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Is Wine Too Niche For Web 2.0?

Is Wine Too Niche For Web 2.0?

by Tim Elliott on October 13, 2006

As a wine blogger and online marketer, I have been watching “Web 2.0” for some time. While others have been skeptical of some of these offerings, I have been fairly optimistic that someone would come up with a site that would come part of my daily life.

As I mentioned here earlier I had high hopes for Wine Life Today, but this site seems to be at the very same place it was when I reviewed it; not enough visitors to submit and/or rate stories to make this as indispensable as digg.com is for technology news. I’ve tried Cork’d and just looked at Bottlenotes but don’t see either of them to be compelling until they have a way for me to easily tag posts here that automatically populate my accounts on their sites (preferably in the form of a Wordpress plugin). Even the newly rebooted Netscape site has not attracted critical mass to get more than a handful of votes for food and wine related news. So is wine too niche for Web 2.0?

Perhaps, but I also think it’s probably too early to know how any of this will turn out. Yes, the wine industry is very traditional with the bulk of wineries just now grappling with integrating the internet into their traditional sales and marketing approach. But there are glimmers of hope out there that perhaps the future is closer than I think.

Case in point is an invitation to a web 2.0 event in San Francisco in a few weeks cleverly called, “Wine 2.0“. A collection of wineries, technology companies, venture capitalists, and, yes, wine bloggers will meet. Even though it’s 2,000 miles away from my home and will cost me out of my pocket to attend, I’m seriously considering going to be on the ground floor in this space.

Another data point is a new wine blog aggregator now in preview called Vinolin. They take the simple aggregation of wine blogs one step further by adding a tagging component. None of this is enough to get super excited about right now but in a few months there will be a central repository of knowledge about wine that will be very compelling; in a year or two this could compete favorably with some of the traditional wine press. Think of it as the Technorati of wine blogs. So, of all the sites I’ve seen, this one will become a part of my daily routine.

Perhaps wine isn’t too niche for web 2.0 after-all. What do you think?

  • I don’t think its too niche. I think if Web 2.0 is defined as “social interaction online” then wine would be a good place to do it and its really just niche enough to make social interaction/recommendations/etc. statistically significant.

    With Wine Life Today, I personally took on a consulting engagement that translated to a big-time position and took me away from development,and I do believe there are critical tools required (based on the feedback that I got during a Beta period) that need to be developed. I haven’t been able to recruit other developers so it’s going to have to wait until I free up some time (there are some improvements coming). BTW: Any volunteers? I still believe in it whole-heartedly…

    With Wine 2.0, I don’t think the tasting notes and big databases of wines is going to work because of the sheer volume of wines out there (recommendation engines work statistically with Movie rentals but there are far fewer movies than there are wines!) Look at the Amazon community. Millions of users and years of reviews and even the most reviewed products have maybe 10 reviews. News (Wine Life Today) I think as a proof of concept was working but I’m one dude with a 10 month old baby and a new job so it needs development that if more than one person worked on I think it would work.

    the question is what is the “killer app” for Wine 2.0? I’m not sure. News? Maybe. Reviews on wines and recommendations? I’m skeptical. I’m willing to brainstorm! I mean, if YouTube gets $1.65B after 18 months with thirty-something employees I think this is worth giving some good hard thought by the “techies” in the wine world.

  • Tim

    Thanks for your thoughts on this issue, Joel. I don’t think wine news is the killer app alone, but maybe it is part of the mix with recommendations, cellar tracking, buying wines, selling/trading wines and wine education. I also don’t think there will be a YouTube-like exit strategy for any web 2.0 wine site, but there will be some money made in this space (my guess is the folks at Inertia Beverage will make a good share of it).

    Hope you find some time to further evolve Wine Life Today. Cheers!

  • The YouTube reference was half tongue-in-cheek. If the right idea (or mash-up of ideas) came along I think you’d see a disruption to traditional wine media. That disruptor would make money. Even 1% of the YouTube price would make it interesting for most…


  • Tim

    I agree that a mashup will be the winner here, but who will be able to pull it together? I’ve got some ideas I’ll blog here shortly, but getting all the pieces in place will be a real challenge with all the factions in this industry.

  • All these ‘social interaction sites’ have little lasting appeal to me. I have played with netscape for example but it held little lasting interest. I like the idea of Wine Life Today but I am not sure if the concept is right for ‘wine’. Is there enough interest in wine news to attract the general population as there is say in digg for the techies?

  • Tim

    Wow, Andrew, a bit of insomnia or are you on my side of the pond 😉

    At any rate, I agree with you that wine news alone is not compelling enough for a wine community (at least now). Perhaps a mashup of news, reviews, sales, cellar management and more is the right combo. Time will tell.

    Thanks for your comment at 3 am GMT.

  • Wine is such a social thing that it transcends the drink itself. Drinking wine (at least for me) is all about the experience, the people, learning about the winery, and, of course, the drink. Additionally, as we have all seen by tooling around with blogs, its definitely global with “fanatics” all over the globe.

    If the Internet is moving from a medium for finding information to a medium of social interaction I would have to hand in my marketing credentials if I said there wasn’t a match here somewhere.

    News alone is probably not it – as you noted with Netscape – but thats where the “mash up” comes from. There’s a combination of things in there somewhere (like Tim mentioned).

    I’d love a brainstorming session if anyone were so inclined.

  • Tim

    I’d be interesting in brainstorming this with you, Joel. My Skype is: winecast. I’ll post a few ideas later today to organize my thoughts; stay tuned.

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  • Hi Tim, just wanted to give you a heads up on a small problem with Vinolin that you may not have been aware… check out the recent post on GrapeThinking.com. Basically, they don’t have the safeguards in place to keep you from being penalized as they duplicate your content.

    Just thought I would give you a heads up!

  • It’s not niche. I think if Web 2.0 is clear as social contact online then wine would be a good place to do it and its really just niche enough to make social interaction. I agree with you that wine news alone is not compelling enough for a wine community……….good infoo…thxxx

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