Monday, 10 May 2010

How important is the Beer Blogosphere?

Pete Brown is encouraging us to be more controversial. Beer blogs are getting very boring it would seem; talking about great beer we've drunk is all well and good, but he thinks we should discuss issues that are more pressing. There are plenty of issues to discuss, so let's get on and do it. But is there any point if we are just a few lonely souls huddled over our keyboards because we have little else to do? There certainly would be little point if it is just a closed loop of beer enthusiasts sounding off at each other completely detached from the real world. I don't think this is the case. OK, perhaps it is partly, but I do still think there is relevance to a greater audience.

There would be no point in blogging if nobody read blogs. It might be that some people only blog for their own fun and it's a nice bonus if there are others who read them. Not me, I am competitive and seek attention, if I knew nobody read this blog I would stop, it's as simple as that. However, how do I know my blog has any influence at all? Perhaps it would be useful to know how representative the collective views of the beer blogosphere are compared to a wider beer enthusiasts perspective.

In reality, I think that measuring this is a little difficult. I know that my blog gets around 75 unique visitors per day, I have no way of knowing, reliably, how long each visitor spends reading because if only one page is down-loaded then my stats counts this as "less than 5 seconds", you can read quite a lot with only one page load.

It can be estimated, because I post, on average, about once every three days, that each post is read by more than 200 or so people. 75 x 3 = 225. The bloggers who post more often seem to get proportionally more hits, based on the comments on my last post. So I expect Tandleman, Curmudgeon, Mark Dredge and Pete Brown have several hundred people read each of their posts.

I estimate that around 50% of the hits on my blog are repeat visitors. Again, this is hard to be sure about because it relies on a cookie being placed on your hard disk, and presumably you need to resisting the urge to eat it before you visit again, otherwise you look like a new visitor. Also, the same people might be reading the blog on different computers, my stats have no way of knowing this. The numbers of repeat visitors seems to be greater than the number of commenters by a reasonable factor. Additional anecdotal evidence of silent readers comes from the number of people I meet who have read my blog, but don't comment on-line. These are not an insignificant number. Again, I expect more prolific and popular bloggers than myself will correspondingly have greater readership.

I suspect that beer blogging does have a reasonable influence and more importantly an influence with a younger, more internet savvy population, the future beer drinkers.

The more pressing issue of whether or not the beer blogosphere accurately represents the view of a wider beer drinking audience is perhaps a little more difficult to be sure of. However, as bloggers are the more internet savvy proportion of beer enthusiasts it would be reasonable to suggest we might also represent part of the future of craft beer in this country.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you decided to pose some of these questions regarding beer blogging. I'm a novice beer blogger (Beer Epiphany has been around about 4 months now) and only a two year veteran of drinking craft beer.

I often think to myself what is the point of blogging about beer? Just because I like a beer doesn't mean anyone reading my review will necessarily enjoy the beer too. So, who cares what one random person thinks about a particular beer? Well, whilst pondering this I have taken a gander at my own beer blog reading.

I read beer blogs because beer is my passion. I do care what strangers are saying about the beer currently residing in my glassware. Breweries don't always tons of information up on their own sites and bloggers often have useful or otherwise relevant info on a particular brew.

One of my posts where I reviewed Unibroue Trois Pistoles I detailed information about the label art and name of the beer. None of this information is available on the brewer's website.

I'm not seeking fame or fortune (but the free beer received in the mail from breweries is a plus). I blog about beer solely because it allows me to share my passion for beer with a likeminded crowd or with newbies who stumble across Beer Epiphany via a Google Search.

Blogging has led me to have a greater appreciation for the nuances of beer, brewing, and craft beer culture. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the beer blogosphere is important. As the craft beer community grows and attracts more followers, us 1st-generation bloggers will be leading the way for craft beer for the next generation.

I apologize for rambling, but your post really got my wheels turning. I'm not sure if I even answered any of the questions you posed, but I gave it my best shot!


RedNev said...

I think Pete Brown shouldn't be so prescriptive. If he finds some blogs boring, then he doesn't have to read them, which applies to us all, of course. I don't usually read blogs that only describe beers and nothing else, but such blogs have their readers. The beer blogs I look at can be quite distinctive in tone and content. If we all did what Pete Brown wants, wouldn't the blogs just appear more samey?

Ed said...

In answer to the question I would say "not very". I don't think beer blogs interest a lot of people.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Wow im surprised you don't get more, i love your blog and you are certainly one of the characters of the beer/blogging world!!

I think traffic to sites can depend a lot on the website address, i get loads of random visits due to the name of the blog, i would love to think that all those who show up in the stats actually read the stuff i wrote but i know full well they don't

i write about beer because its fun and its a great record of how my tastes change etc, i have a website because that's what i do for a job so it seems natural for me to have an online "presence"

I read blogs like yours, Real ale reviews, pencil and spoon, brewing reality, tandleman, scoop, cooking lager etc etc because i usually enjoy what they are writing.

beer as a whole is just something that interests me and without blogs it would be hard to keep up with whats going on and hard to satisfy my thirst for knowledge...oh yeah and without beer blogging we wouldn't have twissup or beerswap...

Barry M said...

I get of lot of people visiting looking for ammunition (not really!) :)

Eddie86 said...

I'm one of those who blogs because it clears my head. If people read it, great. If they don't, no problems. I find it quite relaxing putting 'pen to paper' so to speak.

I also blog to learn - if somebody who knows more about something disagrees with something I've said and tells me through the comments, then I've learnt.

As for how influential blogs are - each to their own. There's a few I've read and thought 'not for me thank you'. And there's some that I regularly check every day.

Used in conjunction with twitter though, I think blogs may become more and more influential as more people get used to using them.

Mark said...

Dave, I think you are right that blogging represents part of the future of craft brewing. The thing is, it's such a new medium and we're still working out how relevant blogs actually are. The fact that the BBC and Sky use blogs and publicise them gives us a lot more weighting and that's important. We may be a little closed-loop at the moment but I would hope this is just a stage in the development of online beer writing. What is key, I think, is that beer has found its medium; wine had traditional media, it works because of it's more formal nature where one person can make or break a wine's success, but beer is the drink of everyone and that is why the internet is the ideal platform (because writing online isn't a one-sided lecture of newspaper journalism, it's a multi-way conversation). Sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate are good things, as are blogs and forums on homebrew sites and things like that, we just need the readers to catch up with us a bit and play a part in the proceedings.

Oh, and the reason I write a blog is for the fame, the hot chicks and shit loads of free beer. Obv.

Tandleman said...

Damn. I only ever get the hot chicks. Where do I get the free beer from?

Chunk said...

Missing the point slightly here, but ...

"Again, this is hard to be sure about because it relies on a cookie being placed on your hard disk, and presumably you need to resisting the urge to eat it before you visit again, otherwise you look like a new visitor."

What do you use to track your stats? I would assume that unique visitors are identified by IP address data that's logged on the server not the client side. People eating their cookies wouldn't impact this and the results you get should be pretty accurate.

As you say, people using different machines would skew the stats, but not by a lot.

Sid Boggle said...

Interesting what Mark says. He's right about the medium - I wonder if that might be more to do with the fact that print media doesn't really 'do' beer. And blogging is relatively unmediated as a form of communication. Or if it is, then it's biased towards beer.

I don't think sites like BA and RB are 'good things' but they are large online communities, some of whom will be looking for, or trying to work out, their views on a whole range of related topics.

As to the why? I like Eddie's reason.

StringersBeer said...

I suppose it depends what you mean by "influence", Dave. Does beer blogging (your blog in particular) affect a significant number of purchasing choices? Does it lead to people developing new ideas and opinions about beer? Is it entertaining? Does it matter if any of the above are true?

Clearly, it's not "important" in the way that 3rd world debt, the climate change debate and Malaria are important - but fun is fun.

Cooking Lager said...

Does it matter whether beer blogging is important, influential or much read? It matters that it is fun for those that either read, write or both.

Mark, said...

@Chunk Depends if it's server side reports of a JS based analytics packages (e.g. Google Analytics). If you former I would imagine you're correct.

If the latter there's thardsands of things that could go wrong, but in rality with enough numbers you can use the stats for accurate trending. I don't think many people regularly go on a cookie binge.

haddonsman said...

As with other forms of marketing, beer blogging has its part to play in promoting 'craft' beer (and that's the last time I'll use that phrase. I need to find an alternative).

The danger for me is that beer blogging teeters on becoming a scene that celebrates itself.

On the question of influence... I don't think influence is necessarily measured in visitor numbers and comments. If my blog inspires someone - even just one person - to visit a pub I love, try a beer I love, share a laugh and maybe learn something interesting, then I'm content.

Simon @ Reluctant Scooper

DJ said...

I am very new to blogging myself (4 days to be exact) I take Petes words as good advice to follow if I want to keep my Blog interesting and get others to read. There must be a lot of other people out there like me who have looked to the blogs to fulfill there need to find out about beers and beer related stories. We don't have a duty to be interesting and informative to these people but it certainly doesn't hurt.

RedNev said...

I find myself agreeing with Cooking Lager's comment on 11 May. He's right, and some people are really getting slightly pretentious.

Leigh said...

Yeah, it does - because (narcissism aside), its a simple way of connecting with like-minded people. As a business startup, you'd want to have that connection. At your fingertips you have a decent gauge of people who are fanatical about beer, and probably willing to further your cause. In short, I think brewers, along with any business, need it. The flip side of that is if an unkind, inaccurate or out-of-context comment or post is made. All of a sudden, it can reach a lot of people. Hopefully those ones are disregarded.

rich (them apples) said...

I think beer blogging is very important.

I write a food blog, with some beer thrown in for good measure.

There's certainly a market for it. When I look down my stats and analyse who came looking for what, it's clear that there are a lot of people out there looking for information about beer. The demand is clearly there.