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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PEI Beer Guy -

I'm a casual-yet-somewhat-often reader of yours. If you went pay-only, I'd probably abandon the site. If you still had at least blurbs and shorter posts, but had longer, more detailed things for a fee, I'd still be around. Ever buying an article, though, would be up in the air.

Atis -

I would not pay. I am reading some 20 (maybe more, no idea really) other beer blogs that produce at least a few articles per day in total. I would not have problem skipping one of the blogs.

Ok, maybe if the content would be really, really exciting with very well written free preview, I would spend something, but not more than half a dollar the first time. I am really spoiled by all the free stuff that is out there.

Malty Tasker -

I agree with both above comments. There are plenty of good free beer blogs, news stories, reviews, analyses, etc on the web and I read too many to not happily cut one. That said, however, I too would keep reading any free content as I do appreciate your updates, but even nominal fees are just another redundant expense that could go towards good beer instead.

Cory OBrien -

If there was enough new content (similar to Evan's essay, 6,500 words across 20 pages) and in an easy format to access (again, Amazon's Kindle would be great) then I'd consider paying. I think $1.99 is high, and would be much more likely to spend $.99, but I'd definitely consider it.

steve -

I think I'd wait until you'd finished the whole series and hope for an e-book/booklet for purchase

dansmallbeer -

Free writing smells like love, and love is what I read your blog for.

I'd possibly pay for a coherent project of writing that delivered information rather than commentary.

I got offered ads for my blog, but I can't even do that. Doesn't sit right with me. That's no judgment on others who are smart to part-fund drinking with blog ads. Some misplaced morality no doubt.

Alan -

Just so I am not throwing this off course, I might post one entry in such a series a month and otherwise blog as normal. Not interested in a pay for blog blog as even I wouldn't pay for me normally.

Alan -

Dan: there are certainly ads and then there are irritants. I turn down as many as turn down me.

Win Bassett -

I've been looking into the same thing regarding my writing. I'd pay for your work.

Matt -

Yes, there are a lot of other blogs out there - some of them good ones. But your comment about Evan is true about you. I find that your perspective is often fresher and you're willing to bring a different - and sometimes out-of-step with other "me too" writers - approach to your writing that I think is definitely worth paying for. My problem isn't the price you would ask us for your time, it would be that I wouldn't have time to go through to read it.

With so many blogs to scan every day in Reader, I regularly just pick my highlights (of which yours in one) and flush out the unreads to save me from the crushing weight of the growing count. I worry that despite my best intentions, having to take an extra step to set up a payment might see yours put aside for 'when I have time', but in reality skipped - just like the pile of paid for books building up beside my desk. If you set up a donate button on the site for those who chose to use it, I'd happily pay a bigger lump sum for your thoughts AND the convenience of keeping it in my stream.

Mark Dredge -

I doubt I'd pay. I'd pay if it was a book or something very substantial, but not just for an extended blog post. Why would I pay to read 5,000 words when I can just read a good book or skim through the internet? And if it is for an extended idea then why not just pitch it to a magazine and get paid for writing it there? If the content and idea are good enough then someone will pay you to write it.

Paid content like this makes me a little uncomfortable, especially when it is long-form but not book or chapter length. Though saying that, I would pay for Evan's essay.

Stan Hieronymus -

Don't we want to know what the people without urls attached to their names (and that wouldn't be me) would do?

Two quick notes while I think about this.

- Rather than putting your whole feed through GR you can just tease readers with a paragraph. I hate that myself and I'd bitch at your about it, but a solid percentage of the blogs I read operate that way. Write a good lead and you get the click through.

- Mark's comment got me to chime in here. Evan's essay runs about 6,000 words. So that's definitely chapter length. And what beer publication is going to run something of that length?

Alan -

I am actually thinking of 6 or so connected chapters built over say 6 months. Sort of the Dickens approach to beer writing. So I suppose over time it would add up to a short book.

Mark, good question about the magazine. But I prefer to not have 95% of my work's value to go the pockets of others and my experience of editors has been less than thrilling. Plus, I am not interested in becoming a published writer in that sense. I am independently and happily employed outside of the beer trade. Through the ads, beer had paid for itself and more for 5 years or so and I am quite content with that model. I just am exploring whether I can add to it.

Stan, I don't have independent control of my RSS feed. My server masters are the most benevolent and I would never want to suggest they are not the finest in all respects. I am not clear on what you mean by your first sentence.

justin -

I read your blog pretty regularly. I would pay for a short series of articles at least once to see how it goes.

Justin -

A Google Reader blog follower here. I think that it could be an interesting idea, but I probably would not purchase it unless there was some good reason to (other than the obvious hard work that goes into blogging!). I'm talking special things that aren't just a normal blog post. Also, I do not like the teaser intros that force you to "click here to read further" to begin with, but it would be "worse" if I followed the linkbait only to find I would have to pay for the rest. I do not generally buy online content, so I probably wouldn't buy this either. Nothing personal or against your writing (obviously I like that - I follow your blog)...that's just my take. That being said, keep up the good work!

Alan -

That is fine. That is what I am wanting to know. It's not like I have a draft of these things that I am itching to post. I am just thinking about how to do it - were I to do it - in the most appropriate way. I do agree with the summary being a fair way to allow people not to buy if they did not wish to.

Todd Kuipers -

Of all the beer blogs I read, yours is at the top of my in willingness to pay. I say do it - a subscription based series for a reasonable amount would be just fine.

Pivní Filosof -

I don't think I'd pay. Once you get used to getting something for free it gets difficult to open your wallet for, basically, the same stuff. However, if you put together all the post that are around a similar subject, even if they've already been published, I will certainly be willing to pay for that book sort of thing.

To me, one of the most important aspects of bloggin is the free sharing of information...

Alan -

But you wrote and sold a beer book largely based on your personal information. What is the difference?

Stan Hieronymus -

Alan - The first line meant that most of the comments so far came from people who have blogs. I'm interested in what the larger universe of readers has to say.

Alan -

Me, too. Where are they? Or do you have to go ahead and try the idea out to see if there is a response?

Lurkers. That's what we used to call them. Hardly a good word for a voluntary revenue stream source.

Pivní Filosof -

Alan. The difference between my book and my blog is that the contents of the book (save a couple of pages) are exclusive to the book and are put in a format (the pub crawls) that you don't see in my blog and I put it all together in one package.

Alan -

But that is a choice not a rule. There is no reason not to place the information in the other medium. It would be more useful to those with, say, smart phones. It would be a delight to have a digital virtual Max in my coat pocket as I stumbled around Prague.

But by that reasoning, a book is a place to put data for sale because it is a medium that is more prone to sale. A reasonable theory but one that is not based on either the data or perhaps even the reader's needs.

Pivní Filosof -

You are right in the last bit. However, there's something about publishing all that data together in a book. It gives you, the author, the chance to fine tune the material you write at the beginning based on what you write later, which, I believe, is specially important for the kind of stuff you aim to write.

Besides, nowadays, books are available in a number of formats, so if you ever come to Prague, you can have a digital, virtual me in your coat pocket.

Craig -

Over the past 10 months and 110 post, I have logged 123 comments at drinkdrank—a fair number of which have been my own responses. That works out to be 1.1181 responses per post. In this post alone you've collected 18 (including this one.)

I find that far more important than collecting a fee.

Todd Kuipers -

Alan, but why not self publish as a ebook? Automated paywall, a collection of prose that can be branded and more easily marketed, and you provide people with a something they can wrap their minds around to pay for, unlike a single topic-stream article set. Users could keep it on their phone/pad and refer to while on the road, if there were specialized local information (though your stuff isn't prone to the CamRA style guides - and shouldn't be bastardized to fit, unless of course you wanna). I enjoy the philosophy and the essays that provoke debate.

And though you said, "Where are they?" you have at least one reader that has sounded off. While I'm no longer a beer blogger - having abandoned it in the mid-90s - I do see value in what you write, and again would pay. Those that do blog, obviously see yours as a source, and with 5 digit RSS readers you have an immense audience. Sell a few thousand books and give Brown a run. I think you have a higher profile than you think.

Todd Kuipers -

And to put my money where my mouth is, if it's priced under $10, I'll buy 10 for my beer nerd friends when it comes out. (Alan, I assume you can seem my email address...) Kickstarter is a good way to test it out.

Alan -

Now you are just making me blush...

Matt -

Alan,

I'm a lurker, similar to Justin above in that I read you through Google reader. I really do enjoy your content, especially your stuff about Beer History. However, if you were to require to me to pay for some content, I very much doubt I'd read it. Also, I hate the teaser RSS feeds. There is only one blog that I follow that has RSS feeds, and that is a baseball blog (I have about 60 feeds into Google Reader). Would I stop following you....I don't know, but I'll cross that stream when I get to it.

Steve Gates -

Like Matt,I read specifically for the beer history commentary and you pay homage to those brewers that flashed up kettles in previous centuries and I appreciate that. They say capitalism is beginning to lose its strength, I think not. My belief is that your time, effort and committment to brewology should be compensated. I applaud you for even giving a shit about your readers concerns and soliciting their opinions. I say try it out and see what the tide brings in, readers choice of course and who knows, maybe you are on your way to your first million.Good luck Alan. Don't make it too expensive or I'm out.

Alan -

Thanks, Steve. I did think it worthwhile to ask. It seems to me that micro-payments could and should actually be quite micro but maybe that depends, for example, if people are all on paypal. I don't think I would shift people to it for such an occasional series but I don't think twice about clicking on it myself.

Bailey -

If it was less than £2, and we had a sense of what we were getting, yeah, why not? And, if the first one proved good value for money, we'd pay for more in future.

Andrew -

Not trying to insult anyone here. I never really read this blog, and I know nothing about Alan. I think I've read a few posts when other blogs have linked to it. I only was linked to this entry by Stan from Appellation Beer. But what makes bloggers think their opinion is worth anything? I have opinions and theories on beer too. I would never think of charging anyone for them. Since when do bloggers think they are great contributors to society. Here's an idea, write a book. I buy every brewing book I can get my hands on. I would be much more inclined to pay for a post on something substantive requiring some work, and offering something of value. However, I see so many posts such as, "Sh&t Beer reviewers do but shouldn't", "New trends in beer", "Why I like this and not that."

In summary, it better be damn good if you want me to pay for a BLOG post. Again. I know nothing about you Alan or your blog, I'm responding based on the majority of beer blogs I come across. Hell, maybe I would pay for your blog if it were something I were interested in that I couldn't find anywhere else.

Bryan Kolesar -

Here are two (slightly) interesting thoughts.
- I'd gladly pay a very nominal amount for quality material provided, first and foremost, (other than being secure (like Amazon or PayPal, e.g.)) the payment process has to be extremely easy. I never imagined I would pay for as much music as I do via iTunes, but with such a simple payment process -- 99 cents here, 99 cents there, 9.99 for an album -- I've spent many, many hundreds of dollars on music downloads. I could easily see doing the same for "printed" reading material....25 cents-50 cents, sounds about right.
- The consumer mindset is likely different, but when I approached dozens of business owners a few years ago with a concept that would provide them with frequent updates of information, most claimed to love the idea, but more than a few said that they'd rather a pay a larger amount once (e.g. $1000) instead of smaller amounts more frequently (e.g. $10/week). Like I said, consumer behavior likely different, but something to consider, say for a one-time fixed-period subscription of $20.

But, yes at the end of the day, there is the whole "it's the internet, ergo it's free" mentality that will be tough to overcome, unless the reader/consumer can see a fairly direct value return to them. It's not that I don't think you have "what it takes", I question more whether beer writing in general has what it takes (perhaps, at least, in this form) to be financially practical in this way (my wife would get a kick out of that last phrase..."financially practical").

Best wishes...looking forward to seeing how this all turns out for you.

Alan -

Andrew - those are good comments but lead to the question of why you spend time reading beer blogs if you think (as I think you are saying) that they are of such low value. I don't mean this rhetorically. Is it that they serve a role like having the car radio on as you drive but you don't really pay that much attention?

Bailey -

Kind of know what Andrew means, but think those comments could apply to quite a lot of pro journalism and entertainment...

Ben -

I'd pay if it were easy enough.

Jeff Alworth -

I think you should run the experiment. My guess is that it will be a financial non-starter. It could earn you a few dollars more a month, but won't begin to pay for itself in a real way. The problem--which, incidentally, no publisher has really been able to crack--is that the internet is so awash in free content people aren't willing to pay.

Take Cornell and Pattinson. They're doing stuff no one else on the internet is or can/will. Yet I'll wager that Amber, Gold, and Black sold relatively few copies. The thing is, while it's nice to know the truth of things, that is rarely a sufficient reason for people to shell out real cash. Wikipedia will give me the nickel version if I need it--so think the mass of men.

If you were to pursue it, I think the actual benefit would be more subtle. In doing so, you would be pointing out that writing well and insightfully is hard and there are few who can do it. It shouldn't be free any more than beer should be free just because we are cheapskates and would rather not pay.

At some point, something's gotta change. The way I monetized my writing was signing a book deal. If I hadn't been able to, I would have cashed in my chips on the blog, as I have with three blogs before it. When we don't pay people to write, we usually lose them. But how to get them paid--that's still the $30,000 (a year) question.

Bill -

I'm here because Stan wants his readers to comment here. I don't blog. So long as there are books or magazines, I don't see myself buying digital posts. If things move completely digital, I might subscribe to a site, but... nowhere near doing that yet.

W/r/t following bloggers, I am fans of the writing of many folks, but often the value comes in the comments -- so I wouldn't want to pay for "special posts" if that meant fewer/no comments.

Also, w/r/t blog posts, even among the best writers, it seems that many posts aren't fully thought out -- while the author may have a recognizable style or personality that attracts readers eager to read about subjects dear to them, the strength of the arguments and writing in blog posts is less than, say, those/that of a decent columnist in a paper. So for beer writing, readers might come to favored blogs for a particular personality, but they're often making allowances in terms of quality in order to read about beer. I'd be leery of purchasing bloggers' writing w/o some assurance that more care had been taken with the stuff for sale. Professional writers who also blog would have the advantage here.

Alan -

More good comments but, Bill, that is just circular! Pros are only those who are paid, not those who are good. Most of the more interesting beer writing these days is done by the otherwise employed. Maybe the point is the opposite of Jeff's hope, that beer writing is actually valueless. See, I have been paid for articles and other beer writing and I would never bother doing that again. The "pay" is hardly worth the effort.

Jeff Alworth -

Alan, that's also true. I used to write a lot more for paying print sites, but the money is small and the headaches large. As everyone knows, freelance sucks though. Unfortunately, freelance is about all we have left. Yet I hope these aren't the two models we'll ultimately be left with.

The political blogger Mickey Kaus recently admitted the Daily Caller pays him a penny a page view. I couldn't earn a living on that, but man, it would be nice.

Bill -

Well, Alan, if you would never bother doing that again, then why are you broaching the idea of doing that again?

My argument wasn't circular. I noted that the free beer writing in blogs isn't as good or well-thought-out as paid (non-beer) writing. You can disagree with that, but I'm asserting I see more care taken with published work than with blog entries pertaining to beer. Were someone to start charging for their formerly free beer writing, I'd want an assurance that they'd be taking more care with the stuff they were charging for. Folks like Stan, who has published books, or Lew Bryson, who has written guidebooks and written for trade and non-trade publications, would be more likely for me to take a chance on than would folks who don't have a track record.

Alan -

Bill, you will agree that if you have to write that first sentence you will have likely misconstrued something. I have written for paper publications before. I have not self-published digitally before. Hence the post and the 40 comments above discussing the fine points of the idea.

On your second point, I can only refer you to the OCB wiki. I agree that Stan and Lew are fabulous. I am not sure there are that many more full real full time pro beer writers I place in that category though many are good to very good. [There are in fact very few full time pro beer writers.] And, of course, there are some who are not that good. So being being paid in the brick and mortar world of 1998 is a poor indicator of quality as far as I can tell. Often it's a side task given to a general newspaper writer. Luck of the draw.

Lisa Kav -

While I would not be inclined to pay per article, I would pay MORE ($5?) for a subscription so that I didn't have to fumble with payment on a whim. Also, if you had a PayPal button and accepted payment freely for readers that wish to show their gratitude for your hard work, you could generate revenue in that manner. See Julie Powell's Cooking with Julia project in which her readers freely contributed funds for food purchases for recipes. Do be careful about tax reporting as blogs revenue is under intense scrutiny these days.

dansmallbeer -

I've thought about this a bit. I think the reason I wouldn't pay for a blogger's stuff is that reading blogs and participating feels more like participating in a social circle, doing each other favours, hanging out of sorts. If a hilarious friend of mine suddenly started charging for jokes, it'd leave a bad taste.

On the flip side, if a plumber mate of mine offered to do some special work on my pipes, I'd definitely throw him a few quid. Conclusion: I don't know, but that's closer than "nope" which was where I was yesterday.

What would really swing it would be a free sample post to give people an idea of what they were getting. Maybe packaged nicely in a pdf with decent sized photos if you're using them (next best thing to having a physical pamphlet, which is kind of the e-equivalent of what you're suggesting)

Alan -

Good point on the taxes, Lisa. I have paid income taxes for about 5 years on this stuff. Ah, 2008. Now that was a year.

Dan, I think I am giving the sample post. In fact, I have no idea if I would ever do this but as an exercise in the place of beer writing this is all very instructive. It seems to me that valuelessness is a strong theme: "having the car radio on as you drive but you don't really pay that much attention."

Brad -

No. Drink more good beer and worry more about your relationship with your family.

Alan -

I prefer to worry about the parsnips left out overwintering.