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— Todd, Founder of BeerAdvocate
Boycotting Is a Slippery Slope
Last month, Sadie, a reader, threatened to stop supporting us because 10 Barrel Brewing, owned by AB InBev (ABI), ran an ad in issue #122 (March 2017). Apparently, we’re supposed to say no to their advertising dollars. Granted, ABI rarely advertises with us these days, but we’re a small business with a traditional print publication that relies on ad revenue. Now, consider the fact that the vast majority of businesses in the industry don’t budget for advertising, and the reality that far too many readers think they’re entitled to free content. Suddenly saying no to money isn’t so easy.
Boycotting big breweries and those that sell out to them seems to be the default reaction from the most passionate and vocal consumers these days, but anyone who knows us knows we’re against it. Asking our readers to boycott a brewery—let alone dozens—will almost always turn them away from us and our viewpoint. Instead, we’d rather bring some awareness to the issues, share our opinion, host the discussion, and allow consumers to decide what’s best for them.
For those who do decide to boycott, here’s where the slope gets slippery.
Do the Sadies of the world boycott all bars, restaurants, and stores that sell ABI products? How about sports stadiums, music venues, and airlines? What about beer distributors and the breweries in their portfolios for doing business with them? Many major publications, websites, and broadcasting networks accept ad dollars from ABI. Does she boycott those, too? Because if she doesn’t, then she’s selectively boycotting, which effectively undermines her own efforts.
Advertising isn’t ownership. It’s paying for access to an audience. We’ve always had a firewall between our content and ads. But what message are we sending you, the reader, by running ads from ABI (or another company you don’t like) and allowing them to associate with our brand? That’s the real question, and one that we’ve asked ourselves numerous times. We still don’t have all of the answers.
Respect Beer. ■