11 Nov 2010
365 days ago, I began this little wine blog adventure. The inspiration was a Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, Crush It – Why Now is the Time To Cash In On Your Passion. The motivation was the branding of an eventual coffee and wine bar in Spokane, WA. The result has been a wild and humbling ride that has led to far more than I could have imagined. In one respect it is hard to believe that a year has already gone by, in another, it is overwhelming to think of everything that has happened.
If I were to boil the year down into one word it would be, RELATIONSHIPS. During the last 365 days I’ve met some of the most amazing people of my entire life. While there are nearly 4,000 people each on Facebook and Twitter that follow or like me, I consider many of you to be very good friends (@vinotology, @wawinereport @sipwithme @wineshopwithjen @rickbakas @wklywinejournal @suburbanwino @winetonite @stevepaulo @pmabray @seattlewinegal @catie @writeforwine @frankloveswine @troutmonster @spargo @noseyparkerinw @launchpadinw – just to name a few). Looking at the list, I’ve met all but one of you in real life (Frank we must remedy that). I’ve reached out to most of you for advice and think of each of you as mentors and friends. If I were to quit this adventure today, the thing I would miss the most would be the relationships.
365 days ago I had no idea of the amazing depth, quality, and passion within the Spokane wine scene. I knew I loved wine and I had been to a few of the local wineries from time to time. Over the course of the year, I’ve gotten to know the amazing entrepreneurs that make up the city’s winescape. Greg Lipsker of Barrister winery, Tim Nodland of Nodland Cellars, Rebecca Gunselman of Robert Karl Cellars have become friends beyond the wine. I’ve heard the inspiring love story of Davide and Stephanie Trezzi (Trezzi Farm Food & Wine). I watched the entry of Overbluff Cellars as they exploded on to the scene. Talking with Jim Van loben Sels of Arbor Crest shortly after the fire in the Cliff House mansion was motivational. Doug and Shelly Smith of Liberty Lake Wine Cellars have been so supportive and are always genuine and kind. One of my favorite interviews was with Mike Scott (former winemaker of Lone Canary). Mike and I chatted for hours and now every time I see him, I’m reminded of the friendship that developed through this blog. Each winery is a story of passion, risk and the pursuit of a dream.
Social media is powerful. I feel that I’ve been lucky to be able to tap into that power to build an audience and grow a brand. Some of it has been luck – but I’m pretty proud of the hard work I’ve put in over the last year. Not every phase of the journey has been rainbows and bunnies. I’ve been called a “bully, mean spirited and critical.” I’ve even had a local business tell me, “a lot negative thing are being said about you.” To those statements, I offer my apologies to whatever I did to cause those perceptions. For those that know me, you know that these statements are laughable. Aside from these views, the journey has been a blast.
I’m a numbers guy. I like stats. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I’m addicted to Google Analytics. Here is a run-down on some of the fun numbers over the last year.
110,000 – The number of pages viewed at NectarWineBlog.com
83,000 – The number of visits to NectarWineBlog.com
47,000 – The number of visitors to NectarWineBlog.com
12,763 – The number of tweets (or mindless drivel) I’ve sent into the machine
11,800 – The number of YouTube videos watched on my channel
3,822 – The number of Facebook fans who “like” DrinkNectar
3,724 – The number of people who follow @nectarwine on Twitter
2,876 – The number of comments that have been made on the site.
When I read Gary Vaynerchuk’s words on content, passion and branding, I knew that I had to enter the social media world. “Social media is business – period,” says Gary. I didn’t completely define my voice before I began, that grew and became more refined along the way. I didn’t fully understand where I was going when I started, but I decided to take the journey regardless.
Today is the 317th post on this blog. Those posts have contained 132 “episodes.” 250 wines have received formal reviews (and hundreds more tasted at events). Every weekday (non-holiday) since February, I’ve posted something new. There was one exception; I posted late on a Sunday night to test the new functionality of the blog. Last Friday, I barely made it by posting at 11:58 PM. I think this commitment to content (hopefully quality content, but only you can be the judge of that) has been one of the single greatest drivers to the growth. As the content grows there are greater referrals from search engines and cross references on other sites.
An example of this is my most viewed post. “A Mojito Kind of Night” has been viewed almost 6,500 times (double any other post on the site). This post must have been properly tagged for SEO and people must really love their mojitos.
Apart from the mojito post, here are the top five most viewed posts on NectarWineBlog.com
#5 – What Makes a Good Wine List? Size Doesn’t Matter, 804 views: A little sex, a little sarcasm, and a little controversy helped this post receive views.
#4 – Spokane Wine Tour, 1108 views: I love that this is in the top 5. It shows that my efforts to shed a light on Spokane have worked.
#3 – Introducing Nectar Tasting Room, 1144 views: The support behind this post was mind blowing. According to tweet reach analytic sites, the hundreds of re-tweets and Facebook shares generated over 150,000 impressions (potential views).
#2 – The Guys Guide to Wine Part 2 of 4 – Got Grapes?, 2407 views: This series, and my Rock n Roll Wine List posts are two of my favorites and also two that started getting noticed. The longevity of this post (posted Dec 28, 2009) is what excites me. It still gets several page views per day.
#1 – 7 Creative Uses to Recycle Wine Bottles, 3004 views: This post became the definition of viral for me. I posted and tweeted and then stepped away to get some day job work done. I checked back into the Machine a few hours later only to see that the post had been re-tweeted nearly 50 times in a two hour period. As the day progressed, the numbers kept climbing and climbing. By the end of the day over 200 people had shared the post. The follow up post, Getting Crafty with Cork, sits just outside the top 5.
My Favorite Posts:
Apart from the previously mentioned Guys Guide and Rock n Roll Wine List posts, my favorite posts in the last year include some controversy and one from a guest writer.
The Tipping Point of A Maturing Wine Blog – The catalyst for this post was quotes from two respected wine writers who essentially say, “Wine blogs won’t make money.” The comments are more interesting than the post (as is the case with some of the controversial posts).
Kiona Wine Collaboration with The Wine Whore – Regardless of your stance on the oft maligned Wine Whore, Randy Watson is a genuinely nice guy. I enjoyed this post because we tried something different. Randy and I were each sent the same bottles of Kiona wine. The creative video shows a wine review separated by 3,000 miles and ends with a killer jam session (Randy on the drums and me on the guitar).
Seduce Your Palate – Why Food and Wine are Better Than Sex – One look at the opening image and you’ll see why this post is popular. Tamara Belgard, from the wine blog Sip With Me (now on hiatus because her blog led to a marketing job for an Oregon winery) was always one of my favorite writers to read. She never pulled any punches with her playful posts and whimsical style.
The Sport of Speed Wine Blogging – Inspired by the events at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference, this post introduces a new sport to the ESPN family of channels. Wine bloggers go glass to glass through seven rounds of grueling tasting. The results are pretty frickin’ funny (and shocking).
Is Facebook Tweeting Hurting Your Business – I’ve done quite a few social media posts over the year and this one was birthed out of the annoyance of people who automatically sync their Facebook status update to twitter. In the post I explain why this type of practice could hurt business and be counter-productive to your efforts.
As this post crosses the 1500 word threshold, I’ll end with the highlights. While I’ve enjoyed the media attention (both in print and on TV), I’m particularly proud of four things:
- Being nominated for “Best New Wine Blog” – while I didn’t win (that honor goes to the fine folks at www.swirlsmellslurp.com, it was exciting to be considered.
- Being featured in the Hello Vino wine app. To be included with the talented group of writers that are featured on the app is very humbling and inspires me to step up my game with every wine review.
- Rankings. Like I said before, I’m a numbers guy and I am excited about the high rankings on sites like Wikio.com and Postrank.com. While they don’t mean a ton in the grand scheme of things, they serve as validation points that someone is reading and watching.
- The launch of Spokane Wine Magazine and the anticipated opening of Nectar Tasting Room are the greatest tangible results from starting this blog. A year ago, neither would have been possible. Today, they are reality – all because of the relationships I’ve developed over the last year.
That brings me to the reason I sit on my ass every night, often times until well past midnight, tweeting, writing, editing video, and Facebooking…YOU! I have grown to love the interaction we have. YOU are what inspires me to keep doing this. So, here is a hopefully not too cheesy, “Thank you!”
Here is to another adventurous year. Enjoy life with friends, Drink Happy.
Have you ever had dreams of being a magazine publisher? Be careful, those dreams might actually be nightmares in disguise. Some say that traditional media is dead, and while I might agree that traditional media that refuses to adapt is in danger of dying, there is still a place for niche driven publishing. Today, I officially enter the world of the insane…er, I mean magazine publisher.
Rewind six months to a restless night in May. Coming up on my final interview of Spokane’s 18 wineries, I was consumed with the desire to get the word out beyond the readers of this blog. A print publication celebrating the regions wine seemed to be the next logical step. In my mind Spokane has reached the tipping point of being a wine destination. When I visit Woodinville, Yakima, Lake Chelan, or Walla Walla, multiple publications help share the story of the areas wine and events. Why not Spokane? I reluctantly crawled out of my bed, leaving the warmth of my wife behind, to be embraced by the glow of my computer screen (an activity that has repeated on many occasions since).
The next morning, I started my research and was startled to learn that it was feasible to publish a magazine. Heck, with enough money and time, you can accomplish anything. I began to lay the foundation of what would become Spokane Wine Magazine. Here I am, Josh Wade, in Spokane WA, with no experience in print publication, attempting something way outside my comfort zone. I’ve done my fair share of indie CD recording and distribution, but layout, design, ad sales, editorial, and printing was all new territory.
Fast forward to today. With the help of an army of talented individuals, Spokane Wine Magazine goes to print. In just a few short days, 10,000 copies of a regional celebration of wine will be hitting the streets. Over the last several months, I’ve learned several important lessons and spent a lot of money and lost some hair, and gained a little more grey hair. But, we have arrived…below are five short lessons I’ve learned through the process. Please join the journey by bookmarking www.spokanewinemagazine.com, follow us on Twitter @spowinemag and like us on Facebook.com/SpokaneWineMagazine.
Five Ways to Avoid Going Crazy When Entering the Publishing World
Engage people who have been down the road:
One of the first calls I made after getting the wife’s blessing to go forward with this crazy idea was to my friend Margaret Croom of Nosey Parker LLC. Margaret has successfully published shopping guide books for women in Spokane and Oklahoma City. She is a brilliant marketer and understands the publishing world. She agreed to partner with the publication by offering her experience, lending her name, and providing her talent. She immediately introduced me to Rainmaker Marketing. Without these relationships, my dream certainly would have turned into a nightmare.
Enlist the support of key influencers:
Who, besides yourself, stands to benefit from the publication? In my case, the Spokane wineries as well as the visitor’s bureau were logical people to approach with a partnership and sponsorship. Spokane IS a wine destination and getting that word out benefits both groups. I put together a pretty rough media kit and scheduled meetings with the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the agency that represents the Spokane Winery Association. The result was a fairly immediate excitement about the project along with a cautious approach to jumping in with a hobbyist wine blogger. After some coaxing, follow up and compromise, both groups were happy to be on board.
Hire the right people:
I consider myself to be pretty ambitious, but it became apparent pretty quickly that I was in way over my head for time, and expertise. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to surround yourself with competent people who can help you fulfill your vision. As most of you know, I try to balance my family, church activities, blog writing, opening Nectar Tasting Room and a full time job. Starting a magazine was just another demand for time and money. Hiring a designer, photographers, ad sales person, and an editor became necessary additions to the budget. You cannot do it all…and survive to tell about it.
Make a budget, double it, and prepare to lose money:
I went into this adventure prepared to lose what some would consider a fairly substantial sum of money. It was the price of getting started and hopefully blazing the trail for future revenue. I was committed to proving that I could get it done and didn’t want to cut any corners. Starting off with a budget and getting firm numbers from contractors was essential. In the end we stuck pretty close to our original budget and I’m happy to say that with the help of the team, we broke even with the very first issue, something my wife is very happy about.
Be flexible, strive for perfection, and stay true to your goals:
Believe it or not, not everyone will be supportive or understand your vision. In fact, chances are you’ll experience some good ol’ fashion opposition. Be persistent and in the end, develop a thick shell and let it roll off your back. I believe in the project, but convincing companies to part with their money for advertising in an unknown can be a challenge (on a side note, I am extremely grateful for all the advertisers who have jumped in to the first publication. You’re support will not go unrewarded). I learned that I needed to be flexible with my design ideas, with my time, and with my money, but still stayed true to the original vision of the project.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned along the way. I’m always available if anyone would like to talk about my adventures. Having gone from zero experience to seeing the whole process unfold, I certainly have some other lessons learned that I can pass along.
With that, I am so full of pride to say that the final product is complete. Very soon, Spokane residents will be able to pick up the very first copy of Spokane Wine Magazine at area wineries, the advertisers, and other key businesses and wine events. The Spokane CVB will be using the publication as part of their visitors and convention packet as well.
Thank you so much to the following partners, Nosey Parker LLC, Rainmaker Marketing, Spokane Regional CVB, Spokane Winery Association, Nectar Wine Blog, and my beautiful and supportive wife! Let’s do it all over again in September 2011.