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Snooth, Darwin and the Internet Jungle

The vintank vs Snooth vs CellarTracker issue seems to have quietened down. Perhaps it’s while CellarTracker’s team collects evidence or maybe that storm has blown out.

One of the accusations was that Snooth was a shopping comparison site not a social media site which has left me wondering what a “social media” website is?

And what’s Snooth’s place in the wine internet ecosystem?Ecosystem

Let’s go back a little, and simplify then exaggerate internet history (a nod to the Economist editorial policy).

The history of the internet

In 30 words or less…

90s

  • bulletin boards for nerds
  • simple brochure websites
  • outrageously expensive eCommerce sites

90s/00s

  • Amazon brings shopping to the web
  • Google organizes the web
  • YouTube brings us web TV
  • Apple brings us web radio
  • Google advertises the web
  • forums for everyone
  • Facebook finds your friends on the web
  • WordPress brings websites for every person, their thoughts, and reader interaction

00/10s

  • Apple brings the web to mobile
  • twitter helps broadcast your thoughts to similar people
  • yelp makes it the web local
  • foursquare makes it even more local and mobile
  • groupon combined coupons with mobile, social and local

… and it continues.

There are 1000s of internet services that have fallen by the wayside

What happens is a successful internet service does one thing really well.

And in a Darwinian process gets eaten by the others, eats others, or runs fast enough to stay ahead of those above it in the food chain.

Darwin

So let’s come back to Snooth

I have a fair amount of sympathy for this company.

I was in the middle of launching something similar but Snooth got their firstest with the mostest (boy can Philip James raise capital). So I have professional respect and a little bit of professional envy :). The idea of combining price search with wine content seems to be an excellent internet strategy.

Whether Snooth has tactically executed this well is controversial (as the last couple of weeks has seen) but with more than a million visitors they’ve certainly built a solid presence on the web and made a significant contribution to wine on the web.

Price search

Unlike with books and DVDs there is no common product number that everyone can use in the wine industry. Amazon has ISBNs. Snooth has nothing but tries it darndest with algorithms that aim to create an accurate database without duplication. It really is difficult and something that only Wine Searcher seems to have done well. Still, I think Snooth has made a reasonable attempt.

What I can’t believe is that Google still puts Snooth at the top of some wine searches?!

Surely Google could dominate the price comparison category with only small part of the effort it has put into other categories like electronics. It would need to form partnerships to give reviews and ratings for its Product Search listings but that can’t be too hard for this mega rich company.

Wine content

This can be split into wine reviews and winery information.

I thought Snooth was doing a pretty good job on this, though not everyone agrees. The company that does this better is CellarTracker with it’s database of excellent consumer reviews.

Wine information?

I frankly like wine bloggers and MW blogs for this information. And those paper things, what are they called? – books I think. If you look at wine blog awards the quality of wine writing is superb, throw in a bit of Jancis R etc and the internet has some superb wine information.

Snooth still does a great job here and relies on wineries to help out as well.

So Wine-Searcher does better with price search, CellarTracker does better with wine reviews and various wine bloggers does better with wine info.

Is the whole bigger than the parts?

It was built on good SEO and wine prices, it has added internal search and wine content. There is some sharing and commenting but but …Lion

Back to Darwin

My original point was that a successful internet service does one thing really well. And in a Darwinian process gets eaten by the others, eats others, or runs fast enough to stay ahead of those above it in the food chain.

Snooth did one thing really well – appeared at the top of the Google search results. But I just can’t see this continuing with Google (and Wine Searcher) on its heels. Others offer better wine content, mostly for free.

So here’s my prediction – the controversial bit

Snooth will be nibbled by Wine Searcher and Cellar Tracker, and then eaten by Google. By eaten I don’t mean purchased but rather bludgeoned to one side.

It will stagger on with a good email list of interested wine consumers but its days of staying ahead (by evolving faster than the rest of the internet jungle) will come to an end.

What are your thoughts? Am I being too pessimistic?

Photos courtesy of: Mangrove Trees SproutingAndree Kahlmorgan and Cindy Hoffman @ Time Inc, Lion

Comments

  1. Using their email list to it’s fullest potential could be a more powerful weapon than people think. Just look a the power Groupon has with their list now.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree Mitch.

      It reminds me of what I was told about DM many years ago – you have creative, the offer and the list. The offer is 5X more important than the creative, but the list is 10X.

  2. I would encourage you to look at Corkz… While we don’t have a website, we are purely a mobile app, we use CellarTracker as a datasource (with Eric’s full knowledge and blessing) and also incorporate Wine-Searcher pricing (we have a good relationship with them too) for the wines that you look up so you can see what it’s retail cost is.

    Corkz, a sommelier in your pocket :-). Wine ratings, reviews and prices with the ability to do some cellar management too!

  3. Snooth started out with good information and price comparison for shoppers…. then they started a monthly email campaign that evolved to weekly to daily to several times a day. I deleted them entirely as I abhor being spammed. Seems they defined their own demise and I can honestly say it couldn’t happen to a better group.

    • Huh, interesting Charles. I guess they found they got the best results from email vs their website?

      From an internet marketing perspective, I’ve always thought they had too many distractions (ads, sidebars, boxes) to get conversions, so perhaps thats why they had to rely on email. If they gave their webpages a single clear call to action to buy a particular wine brand then they may do better.

      Instead I guess they’ve had to boost email marketing to cover the lack of conversion on the web side .

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