Wine as entertainment is a tough sell. Gary Vaynerchuk should know. He blazed a trail with a series of web shows, first with Wine Library TV (1,000 episodes), and then last year with his new brand, Daily Grape (89 episodes). Thanks to social media and his over-the-top jabberwocky style that at times came across like a mash-up of Jersey Shore and ESPN Sportscenter, Vay-ner-chuk became an Internet sensation. A meme before the concept existed.
Today, though, all that comes to an end. Gary V. has announced he is “retiring” from wine video. And, according to this tweet, has recorded his last episode, “The Final Grape.” Watch out, Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins. If there’s no money to be had in wine entertainment, surely there is in motivational speaking, life coaching, and general pleasure mayhem.
Although I was never a regular viewer, I did find WLT (but not so much DG) to be quite entertaining. The real upside was Gary’s knowledge. Having grown up around wine in a family business started by his Dad, it was evident that he knew his stuff. And his ability to impart humor, humility and useful wine information was a powerful combination. I could only take it in small doses, though. It’s like high alcohol Zin. Man, sometimes just half a glass is all you need. When Gary hosted the Great One — #99 Wayne Gretzky himself — I was impressed with the down to earth, relaxed discussion that ensued.
On Twitter and Facebook, many are asking why he quit the video business.
Here’s my armchair assessment: because there’s no money in it!
And like any entrepreneur worth his elevator pitch, he dumped it.
Plus I believe guys like Vayernchuk are restless by nature, looking for the next big score. That was immediately obvious when he released his books Crush It! and The Thank You Economy (Is this really the economy to be thanking each other for?), both covering subject matter not related specifically to wine. This, of course, meant wider reach, and potentially larger audiences.
With WLTV we knew he was itchy too, and new initiatives weren’t going so well. Cork’d, a community for wine tasters and collectors, was not taking off. Lindsey Ronga, CEO of that project reached out to us in 2010 to work on a partnership with Stark Insider. But nothing materialized. There was no substantive model or proposal.
Then with Daily Grape, he tried to monetize with a subscription model. I can only guess that it didn’t accumulate the number of paying subscribers to make the effort of shooting and producing daily videos viable. If the videos don’t move wine, or in themselves produce revenue, why bother? Obviously, speculation on my part.
It will be interesting to see:
(1) What Gary Vaynerchuk does next. He has a large, loyal fan base. But it’s hard to picture him doing anything but wine. So this will be a risky re-branding project. (note: he’s reminding on Twitter that is an exit of the daily wine video grind only, not the wine business)
(2) If anyone assumes the mantle, and begins developing their own following for a daily wine tasting show. I’m not convinced wine alone is entertainment.
And, yes, maybe his retirement did cause an Earthquake (#THUNDER). But as with all things wine, it was likely felt only by a small, hardcore group of wine geeks; myself included.