With his bombastic personality and Everyman appeal, Gary Vaynerchuk wants to revolutionize wine appreciation — and he’s doing it one vlog at a time. Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV is quickly moving from online cult hit to full-blown mainstream phenomenon, garnering attention from Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Time, GQ, and diggnation. [digg=http://digg.com/celebrity/Wine_Library_TV_Crushes_Old_Wine_Rules]
Vaynerchuk’s been pumping out daily episodes of his online wine recommendation TV program since February 2006, with each episode, he claims, getting some 30,000 unique viewers. Slate referred to him as “a wine guru for the YouTube era.” Vaynerchuk is indeed probably the ideal spokesperson for modern wine recommendation. Here’s what aspiring vloggers can learn from him:
Pick the right topic.
Vaynerchuk couldn’t have picked a better topic than wine. Sales of vino have grown steadily over the past 13 years, with 301 million cases sold in the U.S. in 2006, according to The Wine Institute.
But let’s face it, choosing a wine isn’t easy. It’s a snobby community, and the sheer volume of choices can be overwhelming. Walk into a Safeway (SWY), for example, and you’re confronted with hundreds of bottles. So having someone make a recommendation in a straightforward way can prevent you from just grabbing the most expensive bottle in your price range — and feeling, well, kinda stupid in the process.
Have a distinct voice.
Watching Vaynerchuk in action brings to mind Joe Pesci trapped in the body of Doogie Howser‘s friend Vinnie — by way of Robert Parker. He is loud. He is brash. He is the antithesis of the staid, refined expert we normally associate with the world of wine.
He uses terms like “thunder” to describe big reds. And lists prices in “bones” as opposed to dollars. His fans are “Vayniacs.” It’s straight talk about a complex subject, and that style is paying off. Traffic to his site winelibrary.com (where he is more than happy to sell you the bottle of wine he recommends) is fast approaching that of Wine Spectator, and dwarfs that of his idol Robert Parker.
Know your medium.
WineLibary is pretty much all talking head, all the time. Vaynerchuk sits behind a table, with three bottles prominently displayed. He does close-ups of each bottle, and speaks loudly and clearly — which is important, because audiences will forgive anything but bad sound (according to my cinema studies professor).
He swirls. He slurps. He spits. He speaks. That’s it. That’s the show. Well, that’s not the entire show. Vaynerchuk knows his wine. But he doesn’t go on and on. Listen to him explain the history of Zinfandel in a concise manner; it’s actually interesting. When describing the bouquet of a white, he keeps the language simple, yet direct, noting the “lemon zest.” He’s even been known to eat dirt and suck on rocks to better describe wine. Now *that* is knowing your YouTube audience.
This low-fi approach to video matches perfectly with his low-fi approach to wine, so it doesn’t feel forced. It’s a natural extension of the show. A natural extension of him.
The only real issue with Vaynerchuk is Vaynerchuk himself. His catchphrases like “VAY-NER-CHUCK” and “sniffy-sniff” while fun now, could descend into Emeril “BAM!” territory.
But for now, audiences are drinking it all in.