Whining about Wine
I was flipping through the Saturday New York Times and was intrigued by a full page ad from Wine Spectator that screamed FREE ACCESS in massive type. The pitch is to provide visitors to the website with free access until October 1st. The offer provides access to 200,000 wine ratings and tastings as well as access to newsletters and other content. In mousetype the limitations are barely visible to point out that "Free Access does not include use of site personalization tools or the ability to post comments on our Editors' Blogs". All in all a pretty standard online publishing offer of giving some content away for free in the hopes that you will become a subscriber.
I clicked through on the link and not surprisingly was confronted with an email capture box with another bit of fine print. This one disclosed that "By entering your e-mail address in the field above, you give WineSpectator.com permission to send occasional e-mails regarding promotional items that we feel might be of interest to you." I'm sure by accumulating lots of email addresses they'll be able to pay for a Saturday page ad in the NYT but their method seems a bit heavy handed in this day and age. There was no opt out of this page and I needed to validate the email address.
Interestingly when I ran a Google Search for "wine spectator" they came up first and second in the organic listing but their was no paid listing for them. The real surprise came when I looked at the third link from a site called Dr. Vino. It highlighted a website from author Robin Goldstein. He created a restaurant that did not exist and managed to win a "Wine Spectator Award of Excellence"! The only calls he got from WS where a message was left was from the ad sales people trying to convince him to buy an ad for $3000 +. Based on the article it seems that the Wine Spectator may be more of a paid listing directory business rather than an aficionado site. WS could also use some help on their web 2.0 and SEO/SEM strategies.
Wonder what would happen if someone created a Wikipedia/UGC site around wine? (If you know of one, pass it along).