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Jacqueline Strum: Niche Media Is Going Strong

As digital media has soared in popularity many print newspapers and magazines have taken a financial hit.

But not all.

“Niche publications are the healthiest in the media industry, and aspirational lifestyle categories like wine are performing particularly well,” said Jacqueline Strum, President and Publisher of Wine Enthusiast Media, during an interview on The Connected Table SIPS.
So, what’s driving the interest in niche media?

Niche, a.k.a. special interest media, with its focused content, attracts an engaged, loyal audience of enthusiasts, whether the subject is wine, gardening, quilting or yoga. It’s a blend of aspirational meets recreational.

“Consumers want a break from staring at their screens all day working remotely during the past 18 months of the pandemic. They just want to focus on something they enjoy that is not work-related,” said Strum.

How to select, collect and store wine are also big topics. “People want to learn more about the wines they are drinking, and they are purchasing more wine to enjoy at home. In addition to the growth of virtual wine talks and seminars, we’ve seen considerable interest in new design concepts for at-home wine storage and wine accessories through our Wine Enthusiast catalog,” noted Strum.

Making the Wine Lifestyle Accessible

In 1979, when newlyweds Adam and Sybil Strum decided to launch a wine accessories catalog out of their suburban New York home, America’s wine drinking culture was in its nascent stages. Many Americans knew very little about wine unless they traveled to Europe or had an expense account to dine at restaurants known for their wine lists. California wines were just starting to gain acclaim, thanks to the 1976 Paris Wine Competition- the Judgment of Paris -organized by the late Stephen Spurrier, a juried blind tasting of California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon against their French counterpart from Burgundy and Bordeaux. In an upset that gained international attention, the California wines won the competition.

The Strums sought to make the wine lifestyle accessible through their Wine Enthusiast catalog selling wine accessories, and in 1988 the launch of Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

In 2021, the elder Strums named Jacqueline (Jacki), President and Publisher of Wine Enthusiast Media, and her sister, Erika Strum Silverstein, President of Wine Enthusiast Commerce.

Jacqueline Strum and her sister Erika Strum Silverstein
Jacqueline Strum and Erika Strum Silverstein

The company has been a family run business since the beginning, and both sisters have been active running different divisions. Jacqueline Strum emphasized that both of their parents remain very much involved and are not stepping back.

“I work closely with our father on the business side of the magazine; he has built a large network of connections since the days when he worked in wine sales. Our mother is a design and product guru which is important for the Wine Enthusiast catalog.”

While advertising is the bread and butter for Wine Enthusiast magazine, Strum acknowledged the powerful impact of ecommerce. Wine Enthusiast’s ecommerce business alone has grown 50% in 2021.

The Strums look at marketing and promotion with a comprehensive eye towards making wine as accessible as possible. “With niche media, there are no wasted impressions. Every person reading Wine Enthusiast is a possible customer for your brand or business. You are speaking directly to your readers,” Strum said.

You could say Strum sees the glass half full…both of opportunity and fine wine.

Listen to our conversation with Jacqueline Strum on The Connected Table SIPS

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Cookbook Drink Eat Events

All Rise! The James Beard Foundation Media Awards


Congratulations to all the winners of The James Beard Foundation Media Awards, which comprises books, broadcasting and journalism. The Awards were presented April 27 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers. I had the pleasure of attending and sitting with four nominees, Writers/Authors Kathleen Squires, Robert Simonson, Restaurateur/Chef and Author Maricel Presilla and Chef Gonzalo Gonzales Guzman, whose book, Nopalito, won in the International Category.

JBF Media Awards Host- TV Journalist Tamron Hall, who is active with the charity, Common Threads.

The Media Awards are usually overshadowed by the glitzier Restaurant and Chef Awards, which take place May 7 at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House. I feel they are as important. Writers and journalists are the chroniclers of our culture, news and history. It was evident by the nominated articles – several that addressed diversity and sexual harassment in the industry- that writers are the people who raise our consciousness through words. These words propel the rest of us to take action.

Cookbook of the Year Recipient Michael Twitty

Particularly poignant were speeches by Pati JinichMichael Twitty and Betty Fussell.  Pati, recipient of “Outstanding TV Host,” recounted her mixed emotions while shooting her show. “Pati’s Mexican Table,” at the Tijuana border. Michael, recipient of Cookbook of the Year for The Cooking Gene, talked about searching for his African roots and what it means to be a “fat, gay, black and Jewish.” Betty, resplendent at 91 and ever eloquent with her words, wowed everyone as she stepped up to the stage to receive the Cookbook Hall of Fame Award for her writings.

Pati Jinich- Best TV Host

The theme of the Awards is RISE. Participating Guest Chefs, which included dinner chefs, Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern, NYC), Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Raleigh, NC – who made the best tomato tart!), and Hugo Ortega (H-Town Restaurant Group, Houston), all have risen to the occasion to help support those in need. And the reception and pastry chefs, also RISE for consciousness and caring: Emma Bengtsson (Aquavit), Daniel Alvarez (Union Square Cafe, NYC), April Anderson (Good Cakes and Bakes LLC, Detroit), Claudia Fleming (North Fork Table & Inn, Southhold, NY) and Zachary Golper (Bien Cuit, NYC). As always, Pier Sixty, executed a magnificent event. A special “Thank You” to them and to Host Chef Philip DiMaiolo.

It made me proud to be part of this professional community and motivated to Rise further to make an impact.  MY

The amazing Betty Fussell, Cookbook Hall of Fame Recipient.
(I’ll have what she’s having to look this good!)

 

Here is a link to the press release announcing all Media Award recipients.

Photos by  by Kent Miller.