The Beer Blogging Brouhaha, Part 2: A Beer Bloggers Conference? #bbc10

Posted on Posted in Beer Bloggers Conference, Beer Writing

It has been an unexpectedly busy day here at BeerScribe.com in the wake of last night’s piece on the state of beer blogging. I can imagine few topics more geeky than the present one but I’ll indulge it for one more post. The first ever Beer Bloggers Conference is ready to get underway in Boulder, Colorado. It is put on by the same folks who run a supposedly popular Wine Bloggers Conference and it is pretty close to sold out with more than 100 attendees.

Despite a brief mention in my earlier piece, I hadn’t given too much thought to the conference but have just taken a closer look at the agenda and I must admit to being a bit puzzled by it. Aside from beer blogging in general, I am left wondering, at its core, what does the Beer Bloggers Conference actually offer attendees? Is it just an excuse to get together with other like-minded beer folks and enjoy a few rounds (which is a perfectly enviable vacation)? Or is it professionally (in the broadest sense here) helpful in some tangible or meaningful way?

Putting aside those who just want a vacation and to drink some beers, what does the conference actually offer? A lot of the seminars/speeches seem to be pretty rah-rah in nature, and that’s great, just not something I’d pay money to attend. For people who all seem to agree there is no real money to be made here, a lot of the conference’s remaining content seems to be related to making money on the web. And I’d be pretty skeptical if I was attending those particular seminars. Frankly, sharing “$10,000 worth of SEO advice” sounds like a load of bullshit to me, not too different from the dozens of spam marketing/SEO emails I receive every day for both of my businesses. So beyond the rah-rah from the usual industry cheerleaders, I’m curious to hear from the organizers, promoters, speakers, and attendees what the content actually offers.

Brewery visits and beer dinners are great and all, but is that the real reason for the conference? I imagine the conference organizers aren’t doing this for free so I think the inquiry is worth making.

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31 thoughts on “The Beer Blogging Brouhaha, Part 2: A Beer Bloggers Conference? #bbc10

  1. Eeks, that SEO description does sound kind of spammy and SEO marketing, in general, can be. At the same time, for those who are technically inept, I could see some of the basics taught pretty valuable.

    Overall, the conference appears to be a decent value at $95. It looks like four free beers on Saturday night & the beer provided at the blogger tasting could add up to a value of….$25ish?

    The other stuff for $70 or so doesn’t seem too expensive to me for what’s being offered. FWIW, I’m not attending, in part, because of time and travel costs.

    1. The SEO portion of the conference was one of the most practically useful portion of the conference. The speaker went through about 5 different beer blogs by writers that were sitting in the room. He showed us different ways search engines try to find your content. He pointed out parts of the blogs that aren’t working so well in terms of difficulty of reading, and difficulty for Search Engine Optimization. Then he gave tips for each of those 5 blogs that would improve the way engines find the information. It was great.

      Also, got way way way way way more than $25 worth of beer. Probably more like around $400+ worth of beer. Just saying…

  2. Really? Really?! Are you serious?

    What is so wrong about a group of people who share a similar passion and hobby, getting together and celebrating the industry and each other?

    Just because you don’t see value in something so trivial and mundane as a beer bloggers conference does not give you the right to mock those of us that do see it for its potential and its possibilities.

    Once again, this is what makes the wine industry more advanced than the craft beer world. Something that continuously blows my mind about the wine industry is not just its extensive understanding and use of social media, but also its respect for the blogging community. Wine bloggers are often viewed as being more influential and important than traditional wine writers — which is really exciting to observe.

    The industry considers wine bloggers to be legitimate members of the press community. More and more wine bloggers are getting the same respect and acknowledgment as well-established print writers. Trust me, I would know. I live in wine country, where wine bloggers are respected and valued.

    Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, the beer industry is trailing sluggishly behind the wine industry when it comes to social media and support for its bloggers. The establishment of a Beer Bloggers Conference will help bring the importance of social media and blogs to the attention of the craft beer industry.

    The BBC is also a way for beer bloggers to organize themselves, become a stronger voice as a whole, and share knowledge, advice and stories with each other.

    And yeah, for most of us this is like a vacation. And we have every right to decide how and where we allocate our funds.

    1. Hey Ashley-

      To start, as one of the conference’s organizers or promoters, let’s acknowledge that you have a dog in this discussion. And I’m not sure my post can be read as criticizing folks getting together for the reasons you note. My question was, and remains, about where the value comes for the money paid by the attendees? I didn’t call the event any of the words you suggest (or frankly anything close) and it certainly wasn’t mocking. So with those strawmen aside (and without addressing the others you somewhat frantically tossed out), I look forward to actually hearing about the conference (not the hype from those looking to benefit from organizing/promoting it).

      Best,

      Andy

    2. Yes, really. When the BBC was announced there was little info in regards to content. My thing with beer blogging is standards and critical thought. You espouse the greatness of the wine industry in this regard, but really they have gone to the other extreme – where a voice of decent is an informed voice (beer bloggers, in large, are trapped in that “rah rah” stage). It was troubling to me, from the get-go, that there wasn’t a lot of content as far as what to expect from BBC. No respected voice in wine would sign up for a conference that didn’t offer the details lacking in the inaugural BBC. As to the “importance of social media” – I’d say many a craft brewery understands exactly how powerful free marketing is and can be. In this it’s not about the blogger, but about the company. As for bloggers, ceasing the overly positive reviews of beer and copy/paste of press releases would be a major step forward. My $0.02.

  3. I don’t have a lot of time because I am organizing this conference and have 113 people coming in tomorrow.

    How much is two free dinners with all the beer included plus a free five-establishment pub crawl worth? Can’t do that in Boulder for under $95, so anyone attending is getting value in beer and food alone.

    I’ll let attendees address the value of the content but suffice it to say, we have put on three Wine Blogger Conferences and a Food Blogger Conference and so have three years of experience as to what is and is not useful to bloggers.

    I’ll invite you to attend the 2011 version. We don’t expect everyone to jump on board and certainly not the first go-around but we do expect to put out a quality product that is worth the time and money of attendees. We’ll stick to that priority.

    Allan Wright
    BBC Organizer

  4. Andy – I have to say, I thought your original post was, if a little vague as to your ultimate point, an interesting debate starter. This second post simply comes across as advantageous, antagonizing and wholly negative. *I am not attending the Beer Bloggers Conference.

  5. And as for the Wine Bloggers Conference, it is indeed extremely popular in the industry. AND people fly from Europe to attend the one in North America. And people in the US fly to the conference in Europe. It is a big deal.

    Since I am the only one from the beer world with experience at an actual beverage bloggers conference, I can say with confidence that I do understand and appreciate its value.

    Why on earth would a BEER blogger attend a WINE blogger conference? Shouldn’t you be asking me this? What value would I get as a BEER blogger from a wine conference? Do you think I attended it just because I wanted to hang out with my buddies and drink wine? Yeah, it’s a nice perk … but I also wanted to learn about new technologies and ways to enhance my own site.

    As for me, I’m going to BBC because I’m proud to be a beer blogger. And I love my fellow bloggers and I want to hold hands and sing cumbaya and learn a thing or two along the way…

  6. Hi Andy,

    I’ll attempt to answer your question about what I hope to gain from the Beer Bloggers conference.

    A few weekends ago, I went to a social media conference called “podcamp.” Though there were a few of the SEO-based sessions that may not have held my interest as much as others, it was the sum total of the conference experience that was valuable. While most of the bloggers, writers and other media people there (authors, videographers, etc.) were from different disciplines or niches than I was, I learned a lot about technologies, methods, strategies that I could use to improve my own websites and other projects. I learned new ways that people are accomplishing something that I’d never thought possible – and couldn’t have cataloged the things that I learned through conversations, over lunch and in the sessions.

    It is my hope that the Beer Bloggers conference can provide the same kind of discussions about tools, methods, lessons learned and common ground that anyone with a hobby, interest or passion seeks. I hope, too, that I can provide advice and help to new bloggers who are just starting to explore their passions in online print. This reciprocal environment and the chance to meet others with similar interests and experiences is compelling enough.

    Where I live is not teaming with beer bloggers, so the opportunity to sit down with folks from across the country who do the same things that I do is valuable enough to me. More valuable, even, then attending an event like GABF where i have brief exposure to hundreds of beers, but little opportunity for a depth of interaction with brewers, enthusiasts or anyone else.

    So, while the realized value of this endeavor is yet to be seen, I can only offer the reasons why I plan to attend. if nothing else, it is an opportunity to strengthen the relationships that I have developed online throughout my blogging experiences.

    I hope that helps answer your inquiry.

    1. Hi Carla and thanks for your very thoughtful response. I think perhaps I posed the wrong question and that you posed the right one. I’m curious to hear your thoughts at the end of what will inevitably be some fun (and hopefully informative) days.

      To other commenters and would-be commenters, know that I am not trying to belittle your attendance or interests. I am honestly curious about the conference and your experiences. I’m sure Allan et al put on a very fun event. I just think this is an important opportunity to address a lot of interesting issues, not just to get together for beers. And I hope that you all get more out of the experience than just a hangover in the process.

      Cheers and enjoy,

      Andy

  7. Andy,

    You are right, I am the chief promoter and the biggest cheerleader for the conference. But you know what else, there isn’t really a lot in it for me. For my promotional efforts, I am being rewarded with a plane ticket and comped admission. That is all. As for my hotel, I will be sharing a room with 3 other bloggers — one of which who has been kind enough to offer me my spot on the house (you see most people know that I am unemployed and that I have not made one single cent from my site and that everything I do is out of passion and love for craft beer and the industry). And even if I wasn’t the chief blogger and getting my plane ticket covered, I would still be there with bells and whistles on. And I would have found a way to pay for it all.

    So now you have my story. What I have to gain from promoting the conference. I’m quite certain that my demands were much less than anyone else’s would have been if offered the opportunity.

  8. Not going. No time to, but considered it. SEO thing seems counter to the stated purpose of the conference.

    As for the comments, some of you should dial it down a bit. Andy’s questions are legitimate. They are questions. For you to answer. The asking of a question is not a comdemnation.

    For comparison’s sake, I’m sure people questioned the GABF when Charlie Papzian put that together in 1982. Andy still has questions about it, which, by-the-way are right on.

    Heck, the National Homebrewer’s Conference (NHC) is an awesome conference, but it deserves scrutiny with a number of things. Guess what, that’s what makes them great conferences.

    Should the BBC approximate a tenth of the importance of say, the NHC, they have those that put it together to thank, but they need to look at those who challenge it as shaping it as well.

  9. I just have to say that I’m disappointed to hear that the BBC is being looked upon in this way. I think it’s a wonderful idea. I was invited to go but sadly cannot make it. I wish the event the best success and I’m sure there will be many more to come. I may have stopped blogging but I still read many other blogs daily and enjoy their content. I’m jealous of those who get to attend the inaugural event this year. Cheers beer bloggers!

    1. God damn it Alan, that’s not fucking helpful! Where you been all day? You start some shit and then bugger off to your day job? Leaving me to moderate a hundred comments. Jerk.

      Cheers,

      Andy

  10. A blogging conference, whether it be for beer, wine, or (as seems to be the case with some folks here), “whine”.

    A venue to put some faces to fellow bloggers, most of whom known only by the fact that are cross-posting each others stuff ad nauseum.

    A place to network face-to-face with other bloggers, many of whom have no other means social interaction.

    An event to hear snake-oil salesmen go on and on, how SEO can drive views to a site. And views equals ad revenue! And that means your blog about drinking warm Busch Light on your 19th birthday can make you rich! Rich, I tell ya, rich!

    The knee-jerk reactionary comments to Andy’s legit questions is all quite hilarious. It’s funny that the only one truly raising a stink here is a blogger with a “Brand” — a shtick, if you will.

    They doth protest too much!

  11. I sure did put you in it in a round-about way, didn’t I. I have to say one thing – WHY THE HELL DON’T THESE PEOPLE POST COMMENTS AT MY PLACE. There. It’s done now.

    I think this is a good discussion sorta like bleach is a good cleanser. I think it is good to get into this stuff once in a while and, yes, piss a few people off. There are a few things about beer blogging that make me uncomfortable which was where I was going with my response to Stephen B over at my place earlier today. But people talking to people is not one of them. So go to Denver if you can and hang out. Skip the keynote speaker, too. Jay’s gonna tell that opening joke like he always does and ,well, we all know where that goes…

    But I have to say that I am uncomfortable about the idea that people will make money off blogging – not because they shouldn’t, just because they won’t. I am not sure there are any brands left to go around either. There is a cacophony in that respect now. There is always a place for sincere voices, however, and I hope that that is on the schedule, too. Because after all the SEOs and ROIs and BLTs all that matters in this stuff are the sincere voices.

    So, even if I think that blogging conferences went a bit off the rails back in the first George W administration – and especially if this gives you the charge that you love – why not?

  12. Andy,
    I admired your first post and as a beer enthusiast who uses my love and knowledge for craft beer to introduce women to craft beer – I felt you had very valid points. I’m lucky to count Jennifer Litz as a co-founder of Girls Pint Out and as a friend. Together, we’ve introduce countless women who “don’t like beer” to varieties of brews they could never comprehend. I agreed with you that blogging has it’s ups and downs and you point that if you’re in it for the money, most likely you lost your integrity a while ago.

    As for THIS post, I felt I finally had an opportunity to chime in. I will be attending the conference this weekend (on my own dime) I AM a speaker at the Inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference. I’m on a panel titled: Women and Craft Beer. I’ve been having nightmares all week that no one will attend my session. I hope my session adds value to the conference and makes it worth while. I’ll be giving my two cents on what drives women towards craft beer blogs/websites and what turns them away. I’ll tell my story and what I do. In addition to my real job in the financial planning industry, and a mom, AND running Girls Pint Out – I made time to really put thought into what I wanted to share with everyone this weekend.

    Your post on the legitimacy of this conference really bummed me out. I think it’s silly that my husband gets together with all of his friends for fantasy football draft a few times each August (they all have laptops, can’t they do it remotely?) but I let him enjoy it without making him feel belittled. I let him go for the weekend and although it’s something I feel isn’t a valuable use of his time – he loves it. So I’m happy that it makes him happy.

    I wish you could respect those of us who have chosen to participate this weekend and learn from each other.

    Cheers,
    Tamre

  13. Andy –

    I find it utterly disappointing that someone who manages a website “dedicated to the art, complexity, and business of beer…” would question a new gathering that could possibly enhance the industry’s presence online – especially since you are not attending, and questioning something that hasn’t even happened yet.

    I will definitely let you know how it all goes, but to be honest, I would spent thousands of dollars happily to sit in a room for two days with like-minded individuals and enjoy our common passion of beer – last time I checked you were an advocate of that as well…

    – Nate

  14. Here is some perspective from an ordinary guy outside the beer blogging world. My perception is you all blog to impress each other. It seems the entire, catty (as evidenced by the comments here), hipster, elitist culture behind beer blogging and reviews is 100% ego driven. I would argue the wine bloggers are not something to strive toward. How many average non-blogging craft beer enthusiasts are active participants on your sites? From my vantage you’re trying to take craft beer into snobby wine territory and I’m soon going to be reading about chewy, velvet mouthfeel with a tinge of honey and sweet guava nectar finished by a dry grainy tannin bite on an effing pale ale. This is just one average Joe’s outside perspective on the beer blogging world, take it or leave it.

  15. Thank you. I’ve been pussyfooting around this issue for way too long. Still am in that I don’t know how to properly articulate the negative feelings I have – but you did a nice job breaking that ice. Cheers!

  16. I’m a beer lover at heart and I happen to be one of the organizers of the European Wine Bloggers Conference and a friend of Allans and the Beer Wench. The WBC has been a great event that deserves a lot of cred. Allan does a great job and is a person helping push for the education of bloggers and helping to build community. I’m sure the Beer Bloggers Conference will be a bit success and I also think that there is nothing wrong with getting paid for ones work. It’s a lot of work doing this conference and making money is not an evil idea, it’s a way to make it possible to take the time to do something like this. I only wish I could be there.

    Good luck to all!

  17. I am sure Ryan meant “big” success and not “bit” success!

    I just want to be clear that in no way do I take offense to Andy’s questioning. Expressing views is part of blogging and discussion’s like this are good. I also don’t think all the responses above are whining, either. Those folks have every right to respond!

    Conference registration in less than four hours. 🙂

    Allan

  18. At RedPint.com, we think it’s great that there’s a national conference dedicated to a very niche segment of this industry. And we’re happy to follow the tweets and see who among our friends decided to attend.

    It’s a giant step in the right direction, if you ask me. Because success may come from smaller meetups and local events that organizations like Girls Pint Out and Ladies of Craft Beer do. But real change and recognition often comes when a large number of people assemble.

    Also, it doesn’t make sense for a beer blogger to attend any other “conference” as they aren’t able to really hone in one what they do and tailor their experience around their specific goals.

    Does this mean CanFest was a total waste too? Or that any non-festival event does nothing to move the industry forward? We think not.

    I’m pretty sure people who attend WordCamp aren’t going there to learn about JQuery. They go because they have very specific thoughts, ideas and goals in mind – as it relates to WordPress and the advancement of technology.

    It’s smart and shows foresight for a Beer Bloggers Conference to convene in Boulder. Why shouldn’t people gather on a national scale to learn more about and discuss blogging, the advancement of the beer industry, and network with like-minded enthusiasts?

  19. Andy: I’m sorry your own skepticism got in the way of you enjoying a great conference. For the record, I don’t sell SEO and never have. In fact, my business is by referral-only and I can’t accept new clients until at least 2011. I am often invited to speak to other SEO experts (yes, the real-deal, people like me who charge lawyer rates to some of the most sophisticated companies on the web) at major search conferences.

    I volunteered my time to 6 different beer sites that probably couldn’t afford a $10k SEO audit. Had you been at the conference, you could have learned a thing or two about SEO, but instead you’ll have to rely on uncalled for criticism to drive traffic to your site.

  20. Since nobody else will say it I will: it’s an industry promotion which covets glad-handers who want some spotlight in exchange for free promotion. Seeing as craft beer is a big business there’s no greater boon for the industry than free publicity.

    In my opinion craft beer seems to have spawned a new sub-sect for the mentally ill and the chemically dependent. Drinking craft beer and reviewing it isn’t changing the world it’s merely allowing small breweries to survive on the word of mouth of groupies. If you feel like writing about craft beer and congregating to discuss your “craft” by all means do so just don’t call it a crusade or equate it to some political movement or philosophical statement because it comes across as crazy talk. “IIIIIIII haaaave a dream!” No, you have a screw loose.

    It’s beer, people, not a revolution.

    1. There are definitely people who want to just get free beer, and who are jumping onto some band wagon, but then there are people who truly believe that good beer can inspire you to think differently about the way you see food, community, agriculture, and localism. Sure, this can happen in any field, with any product, but beer has a long history of bringing people together. Will it change the world? Who knows, but it’s definitely something that I believe brings people together on more of a micro-level, so in my opinion a philosophical statement about beer isn’t over the top, and doesn’t warrant being equated with mental illness or alcoholism.

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