Why does great content have to go away?

Back from the Climate Change and Wine conference — it was a great experience. I’ve got epic notes (41 pages, urk!) and plan to distill them into something hopefully cohesive and post that later this week, time permitting.

Meanwhile, the build of the new database is crunching along nicely. If all goes well it should be complete within a couple of days, and then after some testing, I’ll put it live. In general, it’s got about 1000 new sites, and will be maybe 10% bigger than the previous database.

But at the same time there’s always some attrition. Some of this is natural; websites go up, websites disappear, websites change format. But what kills me is when some site “relaunches” and throws away a goldmine of great archive content, all because they’re either not aware of its value, or just can’t be bothered to make the old content work under the new site.

While putting together Able Grape I’ve seen this happen a few times, and sometimes it’s heartbreaking. I’d find some goldmine of information from a unique perspective, and get excited (yeah, I’m like that; sad, isn’t it?). I’d do a bunch of work to make sure that it got properly included and found in search results, instead of getting buried, as it might on a general-purpose search engine, and then boom! it disappears. Back to square one.

Read on if you’re interested in a couple of examples where you could help get the content back by writing to these publications!

Last year, the UK publication Wine & Spirit, having merged with their competitor Wine International, decided they would launch a new website. No problem there, but in so doing, they simply made the old Wine International website redirect to the new website, which didn’t have any of any of the old content. They had this wonderful little Wine Encyclopedia which had pithy definitions of wine regions and producers, and they had quite a few well-written articles. Boom. All gone. It did a disservice to their users, and it probably also caused their traffic to drop precipitously: all of the links into Wine International became dead links, and fell out of the search engines at their next refresh. I wrote them at the time, and they said they planned to put it back online someday, but nothing’s happened, and that editor has since moved on to another publication. The new online editor seems to be Chris Mercer, if you feel inspired to write. I imagine (hope!) they have that content backed up somewhere, and if they put it back I’d love to have it in Able Grape.

Well, it happened again this week. The fine Massachusetts publication Beverage Business launched a new site, and they dropped all of their archives prior to 2005, including some of the finest wine writing on the web. You can see these results in quite a few searches on Able Grape. Look for the beveragebusiness results in the following queries. They’re dead links now, so you’ll have to guess how great and in-depth the content was from the abstracts that show up:

Etc. I found more than 500 examples, just looking through the query logs for the handful of users we’ve had in the first couple of weeks. For many of these topics, those documents were unique. For example, that Giacomo Tachis & Giulio Gambelli article, which I and others used as a reference for a WSET paper, was the only in-depth information on Gambelli in English. Boom! Gone. I wrote to the editors, but they seemed unconvinced as to the value of the content, saying there are updated versions of many articles. I tried, but I couldn’t find many (I mean, how often are they going to update an article about Pinotage?).

So these docs will drop out in the new database. If you’d like to write Beverage Business and tell them this was useful content, I’ll make sure I get it back in Able Grape if they put it back on line. The editors’ addresses are on this contact page.


6 Responses to “Why does great content have to go away?”

  1. 1 Danielle King February 28, 2008 at 2:37 am

    I couldn’t agree more. These articles are invaluable and often one of a kind. Even if they are a few years old, they often represent the only information a student such as myself could find on the web. I’ve written Beverage Business to see what I could do in terms of getting these articles published once again.

  2. 2 ablegrape February 28, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks, Danielle. I really appreciate it. Hope lots more people write Beverage Business and Wine & Spirit as well, perhaps they’ll do something. Cheers, Doug

  3. 3 Bill Nesto, M.W. March 2, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for recognizing the value of objective articles that bridge the gap between wine appreciation, wine science, and the business of wine.
    If you would like to continue to read my articles and articles like them, please contact Ben Stone of Beverage Business to show your support. His email address is bstone@beveragebusiness.com

  4. 4 ablegrape March 3, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for the response, Bill. I will write Ben again; I encourage others to do so as well. Doug

  5. 5 bkwine March 4, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    On the other hand, you have to understand the editors. They have all these old pages looking crappy and not at all in line with what the site wants to look like today. It is an awful lot of work to bring “the archives” up to standards of a new design. If only there were an easy way to do that… (Let me know if you find one!) And it’s not really a good solution to just “leave it as it is” either.

    OTOH I have heard about some sites logging old versions of sites (a bit like Google cache, but with a history). Don’t know who does that but it could be worth looking into.

  6. 6 ablegrape March 4, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Hi Per.

    I do understand that they might have technical issues, and perhaps that is the real reason why the content went away; the reason they gave me was that much of the content had been updated, but that didn’t make sense, as many of those articles were unique. There was nothing embarrassing about the content; it was great content, it wasn’t presented badly and didn’t seem to look too different than the current presentation.

    One option if they have technical challenges getting the content up-to-date could be to just leave that content where it was, making it findable by search engines but not easily navigable from their new UI.

    If the original content owners don’t want the content on their sites, providing copyright issues could be worked out, I’d also be happy to find a way to host it on Able Grape. Some people have suggested using the “way back machine” (i.e. the Internet Archive), which would work in a pinch, but that’s hardly easily accessible.

    It’s just such a shame that unique, original content disappears from the web. There’s so much crap that gets cut-and-pasted from one site to another, and very little truly original, useful content. We should treasure it.


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Able Grape, a wine information search engine




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