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An Open Letter to Wine X Magazine


The latest issue of WineX magazine came the other day. I was pleasantly surprise as this was theonly issue of the last four that I have received without directly asking forit.  I’m getting to know Jenna Corwin,an Associate Editor/uber-office woman, well over email.

The magazines arrival happily coincided with a basementcleaning project whereby I actually found some old issues that I had saved forposterity—issues with Steven Page from Barenaked Ladies, Jason Priestley (forsome unknown reason), Emily Saliers from the Indigo Girls, and the 2ndanniversary edition which re-used the cover from the very first issue circa1998 - 2000 

I was planning on doing a review of the magazine here—the currentissue with Anthony Azizi from the TV show 24, I think. And, thankfully, I no longer have to do thereview—because my fresh, new, current issue is a digest of sorts with re-hashedcontent from previous issues including a redux on all of the cover shoots withthe Z-list actors and actresses.

No new content. Ahem. No new content.

I want Wine X to win so I won’t blatantly rip them for howinherently dishonest it is to completely re-purpose content from previousissues under the guise of a greatest hits—a nine year greatest hits—there’s noteven an interesting anniversary to tie into. It wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t an abject lack of readingmaterial in the first place—the magazine is almost like looking at somebody’sFlickr collection on the ‘Net that also includes a blog post or three. It’s not un-interesting, it’s just not whatI want out of a magazine and its not more than 20 minutes of time to read.

As I have noted, alongside numerous others, WineX wouldappear to be a in a fabulous position based on the demographics of wine and itsyouth movement. The magazine, ofcourse, positions itself in a disaffected hipster kind of way and appears to begrowing its reader base—shaking off a sleepy slumber from the last 5 years. The publisher,Darryl Roberts, notes as much in his Editor’s Letter indicating that thesubscription base has increased by 800% in the last two years or so.

800%growth is impressive if not also enlightening. It becomes much easier to understand why theMolly_culver magazine prints in wavesand without a calendar for delivery based on growth alone. The amount of readers has to be loooooow andas a result of that the advertising base rate is looooooow. Classic chicken and egg scenario, here.

But,that aside, I have to urge Mr. Roberts to publish a magazine that isinteresting to its customers. I canunderstand the rationale for publishing a “new” magazine exclusively withcontent from previous magazines—it’s a re-birth of sorts to introduce yourreadership into the pantheon of cool that you have been a part of for the lastnine years, a “help them know the past, so they understand the future” kind ofthinking.

Iunderstand this. But, if Wine Xmagazine continues to do business and put out a magazine stylistically andcontent-wise that was only marginally interesting with Generation X over thelast nine years, they will get their lunch eaten by a better company with amore attuned radar for their customers as Generation Y adopts wine as a part oftheir lifestyle.

Makeno mistake, there is a publishing opportunity in the market underneath WineEnthusiast magazine and it is Wine X’s ball to drop.

Withthat, I offer free consulting for Wine X to capitalize on their growingmarket place.

Eightsuggestions to make Wine X Magazine a read that attracts a younger audience anddoesn’t alienate them to the point that they spend 40 minutes writing blogposts to help you improve:

1) Re-designthe magazine and pay a professional to help you

a. Overhaulcontent to more usable, action-oriented, self-help, education style content(People read to escape or to learn or both at the same time). Freelancers abound in the marketplace, usethem and make the magazine more than a drive-by read.

b. Re-designthe magazine to prevailing wisdom of the day—pick up any Men’s Health, Cosmo,Wine Enthusiast, or general interest magazine and you’ll see quick-hittingarticles with a “how-to” bent

c. Youcan still make this ‘zine style, or more urban—see Wallpaper or ReadyMademagazine

d. Ifcontent is still be-deviling you, start excerpting from books or blogs withpermission, I’d be happy to be a contributor

e. Inthe absence of this, get rid of the fluff double-spread pictures that eat uppages, but add no value

f. Ditchthe anonymous actors and actresses. Ina narcissist world, only big names garner attention and only if its scandalous,other than that, it’s all about ME. Kadee Strickland is no more interesting to me then the girl from theoverlapping clique of mine that I see out, but don’t talk to i.e. it doesn’tsell magazines. Today is all aboutsocial networking and in a world where everybody will have their 15 minutes offame, create a user community around their photos and lifestyle—see,American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, etc.

2) Integrateyour other projects into the magazine

a. Startflogging the Wine X wine club, the clubs in the geography, the Jelly Belly WineBar (I would much rather read about the genesis of this idea then to read abadly fleshed out spread on your notable cover shoots)

b. It’salso called integrated marketing

3) Keepthe “Wine, Food and an Intelligent Slice of Vice”

That’sa building block, but re-position the magazine to be more inclusive of theunder 40 set—Gen. X & Y.  WineXwas targeted towards Generation X, right, time to freshen that for new customers. This doesn’t have to becomplex, maybe just info in an editorial on a new focus with the X & Y—and youcan tie this into the gender symbols for X & Y and make it iconic.

4) Hirefreelance copywriters with a wine bent to diversify the voice of wine reviewsunder one style

a. Everybodyloves the wine reviews—they are interesting, they are notable, they also tendto be repetitive because only one person writes them—too many repeat referencesto S&M and 70s classic rock that give away the age of the writer, who ismore in tune with Jefferson Airplane than the Super Furry Animals.

5) Stickto a publishing calendar.

a. Peoplehave to know if they are going to get the magazine every month, every othermonth or quarterly.

6) Outsourceadvertising sales to somebody that will sell—it may cost you upfront, but itwill pay dividends down the road.

      7) Fortoday’s Internet-enabled generation, the web leads and the magazine supportsthe Web as     tangible evidence in the offline world, not the other way around.

        a. There-design was a good start, but continue to bolster content online

8) Gofor the throat, ditch safety and make a splash in the market by aggressivelysupporting a cause or being controversial.

That’s it. Nothing revelatory—just make a magazine that addresses the marketand fosters inclusion.


      A longtime on-again/off-againreader that wants to be on-again


The Viagra of the Wine Industry


I’m still tickled to be a part of the Stormhoek launch.  The picture is of the vino that made its way to my doorstep—Shiraz, Pinotage, Sav.Blanc and Pinot Grigio.  It was all I could do not to crack the Shiraz this weekend.

An article on the ongoing Stormhoek launch in the states has this to say:

‘Our web site shares the minutiae of ourbusiness. What we call wine porn; building an engaged onlinecommunity,’ claims UK-based Nick Dymoke-Marr. It may sound like an oddstatement from the MD of importer/distributor Orbital and co-owner of a winery that barely has a local presence. It’s all to do with blogging,and flies on the premise that cyber-communities share opinions on avariety of subjects, from clothes to the latest tekkie toys. ‘Webelieve the two social lubricants of wine and blogging will continue togrow, with Stormhoek at its core. Ongoing, unfiltered conversationsabout the wine and our business are shaking things up and having a realimpact on the way our little company develops,’ he continues. On thewider wine community too.

The article’s author refers to Stormhoek as the Viagra of the industry—tying together the fact that blogging to create momentum and community might work, but might also be the thing that wineries or small business might be afraid to do for fear of the unknown.

I hope not, but I’m afraid they are right.  This isn’t change for small wineries, this is an outright complete shift in thinking—this is going from the Utne Reader to Fox News ... nonetheless, I’m glad people are taking risks and doing things that appeal to urbane, progressive sensibilities. 


New World



On Taste @ Wine Sediments

Wellfed_3I have a post today on the Wine Sediments portion of the Well Fed Network.  You can find it here.

This week’s column is a touch on the long side, but stay with it because I think the matter of taste and reviews is a fascinating subject and I try to relate it everyday examination of the art, or the subjective items in our daily lives. 

The genesis for the post was a panel review of wines in a local foodie magazine that reviewed the same wine with three widely divergent tasting notes—from strawberries to cherries to blackberries.  I found it very interesting and more than a little peculiar that three people in the same room drinking at the same time would pick up different FRUIT in the wine.  While this is easily understandable, the backbone of the article is whether this makes any sense when alleged experts can’t agree on the difference between a strawberry note and blackberries. 

This research also led to my rant earlier this week about the joker at the Las Vegas Review Journal that wakes up with his knickers in a twist to pontificate on tasting nuances that are preposterous.

Thanks and good living and drinking ...



The Eagle has Landed: Stormhoek Winery

Stormhoek_disruptionI received my Stormhoek wine on Wednesday—8 bottles no less.  Some Shiraz, some Pinot Grigio and another varietal.  These guys are generous.  It’s good marketing, though, really, because I do have some contacts at Indiana distributors, and I’d be happy to be a reference and the whole thing ends up being a fabulous case study.  Plus, say the wine is $15 at retail, I guarantee I can drum up $120 in word of mouth just with a get-together alone.

I’ll be putting on the soiree very, very shortly. 

In the meantime, you can get an update with what’s happening here.

The Stormhoek blog has some pictures from the South Beach party.  Sadly, my party will not be attended by as many model quality folks. 

The net-net is they are making their way through all of the U.S. marketing events and this is turning into a very cool social experiment.

The challenge for Hugh at Gapingvoid, the marketing whiz du jour, is keeping track and helping build the momentum by moving people in the right direction.

And, as I said before, if the wine delivers, this will be a "Yellowtail" quality product introduction.

I can’t wait to drink the wine. 


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