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How people buy wine: friends vs. scores

39 comments

 

I was pleased to read yesterday that Wine Enthusiast is considered to be one of the two most influential wine magazines in America.

That’s the result of a survey taken by respected veteran market analyst, John Gillespie, who runs Wine Opinions, which describes itself as “the only Internet research organization devoted exclusively to wine.” (John also is President of the Wine Market Council. You may not have heard of it, but it’s a hugely important wine industry trade group whose Board of Directors includes Michael Mondavi, my friend Xavier Barlier of Maisons Marques & Domaines, Mel Dick of Southern Wine & Spirits, and the publisher of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Adam Strum.)

There are several nuggets of interest buried in the Wine Opinions survey. Besides the obvious good news about Wine Enthusiast (which I don’t think is particularly surprising, as it’s been generally known in the industry for years), the other point John makes is that even more influential than any wine magazine or newsletter is “a wine knowledgeable friend” [or] sommelier.”

As an anecdotal example of this, John is quoted in the article as saying, “If you work at Binny’s [Beverage Depot] in Chicago and you have worked years to get [wine] certifications, and two people walk into your store and one leans into the other’s ear and says, ‘Buy that one,’ you’re finished. You can’t do your job. That must be frustrating.”

Indeed it must be. That’s the power of peer review, or word of mouth, whatever you want to call it. We all know that a friend’s recco is the strongest thing there is, particularly if the recommendee believes that the recommender knows what he’s talking about.

I do have a question, though. What percentage of wine do people buy based on a personal recommendation (from a friend or somm), as opposed to a score or review originally published in a magazine? I bet you it’s an extremely low percentage. I mean, Sure, if you walk into Binny’s with the guy in your office who’s known for his wine connoisseurship, and he tells you to buy bottle “x,” of course you’ll buy it, even if you see a bunch of shelf talkers touting 96 point wines, because he’s your friend, he means well, and his knowledge is far greater than yours.

But is every wine shopper accompanied by a trusted friend? I don’t think so. That’s not really how people shop. The way people really shop is to walk up and down the infamous Wall of Wine alone, trying to figure out what the heck to buy for dinner that night. There is no “wine knowledgeable friend” around. There’s not even a wine knowledgeable staff person around. The shopper is on her own, adrift in a sea of labels. As for buying on the advice of a sommelier, I do that whenever I eat at a nice restaurant. But I don’t eat out very often, and I suspect most other people don’t, either. Probably 90% of the wines people drink are at home, wines they themselves bought in a store.

This is precisely when the professional review has impact. The shopper may be aware of it through a shelf talker or bottle-necker, or perhaps an ad in the local newspaper. Scores and reviews are remarkably fungible things. Once they are born in a magazine or newsletter, they are apt to make their way around the world, through a variety of media and means, especially in our digital age.

So my feeling (not based on scientific research, obviously, but it makes sense) is that, while people might rate “the recommendation of a trusted friend” or a sommelier higher on a survey than “a score or review in a wine magazine or newsletter,” the majority of their wine purchases actually are influenced by scores and reviews. Which is just another way of saying that wine periodicals, including Wine Enthusiast, play a vital role in influencing wine buying patterns in the U.S.

  1. Haven’t read the original report, but it seems to be a pretty goofy assertion that peer recommendations drive significant purchases for high-frequency buyers – either at the low- or high-end. Having said that, people do need to be told what to buy – there are just too many products for any wine enthusiast to make an objective purchase decision.

    I also wouldn’t put a somm in the same category as a “friend.” A somm goes along with wine retailers, critics, wine writers, as the group of primary influencers that drive purchases. With a few exceptions, your friends don’t know anything more about wine than you do and as you pointed out how often do you ask your wine-loving friend to go wine shopping with you? And, really, how many people have you ever heard “Ooh, I found this great wine that people were talking about on Twitter?” Never. Wine is sold, not bought.

    Finally, even if you do look to a friend for a recommendation… guess where they get their inspiration? Even as a second-order influence, it’s critical.

    Having said all that, the problem still is that critic reviews are vastly underutilized as they sit as dusty pieces of content on some server somewhere instead of being actionable information that *actively* drives buying behavior.

  2. Michael Brill, how would you suggest that critics actively drine buying behavior?

  3. doug wilder says:

    Steve,

    I think you nailed the concept of influence here, it has its roots somewhere in the past. What the referenced report could lead readers to conclude is that the friend who made the recommendation somehow originally arrived at their opinion through divine osmosis. Further it suggests that those who take the recommendation of friends abandon the concept of curiosity and self exploration. “Wow, that Grenache John told me about was really tasty, I can’t wait for him to tell me about another one.”

    The bottom line is that for any consumer to form an opinion on a new product it needs to physically be available. When dealing with wines that means it goes from the vineyard to the winery, to the distributor, to the retailer or restaurant where presumably the alpha “friend” will first try it and possibly like it enough to tell their friends about. Before that happens a wine professional will likely have tasted it and may put it on a wine list, write an article or review that someone is going to read.

    To illustrate the point, you and I know the answer to the following question: Which is the most crowded table at World of Pinot Noir? Are they crowded because a friend told them about it or because they read about it? The answer is likely a fluid combination of the two.

  4. Doug Wilder, yes, we all know what the most crowded tables are at WOPN. I always feel so sorry for the others.

  5. While I’m working on one approach to better utilize reviews, there are many. The general notion is to bring that content to the point of purchase. Combine retailer inventory, your knowledge about product characteristics and a deep understanding of individual preferences and context. Deliver that where people are buying wine.

  6. Jake the snake says:

    WOPN helped hype “the table” by giving them 3 tables! Good on them.

  7. I’d also like to add that peer reviews may help bottles move off the shelf, but critical reviews help get those bottles onto the shelf

  8. gabe: Good point!

  9. Sorry, Steve, but you are missing a boat. Most of the people buy the wines based on the labels, price and store associate advice. Reviews and ratings have the least influence on the way people buy the wine – not all people, but definitely the majority.

    As far as friends advice goes, you don’t have to have a friend with you today – most of the people have smartphones and their friends are available all over the internet, in the form of the blogs, tweets, what have you. Plus people often do their “homework” before they come to the store. I observed many people come to the wine store asking for the specific wine as they were told by XYZ as that is the wine to buy – and in many cases, if the exact wine is not available, they will simply leave the store – no ratings will persuade them to buy a different wine.

  10. Anatoli… we’re all speculating on this, but I have a strong hunch (backed up by a few dozen wine buyer interviews) that ratings matter a lot… review text less so. I spend a fair bit of time in San Francisco wine stores watching people buy and (a) nobody calls their friend and (b) very few use a phone at all. And, even if they did, what exactly do you think they’re looking up or where did the friend get the inspiration to recommend a wine? With ~ 150,000 SKUs entering the US market this year on top of millions already out there, it’s impossible for a “friend” to even taste a tiny, tiny fraction of these.

    IMHO, there has to be a high-volume triage review function and whether a customer uses that rating/review directly or is a derivative beneficiary of a review by relying on other influencers who themselves are influenced by professional critics doesn’t really matter.

  11. Michael, I’m not saying reviews and scores are irrelevant. I’m a wine blogger, and I rate and review wines as well. But reviews and scores are important mostly to the wine collectors, and may be to some geeks – but not to the majority of the wine buyers. As I said, people buy wine by the labels and prices first of all (which I witnessed in the wine stores numerous number of times), and also by the advice of the store associate ( this is the third factor of influence).

    Here are couple of articles which support that:

    http://services.exeter.ac.uk/cmit/modules/student-work/ortrun-wine-labels.pdf
    http://www.winecurmudgeon.com/my_weblog/2012/08/how-people-really-buy-wine.html

    Take a look at this study – the wine ratings are not even mentioned as factor of influence!
    http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1095&context=agbsp

    I’m not saying wines shouldn’t be rated and reviewed – but we need to have a realistic understanding of how this information is used.

  12. Anatoli… thanks for including those links. A few points: clearly there is some broad segmentation that must be applied before discussing buyer motivations. A 22 year old that buys $8 wines as an alternative to beer is different from a 40 year old that has has hundreds of bottles in a collection and has been drinking long enough to value more than simple hedonism. I’m not deriding the former, but much more money is to be made with the latter. Just in the US look at the 3m core consumers that purchase > $2500 annually (average $4200) – that’s 35% of the entire market just with 3m people. That’s where my interest lies. Add the next 4 million core drinkers and we’re up to ~ 60% of market value with just 10% of wine drinkers.

    So in some respects I don’t really care about the entire non-core drinker market as well as millennials. My argument is that to operate a reasonable wine business for those customers requires significant volume due to lower margins. This almost ensures the lack of authenticity that younger consumers crave which in turn exposes the lack of brand loyalty. Whatever they are drinking today, they will not be drinking 2 years from now. I’m sure there will be large wineries with CMOs and data scientists that manufacture brands and will serve that market well. But in the meantime there are thousands and thousands of wineries that can’t really play there because of scale requirements. Yes, of course millennials also buy $50 bottles of wine… but not very many.

    Having said that, I do think there is a useful distinction between using ratings AT the point of purchase vs. the impact of ratings leading up to that purchase. Online, ratings are huge because they’re embedded in every offer. Offline, less so because the information isn’t generally available at the point of purchase (save for shelf-talkers, but even then it all starts to blur after walking down an aisle). But my point is that one of the key reasons that product is on that shelf in the first place is a 93 rating by X. One of the key reasons your friend recommends that wine is because it got 92 points from Y. And had it not scored well, your friend may not have ever got to taste it in the first place!

    Look, I realize that scores are just one factor of many in my own purchase decisions. Sometimes I don’t care at all. OTOH, in a wine world with infinite selection and no objective way to evaluate wines without spending the money, the triaging function provided by critics has more of a systemic impact on purchases than is visible by watching someone stare at a wall of wine.

  13. Michael, I knew that we will get to the 80/20 or 90/10 in the end :) Yes, demographics matter. But even more importantly, we need to take into account that as people get more involved with wine, their knowledge and comfort zone are increasing. Once people start understanding the wine in terms of regions and producers, they stop desperately staring at the wall of wine, searching for the clues as to what to buy. People acquire knowledge that when they buy Rioja Alta, no matter what the rating is, there is a very high probability that the wine will be good. When I buy Turley or Peter Michael, I don’t care what the rating is – I know and respect the producers and I like their style in general – ratings are not part of my buying decision. I was happy to learn that No Girls was rated 98 points – but I learned that after I bought it. Again, ratings and reviews are important, but in a lot of cases they are not more that the references, not the guiding and driving factors.

  14. I largely agree although perhaps the reason you bought No Girls was that you knew of Cayuse… and how’d you learn about Christophe Baron? Do you think those WS 99 point ratings had to do with anything? ;-)

  15. To be entirely honest, I first learnt about Cayuse from the post by W. Blake Gray – the post had no ratings or reviews, but he mentioned that Cayuse is probably one of the most age-worthy wines out there. This is how I got interested in Cayuse, still on their waiting list, but got lucky with No Girls. I have no idea what the ratings are for the Cayuse wines. By the way, while I never met W. Blake Gray and can’t call him a “friend”, I nevertheless have a lot of respect for his opinion, and this is why I can buy wine on his recommendation alone – no ratings or reviews. This is what I largely meant by “friends recommendations”. The same goes for many other wine bloggers I follow, who are much less famous than W. Blake Gray, but who I managed to establish rapport with.

  16. Nobody calls Blake a friend. ;-)

  17. Bob Henry says:

    Michael and Anatoli,

    Regarding these dualing comments . . .

    ANATOLI: “As far as friends advice goes, you don’t have to have a friend with you today – most of the people have smartphones and their friends are available all over the internet, in the form of the blogs, tweets, what have you.”

    MICHAEL: “I spend a fair bit of time in San Francisco wine stores watching people buy and (a) nobody calls their friend and (b) very few use a phone at all.”

    . . . at least one wine review-turned-wine entrepreneur sure “hopes” the public consults their smartphone while wine store shopping.

    Yesterday’s press release:

    “Antonio Galloni Announces Launch of Vinous Mobile Site (Press Release)”

    Summary: Vinous represents a different approach to exploring wine. Today’s consumers are interested in far more than facts and figures, they’re looking for context, stories and in-depth commentary, all in real-time.

    [ Link: http://eon.businesswire.com/news/eon/20131002005861/en/Antonio-Galloni/wine/critic ]

    ~~ Bob

  18. Bob,

    I completely agree that many people are looking more for the stories than just the numbers.

    At the same time, Vinuos looks like a subscription-based website, so this is more of the Wine Advocate model, may be at a different price. I’m really not sure what is new here.

    I think “consultation with friends” largely takes place off line, and while in the store, people just use the smartphone as a notepad, to show it to the store associate and say “here, do you have this wine?”…

    –Anatoli

  19. To be especially uncharitable, the headline to the press release could be:

    “Antonio Galloni spends a few hundred dollars on a front-end developer to make website responsive.”

    All this does is make his website more easily viewed on a phone. That’s great, but it’s not really a meaningful advance in the use of technology to drive wine purchases. Like pretty much every mobile app or website, the workflow is backwards. It assumes this: you walk into the store… you somehow pick up a random bottle out of the thousands. You spend 30 seconds trying to look up the product on the site. Oh, not reviewed by AG yet… hmmmm, ok pick up another bottle. Now look that one up. Ah, 91 points and a 200 word review. You read it. Sounds fine… but, wait, will I like this wine? Is it really a good deal? Is there a better wine for the same price? What about all those cool stories the sales rep tells me about wines? And, wait, why is the sales person who is 10 feet away from me looking at me like that? Should I keep ignoring him? Hmmmm, maybe I’ll start searching twitter for random wine comments. This just isn’t a real scenario.

    Wine is sold, not bought.

  20. Bob Henry says:

    Michael,

    Let me interject this clarifying question, to your statement “Wine is sold, not bought.”

    Is this shorthand for saying “hand sells”?

    If “yes,” I agree that is the most effective way to (1) “actively listen” to a consumer’s “needs” and “wants” (2) tell a winery’s story, (3) move the consumer through the stages of the buying process, and (4) “upsell.”

    But what percentage of consumers buy their wines from independent neighborhood wine stores, with a knowledgeable staff who “work” the sales floor?

    (As distinct from grocery stores where the only person you see in the wine aisle is the occasional clerk stocking the shelves. Grocery stores whose “category manager” in a distant corporate headquarters city made the buying decision to stock, say, Castle Rock and devised the plan-o-gram for the wine aisle?)

    No doubt readers of Steve’s wine blog shop the independents. (The 20% of the customer base that Joseph Juran referred to.)

    But not the general public. (The remaining 80% of the customer base that Joseph Juran referred to.)

    They are on their own when they enter a grocery or convenience store when wine shopping.

    (Aside: Here in Los Angeles, the Vons grocery store chain has populated some of their larger stores with “wine stewards” to drive business in the wine department. At competing grocery store chain Ralphs, they seek to hire similar “stewards.” But with little success: at a modest $8 minimum wage starting pay — less than the “box boy” — how much “expertise” can you expect to get from such individuals? How long will such individuals stay? Employee acquisition and retention is a chronic problem.)

    The consumer’s “touchpoint” with the wine trade happens in the retail store.

    At an independent wine store, that’s a human being. At a grocery store, that’s a shelf talker — or nothing.

    ~~ Bob

  21. Perfect. Your description maps directly to my understanding. I do feel like I’m hijacking this thread to pimp my efforts, but…

    I believe that there is plenty of information out there to help people buy wine. But it’s not available in an easy to consume format to help people make great buying decisions – especially in a store. It’s also not contextualized at all. By this, I mean the information exists outside of the individual’s preferences (sensory and non-sensory) and their context (e.g., buying wine for a party, dinner, collecting, boss, etc.). That’s what makes sales reps so useful. They can elicit preferences, experience and context in a sales interaction and direct you to the best wine(s).

    Unfortunately, as you pointed out, people are *very* expensive to scale… plus they have other problems – they intimidate people, they’re biased towards towards the economics of their employer, they’re biased by their personal tastes, they’re busy with other customers, etc.

    Soooooo, if we have all this information about wines, we can easily collect preferences from customers, and we know how a really good sales rep works… and people have a handy-dandy phone with them, who’s to say that that the store’s sales rep is the one doing the guidance? And who’s to say that the guidance has to come from a human?

  22. Steve, I think there is a huge data point missing relating to the social web, or how consumers have up-ended the influence curve, taking control over the brand’s image. A brand is what the consumer says it is. Brands do not control messaging, they only think they do. And, if they really still believe that, they are destined to fail.

    Peer review, social scoring, personal brand rating, online reputation, referral marketing are extremely powerful and persuasive. Suggesting that socializing wine recommending must take place in the physical world is akin to believing that a restaurant’s hours of operation or menu can only be seen at their physical retail location. Data is everywhere. API’s are shared and re-shared, opinions are tweeted, retweeted, status updates and check-ins are a normal part of the day for hundreds of millions connected via the social web. Add billions of pictures and videos uploaded yearly and you can start understanding that things have changed.

    Wine ratings are just not relevant to an economy powered by conversation. Wine contests are too political, or at least appear to be. As a consumer, I absolutely trust a friend’s wine review over a media company or a wine”expert”. Why? Well, my friends and contacts IRL or on social networks have no reason to prevaricate. They simply need to say “Wow, tried a 2010 Zin from Tobin James from Paso, it was killer”. Good enough for me. Note that I didn’t need to be at a bar, a store or at Binny’s to get the transparent message. And, maybe 10,000 others saw the same message and maybe 10% of those 10,000 shared that “peer wine review” with their friends. This is influence and the beginning of advocacy that connects a to consumers while building brand equity for the winery.

    Here is the new social reality and a force of change that no one can prevent from happening: Wine will be peer reviewed and scored using massive data collection methodologies and sentiment analysis to determine likability, drinkability and affordability. Reviews by a few experts vs reviews by thousands of people that have actually tried the wine is far more influential and transparent. The value of a “98″ as determined from a team of “experts” will never carry as much weight as 5,000 comments from non-experts that have no reason to promote a bad wine.

    There are new players, change agents and wine technology companies like vintank.com (customer analytics), fohbuzz.com (winery and wine reputation management) and DTC marketplaces like sippify.com that are social media savvy, fully networked and know the wine and food industry. Change is here and peer review and social scoring of wines is a forgone conclusion. The wine industry needs to embrace the horror of the social web and realized that peer reviews can be a game changer for their winery. Just be open, honest, kind and make good wines that people want to talk about and share with their friends.

  23. Michael, first of all congrats on launching your site and good luck on the raise! I’m not sure anyone said that you needed to be in a physical store to be influenced on your purchase. Especially given the feeble state of wine critic mobile apps, I’m certain that this isn’t a commonly-held belief.

    Separate from that, I’d like to challenge you on the relevance of peer reviews for wine. While published studies are limited, my own research with ~ 30 wine enthusiasts plus bits of secondary research plus my common sense says online peer reviews don’t move the needle. I have yet to run into a winery operator who can point to SM as a significant driver of revenue. OTOH, I have seen innumerable, tremendous successes from WE/WS/RP/etc 95 point scores. And critic scores have a more subtle influence that “bubbles up” through influencers and retailers. So even though Fred may not tell you that the Chateau X got 95 points, that’s why he tried it in the first place… and that’s why the wine store carries it. Do me a favor and check out: http://2013.top100.winespectator.com/ … and see how the world goes apeshit for those wines. Point me to a single wine in the entire world that gets that sort of bump from 5,000 random people. Doesn’t happen.

    The big problem is that there is no such thing as collective intelligence for wine. While I appreciate the impact of 5,000 reviewers to help pick a restaurant, a flat screen display or a pair of socks, I could care less what 5,000 “people” think about a wine. That’s because most “people” cannot objectively evaluate a wine like they can a pair of socks. If anything, most people will be excessively influenced by brand and the top wines will be the predictable KJ Vintners Reserve and its ilk.

    However, there are true “influencers” – entities that have certain domain expertise in wine – that are not part of the handful of professional wine critics. The bigger posters on CT, somms, and even your friend who drinks every Paso Zin ever produced. And whether or not *they* are influenced by reviewers isn’t so material. What’s important is that you are trusting a single entity to help you make that purchase… not the collective view of 5,000. HUGE, HUGE, HUGE difference between those two. I strongly believe in the concept of influencers (in our world, they’re “agents”) and strongly reject the belief that peer reviews matter one iota.

    I know that’s an unpopular view and implies a lack of understanding of social media and that I just don’t “get it.” On the contrary, I feel like the market has already spoken with a huge bone pile of venture-funded companies who were going to take some social/millennial/personal/etc. concept and reinvent the wine industry… only to end up scampering away with their tail between their legs.

    To finish this screed, I’m not saying that nothing can be improved… clearly it can. But simply pointing at a successful model in another industry and assuming it works in wine is mistake that people have made over and over and over again.

    …Michael

  24. Michael Atkinson at Sippify:

    Speaking as a marketer, help me out here in understanding Sippify’s business model.

    You represent N dozen wineries based in Paso Robles, whose inventory you sell to consumers via a “club.”

    The mix of vintners and vintages and varieties comprising a shipment is unknown to the consumer. Only the AVA and the number of bottles and the cost-of-pocket cost is known to the consumer before taking delivery.

    Hmmmm . . . so how do you mollify your winery suppliers when it comes to a “haves” versus “have-not” inventory selection decision?

    That Jason Haas at Tablas Creek is getting a disproportionate offering of wine, and (say) David Hunt at Hunt Cellars is getting . . . . none?

    From the consumers’ perspective, they have to have an implicit faith in your organization’s ability to be a peerless opinion leader and tastemaker.

    Otherwise, the money the consumer tenders is for a proverbial “pig-in-a-poke.”

    How does your offering take the risk away from a risk-averse buying public?

    Quoting from your website FAQs . . .

    What if I’m not happy with wine I received?

    Who wants to receive bad wine when you’re paying good money for it? Contact us and let us know which wines you disliked.

    . . . nowhere do I see those reassuring words: “100% money back guarantee. Including shipping and handling charges.”

    Invoking the product adoption curve, you are targeting the new experience-seeking “innovators” who represent just 1% to 3% of the buyers.

    The same innovators who are already knowledgeable and savvy enough about wine that they don’t need opinion leaders or tastemakers.

    Sorry for the “buzz kill,” but I don’t see the “game changer” nature of your company.

    You appear to be adopting the rationale of “The Long Tail.”

    But the Long Tail has been discredited.

    See these articles from The Wall Street Journal – with particular attention to marketing professor Anita Elberse’s research at the Harvard Business School.

    ~~ Bob

    From The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (July 26, 2006, Page B1):

    “It May Be a Long Time Before the Long Tail Is Wagging the Web”

    [Part 1 of 2 Columns]

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115387606762117314.html

    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    – and –

    From The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (August 2, 2006, Page B1):

    “Many Companies Still Cling to Big Hits To Drive Earnings”

    [Part 2 of 2 Columns]

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB115447712983624018

    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    – and –

    From The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (July 2, 2008, Page Unknown):

    “Study Refutes Niché Theory Spawned by Web”

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121493784638920147.html

    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

  25. Steve,

    Your website’s “comments” section is taking on the character of TV’s “Shark Tank.”

    ~~ Bob

  26. Steve,

    Non-subscribers to The Wall Street Journal may not be able to access Part One and Two of Lee Gomes’s “Portals” column.

    Reproduced below . . .

    ~~ Bob

    From The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (July 26, 2006, Page B1):

    “It May Be a Long Time Before the Long Tail Is Wagging the Web”

    [Part 1 of 2 Columns]

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115387606762117314.html

    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson’s hot, new best seller, “The Long Tail,” is causing a sensation with its eye-opening claims about the way the Web is rewriting the rules of commerce. But I’ve looked at some of the same data, and some more of my own, and I don’t think things are changing as much as he does.

    The book argues that while traditional companies are limited by shelf space to offering only a relatively small number of “hits,” on the Web, they can carry a vastly bigger number of slower-selling items. These “misses,” which make up the “tail” of the title, can, he says, add up to a big number — maybe even bigger than sales of the hits.

    That would be very different from the business world we know today; no wonder the book’s cover promises “The New Economics of Culture and Commerce.”

    Let’s start this discussion where Mr. Anderson starts his book, with his discovery of what he calls a paradigm-changing statistic. In the introduction, he tells how he learns from Ecast, a music-streaming company, that 98% of its catalog gets played at least once a quarter — much more than most would predict.

    This “98 Percent Rule,” as Mr. Anderson names it, suggests the remarkable prospect that no matter how much inventory you put online, someone, somewhere will show up to buy it. He writes, “Everywhere I looked the story was the same. . . . The 98 Percent Rule turned out to be nearly universal.”

    Except it’s not. Ecast told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays.

    Mr. Anderson told me in an email that he only mentioned the 98 Percent Rule to show how he first got interested in the book’s overall subject, adding, “I have no idea how broadly it applies today.”

    In the book’s main sections, Mr. Anderson writes that as things move online, sales of misses will increase — so much so that they can equal or exceed the sales of hits. The latter is the book’s showstopper proposition; it’s mentioned twice on the book’s jacket.

    I was thus a little surprised when Mr. Anderson told me that he didn’t have any examples of this actually occurring. At Netflix and Amazon, two of his biggest case studies, misses won’t outsell hits for at least another decade, he said. None of these qualifications are in the book.

    Mr. Anderson told me the lack of an example of misses outselling hits doesn’t diminish his basic point, which he said is simply that the role of the tail “is big and getting bigger.”

    By Mr. Anderson’s calculation, 25% of Amazon’s sales are from its tail, as they involve books you can’t find at a traditional retailer. But using another analysis of those numbers — an analysis that Mr. Anderson argues isn’t meaningful — you can show that 2.7% of Amazon’s titles produce a whopping 75% of its revenues. Not quite as impressive.

    [Bob Henry’s comment: In “bricks and mortar” retail world there is a long-held consideration known as the “80:20 Rule” -- that 80% of your sales revenue comes from selling 20% of your physical inventory; and/or that 80% of your sales revenue comes from selling to 20% of your customer base.]

    Another theme of the book is that “hits are starting to rule less.” But when I looked online, I was surprised to see what seemed like the opposite. Ecast says 10% of its songs account for roughly 90% of its streams; monthly data from Rhapsody showed the top 10% songs getting 86% of streams.

    Bloglines, the widely used blog-reading tool, lists 1.2 million blogs; real ones, not computer-generated “spam blogs.” The top 10% of feeds grab 88% of all subscriptions. And 35% have no current subscribers at all* — there’s clearly no 98 Percent Rule in the blogosphere.

    At Apple’s iTunes, one person who has seen the data — which Apple doesn’t disclose — said sales “closely track Billboard. It’s a hits business. The data tend to refute ‘The Long Tail.’ ”

    Other economists, of course, are looking into these same questions, though some seem to be reaching far more restrained conclusions. Harvard’s Anita Elberse, whom Mr. Anderson said was a consultant during his two-year research project, studies the video sales market, both online and off.

    She said in an email that her work to date shows a “slight shift” toward the tail. But she also noted “a rapidly increasing number of titles that never, or very rarely, sell,” which suggests “it is difficult for content providers to profit from the ‘tail.’ ”

    It would be wonderful if the world as Mr. Anderson describes it were true: one where “healthy niche products” and even “outright misses” collectively could stand their ground with the culture’s increasingly soulless “hits.”

    But while every singer-songwriter dreams from his bedroom of making a living off iTunes, few actually do, mostly because so many others have the very same idea. And to the extent that Apple is making money off iTunes, thanks go to Nelly Furtado and other hitmakers. Indeed, you can make the case that the Internet is amplifying the role of hits, even in relation to misses, not diminishing them.

    So maybe Mr. Anderson really has unlocked the sort of new business rules the cover promises. I say we wait before ripping up any business plans. Let’s see how the tail shakes out.

    See next comment for the following week’s continuation column . . .

  27. Steve,

    Non-subscribers to The Wall Street Journal may not be able to access Part One and Two of Lee Gomes’s “Portals” column.

    Reproduced below . . .

    ~~ Bob

    From The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (August 2, 2006, Page B1):

    “Many Companies Still Cling to Big Hits To Drive Earnings”

    [Part 2 of 2 Columns]

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB115447712983624018

    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    As business increasingly shifts to the Web, several important questions get raised about the directions of our economy and our culture. [A:] Are hits still important? [B:] What can companies expect when they move online? [C:] Should they expand their inventories as they do so?

    Judging from data I gathered in the course of writing last week’s column about the new book “The Long Tail,” the answers seem to be, A) More than ever. B) Maybe less change than they think. C) Only after very careful study.

    The currently popular notion that hits are becoming less important due to the vast reach of cyberspace would strike most Hollywood executives as preposterous. For good or bad, moguls make the opposite assumption. They can be forgiven for doing so; after just three weeks of release, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel is already Hollywood’s all-time 11th biggest grosser, and No. 63 when adjusted for inflation.

    It’s much the same in music. “Looking at the numbers, the idea of hits not being as important just doesn’t follow,” says Chris Muratore, research director of Nielsen SoundScan, who tends a database of 400,000 albums released since 1991. “Hits are still the driving force in music.”

    It has been argued that a declining role of hits in music is evidenced by the fact that none of Billboard’s all-time best-selling albums were released in the past few years. But there numerous other explanations, including the obvious one that classic albums from the 1960s and 1970s have bigger totals simply because they have been on sale longer.

    Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” for example, was released in 1973, but has sold 7.7 million copies since 1991 in the U.S. alone, and is adding an additional 9,600 domestic sales every week. Total global sales of the album so far are 40 million.

    In book publishing, best sellers continue to play an ever-larger role, says Al Greco, a longtime industry analyst. And while more people than ever are buying books online from sites like Amazon, it’s not at all clear that reading habits are changing.

    The head of a major New York publishing operation says that the distribution of his titles is essentially the same in both online and “bricks and mortar” channels.

    The outside estimates of what percent of Amazon’s book sales are from beyond its “hits,” commonly defined as everything but the company’s top 100,000 sellers, range from 20% to 40%. But none of these studies had access to internal Amazon data, and Amazon itself is tight-lipped about the issue.

    While Amazon is famous for listing millions of books, several ex-Amazon insiders cautioned against assuming that the back catalog necessarily contributed a big percentage to overall sales. Its real function, they say, is to draw in customers*, even if they end up just buying “hits.”

    [*Bob Henry’s comment: The online equivalent of “loss leaders” ?]

    “You could look at it like running buses late at night,” said one. “It’s not as though it’s profitable at the margin, but it probably boosts ridership in general.”

    Hits are bigger at Netflix than many outsiders seem to think. The DVD renter routinely says that 70% of its rentals are from its back catalog, which might suggest a mere supporting role for blockbusters.

    But Netflix’s defines “back catalog” expansively. A spokesman says it’s anything outside of the 50 or so DVDs getting heavy studio promotion at any given time. So even recent megahits like “Spiderman II” are in the back catalog.

    What’s more, since Netflix rents 60,000 titles, it follows that those 50 titles — eight-tenths of 1% of inventory — generate 30% of all rentals. Netflix isn’t alone in getting a big chunk of business from hits; sales of Apple’s iTunes are close to those tracked by Billboard, says an insider.

    A similar concentration is evident even at freewheeling YouTube. An analysis of the 5.1 million videos uploaded to the site as of July 25 shows that the top 10% best-played of them made up 79% of the 7.56 billion total plays, with the top 20% making up 89%.

    The former CEO of Rhapsody, the music streaming service, said that during his tenure, which ended in 2004, he was frustrated that his users continued to prefer music from major labels, despite his repeated efforts to increase their appreciation of “independent” music.

    Sean Ryan said that independent music remained constant at roughly 15% of total plays, even after indie offerings became the majority of Rhapsody’s total catalog. He also said the split between major label and indie music was no different at Rhapsody than what would be found in a bricks and mortar store. Rhapsody is a subscription service, meaning people could listen to any music they wanted without paying anything more, and Mr. Ryan said he had expected users as a result to be more adventurous in their listening.

    As companies watch the Web grow, and hear promises of greatly expanded niche sales, it’s tempting for them to expand inventory to get in on the supposed land rush.

    But Matthew P. Reilly, with George Group Consulting of Dallas, says doing so could be a “recipe for disaster” at companies that make tangible, as opposed to purely digital, products — if only because of the inevitable increase in execution risks they face in expanding their inventories. “The iTunes model doesn’t work for most companies,” he adds.

    While inventories should be expanded only with the greatest care, such prudence might be difficult these days, considering the current popularity of Web utopian fantasies about the way sales of niche products can rival those of hits.

    At a presentation to a retailing study group, one business analyst came under fierce questioning for suggesting the seemingly unremarkable point that companies should concentrate on their top performers, rather than their slow sellers.

    [* Bob Henry’s aside: Emphasizing the importance of the “80:20 Rule”?]

    The advice was treated as pernicious heresy. “I was stunned,” says the analyst. “It was like a religion to them.”

    So what about at your company?

    Leading to the third installment on marketing professor Anita Elberse’s research at the Harvard Business School . . .

  28. Steve,

    Marketing professor Anita Elberse’s research at the Harvard Business School . . .

    ~~ Bob

    From The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” Section
    (July 2, 2008, Page Unknown):

    “Study Refutes Niché Theory Spawned by Web”

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121493784638920147.html

    By Lee Gomes
    “Portals” Column

    Had PowerPoint been around 150 years ago, Thoreau might have warned us to beware not only of enterprises that require new clothes, but also of those that require new paradigms.

    A book from 2006, “The Long Tail,” was one of those that appear periodically and demand that we rethink everything we presume to know about how society works. In this case, the Web and its nearly unlimited choices were said to be remaking the economy and culture. Now, a new Harvard Business Review article pushes back, and says any change occurring may be of an entirely different sort.

    The Long Tail theory, as explained by its creator, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, holds that society is “increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of ‘hits’ (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.”

    The reason involves the abundance of easy choice that the Web makes possible. A record store has room for only a set number of titles. ITunes, though, can link to all of the millions of songs that its servers can store. Thus, said Mr. Anderson, “narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.” Managers were urged to adopt their business plans accordingly.

    Since appearing two years ago, the book has been something of a sacred text in Silicon Valley. Business plans that foresaw only modest commercial prospects for their products cited the Long Tail to justify themselves, as it had apparently proved that the Web allows a market for items besides super-hits. If you demurred, you were met with a look of pity and contempt, as though you had just admitted to still using a Kaypro.

    That might now start to change, thanks to the article by Anita Elberse, a marketing professor at Harvard’s business school who takes the same statistically rigorous approach to entertainment and cultural industries that sabermetricians do to baseball.

    Prof. Elberse looked at data for online video rentals and song purchases, and discovered that the patterns by which people shop online are essentially the same as the ones from offline. Not only do hits and blockbusters remain every bit as important online, but the evidence suggests that the Web is actually causing their role to grow, not shrink.

    Mr. Anderson responded on his Long Tail blog, thelongtail.com, saying much of the difference between his analysis and hers involved how hits and non-hits, or “head” and “tail” in the book’s lingo, are measured. Aside from that, he was generous in praising the article, and said he welcomed the sort of rigorous scrutiny the theory was getting.

    In addition to her data crunching, Prof. Elberse reminded readers of substantial bodies of qualitative social research that suggest “The Long Tail” may have been wrong in its description of what makes consumers tick. The book implies that readers and movie viewers are eager to cast off the shackles imposed by physical inventory so they can frolic among the thousands or millions of titles in the Long Tail.

    But Prof. Elberse describes research showing that even in our cultural consumption we tend to be intensely social folks. We like experiencing the same things that other people are experiencing — and the mere fact that other people are experiencing and liking something makes us like it even more. Far from being cultural rugged individualists, most of us are only too happy to have others suggest to us what we’d like.

    Faithful readers of this column might recall its own skepticism about the idea when the book first hit the stores. In retrospect, “The Long Tail” seems to have followed the template of many Wired articles: take a partly true, modestly interesting, tech-friendly idea and puff it up to Second Coming proportions.

    Some of the reasons for the popularity of the Long Tail were as interesting as the idea itself. For one, it flattered its readers, many of whom were in the tech industry, by suggesting (yet again) that the Internet was changing everything. What’s more, since many in the tech elite have a contemptuous view of traditional cultural gatekeepers like record labels and movie studios, they were predisposed to appreciate anything that predicted an erosion of those institutions’ cultural power.

    Bloggers had a special role in talking up the theory, which is no wonder considering how it held out the promise that even the most obscure among them could win a robust audience. The sad truth is that the blogosphere is as hit-driven as the rest of the world, with a tiny percentage of blogs getting a huge chunk of the traffic, and with many blogs simply going unread.

    The Web is clearly changing cultural consumption patterns, but those changes don’t seem to involve the sort of drastic flattening of demand curves predicted by the Long Tail. While whole new cultural categories — YouTube videos, for example — are indeed emerging, they seem to quickly settle into the same winner-take-all dynamic experienced in the pre-Google age. Don’t toss out those old paradigms just yet.

  29. Bob, give the dude a break… he’s busting his ass to create a new wine business in a world where nothing really has worked… so parsing his FAQ may be a bit excessive. Having said that, you do raise the very valid point that a single entity-curated club is not fundamentally different from the function of a critic. Not to analyze this too much but if you look at his funding video (you can find it on youtube, angel.co version is broken), he is correct (imho) that there are (a) influencers that are (b) not professional critics that (c) can provide valid wine recommendations [whether or not those recos were at all based in critic scores is another discussion]. But that’s quite different from a consensus view of humanity which doesn’t work for wine.

    As far as the long tail, it is very much alive. The basic knock on the long tail is the paradox of choice… and you can see this when you visit a traditional wine marketplace (e.g., Amazon Wine). You’re lost because there are too many wines. However, not everyone in the world is lost. There are entities that have certain domain expertise and even if you put them in a wide open marketplace with millions of skus (like the wine retail tier), they will be able to find great wines that conform to their POV (that is, what you think a great wine is may be different from what I think). The trick is how you expose these entities to the market and how you scale them so they can personalize their activity to any number of “followers.” Whether you’re at home or in-store, it’s the same problem.

    So Michael started to address this issue in his video with a discussion of sharing “wine clubs.” It’s a small start, but one in the right direction.

  30. Michael and Michael,

    I’m all for innovation in the marketplace, such as forging new channels of distribution.

    And I’m the last one to “throttle” someone’s enthusiasm.

    I attained my marketing degree at Santa Clara University, in the heart of Silicon Valley known as a crucible for “birthing” technology and entrepreneurs.

    I have worked for start-up technology and entertainment companies here in Los Angeles. Shared credit with my work colleagues in the winning of prestigious national business awards attesting to our success. (Example: Four consecutive Inc. Magazine “Top 500″ awards.) Saw those companies later sold for “tidy sums.” (Example: $250 million.)

    I worked for a spell circa 1999 in San Francisco at a leading ad agency serving “dot-coms” at the height of the mania.

    I “get it,” but I never drank the Kool-Aid.

    I subscribe to a fundamental overarching belief, best articled by this Harvard Business Review article:

    “Evidence-Based Management” (which could just as easily be subtitled “Evidence-Based Marketing”).

    Link: http://hbr.org/2006/01/evidence-based-management/ar/1

    Direct-to-consumer “clubs” are a tough business model. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times both maintain one. They have the ability to “carpet bomb” their readers (subscribers and non-subscribers) with display ads every week of the year, and use direct mail “bill stuffers” to solicit orders from subscribers.

    And yet . . . given their prominent street corner soap box to stand on, and the “reach” of their hoisted megaphone, these ventures suffer from high “churn” rates.

    Backgrounder:

    http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/41604

    ~~ Bob

  31. Bob | Michael,

    Hey, thanks for the feedback and pushback. Sippify is new, launched as a private beta just a week ago, and we are iterating as we go. I could go on and on about social web analytics and the value of aggregated sentiment analysis as it relates to products, categories and brands…yes, even wine…but let’s debate this if we ever meet IRL.

    But, yes, we know DTC is a hard road and media companies have struggled (ask anyone at Global Wine Club) but we have a plan that may not be intuitively obvious. We have analyzed what works in the convention and added a layer of technology and social media skills to approach the market a little differently. At the end of the day, we are the good guys on a mission; connecting small winemakers (and yes, long live the long tail) to wine lovers via the sippify social commerce platform.

    Please keep in touch, as we grow our membership, iterate our platform, make mistakes and learn how best to execute a new business model that does not subscribe to the traditional wine rating guide. Bob, one blog does not kill our buzz…we’ve been hit pretty hard by the VC’s and others and, well, we’re entrepreneurs and risk takers and take punches and appreciate the feedback.

    Cheers!

  32. MICHAEL ATKINSON,

    LET ME PREFACE MY FOLLOW-UP QUESTION ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MODEL WITH A QUOTE FROM THE FOUNDER OF IBM.

    From The Wall Street Journal Online
    (April 30, 2008):

    “Numbers Guy Interview: Leonard Mlodinow”

    [An American physicist who lectures on “randomness” at Caltech in Pasadena, California; Mlodinow has co-authored two books with British physicist Stephen Hawking.]

    Link: http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/numbers-guy-interview-leonard-mlodinow-329/

    By Carl Bialik
    “The Numbers Guy” Blog

    Preface: The title of Leonard Mlodinow’s book, “The Drunkard’s Walk,” evokes the randomness of events, as if governed by drunken ambling. Seeing the world through this lens is itself disorienting — SUCCESS is the product of LUCK; identifying real patterns is nigh impossible; and our natural faculties mislead us at every turn. . . .

    WSJ: Just because a certain human achievement . . . exhibits the normal statistical variation, does that necessarily mean the best performers were just LUCKY? Or is there something about human intentionality that makes it possible that the best performers really did exhibit extraordinary skill and were deserving of the result?

    Mr. Mlodinow: Intentionality and talent always matter. An extraordinary feat is certainly made more likely by someone’s focus, hard work, etc. But chance also matters. And since there are few situations outside the science laboratory in which the random influences can be eliminated, LUCK is almost always a part of the statistical variation we observe in people’s feats.

    . . .

    WSJ: Might we need to proceed irrationally in our lives to succeed? In other words, if we really believed that so much of SUCCESS was the result of LUCK, wouldn’t a lot of us just give up trying?

    Mr. Mlodinow: Some theorize that this is the evolutionary reason that we like to assume we are in control, even when we clearly aren’t. That may be so, but I don’t mourn the role of luck, I celebrate it. All else equal, it is a lot more fun not knowing how your book will do, or how your life will turn out, than it would be if everything could be determined by a logical calculation. Moreover, the fact that LUCK matters means you can help yourself by being PERSISTENT. A failure doesn’t mean you are unworthy, nor does it preclude success on the next try.

    As Thomas J. Watson, the highly successful IBM pioneer, said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”

  33. MICHAEL ATKINSON,

    LET ME PREFACE WITH AN INSPIRATION OBSERVATION ON LUCK AND PERSISTENCE AND FAILURE RATES LEADING TO SUCCESS, THEN CITE A NEWS REPORT THIS WEEK ON THE GLUM PROSPECTS FOR MANY WEST COAST WINERIES, AND THEN CONCLUDE WITH A FOLLOW-UP QUESTION ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MODEL.

    From The Wall Street Journal Online
    (April 30, 2008):

    “Numbers Guy Interview: Leonard Mlodinow”

    [An American physicist who lectures on “randomness” at Caltech in Pasadena, California; Mlodinow has co-authored two books with British physicist Stephen Hawking.]

    Link: http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/numbers-guy-interview-leonard-mlodinow-329/

    By Carl Bialik
    “The Numbers Guy” Blog

    Preface: The title of Leonard Mlodinow’s book, “The Drunkard’s Walk,” evokes the randomness of events, as if governed by drunken ambling. Seeing the world through this lens is itself disorienting — SUCCESS is the product of LUCK; identifying real patterns is nigh impossible; and our natural faculties mislead us at every turn. . . .

    WSJ: Just because a certain human achievement . . . exhibits the normal statistical variation, does that necessarily mean the best performers were just LUCKY? Or is there something about human intentionality that makes it possible that the best performers really did exhibit extraordinary skill and were deserving of the result?

    Mr. Mlodinow: Intentionality and talent always matter. An extraordinary feat is certainly made more likely by someone’s focus, hard work, etc. But chance also matters. And since there are few situations outside the science laboratory in which the random influences can be eliminated, LUCK is almost always a part of the statistical variation we observe in people’s feats.

    . . .

    WSJ: Might we need to proceed irrationally in our lives to succeed? In other words, if we really believed that so much of SUCCESS was the result of LUCK, wouldn’t a lot of us just give up trying?

    Mr. Mlodinow: Some theorize that this is the evolutionary reason that we like to assume we are in control, even when we clearly aren’t. That may be so, but I don’t mourn the role of luck, I celebrate it. All else equal, it is a lot more fun not knowing how your book will do, or how your life will turn out, than it would be if everything could be determined by a logical calculation. Moreover, the fact that LUCK matters means you can help yourself by being PERSISTENT. A failure doesn’t mean you are unworthy, nor does it preclude success on the next try.

    As Thomas J. Watson, the highly successful IBM pioneer, said, “IF YOU WANT TO SUCCEED, DOUBLE YOUR FAILURE RATE.”

    [CAPITALIZATION added for emphasis. -- Bob]

    SO MICHAEL, BEST OF LUCK AND KEEP ITERATING.

    “West Coast Wineries Are Up for Sale — Quietly”
    A wave of recent deals show investors see opportunities in wine, while owners see an exit strategy.
    Link:

    Link: http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/49221#.UoI_yAMMzG8

    SELECTIVE EXCERPTS:

    “… While small wineries can succeed by selling most of their inventory direct to consumers and large producers have muscle with wholesalers, those in the middle — annual production of 5,000 to 15,000 cases, for example — can’t get much attention from distributors unless the brand is hot.”

    – AND: –

    “… ‘I’ve never seen more wineries for sale in California than there are today,’ [said Charles Banks, who through investment groups such as Terroir Selections purchased Santa Barbara Syrah specialist Qupé in October and Napa veteran Mayacamas Vineyards in April.] … Banks … estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of California wineries are either in financial difficulty or aren’t as profitable as they could be.”

    NOW MY FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR PASO ROBLES WINERY PARTNERS’ ANNUAL CASE PRODUCTION DO YOU PROJECT YOUR NEW VENTURE WILL BE ABLE TO SELL-THROUGH TO THE PUBLIC:

    1 PERCENT?
    5 PERCENT?
    10 PERCENT?
    MORE THAN 10 PERCENT?

    SEEMS TO ME THAT FOR THOSE PARTICIPATING WINERIES IN THAT 5,000 TO 15,000 ANNUAL CASE PRODUCTION MIDDLE GROUND, THE HEAVY LIFTING IS STILL GOING TO HAVE TO COME FROM THE DISTRIBUTORS AND RETAILERS AND THE RESTAURANTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

    NOT FROM DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER SALES.

    (ASIDE: I JUST RETURNED FROM CALIFORNIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON TRADE TASTING IN BEVERLY HILLS. AROUND 50 PRODUCERS WERE EXHIBITING. I WAS SHOCKED THAT SOME WERE STILL SELLING THROUGH THEIR 2008 VINTAGE. AS THE WINE SPECTATOR ARTICLE OBSERVED, THERE IS STILL A LOT OF EARLIER VINTAGE WINE BACKING UP IN THE CHANNELS OF DISTRIBUTION. AND CALIFORNIA HAS SEEN TWO BOUNTIFUL HARVESTS IN 2012 AND 2013.)

    ~~ BOB

  34. Apologies to all for the redundant first half of my note.

    “Pilot error” while composing on the keyboard.

    Mea culpa.

  35. Steve,

    Given my ham-fisted typing tonight, have you considered adopting two practices found on other wine blogs:

    a “preview” function to allow one last edit, and

    a “delete” function so that a commenter can completely redraft his/her text before it becomes a permanent record on the Web?

    ~~ Bob

  36. Bob Henry, I’m not aware of any function that allows a commenter to edit or delete a comment once it’s up. The best advice I can give anyone is to read your comment carefully before hitting that “send” button!

  37. Steve,

    At the blog SVB on Wine (The Business of US Fine Wine), one can “preview” one’s comment before posting, and “delete” it after-the-fact:

    Link: http://svbwine.blogspot.com/2013/08/are-you-adjusting-your-marketing-to.html

    ~~ Bob

  38. Michael,

    Proffered on a “F.Y. I.” basis . . .

    ~~ Bob

    “DtC Wine Shipments Set New Record”

    Summary: October 2013 sales stronger than ever at $240 million.

    Link: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=124406

    “Five Examples of Social Media ROI in the Wine Industry”

    Summary: In the last few years there have been an increasing number of wineries with documented success of how social media has helped them increase brand awareness and revenues.

    Link: http://www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=getArticle&dataid=124400

    “Pressing Data Into Great Wine Brands”

    Summary: This is where VinTank jumps in with its particular listening platform focused squarely on people …

    Link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/rawnshah/2013/11/05/pressing-data-into-great-wine-brands/

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