent the flavor and taste profile of each wine’.

With media challenges coming from every direction, let’s hope this new revenue stream helps the old-line publications age as gracefully as the wines they are pushing. has a guide to the hit or miss nature of wine club memberships.

The Wine Club Directory has reviews and recommendations for wine clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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One Response to Stemming the Flow of Red Ink: Publishers’ wine clubs

  1. Sammy says:

    Ive got some good party ideas from this. Halloween is gonna be a good one! Cheers

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