It’s nearly 30 months since the Wine Travel Guides website went live and I’ve just made some big changes in a bid to keep the site alive. The website has received a gratifying amount of praise from users, writers and those in both the wine and the travel industry, but as with many websites, it has not yet found a way to become profitable! It’s not immediately obvious what exactly is going to change here, but “I have a cunning plan” to quote Baldrick, and with lots of support from all and some patience, I hope to turn things around given time.
The big news is that I’ve removed the original 3-tier subscription scheme and freed up the huge mass of content on our 50 guides to be viewed by all website visitors. Each recommended wine producer, place to stay eat or shop has its own page and this means that the all-important search engines will now see more than 1,500 pages instead of just around 60 pages. More interestingly, there’s a wealth of excellent information on the site for wine lovers and travellers to France, Tuscany and Rioja. All of this will, I hope, attract many more visitors to the website.
Many people find that the PDF form of the guides is the most useful to save on computer and print as needed, so PDF Guides will be sold from the site singly at £5 (about US$8.50 or €5.50) with further guides available at a generous discount.
The former full access annual Gold Subscription becomes Gold Membership. I’ve changed the terminology partly due to the terms that have been adopted on the blogosphere and beyond – these days one subscribes (at no charge, of course) to blogs, and there are so-called Member sites whose aim is to get income. I don’t like to think of Wine Travel Guides as a ‘normal’ member site but Member seems the right term to employ in future. I’m working on ideas to offer more benefits to Gold Members, alongside the not insubstantial benefit of being able to download and print at least 50 comprehensive travel guides to wine regions.
Advertising? Sponsorship? Support?
Some readers of this blog will know that I was adamantly against having advertising on the website, partly because I don’t believe advertising is compatible with a subscription site and partly because I felt that it would destroy the ‘look’ of the website. Well, here I need to relent and no-one seems to mind this. Advertising revenue is notoriously low unless one has a) a niche site with niche advertisers and b) lots of visitors. Wine Travel Guides is obviously a niche site and the new format should increase the visitor numbers dramatically in a few months. So now I simply have to find suitable niche advertisers. Bingo! Well no, not overnight – I am a fearful realist.
Other ideas that I’m working on include more ways to market the PDF guides; creating personalised itineraries on demand for the areas we cover on the site – useful for those planning an intensive wine tour and need some extra assistance to save time; and creating a sponsored section for top quality private wine tour guides and wine schools in the wine regions. I am also considering approaching tourist offices and wine generic bodies to support new guides – strictly on the basis that we are given editorial freedom and do not have to list who they tell us to as their websites tend to list everyone anyway and those will receive a link of course.
The only problem with these many ideas is the number of hours in the day available to me. Bear in mind when you read this, that it is mostly me who does everything from editing and inputting new guides and our regular guide updates to liaising with my webmaster and contributors, dealing with website enquiries as well as writing occasional articles, these blog posts and most of the Wine Travel Guides blog posts – oh yes, and I twitter, Facebook and the rest. Is there anyone out there inspired to help me? I especially need help with the business negotiation and sales aspects of the ideas above and might be interested in a future partnership for the right person – but for now, remuneration would only be on the basis of results. Are you the person I’m looking for? If so, contact me to discuss it.
Please take a look at the changes on the website, which I hope you approve of and do spread the word. I look forward to hearing your comments.
If you want to become a Gold Member of Wine Travel Guides, use the special offer code especially for readers of this blog – D1BLG09 – you’ll receive about 15% discount.