Monday, July 27, 2009

A little hair of the dog

The second day at the 2009 Wine Bloggers’ Conference found us at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), at their Greystone Campus in Napa Valley. I knew the group of people I wanted to hang out with for the day, a group that I identified earlier as troublemakers and disruptors, in other words “the fun people.”

We arrived at the CIA and sat down to listen to Paula Cornell, the President of the Napa Valley Vintners Association. She spoke to us about the quality of Napa Valley, some economic statistics, and a nice introduction to the rest of the speakers.

Next up to the podium was Charles Henning, the Managing Director of the CIA. He spoke to us about the accolades of the CIA, how many of the best members of the culinary arts have come through the CIA, and their visions of the future. He made mention to an event with Robert Parker and it was unclear to me if he had been reading up on the issues surrounding Robert Parker or not. It was a bit obvious that the crowd was not enthusiastic about being marketed an evening tasting with Mr. Parker.

Then up came Barry Schuler, the owner of Meteor Vineyards and former CEO of AOL. Listening to this man was worth the price of admission. From Barry we received a satellite view of where the business of wine writing is and where it might be going. He showed us written descriptions of oysters and pretzels in the same writing style as wine writers’ tasting notes.

While the room laughed I thought about how some of my friends chuckle at the way I describe wine and how similar the sound of derision is.

The main points that Barry made really stuck with me. In the emerging new world order, brands that once were on top of the market, ones that no one thought could ever crumble are on their way out because the old business models no longer work. His term was “moving through Death Valley,” where the brands must go to die. The current rate of content being produced is far ahead of the models being created to monetize the creation of this content. On the internet we all expect free content, because content on the internet has always been free. No one has yet found a sustainable model to make money. As Barry stated, so far the model has been “if they come, we will build it.”

There are a few models in the works right now that are experimenting to see what works best. This weekend I spoke to a few people that had some great ideas. Now it is just a matter of putting them into practice. One thing we all know, the internet is changing at the speed of thought and there is a long way to go before it settles.
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