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Just Like Quality Wine, Quality News Is Not Free

I occasionally get emails from News Fetch subscribers wondering why there are so many advertisements. Or why there are some articles that they must pay extra for.

The one, true answer is that without advertisers, the result in wine news would be the same as in the larger world of journalism as a whole as this piece from the L.A. Times explains: Supply of news is dwindling amid the digital media transformation.


Reality Check: quality information — like quality wine — is not free. Somebody has to pay one way or another.

Right now,advertisers pay for News Fetch so subscribers can have the daily news briefing for free.

But it’s hardly a gravy train. I spend about six hours of my life a day to produce every issue. By my calculations, I earn about federal minimum wage … for 1989.

Obviously, I do a lot of this for the love of it. And a connection I feel with my 21,300+ subscribers. That’s the largest in the industry by a very long shot.

The advertisers deserve thanks, not complaints. They subsidize the “free.”


And when I get an email, as I did this morning, that demanded “ Stop this password BS!” my reply is that I think my additional hours of  hard work should be compensated.

Imagine what the writer of that email might feel like if his employer or customers said, “stop this wanting to be paid BS!”


I’m up at 4 a.m. Sunday-Fri to personally look at more than 200 websites. I do that because crawlers and search engines can’t do that very well. That’s why you find news on News Fetch that you won’t find anywhere else … except maybe hours later from folks that read News Fetch. Sure, it’s irksome to have some people cherry-pick articles that I have spent hours finding. That’s life.

I don’t just blindly add links. I give every article an initial read and make a judgement on whether it is likely to be of use to subscribers. I then try to accurately categorize those articles and slot them into appropriate categories that make them easy for subscribers to find what they are looking for.


What is behind that judgment?

I was the founder of a fine-wine importer/wholesaler/distributor in Los Angeles. I look at the article and try to decide that if I was still in the business, would I find this valuable enough to spend valuable time on. I’ve been in other businesses as well, including as the CEO of a small public technology company.

As a former faculty member teaching in Sonoma State University’s Wine MBA program, I work hard to maintain a solid grasp of the business, what matters and what can help my wine industry readers.

There’s more than a bit of journalism experience as well. I’ve been a journalist for more than 40 years and a J-school prof (Cornell and UCLA) for some of those.

In the wine trade, I founded Wine Business back in 1991. I’ve worked for Dow-Jones, The Washington Post, WallStreetJournal.Com as well as been a writer or columnist for the Gannett Chain, Progressive Farmer, American Agriculturalist and small large daily newspapers. I’ve covered everything from local courts to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Elmira NY City Council to Congress, the Mayor of Ithaca to the White House.


In addition to the daily six hours I spend on News Fetch, I spend a lot of time on original articles you can’t and won’t find elsewhere. I spend a lot of time — hours and hours — tracking down leads that go nowhere. And sometimes they do pan out.

I have to pay the rent and my other bills. I make no apology for the fact that I believe I should be paid for the time I work.

That’s why tose original pieces end up behind a paywall at  Wine Executive News.

Sometimes I do run across things that are so important to the industry that I make free even though I’ve invested a lot of time in pulling the pieces together. The Wine Institute’s clumsy and disjointed Prop 65 Wine settlement is a recent example.

Several hundred WEN subscribers pay $189 per year for. That gets them reporting I spend days — or weeks — tracking down and which they can get nowhere else. They get no advertisements.


As far as advertising goes, I have made News Fetch as read-friendly as possible. I long ago banned all of the advertising gimmicks that I personally find annoying: Flash, pop-ups, pop-unders. There is now a ban on any new ads that use animations and other distractions.

I suppose I could try raising my rates since they are about half that charged by Wine Business. But, then, I’d have to have an advertising sales staff because I don’t feel comfortable — as the sole editorial person — selling ads.

What you see right now are ads that have come “over the transom” by advertisers who recognize the value of trying to catch your eye.

This doesn’t buy preferential treatment in links, placement or other editorial judgement. Why? Because doing that would adulterate the quality of the product — the editorial — and that eventually paves the way for a slide into the morass that often plagues trade journalism in too many business sectors. That’s not something I would be involved with.


News Fetch’s advertisers make it possible for you to receive it free. Please take a new look at the process. Let those ads catch  your eye … then click over to see what they have to offer. You could be glad you did.