HOSTSEARCH: Vito - thanks for agreeing to this interview. Perhaps you could introduce yourself and give us a general overview of DemoDemo and its products.
VITO CENITI: Thanks, John. I appreciate the invitation to chat with you. I'm the President of Netasis Internet, Inc., parent company of DemoDemo.com. I've been self employed all my life. I grew up in a household in which we operated a family business. In 1982, I branched out on my own and started a spring water bottling business and ran that for 18 years. In 2000, I sold the business and decided to dive into the wonderful world of Internet, and haven't looked back since. Regarding the DemoDemo site, we offer Flash tutorials for the web hosting industry. Web hosts can purchase their own logo branded sets of tutorials. These instructional step by step tutorials are very effective in reducing the number of support tickets received. We also produce custom tutorials for those whose needs go beyond our standard product offering.
HOSTSEARCH: Your excellent web site says: "DemoDemo.com is part of a group of web sites owned and operated by TP Marketing International under the corporate umbrella of Netasis Internet Inc." Perhaps it would be interesting to know a little about the history of DemoDemo and more about its corporate structure.
VITO CENITI: Netasis Internet, Inc. is the parent company. Originally in 2000, I created TP Marketing International, which is now a subsidiary of Netasis Internet, Inc. DemoDemo is one of the web properties managed under this corporate umbrella. Other sites include netasis.com, waterhosting.com, eyesontraffic.com and waterwater.ca.
HOSTSEARCH: Producing tutorials for web hosting companies is an excellent idea - very focused and practical. What (or who) was the inspiration behind the company?
VITO CENITI: Back in 2002, one Monday morning at 5 AM, I was on the phone with one of my web developers in Europe - we were discussing another one of my projects. Something in the conversation briefly touched on the notion of using Flash to effectively outline an online process. It was only later on that day that I revisited that concept, and decided to explore the possibilities as they related to the web hosting industry. I started off with a small 10-tutorial series for cPanel to test market response. The rest is history.
HOSTSEARCH: How do you manage product overhauls and new versions? Especially how do you manage open-source software which update very regularly and often in directions you might least expect? Isn't it a lot of work?
VITO CENITI: Yes indeed, it is a lot of work. In fact, this is probably the most challenging part of the business - keeping up to date with all of our product offerings. There is no steadfast rule on when we update a series. We cover many different products and each one updates in their own way. For instance, we update control panel tutorials series at major version updates only - we do not update every time there is a minor patch or update within any given version. Otherwise, we would be forever replacing product. Our goal is to routinely monitor the products that we cover, and do our best to produce updated product as and when required in a timely manner. This goal is that much more significant when you consider the new product offering that DemoDemo will be launching soon. I hate to tease you this way, but I'm afraid I can't share it with you right now. You will have to wait until official launch.
HOSTSEARCH: What have been the company's key accomplishments? Have you won any awards?
VITO CENITI: DemoDemo's key accomplishment has been to develop an innovative product that has been instrumental in significantly reducing support costs for web hosts. Given that customer support reportedly represents 50% of expenses for the web hosting industry, DemoDemo tutorials have not surprisingly been a very welcome product, embraced by the industry since Day One. Awards? Hmm. Aside from being graced with the coveted "Site Of The Day" award at the Macromedia site a couple of years ago, we have not won any industry awards. And that's OK. I suppose that when it comes down to it, the best award we could ever receive is the feedback we receive from our satisfied customers. Our Testimonials Page is a pretty good testament to that. Which is why, after three and a half years, we are still the undisputed market leader.
HOSTSEARCH: At the moment you use Flash for your tutorials and it is very effective. But software, etc. is advancing so quickly. How do you envisage your tutorials changing in say 5-10 years? How will they differ from the ones you produce today?
VITO CENITI: You're spot on with many of your comments today, John. I agree, software changes and advancements will definitely have an effect on DemoDemo. Currently, Flash is our most effective way of delivering our product. I don't see that changing for a while, particularly since Flash itself is constantly improving itself from the inside out, making itself more efficient, more user friendly, more deliverable. However, that is not to say we won't consider other options. One thing that I envisage in the future is integrating other multimedia components into the basic Flash tutorials. For instance, I can see a combined effort between DemoDemo.com (with Flash tutorials) and one of our other sites Netasis.com (with onscreen talents delivering face to face messages). Internet users are continually looking for more and more interactive, multimedia-rich content, and this is definitely one aspect of our product line that we wish to aggressively develop.
HOSTSEARCH: Web hosting in an industry where the products and services available are often very much the same. Obviously one way a web host can differentiate is by offering your products. How else can they make themselves stand out? As someone who is working inside the business but who is not host, what attracts you to a particular web hosting provider?
VITO CENITI: Before I answer your question, let me say that "technically", you could consider me to be a web host. I own waterhosting.com and offer my services to a handful of clients. But I don't really consider myself as a host. Basically, I offer hosting to some of my local web design clients (yes, I dabble in web design too). It's more a matter of convenience for my clients. OK, with that out of the way, let me answer your question. Again, your assessment is accurate. As with many other industries, you will find similar products or services offered in the web hosting industry. So yes, in order to be successful, you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd. There are many ways to do this, not the least of which is offering stellar customer support. Offering DemoDemo tutorials in the support center is one part of this equation. I should state parenthetically that it is not enough to offer "just" DemoDemo tutorials. A truly effective support center will include Flash tutorials coupled with text based equivalent, a Knowledge Base and a good Support Ticket system. Let's face it, most people are visual by nature and will prefer to watch a tutorial. However, others will prefer text. It's essential to cover all bases. What else can differentiate a web host from the pack? What attracts me to one host and not another? There are a few things. Site design is one. While it is not necessarily a deal breaker, I feel more comfortable dealing with someone who makes an effort putting their best foot forward in presentation. Niche marketing is another way of standing out. Far too many hosts offer generic product at generic pricing with generic features. I firmly believe that many of them should consider specializing their services. They should pick a specific niche and develop their product to that end. Examples that come to mind are real estate, medical, legal, and so on. Cater to a specific industry with industry specific features and benefits, and you suddenly have a captive market willing to pay premium dollars for your services. OK, I'll stop. I could go on forever on this topic, but I'll show some self control.
HOSTSEARCH: This is a 'de facto' question for everyone we interview - what do YOU think is going to be the next big thing on the Internet and how do you think it will impact people's lives?
VITO CENITI: Interesting question, John. As much as the Internet has grown in the past decade, I believe that it is still on the cusp of upcoming explosive growth. It's surprising to see how many brick and mortar businesses still do not have Internet presence. Over time, that will change. And when it does, we will see exponential growth in eCommerce activity. The ripple effect will touch all aspects of our lives, both as merchants and as consumers. I also see VoIP eventually becoming the "standard" for communicating with each other on a worldwide basis. And last but certainly not least, and this one is more up my alley, I see multimedia presentations becoming more and more prevalent online. Internet users are forever demanding more and more depth in online content to attract them, keep their interest, and persuade them to conduct business with you as a merchant. Here's a small example. A few months ago, we introduced VICO, a product I developed at our Netasis.com site. VICO, Video Integrated Check Out, allows us to add a "personal human touch" to our order process. Every landing page in the order process displays a short video in which our onscreen talent walks the customer through the step. You can see VICO in action at www.demodemo.com/vico.html.
HOSTSEARCH: What aspect of your work do you find the most demanding and how do you navigate it?
VITO CENITI: One aspect of my job that demands constant attention is customer service. I am bordering on obsessive when it comes keeping the customer happy - whether it means lightning fast responses to pre-sales enquiries or complete dedication to doing whatever is necessary to satisfy an existing customer. The upside to this is that I find the feedback that I receive incredibly rewarding, so it hardly seems like work. The only thing more "demanding" in my work is managing product updates in a timely manner.
HOSTSEARCH: What do you do to enjoy yourself outside working hours, or are you like many in the industry, always online?
VITO CENITI: What? Outside of working hours? I don't know what you mean... All kidding aside, I will confess that, not unlike many who run their businesses online, I spend an inordinate amount of hours every day at the computer. However, when I do manage to pry myself away, I enjoy spending time with my family, woodworking and the occasional round of golf.