A friend of mine, that talented writer David White, recently gave a speech at the 2011 Nederburg Auction in South Africa. The title of the talk: “The End of the Gatekeeper: How The Online Revolution is Revolutionizing Wine.”
Forgiving the potential redundancy in the title (a revolution does have to revolutionize something, by definition, at least I think it does but maybe we’ve revolutionized the definitions as well and I missed it), David’s speech (which you can read in its entirety) is chock-full of interesting tidbits regarding the state of the on-line wine world. And if that speech has a theme, it’s this: gatekeepers are largely wasting their time, especially when it comes to wine.
One of the more interesting tidbits from that speech comes from David’s observation of the current market’s combination of social media and the long-tail of how we search for and eventually consume products…
From the “tape”:
“Consumers still need advisors, of course, but when today’s consumers want information, they turn to their friends and their trusted networks — in real life and online. This change represents a remarkable opportunity for everyone in the wine industry. How so? Consumer choice. For all intents and purposes, wine consumers have unlimited selection. With its hundreds of thousands of labels, wine has one of the longest tails in the marketplace. Understanding this Long Tail — and its implications — is critical… What’s the Long Tail have to do with wine? Just like with movies, music, and books, the selection is virtually unlimited — and today’s consumers are eager to be unique, free from the influence of gatekeepers and able to make up their own minds.”
This is spot-on, peeps – at least, it is for the budding geeky wine consumer section of the market, which isn’t enormous but is certainly big enough to support its fair share of fine wine brands.
Wine, as a product, has a tail longer than the Alaskan pipeline – a crazy number of SKUs, brands, and multiple vintages of each potentially all available and competing with one another in the marketplace at the same time. Long Tail is your friend, and if you are in the wine biz than you need to get a handle on it. For an introduction to the long tail, check out the vid and slide deck from a panel that Doug Cook, Alder Yarrow and I gave at the 2011 Pro Wine Writers Symposium, discussing the long tail and its SEO implications (in this case for wine writing, but the intro. to the concept is relevant in the context of what David discusses in his speech).