The big thing with professional
content generation: how to make it pay. Since the advent of the internet, and
the rise of the Google/Facebook duopoly, advertising money has been sucked out
of traditional media, and the result has been a reduced demand for journalists
and writers, and less money to pay the ones who are still needed.

I grew up as a writer
alongside the internet. When I first got on the internet, in 1996, it was all
shiny and new. I got my first paying wine writing gig in 2000, shortly after
launching wineanorak.

Wineanorak’s model was
to give away content and grow a large readership, while earning money from
banner advertising. I managed to reach a large audience with free content, and
I made enough from the banner advertising to pay my mortgage, without every
going out selling the ad space.

The main wineanorak site:

It became clear,
though, that even with good traffic, banner advertising wasn’t going to pay a
proper salary. This wasn’t my goal, though: although the income was welcomed, I
realised that giving away content helped grow my reputation and then led to other

Other wine websites
have gone down the paywall route, giving away a limited amount of free content,
and then charging for access. This works for some, but I don’t want to go down
that route. It drastically reduces the number of people who see your work.

I want to keep
wineanorak free, because I want to get my work out to as many people as
possible. I can make money other ways: books, lectures, consulting, judging
wine and writing for other publications. And there’s also money to be made from
(clearly marked) sponsored content on my website and social media feed.

If the material on
wineanorak is free to access and is read by many people, then this makes me
very useful to regional bodies and producer associations, because if they get
me to visit, the message reaches a lot of people. It’s a site with a global
audience, and everyone benefits. If I do a trip but then hide the write-ups
behind a paywall, then the message only reaches subscribers.

The other model is to
give content away and then appeal to the better nature of people, or the
loyalty of regular readers, to make a contribution. I like this idea, although
I don’t know how many people donate in these situations.

I think free-to-access
is the way to go. Others have different ideas. But this model of giving
high-quality content away works in my situation. Increasingly we are seeing
content disappearing from the internet – if you have high costs, like offices
and staff, then these need to be recouped. But that just leaves the road
clearer for people like me offering professional, quality content for free.