September 4 2007
Okay, purposefully provocative headline; I really don’t mean to say that the Internet wine movement is dead. I mean quite the opposite, actually. Pardon me for a moment as I ease my way onto the soapbox.
I was driving up to beautiful South Bend, Indiana this past Saturday to attend the Notre Dame football game, (as a brief aside, if you’re a college football fan then you know that the highlight for this Notre Dame fans day was not the outcome of the ND game, but rather the outcome of the Michigan game. Ahem.) and on the drive up, my brother mentioned the Mark Cuban blog post, which I had not yet read, where Cuban stated that the Internet was “dead and boring.”
Excerpted from his post, the kernel of what he says is:
Applications like Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, etc were able to explode in popularity because they worked. No one had to worry about their ISP making a change and things not working. The days of walled gardens like AOL, Prodigy and others were gone. The days of always on connections were not only upon us, but in sufficient numbers at home, work and school, that the applications ran fast enough to hold our interest and compel us to participate. In other words, the Internet stabilized. Great software was developed to run on the software.
The days of the Internet creating explosively exciting ideas are dead. They are dead until bandwidth throughput to the home reaches far higher numbers than the vast majority of broadband users get today.
John from Quaffability picked up on this blog post and agrees in a post found here. I should note that John caveats his perspective with his own take, so I mention it only to point out that another wine blogger read Cuban’s treatise. It’s not my intention to paint Quaffability with my contrarian brush.
I think Cuban is fundamentally right in his assertion that the next wave of innovation will only occur when bandwidth increases and that the Internet is currently stabilizing like a utility, electricity for example.
Cuban’s stock in trade has been seeing trends far, far away. Afterall he made his billions on broadcast.com, about 8 years prior to Youtube.com. However, his assertion that the Internet is dead is saber rattling at its finest and is damn near akin to hurling a Molotov Cocktail at the Wine 2.0 world.
What Cuban fails to acknowledge—utterly, completely and foolishly, is the fact that he invested in a company called Ice Rocket that was something kind of like Technorati, a blog search engine, but nobody uses Ice Rocket and nobody can figure out Technorati, so much for him being the Oracle for Internet trends. Nevertheless, at one point Cuban saw and understood the value of the democratization of content and social networking in the Web 2.0 world … a fact he fails point out for the lemmings that take his post at face value.
And, the other “it’s as obvious as the nose on your face” point Cuban misses is the fact that Myspace, Facebook and Youtube didn’t explode in popularity because “they worked” they exploded because we’re in an era of user empowerment with tools that have made it easy for the layperson to develop their own web site and connect with others.
Is the Internet dead? Absolutely not. Is the Internet boring? It’s more dynamic and interesting everyday. Is Wine 2.0 going to get lumped into the inevitable backlash to this mini-riptide of Internet enthusiasm? Yes. Should it? No. Is this period of time for the wine world akin to the birth of the commercial Internet in the ’94 – ’96 time period. Yes.
The next most popular question is, “Well if the Internet isn’t dead, how can I capitalize on what you say is there.” Ah, good question, but rare is the person that holds the wisdom in the midst of the maelstrom. What I do know is that wine blogs continue to explode in growth, Facebook, at this very moment is growing astronomically, new wine business models continue to proliferate, new wineries continue to open their doors, more wine is purchased online, and the barriers to shipping continue to tumble. The answer is to try a couple of things, not everything, and commit yourself to making them work and understand that mindshare doesn’t equal sales, but it equals influence which can be more important then a single transaction.
Stormhoek sampled 100 bloggers a ½ dozen bottles of wine—maybe 600 bottles of wine total—50 cases maybe. And, well over a year later, we’re still talking about them … that’s influence.
The wine world is changing and those wineries that heed the winds of change will be rewarded, consumers like me will be tickled pink and Mark Cuban can go back to being head cheerleader for the Dallas Mavericks.