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05.04.2006

The Wine Spectator Just Doesn't Get It

Let's get this straight from the get go. I'm a Specator subscriber. It's clear they've got some very smart, very talented people working there. I even had a great time hanging out with Harvey Steiman at the Wine Writers Symposium this past March. But whoever calls the shots around that place when it comes to the Internet is totally clueless or completely short-sighted and greedy. Or both.

The reason for such harsh criticism?

Very quietly, over the last couple of weeks, The Wine Spectator has entered the world of wine blogging. Quite seriously, as a matter of fact. All of their main editors are now regularly blogging. And they've chosen to put them right up front, on the home page where you can see them.

But you can't read them, of course.

No, not unless you fork over $7. 95 a month, or $49.00 per year. In ADDITION to your subscription, if you happen to be a subscriber.

Now, I understand the Wine Spectator needing to charge for some access to their web site, especially the database of wine reviews, their archive of travel and restaurant content, etc. But THEIR BLOGS !?!? What the hell are they thinking?

Where do I even start with this? How about the fact that every other major publishing outfit in the world that I know of has managed to figure out that blogging:

1. Provides a great way of interacting with your reader base
2. Is a great way of reaching more new customers and convincing them to subscribe
3. Can help you reach entirely new segments of the population that could not be bothered to pick up your magazine but very well might subscribe to an RSS feed and over time might also subscribe
4. Is a HUGE (did I mention HUGE?) potential source of online ad revenue, provided you don't artificially limit the traffic to your site by doing something stupid like requiring customers to pay to see the ads, er, your content...

Can anyone come up with any reasons why this is a good move by the Spectator? Anyone? I mean, I know they've got the largest subscriber base of any wine magazine, but that pales in comparison to the potential for online ad revenues.

I await your response in my jaw-droppingly dumbfounded state of confusion and mirth. Come on, Marvin Shanken. Get with the program. If you need me to sit down and run through the numbers with you, I'm happy to drop my snarky wine blogger hat and put on my web consulting hat for you.

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