It has taken me a week to catch up from my trip to Charlottesville, VA where I met old friends and new friends for the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011. Despite the travel challenges, the incredible heat wave, the worst MC ever (seriously, it was like listening the a mix between Pee Wee Herman and Robert Parker), and the short duration of the event, I would say it was a major success and an incredible amount of fun on many levels. Many people have written blogs and tweets with constructive (and not so constructive) criticism of the event which I see as all good. The variance of palates, industry experience, location in their blog life cycle, industry and blogger connections resulted in a diverse amount of experiences and ALL of which were valid. Were there flaws? Yes. Was their schilling? Of course and was to be expected (and the expectation is that writers are supposed to wade through it to find their own individual truths). Were there bad wines? Yes (and not just from VA) but there were great wines too. Was VA over-promoted? It was in their backyard, of course they were expected to go all out and they paid their dues to get that golden ticket to try to impress all of us. Were there private events? Ok. Were some of the events rushed? Unfortunately and there were lots of people I wanted to see but lacked the precious commodity of time. Was there content that people didn’t feel helped? Yes, but it depended on your goals and that same content was incredibly useful for others. I can go on and on but in the end, the WBC organizers, the various VA groups, the speakers, the sponsors and especially the bloggers who attended all contributed so much to an event that only five years ago, didn’t exist. And it may not be perfect, but everyone sure tries hard to make it meet the needs of such a diverse audience.
Post WBC11 my only two struggles have been watching some of the bloggers beat each other up (in my breakout panel I urged bloggers to unite instead of the ridiculous in-fighting – for those of you getting ragged on, don’t forget #GFY) and trying to find the time to raise the game of our blog. It brought up a lot of thoughts and introspection about this little part of our site. Are we a wine blogger? I would say yes. We write about a niche subject in the wine world and with a limited peer group of wine business bloggers (there are less than 10 of us). In fact, I personally have been “wine business” blogging since about 2005 (gosh has it really been that long?). We work hard to share what we learn, what we hope, and what we believe is good for the entire industry. We are pro-winery, pro-consumer, and pro-digital. We are not afraid to challenge anyone or any concept. So we write, and we hope that we are helping the industry better leverage digital. Wine online, we believe.
So what is upcoming for us? What is vexing us? What is consuming our mind share for wine and digital?
- Redoing our website now that we are a merged company and sharing all the fun things we have built to help the industry succeed online (especially Cruvee) and our new “Sandbox” we are launching. We hope to have it done by the end of August (mad thanks to www.strangerstudios.com for their upcoming awesome work).
- Our opus work that has taken 2 years to write describing the intersection of wine and digital. It will cover everything for the economics of wine online, data challenges, social media, mobile, etailers vs. retailers, and more. I am so excited to finally release it and I am actually taking four days off next month (the 21st through the 24th) to finish my part of the paper and lock myself in a room to ensure I get what I need done.
- The spectrum of journaling wine tasting experiences: we are mapping the various forms of wine journaling and matching them to the consumer groups that represent that type of activity.
- WOW customer service. We believe this is the great value proposition that will help wineries succeed online and be competitive even with channel conflict.
- Examining and solving the number one reason for wine not succeeding in the digital arena: data. This is one of our greatest obsessions and the various silos of data and lack of wineries helping to fix the problem that will inevitably help them succeed really challenges us.
- Mobile, mobile, mobile. This new channel has finally matured to be useful to our industry, how can we maximize it?
- Digitally getting the mass of casual wine consumers to engage with wine. I can promise you it won’t be a wine specific platform.
- Flash sales sites – more harm than help? When and how are they useful for the industry?
- Selling wine online at full retail. What makes this happen, how can we replicate it, how can we extend it?
- Social media as it relates to experiential and luxury good products.
- Online triggers to catalyze sales: badges? scores? virtual neckers? price? shipping? accolades?
- How to extend the reach of and influence quality bloggers and free content vs paid content.
- For the oenophile, what is the perfect app (s)?
- Social Customer Relationship Management and what it means for the wine industry.
- Google +. I think it is awesome.
- SEO vs SMO. We believe in the latter for this reason (I highly recommend you click this one).
- Taste Tribes and consumer influence in the wine industry and to which segment (including bloggers).
- All the ways to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and Napa/Sonoma Valley.
- How to make a Facebook page useful for a winery and not just a scoreboard of “how many fans can I get that never care.”
- Catalyzing developers to build on the Cruvee API’s (which are free) to save them money and time to get to market (perhaps a BarCamp for wine/tech companies).
- Stimulating someone to build a healthy alternative to help wineries with compliance so that there is no longer an unhealthy monopoly on the segment.
- Describing cool tools and wants for wine tech companies to build for the wine industry (e.g. how about an evernote plug in? Or maybe a crowd sourcing tool to help clean data, or a living wiki to ensure regions/varietals/etc are really up to date and correct, or possibly a wordpress plug in for wine details, etc, etc, etc).
- Gamification and wine (and how it is working).
Continuing the spirit of Eric Asimov’s speech, we want to get more investigative and up the game for our blog. What would you like to see us write about?