In the aftermath of the news that ZX Ventures has owned a minority share of RateBeer for the better part of a year, many breweries asked to have their breweries removed from the site. Many users said they would never use the site again and every conspiracy theory you could dream up was debated on the Internet. Since we broke the story, we chimed in plenty—we had a couple months to think through it all before anyone else, after all. Of course, the Fervent Few wanted to chime in with their thoughts on RateBeer and the ensuing backlash as well, and they did a great job of holding a logical line.
Does it make sense for breweries to want their data removed from RateBeer?
“I think Dogfish Head and others are completely missing the value AB is seeking in RateBeer. I hear a lot about the "integrity" of the ratings and that somehow AB ratings will be pushed up. That seems myopic. The value is in understanding consumer behavior. When they buy, when they rate, where they drink, etc. AB wants unmolested data to make decisions with. If all of the sudden the ratings on RateBeer were grossly different than say Beer Advocate, then you know AB is messing with something. If I was Dogfish Head I would be pushing to get my hands on similar data. Their production changed a whopping -1% last year, which means they need to figure out how to get ahead of the curve again.”
“What if Sam and Dogfish Head are not missing the true point of the AB investment. Perhaps they are using the integrity point to convince consumers not to rate Dogfish Head on RateBeer thus devaluing the consumer insight that AB would otherwise have gained.”
“Did the breweries ask to be included on the site in the first place? If the answer is no... then they have no place asking to be removed. What does that even mean, to be removed from what, all internet discussion about a publicly available product on a website seems a bit ridiculous when you really think about what they are asking for.”
Follow-up question: Is the backlash justified? Will RateBeer be tainted by their new owners?
“It's a play for consumer review information, not some evil scheme to manipulate ratings. It doesn't look good that they tried to keep it quiet but if their goal is to become a more data-driven organization then that's something every brewer should be thinking about.”
“Another piece to this is how quickly AB can use the data... with beer styles and trends moving so quickly, I wonder if they can analyze the data, decide on a path, develop a new beer/brand/line, and launch in time to capitalize…”
“I don't know if the backlash will matter. Are all the people upset about this active users? I consider myself pretty into the game, I don't beer trade or anything, but being a brewer and consumer of copious amounts of craft beer I have never once rated a beer on the site, so I'm unsure if the new ownership will matter to a great majority of the people who are active on the site.”
Follow-up question: RateBeer is not the only user driven beer that Anheuser-Busch works with. Untappd is full of promotions and badges for drinking their beer. Is there a difference between paying for promotions on Untappd and the investment in RateBeer?
“Sponsored Badges are upfront though. They say who is advertising them and it gives the drinker the choice to ignore it. Why deny your favourite platform from making money because you're not paying for it?
Drinkers however didn't know about the RateBeer purchase, some feel hurt, would RateBeer have ever announced the purchase if they could of hid it?”
“There is a major difference between something upfront (like the Untappd relationship) vs something that was hidden for so long (as in RateBeer). RateBeer should have just been straight forward here and it would have saved some heartache.”
Follow-up question: There is one more big question about RateBeer and Chris Koentz asks it
“I am wondering if every one of the breweries who are backing Sam and this anti RateBeer thing now will decline an invite to the awards ceremony, return their awards if they have received them. Seeing as the site was technically already owned by ZX as of the 2017 awards will this year's winners send them back, are we really skeptical that Hill Farmstead won again?”
So now it's up to breweries and beer drinkers. Will the RateBeer awards still be prestigious? Are the ratings meaningful? RateBeer could transform into something completely different or maybe ZX will find a way to keep the site relevant and stay the single source for great beer reviews.