San Francisco Chronicle moves into content marketing

Friday, 1. September 2017 - 13:00

The San Francisco Chronicle moves into wine tourism

The Bay Area’s leading newspaper has created a new, interactive guide to wine country. Called The Press, it offers a mix of stories, reviews and sponsored winery content to help consumers plan visits to wine country. The focus is currently the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

“We could see that there was a big, unfulfilled need for people who want to taste their way through wine country,” said Kitty Morgan, the assistant managing editor of the SF Chronicle. “Great wine media sites were not focused on helping people actually plan a trip and the trip-planning options were generally from trade organizations or pay-to-play.”

For the 230 wineries listed on the site directory, reviews and editorial content are provided by the paper’s editors, while the information about the wineries is created and provided by the wineries themselves. Those wineries highlighted as ‘partner wineries’ either paid for the designation or were given it for free based on the advertising department's decisions. Morse would not go into further detail as to how those decisions were made.

None of the partner wineries contacted or the vice president of marketing at the SF Chronicle, Sarah Morse Cooney, would divulge what it costs to become a partner winery. Cooney said that she couldn’t release figures but that each package was customized for different wineries’ needs.

“I can’t put a price to this because it was part of a larger, long-term marketing package,” said Crista Johnson, marketing and communications manager at the Sonoma-based Schug Winery, which is a partner.

“The cost is part of our negotiated print and online programs,” added Stephanie Peachey, vice president of direct to consumer channels at the Santa Rosa, California-based Vintage Wine Estates, which is the parent company of B.R. Cohn, a partner winery.

Anatomy of a site

The site was created, according to Cooney, to create visibility for wineries and bring more people to their tasting rooms. Although the site only launched a few weeks ago, in early August, “Business does seem to be picking up,” said Johnson.   

The initiative is one of a number of similar efforts made by newspapers and magazines worldwide to move into content marketing, as a way of bringing back some of the advertising revenue lost to the internet.

For Peachy, having BR Cohn’s presence on The Press site helps remind “our friends and neighbors from surrounding areas about the beautiful adventures [that are] just a short drive away.”

I think it’s great that the San Francisco Chronicle team is creating a resource for consumers to read educational wine stories and book winery tours conveniently all in one place,” said Lisa Mattson, director of marketing and communications at the Healdsburg, California-based Jordan Winery, which is one of the reviewed and partner wineries.

Once linked with The Press as partner wineries, Cooney explained that many are already using CellarPass, a San Francisco-based winery tourism website that helps consumers explore wineries and tasting experiences as well as make bookings. That partnership, according to Morgan, conveniently allows “our audience to book a tasting on The Press.”

Morgan explained that the editorial staff will continue to add wineries and content over the coming year with Monterey and Santa Cruz up next on the drawing board.
Liza B. Zimmerman