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Friday, June 01, 2012

Metablog! Blogger Joins a Multi-Blog Discussion on the Future of Blogging

Metablogging is indulgent and unnecessary, and yet, as Alan puts it, "there is no honey sweeter, no creek water cooler, no child's laughter more precious than what happens when bloggers write about blogging."  To bloggers, anyway.  Let us start with Andy Crouch, who kicked off the topic.  He argues blogs are dying:
Perhaps it is my own self-selection, but it seems (and I am largely without empirical proof on this one) that the cause of beer blogging has slowed considerably in the last year or two.

He is, of course, totally correct.  Blogs were an interstitial medium, bridging the gap between paid journalism and social media.  When they came along in the early aughts, they seemed revelatory: random people could actually harness the world wide intertubes and potentially reach millions.  The history of media is the history of controlling the means of distribution.  In a single stroke, blogs eliminated the hegemony of multinational empires.  You could, literally for free, join the New York Times as an organ of the news.  But then: BeerAdvocate, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and their descendants.  In 2012, blogs look as wheezy and creaky as the old farts who write them (with apologies to the young farts who do, too). 

I would, however, caution against an existential crisis.  Because, while BeerAdvocate, Facebook, and Twitter make it very easy for people to share their opinions about beer, the flow of actual information has never been lower.  Take the Portland example.  We have four local papers, but only two make any gesture toward covering beer, and both cover beer a whole lot less than they did a decade ago.  Yet we have something approaching 50 breweries.  A good many of them do something interesting a few times a year to try to catch our attention, plus there are festivals and events happening year round.  Because there is so much happening, we tend to get a constant flow of updates about activity but very little deep information.  I've been trying to add a bit of that with my new brewery reports, but I'm just scratching the surface.   Portland has more blogs than most towns, so together we do manage to cover more, but we have no where near a fully-covered scene.

Alan says it's a seller's market--a good time to blog--and I would agree.  You won't get rich, you won't get a raft of readers, and you will spend a lot of your time doing an activity for which your friends will mock you (except on those rare occasions when you score samples).  But then again, that's how it's always been.  Hold your heads up, bloggers: half-assed reviews on BeerAdvocate and bon mots on Twitter can't replace us.  Someone's got to go out to pubs and breweries and, when they're not navel-gazing in metablog posts, report back what they find.  No one else is going to do it.


  1. Ah a beer blog post on beer blog posts about beer blogs. How meta meta of you.

    Who cares about blogs anyway? Unless you are trying to make money it is just a hobby and maybe some people like to read what you write...if so, great, if not, oh well. My take at least.

  2. Someone brought this up last night when we were sitting outside at Gigantic...Smokey and the Bandit playing inside. I know, not really relevant, but still.

    The argument was that social media has made blogs irrelevant. Maybe. But I think it depends, as you suggest, on the level of information people are after. To me, social media provides a platform from which to share information that has some depth. There's very little deep information on Facebook, none on Twitter. These are distribution platforms.

    Beer blogs are serving a need that is not being met by the mainstream media: we cover the beer scene with varying degrees of depth. People search out and read blogs because they want real information. When they stop looking for that, that's when blogs will be irrelevant.

  3. Good old fashioned navel gazing!

    Well I've spent the last 18 months working on a beer blog (shameless plug: precisely because no one in the region seemed to be providing sufficient "in-depth" coverage of the community. There were plenty of people willing to tell me how a beer tastes or where are the ten best places to drink, but not about who made it or who was opening up a new brewery. Even finding out what events were happening was tedious. So I thought, why not create a site that attempts to fill that gap, or provides a service?

    Although social media has made it easier to find out what's going on, as someone said before, it's a distribution network and at the moment there are far more curators of content than actual authors of substance.

    I'm convinced that people want stories, in-depth news, and a comprehensive source to find out about events that's supplemented with good photography. This is what I strive for at least.

    It is a TON of work, but I do it for fun, to meet interesting people and I've had some interesting opportunities come my way that wouldn't have if I wasn't spending hours writing and editing photos. Oh, and I make a few pennies to cover a small fraction of the cost.

  4. I don't think you can write about beer blogs or bloggers as if they were a single entity. There are some that write worthwhile blogs and many that don't.

    There are few commercial enterprises that cover beer the way bloggers do. The reason seems fairly obvious: there is little to no money that can be earned.

    So long as bloggers provide genuinely useful information (not just trade news) in a well-written way, I suppose there is room for them. However, I suspect about 80 percent of beer blogs could disappear and few would be missed.

  5. See, this:

    "bridging the gap between paid journalism and social media"

    ...seems to indicate that "social media" is somehow the logical endpoint on the rail line of "progress" from (paid) journalism to... whatever ... which I would highly dispute. In fact I don't think social media even falls into that spectrum, and certainly Facebook doesn't. In essence: there's no gap to bridge.

    Social media is a different class of animal in the online ecosystem, and while it has its uses, it's just an extension of what's been going on with communication technology before: email, USENET, forums, IRC, texting, and so on. Similarities to blogging yes, but I don't see drawing a line from paid journalism to blogging to [whatever] and finding social media on that line.

    (BeerAdvocate, though, is as much a blog and news site as anything; and interestingly it it predates the other social media sites (that don't compare) by quite a bit. I mean, Facebook hasn't launched a magazine based on its content...)

    Anyway. I don't think beer blogging is dying, either. Stabilizing, maybe. Evolving I'm sure. But not dying.