Beer, Blogs And Bias

from the i'll-drink-to-that dept

The Wall Street Journal has an article focusing on a blog set up by Miller Brewing Company called Brew Blog. There are a few different, interesting points worth discussing here. First, the blog isn’t used as a blog about what’s going on at Miller Brewing. Instead, Miller hired an experienced reporter, and told him to just cover the beer industry as if he were a beat reporter. In other words, it’s reporting news — and even breaking stories on the competition. In fact, it revealed that main rival Anheuser-Busch was planning a new beer before A-B was able to make the announcement itself. This is certainly a recognition of how content is advertising. The blog clearly isn’t “advertorial.” It’s full-on reporting about the industry, in a way that’s interesting and relevant to those in the industry.

What may be even more interesting, though, is what the article says about journalism. In an age in which journalists are whining that their jobs are disappearing, here’s yet another example of where suddenly there are new types of jobs for journalists appearing every day. But, even more interesting, is a quote at the end of the article highlighted by David Card. It’s from Harry Schuhmacher, the editor and publisher of a fee-based trade publication on the beer industry:

“I tell Miller you’re subsidizing a free publication, and it hurts the trade press,” he says. “But they don’t care.”…Mr. Schuhmacher adds that he writes fewer positive pieces about Miller than he once did because he knows Brew Blog will always publish the same stories.

Think about this for a bit. People complain that when you have a company-sponsored publication it will inevitably be biased — but the sponsorship of that site is totally open and in the clear. The site’s content stands for itself. Yet, at the same time, a supposedly “objective” traditional journalist is admitting that he writes fewer stories about Miller because he’s upset that it’s competing with his own publication. From that, it would certainly seem like the Brew Blog is a lot more credible (it’s biases are out in the open), while this fee-based trade pub admits that story choices are sometimes based on personal vendettas.

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Companies: anheuser-busch, miller brewing

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Comments on “Beer, Blogs And Bias”

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anon says:


Did you check with Harry Schuhmacher, to confirm that he has been correctly quoted and paraphrased by David Kesmodel (WSJ)? If so, some direct quotes, or at least a description of the research, should have appeared in the article. These are strong allegations against a media professional (Harry Schuhmacher).
Absent the research, the allegations in this article rely solely on the WSJ article by David Kesmodel; as such, this is hearsay.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Sources?

Did you check with Harry Schuhmacher, to confirm that he has been correctly quoted and paraphrased by David Kesmodel (WSJ)?

Huh? No. Of course not. We write these posts based on what’s reported. If Mr. Schuhmacher feels he was quoted incorrectly, he has every right and every ability to speak up about it. But, the WSJ certainly is a rather trustworthy source.

It’s not “hearsay.” This isn’t a court of law. This was based on a well-respected publication who directly quoted the person in question.

Larry says:


I drink Miller Lite. I don’t read trade publications, pay attention to advertising or read “beer blogs”.

Why am I commenting you might ask? Well I guess even if I’m in the minority, just who is swayed by this type of “advertising”? A “journalist” or “blogger” doesn’t matter to me. If a friend says a beer (pick your product) is great, I’ll try it and make my own judgement.

Sorry for all the crap, I’ve been drinking.

Dean Landolt (profile) says:

I call Hanlon's Razor on this one...

“Mr. Schuhmacher adds that he writes fewer positive pieces about Miller than he once did because he knows Brew Blog will always publish the same stories”

My read on this quote is slightly different from yours — it seems to be saying that Miller’s disincentivizing him to give them positive press not because he’s bitter but because he knows the angle’s already covered.

It’s still a pretty pathetic outlook, but I don’t think the quote necessarily shows too much malice…

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh yes this is the future of journalism competing opinion pages that are paid for by competing corporate interests. No need for independent, unbiased coverage on a wide variety of topics

I never said this was THE future of journalism. It’s just one way that journalism is changing. And, as for “independent, unbiased coverage” wasn’t that what that other guy was supposed to be doing… yet showed he wasn’t?

In fact, if anything having corporate sponsored journalists should INCREASE the demand and ability for independent journalists. If you get enough competing biased sources, then there will be a great place for an independent third party to sort through the bias and present the actual results.

These things aren’t mutually exclusive, and I’m surprised that you think they are. Are you a journalist by trade?

Karl says:

Re: Re: Re:

I understand the economic rationale to argue that content is advertising, but I’m not sure that this incessant blurring of the lines between marketing and journalism (which used to be a quest to get to the truth) will turn out well….

Exxon’s human rights abuses blog?

Halliburton’s international military update blog?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just a passing note. Since August of last year that blog has generated a total of 51 responses. It is not at all clear, based upon the lack of responses (admitedly not an accurate measurement of how many persons actually read it) that it can fairly be said it poses any threat to a printed trade publication.

Yeah, I certainly wasn’t suggesting that this was a threat to the trade press, except for the trade publishers who admit that they’re biased against the site.

Also, with such a focused topic, I don’t think the number of readers really matter that much. It’s a very small audience to begin with, and the number of comments probably don’t mean much at all.

We discovered here, in the early years, that you need to reach a rather large critical mass before you can expect comments to occur regularly. So, sites that don’t get regular comments may still have an awful lot of readers — just somewhere below that critical mass line.

DonD says:

News Business

WSJ = NewsCorp.
Newscorp = Fox News
CBS = Viacom
ABC = Disney

America has never had an unbiased news source. Never. News is a product. Successful products become brands. Brands need to be protected and mined for increasing revenue.

Of course, I’d prefer the not-so-well-hidden agenda of NPR or Frontline (how can educated people endure such idiocy), over the not-so-well-hidden agenda of Fox News (God and the wealthy need to be worshiped and obeyed)The terrifying thing today is how thinly it’s being disguised…and how few people care.

Rhinehard (user link) says:

MBCo. Brew Blog

If you think that the posts in Miller’s Brew Blog are objective and purely pro-industry then you are very, very gullible. Go back and read the posts again. There has never been a critical post about Miller. Now, read the posts about A/B. All negative!!

You wrote…. “Miller hired an experienced reporter, and told him to just cover the beer industry as if he were a beat reporter” ….if you believe that, there is an awful lot you don’t know about the beer business.

The posts in Brew Blog are purely pro-Miller and anti-A/B.

If I was Harry I would check and see if the Brew Blog author actually pays for his subscription to Beer Business Daily or if he pirates his like many of his fellow employees.

Rhinehard Heileman

TCB (user link) says:

Everyone’s biased,and consumers need to always consider the source of “news”, and who is behind it.

Regardless of the angle, Miller is doing OK with that site – they’re obviously trying to get some search engine traffic that they otherwise might not get if the blog wasn’t there.

FWIW, Google gives the homepage a PR5 and I would bet they get decent traffic even though there aren’t many comments.

Kareem D says:

This is quite ridiculous. Even the reporters have a monkey business with this kind of issues. The number of Americans getting a payday loan these days is going up, but so is the price of Super Bowl ads. The price has steadily increased since Super Bowl 29, when the price climbed to over $1 million per 30-second spot – before the Brett Favre era – today’s price for Super Bowl commercials is $3 million. Perennial favorites Anheuser-Busch will still be there, as they have bought four and a half minutes worth to the tune of $27 million, so they aren’t hurting for a payday loan, but other stalwarts of Super Bowl ads, such as FedEx and General Motors have decided to punt their usual ad space away. Read more about Super Bowl ads in this article from your payday loan source.



I take offense to the recent Miller beer commercials that support the Obama philsophy of taking from those that have worked hard and giving to those that just don’t want to work. Miller beer is no longer allowed in my store and I have put up a sign explaining the reasoning behind it. Those customers wanting to Miller beer will have to go somewhere else to get it. Miller has a right to voice their support to whomever they wish as I have a right to sell those products I support.

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