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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Beer Media--A Lot of Talk

Stan Hieronymus, the font of a thousand bloggy stories, launches another. The post's title ("Does Anybody Read Beer Blogs?") is rather plaintive--and possibly misleading--because he seems principally interested in a more elemental question.

I haven’t seen similar metrics for beer sites (although Martyn Cornell did something along those lines last month, limiting it to UK blogs, and 47 comments followed).... Does that mean beer blogs are particularly influential? Not compared to Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, I’d say... But what I’m really interested in is the future of a) journalism and b) beer journalism.

Look. No one reads beer blogs. Alan does the numbers, and rather generously comes to the conclusion that the pool of potential blog readers is 100,000 people. But then again, no one drinks good beer, either. With just 4.3% of the American market, beer blogs start out swimming in pretty small puddle. Start slicing and dicing that pool by people who get their beer media fix via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the MSM, and you're vying for a small slice of a small pie.

The problem with using eyeballs as a metric is that it totally misses the point. If beer bloggers wanted to reach the masses, they'd write about Miley Cyrus. But they'd rather be talking about good beer. So why do we care how many people are listening in?

An analogy. Lambics cast a long and thick shadow of the world of beer. They are so difficult to brew, tap into such a deep root of brewing history, and produce beers of such surpassing complexity that many people regard them as the summit of brewing accomplishment. (I am susceptible to the argument.) Yet almost no one drinks them. Cantillon, one of the world's leading producers, brews something on the order of 900 barrels a year. Are the accomplishments of these tiny breweries diminished because they produce so little? Do we admire Budweiser because of its vast volume?

To Stan's questions, the future is micro. Media has fractured and will stay fractured. The cool thing about this fracturing is that while audiences have dwindled, news has mushroomed. The average reader, spending 15 minutes a day cruising the beer-o-sphere, can be assured of being pretty well apprised of 95% of the news in craft brewing. Ten years ago, we waited for weekly columns or monthly magazines to alert us to beer news--and those outlets covered only a fraction of the news. And the current model is far more democratic. Brewers and their fans regularly rub elbows online to share news, stories, and opinions--no newspaper filter necessary.

In sum: we need to quit obsessing. Thanks to blogs and social media, we now have a great way to indulge our passions (be they focused on good beer, dachshunds, or Joss Whedon). Isn't that enough?


  1. Alas, as the father of a 10-year-old daughter, I DO know who Miley Cyrus is. (Not, if you're 10, that Miley Cyrus is cool any more, apparently …)

  2. I just re-read your
    o Monday, 15 Feb 2010
    o Brand Dissection: Hopworks Urban Brewery
    post and its 19 comments. I will print and give it to a pal to read while we drive to HUB this noon.

    The 19 comments [most thoughtful / useful] to this post 'speak volumes' regarding 'blogs ...[being] ... a great way to indulge our passions'.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Beautiful, Stan.

    Jack, thanks. This is indeed a virtue of blogs--they really are collaborative efforts.