I’ve just received the first email from the new BeerPulse service that Adam Nason is putting together and it sort of captures the new world of the online blogosphere in my mind, one in which original content is largely aggregated from other sources, including mainstream media. It also immediately raised to mind a few issues I hadn’t previously considered.
Perhaps it is my own self-selection, but it seems (and I am largely without empirical proof on this one) that the cause of beer blogging has slowed considerably in the last year or two. I’m not sure whether you’d see this reflected in the attendance logs for the Beer Bloggers Conference, but that zealous crowd might not be particularly reflective of the larger amateur beer writing community. You can, however, observe the creeping inclusion of corporate beer bloggers into the conference’s attendance ranks, so that skews attendance upwards.
The Sessions beer writing project turned 5 in March, having now endured 64 sessions (I have somehow escaped ever having participated). Oddly enough, BeerAdvocate Magazine is now celebrating its 64th iteration as well. And as one of its columnists, I can honestly say that some months the ideas do not come without a fight. Perhaps writing online about beer has just grown stale (I still hate the term ‘beer blogger’ as it comes across as a pejorative when uttered by most people, myself likely included. I still correct people when they apply it to me, especially as this article constitutes only my second original post on this site in the last 6 months — so I figure real bloggers would object). I’m coming upon 10 years of having published articles about beer online, having registered BeerScribe.com in July 2002. But my website even back then was largely about reprinting my previous print writing. So I’m not sure I have ever really adopted or adapted to beer blogging in its traditional sense.
It also seems that the number of contributors to the Session seem to have dropped off some over the years. But, again, that is a small, hard-core crowd, as it is with the Beer Bloggers Conference. So it is hard to judge whether that has any merit. In the end, it just feels to me as if the quantity and content of beer blogging has diminished in the past year or two. Perhaps the novelty has worn off or people have just gone back to just drinking beer.
So back to BeerPulse (formerly BeerNews.org). I briefly had the chance to meet Adam while in San Diego for the Craft Brewers Conference and his site is a valuable addition to the craft beer information marketplace, especially his original reportage. But beyond his original material, BeerPulse has received some criticism for being an aggregator service, namely one that simply republishes/redirects to content and original reporting on craft beer found elsewhere on the net, with only a quick aside or comment lead-in.
Thinking about the new BeerPulse service and direction, I’m left with one question:
Has the news aggregator killed beer blogging or has it just run its course?
It does seem to make the whole process of engaging with the world of craft beer a lot easier (and frankly lazier for the receiver of information). I wonder whether such services have a negative impact on the participation by so-called citizen or amateur bloggers, who now compete with local television affiliates, newspapers, and corporate media purveyors for scoops about their favorite breweries.
To be clear, BeerPulse certainly provides a service in its aggregation efforts. I could of course set up hundreds or thousands of Google Alerts for every conceivable brewery, beer, bar, or event combination and then sift through the results, but that sounds like a horrible way to spend some time. So I’m happy somebody else does it for me. Back when the mainstream media spent little time covering the craft beer segment, one only had to keep up with individual beer blogs. While that seemed like a chore, and in the days before Google Reader, beer tech saint Jonathan Surratt put together the excellent but now-defunct Real Simple Beer Syndication. I still miss RSBS because it didn’t allow me to filter which blogs I reviewed. They were all there for the perusing. While I once at least scanned the headlines for hundreds upon hundreds of beer blogs, I now self-select and only take a look at about 20 beer blogs.
Of course, I could be very wrong about the current health and continued success of beer blogging. I do receive a couple of emails every week from aspiring beer bloggers asking me to take a look at their blog. So, for once, check out the blog from today’s emailer, Ben from Toronto (whose post recounts how someone I’ve never met called me an idiot a few times regarding my thoughts on beer cocktails).
And there are of course plenty of beer bloggers who have been at it and stayed at it for a considerable length of time, including my Internet brother-by-another-server Alan McLeod. Why not check out what his bedside table beer book library looked like in 2003, comprising his first beer blog post. It’s pretty amazing that he has been able to continually write a handful of posts every week, often in an entertaining and engaging fashion. I couldn’t have done it for a month let alone nearly a decade.
And I think Alan summed it up best with the last line from his first post:
“Funny, suddenly I can think of something I’d rather be doing than typing…”
-Article for once was not previously published in BeerAdvocate Magazine.