Author Archives: Ryan Opaz

About Ryan Opaz

I am cofounder of the European Wine Bloggers Conference, Born Digital Wine Awards and run fun things like: The Access Zone at the #LIWF. Contact me if you want someone to speak about where the internet and wine intersect. I am a Liquid Agnostic.

In 2012 please bring the 99% something different

There have been a few “New Years” posts that have tried to peer into wine tinted crystal balls and extract ideas of what the new year will bring us. When I say us, I’m referring to the wine world and its future trends, sales and “movements”. Will Bio-D continue to be a force? Will China finally begin buying other wines and not just help to drive the price of Clarets through the roof? Will the “up and comers” up and come?

I don’t think I need to join in. David Lowe, did one of the better wrap ups when he asked top movers and shakers what they thought. I heartily recommend clicking over to read the lengthy article.

Therefore, I just want to make one request of wine writers, wine pundits, wine authors and the rest. It’s two pronged the request, and does have some caveats, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Let me know what you think.

The request I have is quite simple: Please take yourself LESS seriously. Wine is a liquid with flavor. It’s not going to bring the end of the world, nor cause mass panic when priced incorrectly or when the author happens to share a lunch with the person who made it. I know this is hard to believe, but wine is supposed to be fun. Turns out the consumer, or the 99% of consumers who do not spend more than a 20 on a bottle of wine, don’t give a damn about wine beyond making sure it helps to lubricate the social situation they are currently in. It’s my wish that this idea, of wine being fun, can seep into wine communications in 2012.

That said, I realize there are a few of you out there who need to cater to the 1% of people who do care if the the total volatile acidity is greater than or less than the average wine drinkers attention span, or whether the choice of egg shaped fermentation vessels really has added a .00003% decrease in tannin harshness. I’m willing to bet that about 5 of you could manage to maintain this vital content. To you 5, please keep it up! You’re doing great.

To the rest of you wine writers who were not included in the elite group of 5 I mention about, there are still lot’s of options.  I’ll assume the rest of you are the ones complaining about the loss of column space about wine in the local papers, the downfall of a privlededged lifestyle which demands that one must enjoy long lunches and late night punditry over wines that they can’t afford unless offered to them, in a purely objective context, by the winemakers themselves. I can’t say I blame you, but as they say, “you gotta get paid”.

To do so I reply:  move on to new pastures, or get creative.

Give me, no give us, the 99% of wine drinkers, something to bite off and chew on, full of new flavors and ideas. Give us context. Give us stories. But above all, give me something we haven’t seen before. No more fruit flavored adjectives ladled over healthy helpings of regurgitated geek speak. It’s giving us indigestion, and for the most part, constitutes a lack of creativity and independent thought.

Don’t start another blog this year, with your thoughts on what  the wine you bought at the local corner shop tastes like. Do something different. Think outside the box. Or maybe get into boxed wines. Wine fashion, what dress pairs with Cabernet? Wine architecture. While a waste of money IMHO, there are plenty of killer buildings whose stories have not been told within this world of wine. How about beach wines? I always wondered what wine pairs best with the light saltiness that clings to my lips as I climb from  the Mediterranean on a July afternoon. Explore the world with a new perspective, one that acknowledges wine as beverage and not as a sacred cow.

I know this request will be laughed at by some of the “serious wine writers” who will claim that they are doing “serious business” here. And while I my disagree, I’m willing to play along. Let’s look at one of the big news stories from last year: Bordeaux and its ability to price itself out of the market.

My take on this is simple. I heard far more whining about Bordeaux losing their minds and the harm that the pricing will do to the Bordeaux market than I heard about people offering alternatives. From my perspective, Bordeaux is selling fine. It’s value is over inflated due to the string of “once in a century” vintages, but  really, who is maintaining this market?  The journalists themselves? Most likely. Every year, they are invited and coddled at tastings during En Primeur, journalists accept their invitation, “forcing” them to cover a historic wine region. Thus giving much of their time to a region that does not really need the help.

I say let Bordeaux go this year. I like Bordeaux, but give them a reason to work for their reputation. Take a risk, stick your neck on the line and help build a region that is not stuck in history, where the marketing of its wines are not linked to 100+ year old competitions.  If you want to do the “serious business” of wine writing right, cover the news that as of late Bordeaux is more of an idea than a wine.

Do we really need more long lists of tasting notes from Bordeaux? Burgundy? Napa? Others? Do we really need more speculating about what the old guard is doing today?

The 99% says no.

If a smart and influential wine writer wanted to do some good for the average wine drinker, they would spend more time putting pressure on the local retailers to up their game; to make the supermarkets take responsibility for their appalling selections and pricing; to help the growers demand fairer prices in the market; to help educate consumers to upgrade their purchase and thus kill the evil 3 for 10 virus that seems to spread like a cancer.  Why not give us a week of consumer focused writing and punditry, rather than complain about lazy wine regions that coddle the wine press.

2012 is going to be amazing. I know it. A blank slate waiting to be filled with stories and travels. I just ask all of you “communicators” to reach out this year and try something different. Just because you always have doesn’t mean you always have to. There is plenty of opportunities in the world today to make a buck or two writing about the things you love, you just need to make sure you put a new twist on it.

Cheers,

Ryan

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1 picture might not be enough in today’s fast paced world

A picture is worth a 1000 words, or so the saying goes. Personally, I’m starting to think this idea is outdated in today’s world and even more so in relation to the photos you post online. Today, with every gadget and gizmo in your pocket having the capability to snap a photo, upload it and share it in real time, we the online surfers of this world, are constantly being assaulted with images that are at times brilliant and often quite forgettable.

I was considering this the other day when staring at a rooftop as I walked to my metro stop. The rooftop was nothing very special, but it created a nice negative space when presented against the deep blue sky. By itself, on a wall in a frame with a nice touch of sepia or black and white, the image might have been perfect to complement a room or become a talking point in a conversation. It was then that I realized that the same image when presented online, might at its best get a retweet or two, or maybe a stray comment on flickr, but would more likely stream past in a flurry like one unique snowflake tumbling to earth lost in the blizzard of others content.

Marketing your brand can be quite similar, and I think that to better understand what it takes to make your snowflake stand out you need to understand how to make that rooftop photo more relevant. What the photo of the rooftop was missing is a story. Something that links one idea to another. 1 photo in a post on a blog is nothing. Most likely you can give me any photo you take and I’ll find 300 just like it. But if you give that 1 photo context, and a relation to an idea you could keep me interested for a longer length of time.

Taking the rooftop photo example, imagine if I created an album of rooftops from around my town of Terrassa? Or images of the building who’s roof caught my attention? Weaving these images with small bursts of focused text in a post begins to give me a reason to stick around and keep reading.

Same thing goes for branding. One mailing, one website(by itself), one Twitter account, these are not going to do anything to further your brand. They provide no value by themselves. It’s only when you link them or use them to create layers, of stories, ideas, or contexts, that the real magic begins. If you havea winery with 200years of history, that is one layer, and while in some cases that layer can have influence it does have a expiration date and it really is not that unique in the world of wine. What about the story of today, or yesterday. What other stories are you forgetting to tell?

Think about what your “slideshow” is in relation to your brand. If you do you’ll be giving the consumer something to talk about.

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Experience – Borrow someone elses

“Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it. – Steven Wright

Never a truer statement spoken. Winemakers live by this motto as they craft their blends, each year learning from the previous year’s mistakes. This is why we have regions tied to single grapes, or styles of winemaking. Without others’ failures and triumphs we would not have Pinot Noir in Burgundy, Sherry in Jerez, and Port in Portugal.

Sadly, however, lack of experience often stops people from trying new things, afraid that the experience they seek is a prerequisite to trying something new. It’s not. There are many ways to gain experience, both by trial and error or from building on the experiments of others.

Surprisingly, today many wineries are still waiting to see if social media works. Ryan O’Connell of O’Vineyards recently heard a press attaché in France tell a group of winemakers the following:

“…you can’t share a story on sites like facebook or twitter. She also highly distrusts blogs and advises winemakers to be skeptical toward them. She assures us that she isn’t on facebook….”(via)

Unbelievable.

It’s time we all move on.  Social media does work. End of story. Blogs are just publishing tools, and bloggers are people that use them. Facebook and Twitter are communities, and at any time in the history of the world, communities can be found building commerce, telling stories and sharing ideas.

If you don’t believe it go out and look at the experience of others, and then join the conversation with the rest of us, using our experience as you see fit.

Ryan

Success Stories (feel free to ask them what they think):

https://www.facebook.com/Outsiders.Languedoc

http://quevedoportwine.com

http://lagramiere.com

http://ovineyards.com

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How to link better

Better Wine Blogging 101 – Using links effectively

How to link betterContinuing on with our goal to help improve your wine blogging, we want to tackle an important strategy that is often avoided, typically because many people are under the false pretense that it will hurt them, but it’s quite the contrary. This simple strategy can not only bring more traffic to your site, but will also build your rankings in Google or Bing.

Text Links are words that are “hyperlinked” to another webpage, either on your own site or on someone else’s. Here’s what a hyperlink to Wine and Food Pairing looks like. The words Wine and Food Pairing are “clickable” and link to relevant content which can help the reader learn more about this subject – in this case, my site, Catavino. These invaluable links are why the internet exists. Called the “web” because of these connections, it mimics a spiderweb where the connections build and define the structure. Unfortunately, when sites do not link to others sites, they are virtually cutting themselves off from the rest of the web and isolating their content in a bubble that becomes harder and harder for people to find and explore.

Now for all the geeks crying out that I’m over simplifying the matter, you’re absolutely correct, I am. My goal is to show the wine bloggers who never link to anyone (and that list of blogs in your sidebar does not count, they are for all practical purposes useless) that by adding strategic links within their blog posts they can actually help themselves. So please bear with me, and we can all geek out a bit in the comments section below.

For the rest of you, let’s follow a few simple rules. We’ll call it the “5 Link Rule”, which ensures that you have at least 5 hyperlinks in any post you write under 500 words, where 2 of those links point to your website and 3 point to other content on the web. The links that send people away from your site must, however, go to relevant, quality content that will help the reader, not just something random because I told you to.

But wait, you say, linking to other sites doesn’t help me! Wrong. Linking to other sites is very helpful to you. Without getting too technical, when you link to another site you’re alerting them of your connection. In turn, they can choose to link back to you or visit your site. Beyond that too, it places your site in context with other similar sites.

So how do you do it? Simple. Most web editors have a button that looks like a little bit of chain link, or something that says “link”. After you highlight the appropriate text (more on this in a bit) click this link image and you will get a dialog that looks something like this: How to add a text linkWhen filling out the dialogue box, be descriptive. First, place the actual link in the first box you see above with the preceding “http://” . Without this, you will be linking to an error page and not helping your site. Second, make sure to title your link. Tell us what it links to in order to help both search engines and your readers who are on devices that need this information. Finally, do not click the “open in a new window/tab”. I know we think if people stay on our site it’s better, but this is not always the case. I don’t want new pages opening up if I don’t ask for them, and if you provide great information, I’ll make sure to come back to you. Let your readers make their own decisions!

Ok, now back to that text you highlighted to create a link. Remember my food and wine pairing link above? In that case I created a link with the words “Wine and Food Pairing”, which is descriptive and useful, but it is also very helpful to Google. Essentially, I told Google that if people want to know about Wine and Food Pairing they should look at the site I linked to because it has quality information on the subject. In addition, I’m also saying, “Hey Google, I know where to find the best content on this subject, so come to me to learn about Wine and Food Pairing too”. Now, repeat this a few hundred times, and naturally, over the lifetime of your site you’ll be considered a resource for this type of information. What you do not want to highlight and a create a link from are things that are not useful like the words “click here”.

For the same reasons above, you also want to link to your own site with keywords that are important to you. So in our case, if I want to show that posting photos on wine blogs is something I know a lot about, I’ll make sure to link those words to older posts on the subject! Now, while Google knows you’re promoting yourself, it also recognizes that you know your content better than anywhere else. And if you provide good information through these links, rather than spammy promotions, Google will begin to  value your site higher on these specific topics, which is great!

These are very quick tips, not guaranteed tips to get you listed on page 1 of Google, that will make your site a stronger resource for wine information. Also this is presented to show you some simple best practices to make sure your website fits into the wine web more effectively. Nothing here is a trick or a solution that will trump good consistent content. You need to have good material if you hope that anything I say here is going to help you!

So, before I bore you any further, I’m opening it up to questions in the comments. Remember let’s keep this general as there are better places to talk SEO techniques, but this is a good place to get the basics of how to link out of the way, and taking the first steps to being a pro-wine-blogger! 🙂

Cheers,

Ryan Opaz

Let me know what other blogging 101 topics you want me to cover on Wine Conversation email me: [email protected]