It should be no secret to anyone who still might read this blog that WineLog has been … resting … for the past few years. My last post here was in 2012, when I disabled new signups.
Since then we’ve only done enough work to keep spammers and hackers off the site, keep the site running for folks still logging wines, and keep the blog running for folks still blogging here. No new features. No new data. Nothing new.
WineLog was a great project for us. We learned a lot of about web development and about wine. When people ask me if I still log wines, I always respond that I don’t because “it worked”. Logging my wines for a while educated me enough that now I can now pretty comfortably pick a wine off a list or store shelf. We have a few favorites we keep coming back to and generally try new wines all the time and try not to get hung up rating it. It’s either “I’ll get that again” or not.
When people ask me if I still work on WineLog I say that I don’t. It’s been neglected.
As a business, I always struggled with how WineLog could make money. In the early days when VCs were looking to fund the site, I couldn’t explain to myself or them how WineLog could make “millions of dollars” to justify the kind of investment they wanted to do. We took only a small amount of angel funding mostly for the relationship. We saw some competing companies take more money. Most failed. Some transitioned into ecommerce or deals sites, where there was some money to be made if you weren’t afraid of the legal battleground around selling wine online.
We tried to make it work as a smaller “lifestyle” business. We had some good plans to make money through ad sales and affiliate fees. We partnered with some small companies on this. When they pivoted to something else, we lost some ground.
Then Google started placing Google Shopping links above regular search results when searching for wine, and we lost about half of our traffic. Instead of fighting them, we decided to work with it and built a Wine Searcher competitor on top of the Google Shopping API. Our product wasn’t as good as Wine Searcher, but was like 80% of the way there and a good starting point. We were working with Google and didn’t expect them to go out of business like our previous partners. But then Google took wines out of their Google Shopping results and that whole service disappeared.
At one point we got pretty close to selling WineLog to an online wine retailer. The business model we had tried to setup where we would get 5-10% of wine sales made from WineLog visitors wasn’t sustainable. It didn’t make sense for us, but it did make sense for a single retailer that would be getting the other 90-95% of the sale. The company looking to buy us low balled us, and I got so enamored with the spreadsheets I put together predicting how much revenue could be made by the retailers that I called off the sale and decided to make another push to build up traffic. The plan was to flood the retailers with the good shoppers coming to our site, track their activity as best we could, and then use that data as proof that we were worth a higher price tag. We were successful at this in some ways, but unsuccessful in others. WineLog unravelled in general and we never got around to trying to sell again.
We spent a lot of time trying to overhaul the WineLog code base (which is very very dated now) with an eye toward compatibility on mobile devices and tablets. We probably tried like 3 times to build a new 2.0 version of WineLog and were never able to complete it. We would build a nice new foundation for the site, but as we went through things we’d realize all of the little details and features that WL had and how they would have to be updated to work on the new platform. A better strategy would have been to gradually update WineLog system by system.
Any of these missteps could be cited as why WineLog “failed”. The biggest reason though was that we weren’t focused enough. While working on WineLog, we also ran a consulting business which did well and led to our current business selling ecommerce software for WordPress membership sites. That business is going great, and our decision to focus on that 100% is why WineLog has been stagnant all these years. For us, focusing on the other business was the right decision. For WineLog, it obviously would have been better had we transitioned it to new owners long ago.
So that’s where WineLog has been.
WineLog is do for a new phase of life. We don’t want to simply shut it all down.
There are still some great people using it to log wines. We’d like to help transition them to something else as smoothly as possible. We have a couple great bloggers here who could use a better platform built specifically for blogging and marketing how they need to. There is still some great data and algorithms behind the scenes that could be useful for smaller projects. There is still a great brand here, SEO “juice”, and traffic that could be put to good use.
Stay tuned. I hope to outline some thoughts on that here and engage whoever is left out there on what we can do.
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