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When “Altruism” Needs to Equal “Cooperation” Pt. II

Technology is coming hard at the wine industry – harder than the first few waves of the Internet, eCommerce, and social media over the last 12-14 years.  The technology innovations that are forcing change will make previous technology iterations look like the halcyon days of simplicity.  However, at the core of all of this technology progressiveness is data – not just data that helps run a wine business internally, but also data that helps the sales value-chain sell, too.

But, here’s the rub – mobile applications, third-party eCommerce sales and all of the other technology-related opportunities that can have a positive impact on the bottom line while creating new customers for the wine business all run on a very important thing – the ability to have clean, re-usable information about the wines that are available for sale in the U.S. Unfortunately, that data is very difficult to come by and its cloistered by individual companies with propriety.  Gathering this data is so difficult, it could almost be its own currency.

Very simply, wine industry data standardization needs to occur—a mechanism in which all selling information for all domestic wines for sale in the U.S. (direct or distribution) can be accessed, including label shots and selling copy, in the same format.  For that reason, services like OwnIT by Cruvee, which is attempting to create a free winery-supplied storehouse of this information, and the AVIN, similar to an ISBN for books, are very, very interesting.


But, here’s the rub. I mentioned in part I of this post that any large industry-wide standardization that has occurred (in any industry) has typically been done so by a non-profit that didn’t have commercial interest outside of benevolence for the common industry good.  Typically, these associations are member-supported – like any association or consortium.  Without the support of a swath of leadership and influencers in any industry, the collaboration that is necessary to get to a standard and drive action that benefits everybody doesn’t happen.  Period.  End of sentence.

This would all be well and good and another rhetorical “what-if” conversation best enjoyed three glasses into the evening were it not for a very pregnant opportunity unfolding.

Custom Top-Level domain (TLD) names, the equivalent to .com, .net and .org are now going to be made available for sale – there are a couple of stipulations, however.  It’s not easy to get an extension and it’s expensive.  Reports indicate that securing a Top-Level domain like .ibm or .fedex will cost north of a $500K.  If it’s a general extension like .wine for example, the registering party will have to demonstrate some greater value for the domain than capitalistic interest, amongst other things.  Net-net, this is a perfect time for the industry to come together in collaboration to secure the domain .wine, for the benefit of all.

Of course, the practical application of this would still be a mystery to me if I didn’t see and hear what the plans are for the domain extension .jobs. 

The .jobs domain is being administered by a non-profit employer/HR association called DirectEmployers.  As an industry consortium they count most of the Fortune 500 as members.  And, they are administering the registration of the .job extension to companies like IBM and others who are listing all of their job openings at the domain extension.


Are you interested in working for IBM, but tired of sifting through and the rest of the job boards that are populated with “work from home” ads?  Likewise, are you having a hard time navigating seven layers deep into IBM’s mammoth web site to even find their jobs page?  Ah, instead just go to where their career section is directly navigable.

In addition, DirectEmployers is also creating a vast data-driven web presence that will aggregate all of the jobs that are listed on .jobs domains.  So, they’re opening up what has previously been closed off via competing job board web sites.  As a part of this development they are setting up the job data such that “Joe Consumer” can search for a job by virtually any criteria –, – it’s all there.

I’ve been working professionally around the Internet since ’96 and while I occasionally get hyperbolic, not much gets me excited.  I had a mouth agape moment when I connected the dots on the Top-Level domains, .jobs and the translation to the wine industry.

You should have a mouth agape moment, as well.  Why?  Because if direct-to-consumer and direct-to-trade sales are the future of the wine business given the woeful state of three-tier distribution then what I’m talking about makes the universe of U.S. wine for sale much more navigable, findable and useable, for the benefit of the industry.

It’s would be a utility service like other infrastructure that we can’t imagine living without – um, like city sidewalks and running water.

In simple terms, here’s what it could mean (emphasis on “could.”)

A wine industry consortium secures industry-wide support and develops a central repository for domestic wine data

This same wine industry consortium applies to ICANN for the .Wine extension

Once approved, the wine industry consortium allows domestic wineries to register their .wine URL – like, for example

Dry Creek Vineyard places their eCommerce store on this domain

The wine industry consortium uses the central repository of domestic wine information to start slicing and dicing it based on the 1001 ways you can search for a wine

The wine industry consortium creates a web-based application like is creating (, for example) to act as an open interface for wine searching.

A consumer searches for “Sonoma, Dry Creek, California Zinfandel” and ALL wines that are available for sale direct from the winery appear, with unified, standardized copy, label and selling information.  Consumer decides between a couple of choices and buys the Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel by clicking through directly to the winery web site.

Consumer is very happy having navigated the universe of domestic wine into a smaller pool of wine and finally to the wine he wants to buy, directly from the winery.

The wineries and the U.S. wine industry is very, very happy with this, as well

Now, admittedly, there is much work that needs to go into this in order to make it happen, but my fundamental point is this – the wine industry has a very real opportunity to not hew to the vagaries of market development, but rather lead it for the benefit of all, untethering itself from the feeling of lack of control – the wine industry has always been benevolent and altruistic for the common good, now is a great time to apply that same social philosophy to itself.



Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (8) |


On 12/10, @nectarwine wrote:

I have to tell you, this excites me! BUT to your point in the first paragrah

Without the support of a swath of leadership and influencers ... to get to a standard and drive action that benefits everybody doesn’t happen.  Period.  End of sentence.”

With .fedex or .coke or .bofa the possibility is more feasible because that company works under a top level leadership already. Unfortunately the wine industry does not function in that way. Movers and shakers, like you wink need to tickle the ear of the trade groups and wine leaders. The only way it will happen is if you appeal to the greatest motivator - the bottom line!

Great reads!

Josh @nectarwine

On 12/10, Richard wrote:

Sounds great, but I’m afraid those 3-tier (insert plural expletive here) will lobby hard and fast to make sure something like this doesn’t happen.  Anything that cuts them out of the loop is going to have a hard time getting started.  It almost feels like this would be going up against “the mob” aka, the 3-tier system, and I feel something like this would get muscled out.

On a lighter note, where can I get a wine cork usb port?  I gots to have one of those!

On 12/10, Paul Mabray wrote:

Jeff - Thank you for two great posts.  This data issue is one of the most broken parts of our industry and has too many companies with content collection departments as well as wineries struggling to fill out many, many forms to “claim their winery” or “claim their wines” from companies who don’t share that information.  The Cruvee #ownit movement at was built to solve that by only entering the data in the system once, and anyone can consume it.  Admittedly doing data entry is time consuming for the first time but the alternative for wineries cost them multiples of that administrative time and moreover, costs companies trying to help them sell and market wine even more money collecting the data.  The good news is that it is only a yearly project with some additions when the wineries get accolades to add to their data and subsequent years of using #ownit are easier than the first time.

Remember that the #ownit movement is about all parts of the value chain, including wholesalers who struggle with the same data issues as everyone.  Imagine a world where all wine ecom companies, all portals, all social network sites, all mobile apps, and even OFF LINE wine companies can benefit from this aggregated data.  Imagine a world where wine tech companies can build beneficial features instead of chasing and normalizing content.  That is the world that #ownit can make and for free.  The key is support from wineries, bloggers, wholesalers, retailers, wine tech companies, et al.  The ability for our industry to #ownit is within our grasp.  Will we maximize this opportunity?  I hope so.

On 12/13, Mark Smith wrote:

These are all ideal goals. But the truth is that the wine industry is too broad and the various interests too disparate for any of this to happen ‘in a straight line’. If possible, it will be a ‘long and winding road’.

Standards in technology (including data management) take years to be agreed upon and this by well established bodies or by ad hoc groups of segment leaders. Everyone else follows out of necessity. But segment leaders who control base technologies upon which everyone else is dependent have no parallel in the wine industry.

While a ‘free’ or ‘unbiased’ solution sounds on the surface like a great idea, it will not take long before questions about proprietary v. open models arise? Who set, controls, and manages the standard? An unbiased collective body representing all segments of the wine industry? A ‘commercial’ organization which is offering a ‘free’ database management service?

And the list of important questions is endless … beginning with the standard itself. What is the minimum data set? What about data that some wineries view as proprietary while others do not? Can a standard data set fit all wineries?

And then there are the inevitable commercial questions. Who controls access to the data? Who owns the data? Who manages the data? If the data is made available to market participants who owns the search behavior data? Can data be tagged? Is this a marketing tool, a data repository or both? How will this be supported if it scales? How long will it be free?

Wineries should want to control their product information and they already have an effective means to do so. Their website - where they already control and maintain the data - endogenously. This should be the one place where all market participants can find accurate product data (if not then the winery has bigger issues to consider -  which putting data into an exogenous database will not solve). And the products are already indexed by search …  you don’t need a whole separate searchable database maintained by any third party to accomplish this.

What makes practical sense to me in regard to all of this, would be to start by working with an industry representative body like wineamerica or family winemakers to establish a minimum set of data, and maybe even a fixed format for presenting it, that wineries should use on their websites. Wineries could adopt the standard or not, and those which do could publicize this to consumers as being the approved standard data set on which they should rely. This is analogous to a voluntary food labeling standard. It could be unbiased and it is not under the umbrella of a commercial enterprise.

This solution would be far more practical for wineries to implement and for consumers of the data to access. If a sufficient number of wineries adopt and apply the standard (voluntarily) you would on the path to true industry data standardization.

On 12/13, James Jory wrote:

I don’t think anyone would disagree that it would be great if the wine industry had an established standards body similar to the W3C to author and manage data standards. Unfortunately such an organization does not exist (yet). In fact, standards organizations are often created only after an initial specification is put forward AND has gained informal industry acceptance or is solving a real-world problem. For example, Javascript, initially called Livescript, was invented by Netscape to use in their browser and is now maintained by ECMA and is standard in every major browser. The OpenID single-signon spec was first created by SixApart, a blogging platform and is now supported by a standards group and is backed by several companies. RSS was invented by Netscape (or UserLand depending on who you believe) and is now the defacto publishing format used by all relevant blogging platforms. Even the W3C wasn’t started before the web was invented.

The takeaway in these and many other cases is that necessity is the mother of invention. Is there a need to establish an efficient online distribution channel for accurate and complete wine information? Absolutely! Is the time right for such a solution? We think so.

Disruptive services and solutions do not follow any predictable pattern and by definition break established rules, fill voids in new a different ways, and will not wait years for standards to be developed.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the #ownit initiative so far has been the cooperation and support of several technology-focused companies. As someone who has modeled the wine data domain more times than I’d care to admit, it’s an easy sell to colleagues who are doing the same thing for their applications. As my friend Paul Mabray likes to say, we’ve spilled blood in the same mud. And the pitch to wineries is also resonating as they want to focus on making and selling their wine. They don’t want to be updating their profiles on dozens of online sites or taking several phone calls each week from trade inquiries for information.

Can winery websites do a better job of providing information about their wines? No doubt about it. However, websites are inherently content focused and not data focused. Although there are some promising semantic standards such as RDFa and microformats that are starting to gain momentum (and are built-in to #ownit), convincing all wineries to adopt these standards and implement them effectively, I think, is a more difficult approach. There are a couple more aspects to promoting websites as the solution to the industry’s data problem that are problematic. First, many wineries still don’t have websites and don’t have the resources or desire to build and maintain them. Second, many wineries that do have websites see them as nothing more than marketing brochures. For evidence, look no further than the Flash-based winery sites that we all loathe. Flash sites are useless for extracting content or data.

Lastly, although search engines do a great job of indexing the content on winery sites, search engines are still very much discovery tools and not efficient for data acquisition or synchronization. If I’m writing an article or blog reviewing several wines or writing a newsletter as a retailer, I could spend all day searching and looking at webpages for the content I needed never really knowing for sure if the information I was gathering was accurate. Can you ask a search engine for winemaker notes, variety composition, ABV, and hi-res bottle shots for 30 different wines in one request? Can a search engine proactively tell you when a new release exists for any of the 250 brands you carry on your shelves or the thousands in your database?

We certainly have ambitious goals for #ownit but we are committed to transparency, openness, and cooperation with anyone who is willing to contribute.

Thank you for the thought provoking articles, Jeff.

On 06/08, Jean Guillon wrote:

Why “American” only ?
Isn’t the wine community a worldwide one ?

Jean Guillon
Project dotVinum

On 09/23, trabajar en casa wrote:

Is it possible to start working on data-entry online when I have no experience in this field?I have a full-time job as an Economics teaching assistant at college.I haven’t worked in data-entry before but I need a second source of income. So how can I start and what are legitimate websites to start with?

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