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March 9, 2022

Improving Wine Communication w/ Madeline Puckette, Wine Folly

Improving Wine Communication w/ Madeline Puckette, Wine Folly

Using her background in graphic design and inability to read large blocks of text, Madeline Puckette, Co-Founder and Content Director of Wine Folly, has transformed wine communication using infographics and other writing methods to enable wine discovery f


Using her background in graphic design and inability to read large blocks of text, Madeline Puckette, Co-Founder and Content Director of Wine Folly, has transformed wine communication using infographics and other writing methods to enable wine discovery for more people. What started as a content marketing strategy for a planned wine club, Wine Folly has become one of the core landing sites for wine globally and an essential resource for wine beginners in their wine journey. Here about the journey, the business, and the future with Global Wine Database

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Detailed Show Notes:

  • Madeline’s background
    • Grandfather got into wine through mail order and reading
    • Dad bought a wine subscription to K&L Wine Merchants when she was 21 (in 2004) at art school, which got her into wine and provided her “Aha!” wine moment - a Cotes du Rhone that didn’t taste like fruit but like black olives
    • She was a musician and a graphic designer
    • After she lost her job in 2009, she helped out at a wine bar which exposed her to more wine
    • Did the Ruinart Challenge competition in San Francisco and got runner up on a Chardonnay blind tasting
    • Went on to pass Certified with the Court of Master Sommeliers (“CMS”)
    • While in the startup community in Seattle, she wanted to combine web with a wine concept and started Wine Folly
  • Wine Folly’s founding
    • It didn’t want to have a blog
    • The initial concept was to have an online wine club with videos exploring the wine regions of the world
    • 12/25/2011 - 1st post on how to wrap a bottle of wine for Christmas
    • Wine informational content started as a content marketing strategy to get high search engine optimization (“SEO”) but became what people wanted
  • Wine Folly today
    • An online portal for the topic of wine
    • 1st infographic - “how to choose wine” - was a joke but went viral and the Facebook account grew by 7,000 in 1 day
      • Printed and sold the infographic as posters - sold 52 in the 1st two days
    • Uses an inverted pyramid writing style - articles start with the simple, straightforward answer and then grows with more details at the bottom
    • Wine Folly users - the focus is on wine beginners - there are always more people getting into wine
  • Marketing Wine Folly
    • Viral things tend to peak and go down
    • SEO “long tail” work - content marketing, posting 3 articles/week for years for free was what built the site
    • Tried some paid marketing for products
    • Social media - “like a billboard,” metrics are smaller than everything else (<10% of traffic to the website comes from social) but builds awareness
    • Key metrics - reach and revenue are primary metrics / OKRs
    • Defining reach can be complex - can include duration of visits, looking at a 2nd page, etc.
    • ~20M unique visitors/year on the website
    • Launching online classes - including a French wine course in March, uses a self-challenge model to force people to learn and figure things out
    • Seeing a declining interest in wine - the “wine” search ranking has been declining over the last 5 years
  • YouTube channel
    • Has been growing rapidly recently (~60k followers in Jan 2022)
    • Need consistency of content to do well - 1 piece/week would be ideal
    • Wine is challenging on YouTube to create a digestible format because wine is just in your glass. It’s all in your head -> success might be more about personality
    • Other successful wine channels - Wine King, Bon Appetit w/ Andre Mack
    • YouTube is a place to self-learn
  • Social media strategy
    • Need to have content that matches the purpose of the social media channel
    • Wine Folly does a lot of analysis on what does well or not
    • Consistency is the core strategy
  • Business model
    • Launched a wine club in 2021 in partnership with Wine Access
    • “Like a Food52 of wine” - wine accessories (e.g., tools, maps, wine flavor charts, visual learning tools)
    • No advertising, but investigating it now, looking at partnership/sponsorship opportunities
    • Tools and book section are the most successful, courses coming up fast
  • Books
    • 1st was in 2015, 2nd in 2018
    • More a marketing opportunity to get credibility
    • Sales primarily field by people on Wine Folly’s email list
    • Not great financially
    • 2nd book - wants to be the guide to use to pass CMS Certified
    • Sold on website packaged with a Wine 101 course to compete w/ Amazon, which sells the book cheaper
  • Merger with Global Wine Database (2019)
    • The quality of the information in the wine industry is bad
    • GWD is an initiative to get all wines and wineries to put their product information into the database
    • There are free and pro subscriptions
    • Have created region guides and trade guides to explore wine regions with the data
    • Producers can create tech sheets with the product
    • Future applications - API for retailers, recommendation engine by taste
    • Synergies with Wine Folly - to provide better data to create better products, Wine Folly adds content structure over the database

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