Beer Bloggers’ Conference gets down to business!

Alright, enough of this beer drinking and partying and hanging out with Jim Koch and drinking all his Utopias. It was Saturday morning, and although many of the attendees seemed a bit more subdued then they had been at last night’s Heavy Seas’ Pyrate Party, it was clearly time to get down to business!

Seminar 1: The State of Beer Blogging

This was presented by Cindy Molchany, one of the conference organizers. A month before the conference, the thousand beer bloggers registered on the Beer Bloggers Conference website (even those that were not attending the conference) had been asked to fill out a survey. Cindy reviewed the data collected:

  1. The gender of conference attendees was 65% male, 35% female. (Although that may make the conference seem like a “guy thing”, female representation at the conference was actually substantially higher than would normally be seen in the general beer-drinking population.)
  2. The vast majority of beer bloggers (85%) are married and work fulltime (75%), but most don’t have kids (59%).
  3. Beer bloggers tend to be professionals (as opposed to service industry, blue collar workers, etc.)
  4. Half of beer bloggers don’t have any background with beer (other than as drinkers).
  5. Almost one-third (29%) have some writing background. (I am interested that, on the flip-side of the coin, over two-thirds of bloggers chose to start writing about beer despite having no writing experience — that’s brave.)
  6. Julia Herz of the Brewers’ Association had suggested the night before that we blog because of a passion for beer; her assertion was backed up by numbers: 89% of us had responded that this was our primary reason for blogging.
  7. Sadly, only 8% of bloggers make money from blogging. (I am part of the 92% who do not.)
  8. Most beer bloggers also use other forms of social media: 89% use Twitter and 67% use Facebook. (However, only 2% use Google+ and 1% use Pinterest.)
  9. Twitter was judged to to be the most effective at promoting a blog, followed by Facebook.
  10. The length of blog posts has increased, social media use has increased, photo use has increased, the number of people you follow has increased, but number of posts has decreased. Huh.

Cindy also mentioned a few other points that beer bloggers should keep in mind:

  • Google uses a couple of algorithms called Panda and Penguin to rate your website in terms of whether it is a high quality website that deserves to be at the top of the search results, or a barrel scraper that can be listed waaaay back in the pack. In a nutshell, Panda and Penguin look for signs of “black hat Search Engine Optimisation” — that is, clever but evil ways to boost the search ranking for a page of spam. The way to boost your blog’s search rating the proper way is to rely on original content. Don’t copy and paste from another page or review — type your own thoughts!
  • Get your photo on your site. Turns out people like to see who’s doing the typing.
  • If you are interested in going down the self-publishing path with some idea of making money from this crazy game, there are a number of good self-help resources that will assist you through the publishing labyrinth. (And here’s a big hint: the world is drowning in books about wine, and wine & food pairings. But there are huge gaps in the beer side of things. If you are a good writer, there’s an opportunity for you.)

At the end of the session, Carla Companion made the following suggestion from the floor: If you want more traffic, review a popular macro beer, then recommend some better craft beer alternatives.

Seminar 2: Industry Blogger Panel

In the States, there are a fair number of craft breweries that are big enough to employ a person to write a blog. (In Canada, there are very few craft breweries that are large enough that they can afford to pay someone to write a company blog. Steam Whistle is one of the exceptions. But wouldn’t that be a sweet gig?) Four professional bloggers sat down to chat about their experiences: Anne-Fitten Glenn (Oskar Blues Brewery), Troika Brodsky (Schlafly Beer), Cambria Griffith (The Bruery), and Devin Mason (Woodchuck Hard Cider). Very interesting reminiscences. One potentially valuable takeaway from Devin: If you are looking to build a niche blog, cider sales grew by 85% last year — throw in a few cider reviews and it will expose you to a new audience.

Seminar 3: The Mechanics of Beer Pouring

Franck Evers, the Heineken Global Draught Master, was the amusing host of this presentation. From the glass to the pour to removing the very top of the foam with a knife, Franck explained every step and why it was necessary. (For instance, apparently the very top of the head is very bitter due to bitter alpha acids that are carried to the top of the head. Removing the top of the foam with a knife removes this bitterness. On the other hand, I know some hopheads who would fight Franck tooth and nail on this one.)

And then we suddenly realized we had gone the entire morning without a beer. It must be time for lunch…

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