Not long ago I got to sit down with Mark Fusco, one of our WordPress web hosting customers here at ZippyKid. Mark is taking the Certified Sommelier Examination just a month from now, and his website, 1337wine.com, includes hundreds of videos of him reviewing wines as he tries them for the first time. He was so excited about what he was talking about that he inspired me to buy a new wine he recommended after we stopped talking! Here’s how Mark has been able to improve on his site with WordPress and ZippyKid, along with his experience and advice about running a website with videos.
When did you get an interest in wine?
Well, I got a degree in music but I worked for the Austin American Statesmen in college and thought I would stay in publishing. Throughout the years I got into restaurants and at one point was working for ESPN Zone in Chicago. ESPN Zone is owned by Disney, and Disney pays for employees to take the first level sommelier test because it improves their wine sales. I was just starting getting into wine at this point. It’s really more of a geeky thing and being a geek, it was something to learn. I eventually moved back to San Antonio and took the Level One Sommelier Exam and another for the Society of Wine Educators a few months apart, and didn’t think they were overly difficult.
How did the site come about?
The inspiration was 337 wine. I was shopping and saw wine “1337” and thought someone made wine for geeks. It turns out the “1” wasn’t there but I wanted to do something with it, and a few days later I bought the domain name. I thought I would do something similar to Gary Vaynerchuk who did wine reviews. It was a way to study for my wine tests.
What is important to you when making your videos?
I’m trying wines for the very first time when I review them on camera. This allows me to experience a wide variety and develop my palette, but I believe it also helps me keep the integrity of the site. I want people to be able to hear someone give opinions in normal words about the taste, as opposed to marketing fluff. When I have a personal preference for certain types of wines I try to evaluate them on if they’re structurally good and well-made. It’s like with country music. I don’t like country music but I can tell you if it’s well-composed.
Also, I choose wines that are usually $10 to $20 a bottle, $40 tops. The site is meant to be “what’s down at your local grocery store” for viewers. This allows me to have a wide audience and people can try the wines themselves.
Tell me about what skills you think are most helpful when being on video.
You really have to be a ham. You have to be somebody that likes attention. If you are not that type of person you need to get practice. I naturally won’t just walk up to a stranger and start talking to them but with my music background I couldn’t have stage fright. I was still nervous my first episode and my show is not even live. With practice and just by doing it I’ve gotten much more comfortable.
Also, I wanted to perfect my videos as much as I could and be professional. I bought nicer equipment to stand out against other wine reviewers. I have close to professional audio and video now, and use a green screen. I love learning about audio and video production from this.
You have ads on your site to offset the price of the wine. Tell me about that.
I don’t want ads from wineries because I don’t want to feel obligated to give a good review. I don’t want to be in a position where I don’t like the wine that my sight is endorsing. I don’t actively pursue ads because I don’t do this to make a living but I use the Palate Press Advertising Network. It finds ads that meet the demographics of people watching the show.
You are connected to so many social media outlets. Any advice on social media use?
I’ve never encountered a social media platform I didn’t try to sign up for. I spend a decent amount of off-time on social media. Something people don’t talk about much is following people so they follow you. I’ve gained a lot of followers by following other people.
Why did you choose WordPress?
I originally chose SquareSpace because it was a sponsor of a podcast I listened to and it was simple. However, WordPress kept coming up and had the best flexibility. There were things I wanted to do with my site and when I asked Robert on the ZippyKid team if I could do those things with WordPress, he said “absolutely” and even offered to help.
I chose ZippyKid for WordPress hosting because I wanted something local, and liked that it was managed so I didn’t have to worry about updates or security. I knew Rob and Vid because I met them at Business Media Public Relations lunches, and had a trust level with them. If anything happens I know who they are and the service is phenomenal. I would rather give money to someone local than some faceless company.
It’s good to know the company is their to take care of their guests. I like that when something does go wrong Vid immediately tells you. Being in the industry of customer service, I know you retain customers based on how you handle bad things happening. Emails have gone out about something being wrong and what you’re doing to fix it when I don’t even notice a blip in my site.
What advice do you have for people looking to just get started with learning about wine?
Start with white wine because it’s easier to drink than red. Start with something like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. As you get more into how it should taste and feel, move into chardonnay. Also, be careful about temperature. Often people have reds too hot and whites too cold. Wine shouldn’t be on the bottom shelf of fridges because that’s the coldest.
We heard about Mark’s tips for making videos on WordPress. What have you found to be successful in making quality videos on WordPress?