How-To

4 Tips for Starting a Drinks Podcast

Taking your passion for drinks from concept to broadcast

Katherine Cole.
Katherine Cole (standing, right), host of The Four Top, while recording an episode with Bronwen and Francis Percival, authors of “Reinventing the Wheel,” (left) and Christian DeBenedetti, beer journalist and artisan brewer. Photo courtesy of Katherine Cole.

Setting up a drinks podcast is fairly straightforward. Whether you’re going to record in a formal studio or just use a couple of apps and some basic equipment, podcasters say the hard work centers on creating engaging and consistent content. SevenFifty Daily talked with several successful hosts of wine and beer podcasts to find out how they got started and how they continue to build their audiences and capitalize on their passion for the beverage business.

1. Take Your Idea and Run with It

“Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger and start,” says Sukari Bowman, who created and hosts The Color of Wine podcast. “I had never interviewed anyone in my life, not even for my high school newspaper, and I had to figure out how to make it work.”

Like many podcasts, The Color of Wine is a passion project for Bowman. She wanted to tell the stories of people of color in the wine industry. “I kept looking through publications and didn’t see anybody that looked like me,” she says. An idea for a docuseries evolved into a podcast, and she learned pretty quickly that once she reached out for interviews, she had to hold herself accountable.

As soon as I put myself out there,” she says, “I realized I really had to do it. I had to schedule the interviews, spend some time on the format, and research my guests. I just jumped off the cliff. But once I jumped off the cliff, I realized this is kind of fun.”

Sukari Bowman hosts The Color of Wine. Photo courtesy of Sukari Bowman.

2. Use Simple Tools

Podcasters like John Lenart—an Emmy Award–winning TV producer and wine writer who created The Honest Pour to share conversations he was having with winemakers—set themselves up as one-man bands, while others may work with an editor or producer for help with the technical logistics. Either way, most of the the tools you need to create and publish your podcast are easy to find online.

“I think the first thing you need to consider is the technical equipment you need,” says Lenart. “These tools are really quite simple.” For recording interviews, Lenart says he uses a Zoom digital recorder the size of a smartphone and two inexpensive lavalier microphones. He recommends editing software like Audacity for PCs or Garage Band for Macs, saying that as long as you have a little bit of editing knowledge, you won’t need an editor or sound mixer. “They’re very powerful tools,” he says, “even though they’re free.”

Chris Sands
Chris Sands (right) interviews Chris Trogner and John Trogner in the Tröegs Independent Brewing’s splinter cellar for an episode of UnCapped. Photo by Graham Collin.

Once the podcast is edited, upload the audio file to a media host, like Libsyn or Soundcloud (there are a score of services available). “This is where files live in the Internet world,” Lenart explains. Next, he says, create an RSS feed, which syndicates your audio files, and then register the podcast with platforms like iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher to distribute the content. Guidance on how to do all this can easily be found online.

Lastly, a personal website or blog is a useful place to post links to the finished podcast episodes. Other podcasters also noted that a website can provide space for additional resources related to topics discussed during each episode.

3. Take Advantage of Your Location

You don’t have to be in a media mecca like New York City or nestled in the middle of wine country to have big-name relevant guests. Katherine Cole, the creator and host of The Four Top and a contributing editor to SevenFifty Daily, says she began her roundtable-style podcast in Oregon after realizing that a lot of well-known writers and cookbook authors were coming through her state to do events at Powell’s Books in Portland.

Lenart, who’s based in Chicago, says that when winemakers come through his city, he’ll reach out to their distributors or media contacts and ask for an interview. After all, he says, “who doesn’t want a half hour of free advertisement for their brands?”

4. Create a Format and Stick to It

Whether it’s a one-on-one interview or a more formal conversation among several guests, a consistent format for your podcast is crucial to retaining an audience. “If you stay focused,” says Chris Sands, who created and hosts UnCapped, a podcast focused on the stories behind Maryland’s breweries, “you’ll keep building your core audience.” From time to time, he says, he’ll stray a bit to talk to local distillers or perhaps a local politician who’s promoting with legislation important to the industry, but he’ll always come back to his original mission.

In the last 15 years, the podcast industry has grown substantially. Apple, for example, reports hosting 550,000 podcasts on its platform, up from 3,000 in 2005. This means that maturing podcast audiences can easily seek out content that appeals to them.

“A lot of people think they can just launch a show where you shoot the shit and talk about your lives and joke. If you’re not really a well-known stand-up comedian, then you should have launched that kind of show 10 years ago,” says Cole. “Now you need a really clear plan, you need a format, and you need to stick to useful delivery to get efficient information to the audience.”

Alberto Frea
John Lenart (left) interviews Alberto Frea, brand ambassador for Fontanafredda winery, for an episode of The Honest Pour. Photo courtesy of Fontanafredda.

Sands says he’s received similar feedback from his listeners. “I’ve had tables at events, and people would come up to me and say that what they like about UnCapped is that it isn’t a couple of guys sitting around drinking beer,” he says. “If you want to have a successful podcast [that revolves] around alcohol, you need to be telling a story, not just sitting around drinking beer and trying to be funny.”

Alicia Cypress is following her passion for wine after spending more than 20 years as a journalist at National Public Radio and the Washington Post. She’s currently a managing editor at Reviewed.com, a part of the USA Today Network, and she writes a wine blog, itswinebyme.com. She’s received the WSET 2 certification (with distinction) and hopes to continue her studies. Talk about wine with her on Twitter or Instagram.

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