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July 28, 2021

Bringing Wine to Life w/ Jacki Strum, Wine Enthusiast Media

Bringing Wine to Life w/ Jacki Strum, Wine Enthusiast Media

Growing up around wine has not dimmed the passion Jacki Strum brings to her work as President of Wine Enthusiast Media. In the first of a series on the evolution of the wine critic, Jacki tells us about how Wine Enthusiast has expanded its platform from


Growing up around wine has not dimmed the passion Jacki Strum brings to her work as President of Wine Enthusiast Media.  In the first of a series on the evolution of the wine critic, Jacki tells us about how Wine Enthusiast has expanded its platform from print into web, social media, podcasts, and even Tik Tok.  As well as how they assess wines (blindly) as a wine critic and how those ratings are used to help people buy wine.  We really get under the hood of the wine media business in this episode of XChateau

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Jacki's background
    • She grew up in wine (her parents founded Wine Enthusiast in the late 1970s)
    • Studied wine through WSET Level 3
    • Digital media in wine & spirits background
    • Founded Thirsty Nest - a wine & spirits gift registry platform, media, and commerce hybrid that is part of Wine Enthusiast
  • Wine media in the late 1980s
    • Wine Enthusiast (“WE”) magazine founded in 1988, Robert Parker wrote for WE for a while
    • Wine Spectator was around, but not much else
    • “French Paradox” on 60 Minutes (1991) about the health benefits of wine was the catalyst for the entire wine industry in the US, which helped the magazine take off as well
  • WE media platform
    • Print publication - still successful
      • Did well during Covid as people were sick of screens and hard news
    • Website - growing exponentially
      • Houses the entire database of wine reviews
      • Buying guide went “through the roof” during Covid due to an increase in online wine sales
      • 65% of visitors go to the website to buy wine
    • Social media
      • Instagram - now the biggest platform, easy to shop, easy to comment
      • Facebook - still important, but fading vs. Instagram
      • Twitter
      • Testing Tik Tok - believes will be the future of educational content
      • Podcast - done well and testing a few other series
    • Newsletter / email - still core
    • Beverage Industry Enthusiast - trade/industry news grew a lot during Covid
  • WE company motto - “We bring wine to life”
    • It plays into the journalism approach - including the lifestyle elements of wine
    • Ratings help people buy wine
    • Core demographic - “the curious wine consumer,” which is more of a mindset vs. an age or gender
  • Wine criticism and ratings
    • Taste completely blind
    • Taste w/in 1 region
    • Advertisers have no say on ratings
    • Do points still sell wine? 
      • 100 points or Wine of the Year can still build a brand
      • Most ratings are a powerful tool in the marketing toolset, but just a piece of the puzzle
      • Certain critic/magazine names still carry more weight than others
      • More at the bottom of the marketing funnel - helps close the sale
      • At the top of the funnel - general brand awareness - WE builds partnerships with brands for marketing, including various content and social influencers
  • WE Buying Guide (ratings)
    • It comes up 1st on Google, which gives it more credibility
    • Review ~25,000 wines per year
  • Path to building a wine brand today
    • Scores are still helpful and free
    • Need to build out the marketing stack and figure out the storytelling - start with social media
  • The catalog did well during Covid - people needed wine storage, upgraded glassware, etc.…
  • Return on ad spend with WE
    • Partners wanted to get closer to the sale, have become more ROI driven
    • Implemented digital shopping carts to track purchases
    • Key metrics for ROAS (return on ad spend)
      • Email acquisition
      • Wine sales
      • Impressions
    • Podcasts - can use discount codes to track the impact
      • The natural feeling of podcasts make an ad feel more real
    • Webinars did well for email acquisition
    • Any campaigns that boosted DTC sales or signups did well
    • Digital advertising has grown a lot during Covid
    • Lots of influencer marketing - leverage 40 Under 40 contacts, usually people WE has written about
    • Often custom build ad partnership plans with clients
    • WE Catalog provides the richest database in the industry to create good ad targeting
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