Tue 3 Jul 2007
One of the sacred tenets of journalism is the strict separation between the editorial side that reports on the news and expresses opinions and the publishing side that deals with advertising, circulation, marketing and the business aspects of a newspaper or magazine. This wall is more difficult to maintain nowadays; in fact it’s a struggle in editorial to resist the onslaught of what marketing and advertising people call “monetizing the content” — yes, I have heard that depressing term presented not only with a straight face but with the eagerness with which certain people seem to await a bright future.
Anyway, a major breech in the wall between editorial and business occurs in the June 30 issue of The Wine Spectator. On page 10, opposite the magazine’s usual “UpFront: Wine News from Around the World” section, is a full-page color advertisement that features the headline “Lifestyle Collecting,” with the sub-head “Design a wine cellar to match your personal style” and a close-up photograph of a bottle of the Australian iconic wine Penfolds Grange 2001. A paragraph in smaller print discusses the concept of “The Investment Cellar,” followed by “Our Investment Cellar Recommendations.”
There’s no indication who the “our” is, but more is revealed by the choice of other wines for “investment collecting”: Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags’ Leap “The Leap” Cabernet Sauvignon, Wolf Blass Black Label Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec and Rosemount Balmoral Syrah. All five wineries — Penfolds, Beringer, Stags’ Leap, Wolf Blass and Rosemount — are owned by the giant Fosters corporation, which seems to own all the wineries in Australia and California that Constellation does not.
So fine, Fosters, or World Wine Estates, its division in Napa that has the ad’s copyright, is promoting five of its flagship wines for collecting. No big deal there.
But look closely at the bottom left corner of the ad, where two Websites are listed for more information. One is www.penfolds.com.
The other is: www.winespectator.com/collecting.
That’s right. The magazine that sold the ad to World Wine Estates lists its own Website on the ad. Follow the link, though, and you don’t find information about collecting or investing in wines; you only get a chance to subscribe to the Wine Spectator Website, as if there are not enough mentions of winespectator.com throughout the print magazine.
Do we have to look up the definitions of “conflict” and “of” and “interest” separately, or do you get the idea that, editorially speaking, this stinks?