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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

What's new?

What's new?
More new events added in Bristol, London and Edinburgh over April and May
I had a big piece in the Guardian this week about why publicans are unhappy
Click here to hear me talking about craft beer on this week's radio 4 Food Programme!
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Thursday, 6 May 2010

Wikio Mea Culpa

Here are the REVISED Wikio rankings for April.

Tricky situation, because every month they offer a blogger an exclusive, before they go live.  There's a narrow window to get this exclusive up before the rankings go live.  So even though it looked dodgy, I had to go with it - but it turns out it was wrong.  So here are the right ones:

1Pete Brown's Blog (=)
2Pencil & Spoon (=)
3Brew Dog Blog (=)
4The Pub Curmudgeon (+2)
5The Beer Nut (=)
6Tandleman's Beer Blog (-2)
7Woolpack Dave's beer and stuff blog (=)
8Spittoon (+4)
9`It's just the beer talking` ? Jeff Pickthall's Blog (+1)
10The Bitten Bullet (-1)
11Beer Reviews (+6)
12Zythophile (+3)
13Boak and Bailey's Beer Blog (-5)
14Called to the bar (-3)
15Reluctant Scooper (+4)
16Real Ale Reviews (=)
17Brew Wales (-3)
18The Wine Conversation (-5)
19Travels With Beer (+1)
20Taking the beard out of beer! (+9)

Ranking by Wikio

A couple of thoughts and observations:

The fact that I post these rankings more than anyone else doesn't mean I attach more importance to them than anyone else.  Wikio asked me to co-ordinate this for them and I agreed, not having any reason to refuse.  I view it as a bit of harmless fun.  You're entitled to disagree.  But every month I ask if anyone else would like to have the exclusive ands trail it on your blog - it's an extra spike in hits if nothing else.  Hardly anyone ever volunteers.  It would be great if more people would like to share it around.

Secondly, I still stand by my challenge about making beer blogging more interesting.  Some people agree, but it's upset some other people.

I hate upsetting people.  I hate spats and fights.  I have enough of them so believe me, I do know how much I hate them.  I write something I feel has to be written, and then when it all kicks off my stomach starts churning, I lose my appetite, and it's hanging like a cloud at the back of my head, infecting everything I do, until it dies down.

My blogging challenge coincided with the decision of Impy Malting to return to the beer blogging world after a long absence (Hurrah!  Impy's blogging again!).  Reading her return post (I recommend you do)  - which was largely about why we blog - helped me clarify what was behind my 'blogging's getting boring post' better than I expressed it initially, so I want to expand on that here.

It comes down to why we blog.  I started blogging for the same reason I do all my writing - to turn on new people to beer and educate casual drinkers on delights they may not be aware of, and to try and help build a career as a full-time writer.  Both these reasons require a larger, general readership if I'm going to succeed. I also have to accept that I was established as a beer writer before I started blogging.

But different people start blogging for different reasons.  The wonder of blogging is that you can simply write what you like and publish it in seconds.  Some people might do it just to see the satisfaction of "I made this".  Other people do it as a form of therapy.  Some do it just for themselves, and some do it for a specific group of people - friends or colleagues or family - with absolutely no care at all what anyone else might think.

No one has any right to tell these people what they should or shouldn't be doing with their blogs.

So then we come on to the beer blogging community.  Impy talks about how she decided to blog about beer for her own reasons, and when she started doing it she found this community of beer bloggers (that's you guys) and was delighted to be welcomed in by them.  It opened up a whole new dimension of chat, opinion sharing, ideas and friendship.  I've found exactly the same - and more.  I do the occasional bit of consultancy with brewers, and the first thing I tell them in marketing is that beer brands can now be built on line, that the blogging community represents a new medium, a new audience, through which beers can be made famous.  Ask Brew Dog.  Ask Crown Brewer Stu.

SO I AM NOT SLAGGING OFF THE BEER BLOGGING COMMUNITY.  OK?

But.

The thing about beer blogging is that, even though we may be read by a wider audience, the people who comment on our blogs tend to be other beer bloggers.  This tends to dictate the directions of the conversations we have, the subjects we cover.  We start to write specifically for other beer bloggers.  And ultimately that means the conversation becomes a closed loop, ultimately excluding someone who isn't a member, or at least offering them no invitation to join in.

I include myself in this, more than anyone - shit, look how often I post the Wikio rankings - as Beer Nut pointed out, on that evidence I'm worse than anyone.  But I am my own harshest critic.  Well, apart from Roger Protz.  And my agent.  And the Beer Widow.  OK, I'm my fourth harshest critic.

My challenge to beer bloggers is a challenge to myself.  When I rewrote Man Walks into a Pub this winter I realised how far I've strayed from the original reasons I began writing about beer, and I want to get back to that place.

But it's also a challenge to anyone who feels like sharing it.

If you blog about beer and you're perfectly happy having a closed-loop chat with other beer bloggers, sharing in-jokes and comparing your latest discoveries - and I'm not making a value judgement there, it's your right to do so - I have no right to tell you to do something differently.  So I unreservedly apologise if I've offended or come across as too bossy.

But if you're blogging because, like me, you want to (a) continually improve as a writer and/or (b) be read by more people, my challenge still stands.

You never know - other beer bloggers might find it refreshing too.

19 comments:

PivnĂ­ Filosof said...

As I've said many times, I write a beer blog because I think I have something to say (about beer and beer culture). Sometimes what I have to say is aimed at the beer blogging community, other times at would be visitors to Prague, other times it's just random thoughts, other times I write to generate debate, other times is reviews of beers that I've drunk and other times is news and other sort of factual information, etc., and I can say more or less the same about many of the blogs I follow.

On the other hand, you are right in saying that there seems to be a few too many blogs centered exclusively on talking about this or that beer they authors had. But I don't see anything wrong with that. I read some of them, I ignore most, but not because I think there's anything wrong with it, but because they tend to speak about beers I'm not interested in or I don't think I will ever get to drink.

crownbrewerstu said...

well done moggy! up you go

James said...

Having read all that I'm still not really clear why you are challenging beer bloggers. That's just the closed loop again, and it looks a bit high & mighty because you're top of the rankings (well done though). Just blog about beer. You don't see the Guardian publishing articles geeing up the rest of the newspaper industry. Use your undoubted knowledge, experience and passion to educate, enthuse and challenge all us beer drinkers. By targeting drinkers, not bloggers, you'll ensure you stay at the top of the (unnecessary to publish) rankings.

Tandleman said...

"SO I AM NOT SLAGGING OFF THE BEER BLOGGING COMMUNITY. OK?"

Yes you are and why not? Sitting in your lofty position as a professional beer writer, Beer Writer of the Year and General High Panjandrum of Beery things, why not? If you can't urge others to take a look at themselves, who can? (Though of course you run the risk of appearing superior, but you know that.)

The beer blogging community isn't what it was in many ways. I'll be doing a post on this soon, when I've worked out exactly what it is I want to say.

We can be too inward looking, some more than others. Mind you, we shouldn't forget that why people blog is a personal thing and in the end up to them.

More power to your elbow and feel free to have a pop at me any time. Constructively of course.

PS. Wikio is a lot of bollocks. I've slipped two places, which surely proves my point.

Mark said...

The way I see beer blogging is that everyone has their own role and it works as a community - a group of people all trying to achieve a similar thing and promote beer. The end product is like a great patchwork quilt, varied and interesting, and no piece is more or less valid than anything else.

It's difficult for it not to be insular though, but we are all read beyond just other bloggers. In-jokes and 'internal' references are fine and they can lead other readers through to other blogs. To be honest, if someone is happy to write it just to a select bunch of readers then that's fine. Ultimately, a blog is a personal space, kind of like an online diary. There are no rules to blogging and people can and should post whatever they want to.

Everyone has their reasons to blog but I don't think there are many who do it to try and make a career and to earn money, most do it because it's fun and they love beer and the social (media) side of things. Personally, I do it for the same reasons as you - I started blogging to become a better writer and beer just happened to be the content I chose to write about. The blog is also the place where I learn things, from reading other blogs or websites or through comments. Now I want to keep on getting better and try and make a little bit of money out of it. But I also like the social aspect too, hence the twissups and beer swaps.

I have sensed a malaise recently though, I agree. I've felt it myself being a bit 'beered out'. But I like the challenge and I'm always trying to do better and be interesting (for myself as much as for anyone else). Maybe the post I wrote yesterday was in equal parts an Action AND a reaction...?

Cooking Lager said...

Why people beer blog? To try and wangle some free beer outta nice people with marketing budgets ?

Curmudgeon said...

Hmm, mine went up despite having the lowest monthly post total for ages – that will wind up Martyn Cornell even more ;-)

Btw, I think he's a fine chap and have recently bought his book.

The reason for this is pretty obvious – however crap you may think it is, my blog by its nature gets more links from outside the beer blogging community.

You're quite right about the "closed loop" thing – if you start thinking "so-and-so is bound to say something about this", or "this will bring a ton of crap down on my head", it's time to take a step back.

Martyn Cornell said...

Anyone who buys my books is a marvellous human being, and their blog deserves to be as widely read as possible, most especially if they write nice things about my books on it … (*hem*, since we're guests on Mr Brown's forum here, I need to say that if you DO write nice things about my works, you should, of course, only recommend MY books as double buys with his.)

Alan said...

I have to admit, even as a socialist, I have never liked the beer "community" idea but that is because I think social networking is utter crap - its a diversion and a plastification of human relationships. I certainly have no "role" in someone else's circle. On top of that false prophet stuff, it's a mad house. And the general cacophony that is the internet is just being played out in the specific. The answers provided always prove themselves to be one person's opinion. Why wouldn't hopes be dashed? Why wouldn't beer blogging get tired now and then?

From where I sit, UK beer bloggers were a few years later to the game and I think you may be experiencing that 2007 feel. In North America, about 3 years ago, amateur bloggers, the folks who might expect something that can be called community, were largely been replaced by journalists with columns that got called blogs. There may be small geographical areas where bloggers do physically get together but often that just confirms why people preferred to be in contact through computers.

None of this is to say beer blogging is bad, just that it has limitations once you start imagining beyond the basement. But if you work with those limitations rather than ignore them, some good writing can pop up now and then. And that writing (as a genre rather than a collection) can rival and make redundant professional writing. Aside from the questions of conflict of interest or simple reliance on the paid and intoxicated, the sheer volume of opinion in beer blogs gives it the authority. How many times have I looked at a book entitled "Five million beers to try before you croak" and asked myself why I would bother.

Stephen Harris said...

I’m not a Beer Blogger (although I think I might quite like to be if I ever acquire the technical skills). Indeed I did not even know there were such things as Beer Blogs until quite recently. Now I’m reading 4 or 5 of them quite regularly. And I have to say that I ‘get’ most of what’s going on and hardly notice any ‘in-jokes’. I enjoy the fact that they are all just a bunch of personal opinions; that’s what they’re supposed to be isn’t it? I read them to be entertained and to be informed. I’m not very interested to hear that so-and-so’s American Quintuple IPA is really very hoppy indeed. But I do sit up and take note when a blog tells me that there is a new brewery operating from under the arches in Bermondsey, or that there is a half-decent pub worth visiting in Stoke Newington (for instance). Just keep on being yourselves please.

Lars Marius Garshol said...

> I view it as a bit of harmless fun.

I agree. I've now taught my RSS reader that blog postings containing the word "wikio" are unlikely to be interesting, and so I don't see them any more, even in RSS feeds I subscribe to, like yours.

(I came here from Twitter. Not entirely sure why.)

Coxy said...

Ive got rid of my facebook today and this is the last time Im going to read a beer blog,as Im wasting valuable time I could be spending with the kids,or watching top class porn. I do feel like being the only one who reads them who doesn't have their own blog, and there is only so much you can write before it bores you shitless,Thats why Fawlty Towers is good, I think this is why Jeff stopped. I really just need to know where I can get a great pint , and not have it dictated by CAMRAOSAURUS always. Carefree

impymalting said...

Thanks for the cheer! Haha. I still find balancing my personal creative life and internet obligations a challenge, though beer has always been an inspiring topic and finding ways to talk about beer to the non-initiated is the reason I would keep posting. I still think consistency of purpose is important in a blog-- it's hard to habitually follow blogs which lack this.

Martyn Cornell said...

Interesting points, Alan, but there are a couple of big differences between the North American and "Islands of the North Atlantic" beer scenes which I think are relevant.

The US alone is five times the population, has a massive craft brewing-oriented culture (and a huge home brewing culture as well) and enough consumer demand for a host of actual print magazines, mostly regional, devoted to covering craft brewing and craft beers, as well as several big dailies with beer correspondents. At the same time, partly because it IS so big, too big for the easy holding of meetings, it can't support its own equivalent of the British Guild of Beer Writers.

The UK can't properly support even one beer magazine; I suggest, interest in craft brewing, as a culture, in the UK is marginal, certainly compared to the US; but as a much smaller country, and one where events can be organised centrally that most people can get to relatively easily, the BGBW has been able to survive for more than 20 years, and groups of bloggers from across the country can meet up physically much more easily than they can in North America. (We're all in the one timezone, for a start …)

In addition, I don't see any chance of the "professionalisation" of the beer blogging scene in the UK that you describe happening in North America, with amateur bloggers "replaced by journalists with columns that got called blogs." In the top 20 Wikio bloggers, the only professional journos are me, ATJ and Melissa. None of the regional UK journos who appear regularly in the BGBW awards over the years, AFAIK, are writing beer blogs: Jeff Evans is doing interesting stuff with his new website and I wish him luck, but it's early days. R Protz's blog appears tertiary, at best to everything else he does. So, no hordes of British hacks coming over the hill to capture the territory the Drudges and Tandlemans are currently occupying.

For all those reasons, from a transatlantic perspective it may look like 2007 over here, but I don't think history will be following the same route. And I'm glad. The democratic nature of British beer blogging would be worsened if too many professionals rushed in, while I don't think the standard would show a huge leap, either: it may be an artifact of my being more interested in the British beer scene than the US one, but although there seem to be, as you would expect, five or six times as many US beer bloggers as UK/Ireland/English-speaking in Europe ones, and many do appear to be professional writers, I read regularly rather more "right-hand side of the pond" beer bloggers than "leftpondian" ones.

Alan said...

As always, a particularly thoughtful analysis, Martyn. But would not Pete also be a "pro" blogger? And what of the brewers and people who run pubs? And there are semi-pros like me, too.

I am not suggesting anything untoward in blogging and having an interest in the business of beer. The interesting thing about the economics of beer is that for all the wealth it generates it is not spread about very much compared to other parts of pop culture like sports or music. So it is expected (at least to me) that people would wear many hats. And for many bloggers I am reading in the UK many still wear the hat of "consumer" primarily.

But that being said, I do think the N. Am discourse has become decidedly specialist and not lead by the consumers. While many pros (unlike perhaps Mr. Protz for reasons which he many not entirely control) can maintain a discussion with consumers the chattiness of the beer blog has somewhat lapsed over here given the shift in focus to brewers' news from the experience of the consumer having (and having to pay for) a beer.

Alan

Velky Al said...

I sometimes wonder where exactly I fit in the beer blogging world?

Am I a British beer blogger? Clearly not as I really know very little about what is going on in British craft beer scene - although I admit to watching with green envy at times and a longing to come home.

Am I an American beer blogger? Well, I live here so I guess that counts for something, but I don't feel connected to the American beer geekery scene, if such a thing can be said to exist in such a vast country. Ok I have been here less than a year, so maybe it is teething troubles.

Was I a Czech beer blogger, when I lived in Prague? Not sure about that one, but 10 years drinking Czech lager certainly leaves its mark in what you will or won't accept as a pilsner!

I like Tandleman's description of my blog on his blog roll, "Yankee, Czech and more" - I want to explore the more, well, more. I wonder though if people are interested in what I have to say, or am I just an opinionated git with a love of the liquor and a keyboard?

Tandleman said...

I am very perceptive me. And more. Oops - repetition.

John Clarke said...

Folks

There is one thing I have wanted to know for some time. While the Wikio rankings derive from inter-blog links (correct me if I'm wrong there) - how many actual people read these blogs (say, number of daily hits)? Presumably the stats are somewhere - can anyone throw any light on this at all please?

The Cup of Good Hop said...

hi Pete,

are you going to do anything about beer and the World Cup?

me and a friend are trying to buy a beer from all 32 countries called Cup of Good Hop - http://cupofgoodhop.blogspot.com.

so far we have 22 beers and need to find five rare ones:-
N Korea, Slovakia, Cameroon, Ghana and Uruguay. any ideas?

cheers to a great tournament,

Peter Styles