This post has been on my mind for some time, and like most of my thoughts on a particular subject, they tend to require a whole bunch of things to come together before critical mass is achieved and I think I’ve got something substantial to say. (Remember the phrase, ‘I think I’ve got something substantial to say’, it will be important later on in this post).
So, a few days ago I tweeted these questions (as part of a longer conversation) out to a number of professional beer writers in the twitterverse;
At first it felt like some random thoughts and questions that I had just frustratedly blurted out, but when I thought about it a little more I realized that my outburst was an extension of many other, similar things that I have been ruminating on for quite a while.
It all stared several months ago when I first became aware of the BeerBloggers conference in Indianapolis (@beerbloggers) later this summer (which I might just attend). At first I thought, ‘wow, that sounds cool, I bet it would be a blast to be hanging out with a bunch of beer drinkers for a few days’. Then I started digging a bit deeper, and to my horror it seemed like a lot of the focus of both the conference and the attendees was actually more serious. People were talking about advertising revenue, how to turn their blogs into money making ventures, and how they were out to win friends and influence people amongst their local beer communities (including cozying up to local brewers in order to somehow gain favor). I found it all incredibly strange for a number of reasons.
- Firstly, why the hell would any one think that their beer blog was an interesting read to anyone except themselves and half a dozen other weirdos?
- Secondly, why do so many people (years after the dot.com crashes) STILL think that any fool with a half-arsed idea and some free wordpress web space, can turn BS into millions of dollars?
- Thirdly, what makes people with next to zero experience, a crappy palate, no perspective and a keyboard, make them think they can write about beer in any way that adds up to anything more than a monkey with a typewriter could achieve?
(I actually know the answer to question #3, since it is what the internet has created – a bunch of pseudo-legitimate morons, with self-proclaimed expert status, with the curious idea that all opinions are equally valid and that everything is subjective).
Then a couple more things happened. I was contacted by a freelancer marketer who wanted to place a few ads on my site for cold, hard cash! Somewhat ironic given the thoughts that had been going through my head recently, and the fact that I have never had any illusions about turning my blog into any kind of income stream. The marketer and I exchanged a few emails (she was courteous and helpful), but she initially wanted me to make some alterations to the text that I had already written – I declined. When she offered me (an admittedly) more palatable alternative, I checked out the first page that she wanted me to link to. I was horrified to read about ‘Microbrews on a Diet‘ and I immediately declined again, explaining that I thought that the content at the link was laughable. My integrity would not be bought, and any self-respecting beer blogger would surely feel the same way. My bet is that some of the people we’ll find at the beer bloggers conference would have bitten her hand off!
I find the notion that hundreds, possibly thousands of people have turned to beer blogging with the idea that they might have something of value to say (and therefore would want to turn it into a money making venture), absolutely astonishing. Most of the stuff I read is garbage, based upon little or no experience, and has some pretense of being worthwhile – most of it isn’t.
All of which I suppose brings me to my own blog. The potential for irony is not lost on me, but I would defend myself in a couple of ways. Firstly I was drinking high quality beer and was immersed in serious, significant drinking and beer culture decades before most of the ‘Johnny Come Lately’s’ out there, and secondly I blog about beer PURELY for my own mental health, not with the expectation that anyone will read (or care about) what I write, and certainly not under the impression that I might be about to turn my own beer musings into a beer writing career. This feeling is cemented by the fat that I am a published author more than once over, in a completely different field, and I know what a BEAR the publishing world is, and how it can be close to impossible to get traction as a writer of ANY description.
My own beer purgatory and my own mental battles with the beer culture vacuum that an Englishman finds himself in, here in the USA, make it NECESSARY for me to write (vent), and that is this blogs’ only purpose and certainly NOT because, ‘I think I’ve got something substantial to say’.
millions of dollars? I don’t think anyone outside of an insane asylum is THAT delusional. Most of us make pocket change on the ads we run on our sites and the vast majority of us are all bloggers on the side, for kicks. The extra revenue is nice, but I bet the majority of beer bloggers make less than what’s necessary to claim on their income taxes (about $50 a month). It helps recoup the cost of beer, but anyone who’s dumb and/or delusional enough to think they can parlay this into a full time job is in for a lot of disappointment. Anyone who thinks they’ll get rich off this is beyond stupid.
Yeah there’s a lot of experienced amateurs out there, but I think the majority of them are pretty good at making their less-than-expert status known. A good reader can tell who’s who without any proof of certification or whatever other “hard” credentials qualify you as a beer expert.
I’m considering going to the beer bloggers conference but I haven’t made up my mind yet. If it’s just going to be about how to make money (which the first two weren’t about) then forget it. If it’s about how to bring in a bigger audience then that’s something worthwhile. Plus I’d imagine there’s going to be genuine beer appreciation happening.
I think the conference can still be a good event, I just despair at the idea that an increasingly large number of talentless, clueless people feel they have something to say about beer. I think we should be discouraging rather than adding to the feeding frenzy.
In my case I don’t think I had anything too worthwhile to say but I used the blog simply as a way to better understand what was happening in my own region, to put it all in one spot. Seriously, it was for myself. I organize beer events in different parts of the country and wanted to try to do a few here as well so I also used it as a way to bring my thoughts together. Eventually I realized I had an audience and that a fair amount of people in town read it as well. Also, eventually I was approached by a local business who wanted to advertise, a business that I am happy to go spend my money at anyway. Anyway, for me, it just kinda organically grew into something. My posts are mostly just saying what’s happening where, photos from a photographer friend, and on occasion a more researched and thought out post. Lately I’ve even had a few people I’ve met in the bar ask me if they could write up something on the blog and I’m happy to have them contribute.
I don’t think that just because I have a blog I should get money. I’m actually very surprised that local business were interested in advertising on the site at all. For me though, it was validation that perhaps I’m doing something reasonably well, or at least okay. I don’t consider myself a professional beer writer at all, but the experience of making posts on a regular basis has got me thinking that perhaps there’s something there that can be built?
I don’t know, I’m just going with the flow. The question about expertise is an interesting one though, and I’m curious when/at what point someone attains it? Is it a magical moment, does it come with experience? How much? 5 years, 10 years?
Lastly, I’m one of the presenters at the conference this year, I’m going to talk about organizing events. Not sure exactly what I’ll say yet, but I’m thinking about it. I was thinking I could talk about the various events I’ve organized, but I might talk a bit about how I got into it. I’ve organized different types of events since I was a teenager, ranging from punk rock shows, to art shows, to strange events where people draw their own currency which I tried to sell, to now all sorts of beer events. It’s just what I do and what I’ve always done and I’m happy to talk about it. I understand your aversion to the conference, and I think it’s valid, just as I think other writers are correct in saying that it looks like payola is involved in some areas. But I went to the first one and had a really good time. If you could hold on to the original idea that the Beer Bloggers Conference is a good time to hang out with other bloggers and drink beer, it very much can be that. You could either skip the parts you don’t agree with (which I might do) and drink with folks, or use it as more fodder for Get Off My Lawn type posts.
I’m certainly considering going to Indianapolis since, as you say, it is possible to pick and choose and still enjoy the event, but I am puzzled by the references to ignorant and talentless ‘writers’ either wanting to (or being encouraged to) somehow turn their blogs into something that is taken seriously.
I pretty much write for myself, because I like writing and I like beer, so I blog about beer. If people want to read it, comment and start a dialogue then that is fantastic. After all, that is the whole point of social media – dialogue as opposed ever louder monologues, though in my cynical moments I start to think that a lot of blogs have the same modus operandi as English speakers abroad, if at first Johnny Foreigner doesn’t understand, speak louder.
I refuse point blank to have advertising on Fuggled, simply because it is a hobby and I would rather spare my readers from the incessant tide of advertising you get on the internet already.
This is interesting. For me, my blog IS really about a monologue since I write for my own mental health, think I’m 100% right on lots of issues, and don’t especially set out with a goal of creating dialogue! Sure it’s nice when people reply (thank you), but I’m not masquerading as some kind of ‘mover & shaker’ with profound insight to dispense.
Same here, though I am never convinced I am 100% correct on most things. I would most certainly never have the temerity and arrogance to call myself an expert or even influential within the beer world because I have a blog, if others wish to say that about me that is their choice, but you won’t hear it coming from my mouth.
I guess I like the dialogue aspect of the whole web 2.0 thing because I am one of those people that gets talking to random strangers in pubs and learns best by discussion and listening to what those with more experience and/or knowledge have to say, and interact with it in a critical manner. A person that swallows what they have been taught, without question, is no better in a discussion, whether in the real world or online, than a robot.
>….because I am one of those people that gets talking to random strangers in pubs and learns best by discussion and listening to what those with more experience and/or knowledge have to say, and interact with it in a critical manner.
Oh I agree, but talking to people face to face in pubs, when you can assess their credibility, is very different to dealing with anonymous, self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on the internet!
I do it as a record of the pubs I visit and I don’t expect anyone to read it let alone advertise on it. I wouldn’t let anyone advertise in my diary (where I used to keep a record in the days before blogging) and anyway what would be the point its just for me.
One issue that I have with a lot of beer blogging is that it’s not blogging about beer, but blogging about blogging. That sometimes catches my eye — like this post did — but mainly it strikes me as a very boring subject matter which could only possibly appeal to people who are themselves bloggers, and not even all of them.
Amateur beer blogs can offer some entertainment today, but I believe their real value is in preserving little snapshots of today’s beer culture and history. The accumulation of trivial blog posts will be valuable to people in the future who wonder where all their Imperial Dark Witbiers came from.
As someone whose ignorance you have on occasion proclaimed, I can’t help but guess to which category I belong. Although, in the case of my blog, I have no delusions of grandeur; and I can’t imagine that anyone takes my blog very seriously, as humor is partly its point. So, who knows whether I qualify for your scorn.
I would be interested to know what the professionals had to say (without having to scour your twitter feed). My guess is that they don’t much care.
And you seem to actively engage more than one who is merely clicking the “publish” button as a therapeutic release. It seems that proselytization, or the prospect thereof, has to be at least a small component or your catharsis.
I’m not trying to be bitchy. It’s just that you fascinate me. I am convinced that in person you would be completely tolerable, perhaps even enjoyable…as long as I wasn’t on your lawn.
I would encourage you to come to the Beer Bloggers Conference for a few reasons. Like ALL blog conferences (I can generalize because I’ve been to more than I can count on my hands), you’ll get a lot out of BBC. The networking alone and opportunity to meet face to face with other bloggers is a big pull. I met one of my best friends through the inaugural BBC in Boulder.
I’d also encourage you to take a look at the content agenda again. Monetizing a blog has been removed, as has some other content that just didn’t make the final cut. I’m on the advisory board and we worked really hard to create content that would be beneficial not just to newbie beer bloggers but to seasoned long standing members of the beer community like yourself.