Want to Grow Your Wine Sales? Go on a Podcast — Here’s Why

Podcasting offers the wine trade great opportunities to get in front of consumers, yet few take advantage of the medium. Felicity Carter discovers why wine and podcasts are the perfect match.

Reading time: 6m

Recording a podcasts (Photo: StockPhotoPro/stock.adobe.com)
Recording a podcasts (Photo: StockPhotoPro/stock.adobe.com)

MJ Towler says one of the worst mistakes he ever made was drinking three bottles of wine while interviewing a guest. The interview dissolved into a puddle.

But it hasn’t stopped his podcast, The Black Guy Wine Experience, from reaching Apple’s top 20 in the Food category. Towler’s is only one of a number of successful wine podcasts — many of which offer major opportunities for brands.

How do brands get themselves featured on top podcasts? That was the subject of a panel on podcasts as a sales channel, held at Wine2Wine in November 2023.

Podcasts as a sales tool

Panellist Juliana Colangelo, whose Masterclass US Wine Market podcast is part of the Italian Wine Podcast network, says that it’s important to think about podcasts as different to other types of media. She should know — when she’s not podcasting, Colangelo is Vice President of Colangelo & Partners, one of the USA’s leading communications agencies.

“Research is showing that more and more people are buying things based on recommendations from podcast ads,” she says. “As a wine industry, we need to look at the opportunities with podcasts for reaching the broader consumer.”

According to Colangelo, podcast advertising is cost effective. “An ad on a New York Times podcast is going to get you about 200,000 impressions,” which she says doesn’t sound like a lot, except that it comes with the halo of the New York Times.

She adds that podcasts offer a very under-utilised opportunity. “If you’re a well-established brand with great distribution, you should be looking at consumer-focused podcasts.”

Another benefit to podcasts is that new listeners will often start with the first episode of the podcast and work their way forwards, even if the first episode appeared years earlier. That means the advertising has a much longer shelf life than with other media.

Adam Teeter, co-founder of VinePair, which produces four separate podcasts, agrees. “We are a big believer in evergreen content,” he says. “What we see happen with Wine101 or Cocktail College is that someone might discover the most recent podcast, and then they go back and they’ll listen to 10 more episodes, and then we hook them as a listener.”

How to evaluate a podcast

It’s not always easy to know how popular a podcast is, or who its listeners are, because the same podcast will be available via multiple platforms, such as Apple, Spotify and Amazon Music. That makes it hard to find reliable analytics.

To complicate matters, the platforms generally share numbers of downloads, not how many listens a podcast had: many people download podcasts because they intend to listen at another time — it doesn’t mean they actually do listen.

While podcast platforms do create popularity charts, so it’s easy to see the top 200 podcasts in each category, this won’t show niche podcasts that may have small, but highly engaged and valuable audiences.

There are dedicated services like Chartable and Podchaser Pro, that do give comprehensive statistics, but these types of apps are generally aimed at advertising buyers and communication agencies, who need to know in-depth information about multiple podcasts.

One way to evaluate podcasts is to check out the number of reviews, ratings and social media engagement it has; the more enthusiastic and engaged the audience, the more social media impressions it should have.

Another way is just to ask the hosts to produce their analytics, as hosts have full access to them.

How podcast advertising works

One option is to buy “ad reads,” where the host reads out a scripted piece about the product.

“Our partnership team works with their brands to write the ads reads, so they come off as more authentic,” says Teeter.

Adam Teeter
Adam Teeter

In an age where everything is on-demand and off-menu, the post-pandemic world seemingly remains addicted to the digital offerings to which it was restricted to during lockdowns. Among these, some of the most popular have been podcasts. They are  fast-growing businesses. Big and small players in wine are able to inform about regions or simply to promote products. Robert Mason reports.

Reading time: 4m 40s

The importance of the host

Colangelo advises brands to spend time evaluating the host of the podcast. “Do we share values? Is the host someone I want representing my brand? Because most often podcast ads are read by the host, not by the brand. So you want someone that can give you third party credibility.”

Colangelo’s advice dovetails with a growing body of research that suggests listeners form “parasocial relationships” with podcast hosts, where they begin to think of the host as a personal friend. Podcasts, said one group of researchers, result in “high levels of intimacy, sociality and flexibility”. 

Teeter, who is co-host of the VinePair Podcast, says his listeners “know everything about me. I’ve gotten so many emails congratulating me on the birth of my daughter. They also feel like they can give you very frank feedback”.

Teeter says the other VinePair hosts will regularly field emails about topics that listeners want them to cover. “They’re so comfortable emailing you.”

Towler says that podcasting is a very intimate medium. “People get to know you,” and as a result he gets DMs and emails when people buy something they heard about on his show. “People are on their Peloton or they’re running, and you’re literally in their head.”

How to get on a podcast

Another way to connect with wine consumers is to get onto a wine podcast as a guest.

Towler says he chooses guests based on “this person would be cool to drink wine with and get to know their story.”

Since his podcast took off, he’s been inundated with people contacting him who want to be on his show. Before he will book them, he says he wants to know that they’re willing to talk about their life, not just about the technical aspects of winemaking. “To be honest, you have to be interesting.”

Teeter says anyone wanting to be on a podcast needs to listen to the show and make an effort to understand it. First of all, does the show even have guests? If not, it may be better to pitch a topic. “That’s maybe a way that we talk about something that’s related to you or your brand, or the area that you operate in.”

Colangelo agrees. “Make sure your pitch is tailored,” she says, noting that podcasters usually aren’t interested in featuring specific wines, so it’s better to write a pitch focused on a topic. “What is a theme that this person can speak about that’s interesting and unique, but also relevant to the audience and the hosts that you’re pitching? Can you talk about sustainability? Can you talk about the economy?”

And if you can speak about those things, you need to have a track record in those areas, rather than just a desire to speak about them.

She also says anyone going on a podcast for professional purposes needs media training. “Learn how to answer questions concisely and clearly. Speak slowly, speak clearly.” More importantly, “If you are pitching yourself, understand what you want to get out of the interview. What are the main points you want to tell?”

“My podcast has given people an opportunity to tell their story and connect with people on a deeper level,” says Towler, who says he sits down with people and draws out their story, rather than focusing on terroir and barrels.

He still drinks wine with his guests, but he’s a lot more moderate about it these days. It makes for a better interview — which means a better connection with the audience.

European Podcast Regulations

Under EU law, podcasts are considered audio services and as such, do not directly fall under the regulations for audiovisual media services (AVMD), which govern traditional television offerings as well as social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok. As a result, podcasts must adhere to the regulations of the countries in which they are distributed —and these regulations can be stringent.

Generally, addressing children and adolescents is strictly prohibited. There must also be no suggestion that alcohol has therapeutic, stimulating, calming, or conflict-resolution effects, and the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages must not be promoted.

Legal regulations are often complemented by voluntary codes of conduct (see EASA for an European example of this).

Platforms also have their own regulations. For instance, Spotify's German terms of use includes restrictions, such as:

  • Minors must not be targeted, and nor may they be portrayed in connection with alcohol consumption.
  • There must be no depicting of success resulting from alcohol consumption.
  • There must be no suggestion that alcohol consumption can treat health problems.
  • Portrayals of excessive or irresponsible alcohol consumption are prohibited.

A number of countries are currently contemplating stricter regulations.

Felicity Carter was the moderator of this panel, which has been turned into a podcast

Events Insights

At the recent Wine Future 2023 conference, successful wine influencers and podcasters discussed the way in which producers and retailers should communicate with their consumers.

Reading time: 3m 15s



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