Archive - August, 2009

The Wine Gang – friend or foe?

The Wine Gang

The Wine Gang

[Update: it has been pointed out that my title, written in haste, is a bit unfair. I'm not going to change it, but please treat it lightly. I was intending to jokingly refer to fear of 'gangs' not to suggest one might actually fear these lovely people :) ]

What if you were a well respected wine industry journalist or commentator and you tasted literally hundreds of wines a month, but your main paying gig (newspaper, magazine, TV show) only gave you time and space for a handful? What would you do with all the rest of those notes, impressions, events and connections?

Well, one answer is to blog about it … but I would say that! That’s a story for another post.

Another is to put them together in handy newsletter and sell it to wine lovers around the UK and the rest of the world. The problem is that the Paid Subscription model is either dead or on critical life support.

However, The Wine Gang are attempting just that. The ‘Gang’ consists of well known names such as Tom Cannavan, Olly Smith, Anthony Rose, Joanna Simon and Tim Atkin. Each month they publish a newsletter with around 200 tasting notes for an annual subscription for consumers of £20.

What marks this out for me?

It is presented in a way that is actually useful to the average consumer.

Instead of being a collection of hundreds of tasting notes of wines by some sort of ‘theme’ like region or style, these tasting notes are arranged by retailer or importer. They are grouped so that you can reasonably put together a shopping list of wines to try and have some chance of actually getting them easily, and they also recognise this by making the report printable so you can take it to the shops with you.

Ultimately, unless you are a real wine fanatic, you want what you read about on the internet to educate and inform your own drinking, so it really ought to be focused on what you can buy – or at least let you know where you can source it.

The Wine Gang newsletter also includes a few handy summaries in their different “Bunches of 5” lists from each newsletter, which not only has the usual ‘best’ groups, it rather unusually also includes “This month’s shockers” – always a favourite read of mine.

I do have a few issues with the site;

  • It brings together some of the top wine communicators in the UK and all we get is one article and the tasting notes. Where is the personality?
  • There is little interaction with readers. In this era of ‘social media’ it feels old-fashioned and aloof
  • In a market like the UK that is very price-driven, it needs to communicate better how the “investment” in a subscription can be repaid
  • It would benefit from a broader range of content such as audio, video and images to bring the content to life
  • The site, and its contents, are not well publicised enough and are hidden from the main ways that consumers will find it – search engines

The question is whether consumers will be prepared to part with their cash for a newsletter when so much similar content is available free?

That remains to be seen, but I think that if the personalities behind the site could step forward a bit more, it would have a reasonable chance.

It does, once again, raise the interesting question: What is a Tasting Note worth?

I will try to address that question shortly.

Disclaimer: Several of the members of The Wine Gang are personal friends as well as colleagues. I have worked in collaboration with The Wine Gang in a professional capacity, and will be sponsoring an upcoming promotion, but these are my personal views and I have been a paid subscriber of the newsletter since the first edition.

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Video resources for wine lovers and writers


As you will have noticed from my last post, and if you have been following me on twitter, I’ve been exploring some video resources as means to spread the love and culture of wine. I decided it might be useful to share some links, and some thoughts, on some of those I have come across in case you are thinking of doing the same. If you are, send me a link to let me know.

Here is a short list (it could be much longer) of resources I am either using or looking at, which I am arbitrarily splitting in two, plus links to videos I’ve made, or been involved in on each.

First, those video sites where you share pre-recorded (& hopefully edited) videos:

YouTube
Sample: Professional Wine Tasting

The BIG video site. It is a massive site with lots of reach, so a great place to upload your video if you want it easily available. However, there are some limitations. It can be a maximum of 10 minutes long, it is one amongst millions (and millions) and although there is a healthy community effect which encourages comments and votes, it can equally turn nasty and childish. However, any wine communicator ought to have their own place on YouTube to upload and share videos.

Vimeo (Sample: Bibendum Wine Tasting) & Viddler (Sample: The Road to Rioja)

I’m sure that their respective CEOs would give me a long list of their unique features, but essentially they offer the same service. A smaller, more focused community within the sites themselves, but more importantly, the opportunity to upload longer videos if you need to (which you probably don’t, by the way). One neat feature of Viddler is the opportunity for you and your viewers to add comments linked to specific points in a video. Worth checking out.

TwitVid
(Sample: The video above on this post)

I’ve yet to use this, but if you have a short video you want to share with your twitter followers, you can upload it to this site and have it sent out to your followers. I think this made the list (i.e. I became conscious of it) because it was one of the first to be available for the iPhone 3GS. There are plenty of similar sites out there, but the key is to upload fun, social content that pretty much anyone will enjoy.

The second category of video sharing sites allow you less scope to edit, but offer more spontaneity and in some cases LIVE streaming:

Seesmic
Sample: Enough is Enough

I’ll deal with this first as it is a bit of an anomaly. This is a more interactive site than those in the previous category. In fact it is more of a discussion forum with video, where the whole point of the videos are to begin conversations with other users who record their replies in video format.

I separate it also because in reality, it is a community in itself. Most wine consumers are not at all interested in recording videos of themselves, so users on here are mainly reaching out to a very specific community

12seconds.tv
Sample: Music to Pour wines by at tapas fantasticas

Now it gets fun. Think recording a video is difficult, you don’t know what to say, how to edit it, upload it and promote it? Well, don’t bother. All you get are 12 seconds of recording, and the site does the rest. Perfect for fun, trivia, quick insights, stolen moments (ahem), etc. Share your video with the 12seconds community but also take advantage of sharing through facebook, twitter, etc. Definitely one to try.

TwitCam
Sample: Guessing wines using video and twitter. Why not?

A new toy for me. No pre-recording or editing. You stream live (from you computer only at the moment I believe) and users can interact with you in a chat window and through twitter. As soon as you are online, it lets people know through twitter so you can have your own TV moment. If you have good relationships with followers on twitter, it is worth checking out.

qik
Sample: [still awaiting iPhone app]

A service that allows you to stream video from your mobile device (except iPhone for now, but that is about to change) straight to the internet, and then share it though social media sites. A great way for those who want to let their friends and followers into their daily lives away from the office and desks – such as vineyards or tasting rooms (but make sure you have wifi access).

EWBC

Finally, for now, something which will become more and more important as the volume of content grows, a place to actually FIND relevant content. The EWBC has partnered with 23video to create a place to view lots of video content about the wine bloggers conferences in both USA and Europe. Check these out then consider where, other than your own site, you might want to have your video “archived”. Think of it as a library or gallery of your work, where future consumers will find it.

I could have listed a lot more, but these are things I am playing with. What are your favourites?

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