A Good Beer Blog

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Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


Comments

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Velky Al -

I guess I must be a sucker then, I made a decision early on that Fuggled would never have paid advertising on it (though I pay handsomely to buy the beers from the breweries that I end up advertising by writing about them). I work for a brewery on occasional weekends, so I don't write about their beers in order to avoid claims of praising beers because I happen to work for that brewery.

Overall, I am happier just writing whatever it is that pops into my head, without having to worry about what advertisers would say if I slagged off their beer.

Andy Crouch -

Hey Alan, quite a week for this otherwise gloriously moribund topic. The Internet does a lousy job of establishing tone, so I can't quite tell where you stand on Pete's piece. To the extent you are leaning against Pete on this one, I'm really not sure there is a question in any of this: payola, if not illegal in most places, is not even acceptable for the lowest of bloggers without full disclosure. Assuming Pete's inquiring payoler is real, it's pretty damned troubling (but not as surprising as Pete makes it out to be).

Best,

Andy

Alan -

I am not sure where I stand, either. I do find the "money bad" stuff just weird when we all know people get paid all over the place for beer writing. I find the argument of the publisher as cleansing intermediary frankly silly.

But on the other hand, I do not find the inquiring pay-o-l-er troubling as I get them all the time and would not touch it not because of the money but because I wouldn't want the relationship with the yikkie PR firm. Some money (and it tends to be a pittance from these sorts) is not worth getting out of bed in the morning. It's no different than the PR firm who wants to use your site for their press releases. Just because one doesn't take money does the act of posting PR any better.

Greg -

I think the answer to all things of this nature is transparency. If you take money (or beer) from someone, just acknowledge that you're doing it whenever you're writing about those products. Not every blogger is successful enough to turn down every offer, but Pete's note that selling one's integrity is just bad business is a point well-taken. As long as one is upfront about the sponsorship, the readers can make their own call. I've turned down even offers for tiny text links because the PR/ad firm refused to allow me to call it an ad or sponsorship.

There are a few beer bloggers who, I guess, tried to get into this for the money (if so, I think they've probably made an error in strategy). The rest of us are in it either for love or because we hope it will lead to a paying gig (or both), and neither of those goals are furthered by writing opinions that aren't genuine.

I would actually wonder how compelling any established blogger could be when paid to mention a beer. Let's say Pete turned heel, and just took the cash to write nice things about Coors' new Pre-prohibition lager. Wouldn't we all pretty quickly realize something was amiss?

Still, one does wonder if there is a price. As Alan said, the money usually thrown out is so small that it causes no regret to delete the email. But what if it were, you know, significant cash? Would thousands of dollars tempt one to compromise?

Win Bassett -

Here's a question for discussion--do we shift some of the the burden to the reader? I believe the key here is disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. If a blogger discloses that he is getting paid/free beer, should it be up the reader to determine how much weight is given to the writing/opinion?

bailey -

Yeah, what Greg said. Blogging has a well established full disclosure principle within the bounds of which it's fine to mention a beer for money, or accept freebies.

Alan -

Good points, Greg. I do agree entirely with the reputation aspect of what Pete and others have said. But I find it a fairly easy thing to protect against and so it does not seem to be a huge ethical dilemma that I have to struggle with. I will not link myself to beer related dorks.

That being said, if a non-beer related web-based truck insurer from another country offers real money for text links, why not? How far do I have to look behind that ad? But, as I say, beer has not been the source of my beer money so that may make it a bit different.

I agree with transparency as being key.. but how much would it take for me to compromise? That is a good question. And could my readership tell if I did?

Greg -

Right, so for example a casino company offered me a pittance to put their text link ad somewhere in a post or on the site. They said that I could not identify it as an ad, though, so I said no. Still, if they had offered me hundreds per month, I likely would have done it, stuffed it in a sidebar, and rationalized it away (most readers can identify a text link ad when they see one, it says casino in the link, I'm not a casino blog, etc).

Still, all those good reasons notwithstanding... as the old joke goes, we've established what I am, now we're just haggling over the price.

I would say, though, that beer-related ads would require transparency, and I believe no amount of money could get me to write content that is not genuine and transparent on the blog.

Of course, if one is trying to turn beer writing into a career, that will likely take one to the other side (there aren't that many paid beer writing jobs). So, paradoxically, many of us would love our integrity to lead us to a paying gig that would basically negate it. This is why, for example, Brady shut down Crafted and The Daily Pull when he took a job in marketing. Funny stuff, this beer bloggery.

Alan -

Yes, it is funny stuff. Notice Mark Dredge has been hired recently by a good beer brewer in London. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but is his writing or rather his place as a writer altered?

And do I really care as his writing is still interesting?

Jeff Alworth -

I agree with Andy that we've tapped the topic out, mostly. Advertising is an interesting matter, but no different for bloggers than the MSM (who have somehow swaddled themselves in the gauzy fiction that there's a firewall between the two sides).

I'm not surprised by a payola scandal, and am not surprised to find it land on the blogs. You have to be a half-wit to try to get away with that in the age of the internet. Whatever marginal boost you might get in positive reviews would be offset by the nightmare of the revealed bribery. Which is inevitable.

Joe Stange -

I'm not sure if we can really "tap the topic out" when there are always new writers coming into the fold, hopefully looking for a bit of guidance. And I'm not sure if interesting but long and scattered comments on blog posts qualify as a useful place to find that guidance. Maybe that's something the new Guild effort can offer.

By "guidance" I don't mean telling writers what to do, of course. But they ought to know that some colleagues actually turn down free beer, and here's why, and some colleagues don't, and here's why.

Also I want to pick on Greg a bit for his comment -- "Not every blogger is successful enough to turn down every offer." -- and interrogate it a bit. From an ethical standpoint, success should have nothing to do with turning down freebies. Probably I read it wrong but the implication seems to be that a down-on-his-luck blogger has no choice but to accept free beer. It's just a funny image, that's all.

I've also heard arguments that some beer writers have to accept junkets because they don't get paid enough. I don't really follow that, either. There is an argument that it's ethically OK as long as you disclose it (FWIW I don't personally agree, but the argument is there), but freebies as a necessity in the face of low pay is about as slippery as slopes come.

Paul Young -

I am new to beer blogging who knew it was such a serious business? I think it is all kind of silly but he didn't sell out good for him like he said if he did people would most likely stop listening to him. Much like a band that goes main stream and their music starts to suck people will just change the station and the world keeps turning.

Justin -

Very interesting topic. The internet has made it so easy to publish content, and there is little to no control over it. That means that a lot of people are espousing their ideas, but it also opens the door for trouble. I'm a small-time beer blogger and have never been approached to "advertise" a contrived "opinion", but I can say that I would not do so. If approached, I would consider writing something, but only my true opinion. Of course, that's one person's approach: integrity. Can't say that everyone would take the moral high road though.

Alan -

Thanks for joining in, Paul and Justin.