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News AB InBev's ZX Ventures Buys Minority Stake In RateBeer

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Jason, Jun 3, 2017.

  1. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yes, but to fudge the output you both have to have full access to the input and have some reason for doing so that would be of greater value to you than consumer trust. But I still doubt that is their goal. There will be a lot of blowback from many beer folks (as we are starting to see) just because of the minority share sale. Compounding that with being discovered to have manipulated the output for public consumption would render the database almost worthless for their purposes, i.e., predicting consumer behavior information. (After all those of us in this forum are in no way typical or representative of the full range of consumers.) Part of what will keep them relatively honest in the output to the public is that there are other sources of public information available for comparison. (Such comparative analyses have been conducted in the past, they will probably also be done in the future.)

    I suspect, as I think you may, that if Stone had bought a minority share of one of the beer ratings sites there'd be less beer geek outrage. After all, they are perceived as being "one of us" rather than as being "the enemy."
  2. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,067) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Yes, there is indeed a way they could 'manipulate' the data without ownership. But they could not manipulate the 'messaging' aspect without ownership.

    LuskusDelph likes this.
  3. HorseheadsHophead

    HorseheadsHophead Meyvn (1,100) Sep 15, 2014 New York

    There are no clean and neutral partnerships with AB-InBev. They do not play well with others.
    CaptainFleeker and ebin6 like this.
  4. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (3,638) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    Your assumption of consumer trust being important might or might not be a key component to creating value for the company. But, let's assume it is; then I think that trust relies on the quoted statement. I'd be willing to bet a small amount of $$ that less people are going to do or even seek this analysis than would be outraged by the Stone buyout :wink:.

    To that end, I agree as always - we are a small part of the grander beer buying public, and you see we are divided on things like this, meaning the "blast radius" of those who care is a fraction of a fraction.
    cavedave and drtth like this.
  5. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Nice metaphor--minimizing the "blast radius."

    I'd join you in making that bet and might even be willing to even give odds in the neighborhood of 10 to 1.

    Which is why I'd also give odds on the assumption they have no desire to to be seen as manipulating the output to serve such such self serving ends as pushing a subset of brands rather than creating another source of relatively inexpensive measures of consumer preferences, etc. on which to base longer range strategies and futures planning.
    LeRose, cavedave and LambicPentameter like this.
  6. lordofthemark

    lordofthemark Aspirant (290) Jan 28, 2015 Virginia

    Right now there are multiple thrEads in the RB forums discussing this, with loads of criticism of RB. Suggestions to move ratings to other sites. Discussion of how to do so. Not a post deleted AFAICT, let alone a thread.

    I'm no fan of ABI (except when they are telling stories of immigrants). But it would be hard to leave RB. (Maybe that's why ABI invested - to get more sympathy for drinkers of Goose Island, etc)
  7. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (3,638) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    Just curious, as you seem to be shifting between the data and the business in my reading of your posts. Are you arguing part of the business is to sell the data they are collecting? Or simply to analyze the data they retrieve for use in their other businesses as they regurgitate it back out as a free service (or really in "payment" for their input) to the user base/public?
  8. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Not to sell the data at all, but to leave it uncontaminated and even improved somewhat in reliability and quality so that they have source of quality data for their own use. I'm thinking that ZK will let RB go on doing what they have always been doing but now will have access to the dataset for their own purposes and that those purposes have little or nothing to do with such things as advertising on RB or with distorting the public picture that existed before the announcement. Another way to think of what I'm suggesting is, why contaminate a source of fresh water when you can make more use of it fresh and clean than in any other way? Minimize the "blast radius" and when the effects of the blast disappear....
    cjgiant likes this.
  9. JackRWatkins

    JackRWatkins Defender (601) Nov 3, 2014 Alabama
    Beer Trader

    SmittyinUpstate likes this.
  10. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (3,638) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    Ok, I understand. And see that point. I will make one last point and not hijack the thread (will continue to read on, though). Here is what I see: data is a stream. That data streams in, unmolested from the users. It is fed into the analysis you speak of. The stream may be manipulated (bettered) for the purpose of this analysis. It doesn't end there, though. It goes through other streams for other purposes.

    All I am saying is that having the data for the purposes you suggest they want it for (which I will not disagree with) does not mean they can't also do what others fear (and I have mentioned in my few posts). I truly do not think it is that hard to have it both ways, if someone wanted. I think this is the point where I diverge from your thoughts. I don't think there is necessarily only one answer to what could be done with the data, nor that there are inherent pitfalls or negatives to doing more than one.

    To repeat: with a minority share, I am not sure what the AB InBev component can do. It's quite likely they do not have the ability/access to the "other streams." As I will probably never know, I just have to determine my level of skepticism and behave accordingly, as we all do.
  11. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (3,638) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    I lied, one more addition:

    We actually accept such data manipulation here, to varying degree. BA has raw scores fur each category, turns that to a BA 5-point based score (overtly, I believe), and then turns that into a 100-point score (not so overtly). Then there's the best of lists...

    But most of us accept because we feel there is objectivity or don't care. And to your point, I understand that if BA became "untrustworthy" people would stop using it. But being "untrustworthy" presumably doesn't gain BA anything - directly or indirectly, so it (again presumably) is 100% hurtful to go that route. Might not be so if being untrustworthy had some dollar value to it that could outweigh the cost thereof. So of course, if that dollar value doesn't outweigh the cost, there's no reason to fudge things - and that is an entirely conceivable situation.
    drtth likes this.
  12. Pete9094

    Pete9094 Zealot (540) Nov 26, 2001 Pennsylvania
    Supporter Subscriber

    One word...,beeradvocate. There is NO substitute. Period. END OF STORY
    scream and ebin6 like this.
  13. ebin6

    ebin6 Disciple (348) Jun 11, 2009 California

    Looks like it's time to head over to RateBeer and rate good beers poorly and bad beers highly. Let them keep their fingers on the pulse of fake data!
  14. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    If you don't mind wasting your time and it makes you feel better.

    But the net result would probably be lost in the statistical noise that is already there in the existing data. (Or it would mostly have more impact on innocent bystanders, the Brewers of those beers and/or the folks who take ratings at face value.)
    #134 drtth, Jun 6, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
  15. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (1,532) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Supporter Subscriber

    If the site survives, it would be interesting to track AB/InBev brews and see if they improve substantially. All they would have to do is toss low reviews because they're bogus/trolling. To be fair, all craft-oriented beer rating sites probably have undue skewing of macro scores due to macro bashing. Not saying most macro is great, but probably not quite as vile as scores indicate. I admit I am biased towards craft.
    ebin6 likes this.
  16. Alexmc2

    Alexmc2 Aspirant (272) Jul 29, 2006 Massachusetts

    I am not sure that is the objective of this. Pretty sure they didn't purchase to juice their own beer's scores. Advertise them, sure. They'll certainly use the data as part of their innovation ecosystem (along with the many brewpubs they now own). Trend analysis and all that. At the end of the day remember, they don't actually care which ABI beer sells, as long as it is an ABI beer.
  17. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Mostly agree. But I sort of doubt we'll see any major increase in ABI advertising over there for reasons you already have in mind when thinking about "jucing their own beer scores." At the moment that seems to me as though it would dilute the value of access to that particular data set.

    I'd also say that you've captured an important idea with the notion of "innovative ecosystem." That seems to to me to be exactly what ABI wanted to promote by creating ZK in the first place. I also doubt very much that ZK cares about which ABI beer sells. My guess is that they are very much about anticipating, getting out front and leading, or possibly even creating fruitful and/or profitable innovations. Big data analysis is seen as a way of being useful to mining information that contributes to their mission on behalf of ABI.
  18. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,114) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts
    Staff Subscriber

    I find it interesting to see a handful of RateBeer users trying to defend the move Joe T. made while crapping on breweries that no longer want to be a part of their site. Just an observation ...
  19. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Aspirant (280) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    I'm all for choice, and I do support some of the smaller guys (at least, the ones that make decent beer).
    I am not in favor of supporting the smaller guy that does NOT make decent beer, Where I live, there is no shortage of these hacks that should have stuck with making homebrew.
  20. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Jack, can you clarify what you mean by the Observer Effect here. I can think of more than one alternative you may be thinking of. Thanks.
  21. kojevergas

    kojevergas Poo-Bah (7,295) Aug 15, 2010 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    "...our tiny company has helped change the world of beer through our humble and diligent commitment to serving the whole world beer community."

    Here's the thing about humility, folks: the moment you become the one claiming to have it, you've lost it.
    ebin6 likes this.
  22. syppr

    syppr Initiate (26) May 19, 2011 Florida

    I ain't a "folk", Rush.
    oldgrowth likes this.
  23. ebin6

    ebin6 Disciple (348) Jun 11, 2009 California

    Yeah, it was a joke. I'm not creating a RateBeer account anytime soon. It would require way too much concerted effort to actually make a difference, like you said. I'm not sure that many BAs care
    cavedave and drtth like this.
  24. scream

    scream Devotee (429) Dec 6, 2014 Wisconsin

  25. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,114) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts
    Staff Subscriber

    I guess brewers won't be boasting all of their beers are rated from 98-100 ... nor will they be bragging about those awards.
  26. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Meyvn (1,097) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Anytime you are getting "unbiased" data, you need to know who is funding the data. This is no different from Pepsi funding research saying soda isn't harmful. Maybe it's true or maybe it's not, but the source of the money makes the claim suspect enough to disregard, in my opinion.

    A quote from:


    This week, the Journal of the American Medical Association's Internal Medicine reported that the sugar industry paid for scientists in the 1960s to produce research that would downplay the link between sugar and heart disease. The group's payment was not disclosed when the study was published.

    And over the next decade, the sugar industry continued to fund similar research surreptitiously. Today, the food industry continues to spend millions of dollars on nutrition research. One study suggests as much as 90 percent of the studies that are funded by the food industry come up with outcomes that favor the sponsor's interest.
  27. Alexmc2

    Alexmc2 Aspirant (272) Jul 29, 2006 Massachusetts

    Agree completely. Quality is the first consideration. I still think we'll see a shakeout of the smaller players who don't make good beer. Not a style preference thing, just really flawed and inconsistent products. I'm wary of brewpubs a lot of the time now for this exact reason.
    LuskusDelph likes this.
  28. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Excellent point.

    Unfortunately in such cases it's not always easy to figure out whether the "contamination" effect when it exists is the result of investigator dishonesty or a selection bias on the part of the food industry as to which projects to fund. There seems to be some evidence to support both. This, I'd say, is a particularly good reason for investigators to avoid or to declare an apparent conflict of interest.

    Similarly in the case of RateBeer it's hard to be sure at this point whether there is/has been a problem with the integrity of the owner of the site or there were particular reasons that Zx Ventures targeted them for possible acquisition and made them an offer they didn't want to refuse. In either case the conflict of interest, regardless of whether real or apparent, should have been declared at the time of the sale.
    cavedave, cjgiant and jvgoor3786 like this.
  29. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Poo-Bah (2,239) May 21, 2008 Colorado
    Supporter Subscriber Beer Trader

    The consumer data is invaluable; a view to what's going on in tap rooms (there is no syndicated data source for that), what styles are hot (so they can copy them), what breweries have brands that travel well (so they can buy them) - and probably more. Its also another way for them to touch consumers since just buying a lot of TV ads doesn't get the reach it once did.

    Also a bit of a conundrum for me is that all the stuff ABI and Molson Coors (MillerCoors) are doing is really "hurting" craft beer and the craft beer community. Facts don't seem to support that conclusion: In the last 10 years those two breweries have lost 27 million barrels of business (that's bigger than the entire "craft" beer segment) and most of that 10 share point loss is at the gain of "craft" beer, Mexican imports and, to a lesser extent, other imports. Seems to me if you're a "craft" brewer or support the "craft" community, you'd want the meddling to continue; A) so you could cash in big time if they buy you out or B) just hang in there and cash in on the growth.
  30. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Meyvn (1,097) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Supporter Beer Trader

    I completely agree. I've never been an ABI hater. I think if them as the Walmart of the beer world, and I still shop at Walmart. However, this seems like a different level. I don't know if the data will be contaminated, and I'm sure I'll never be able to find out. But simply the appearance/possiblity is enough to make the data invalid. It's why I try to go to independent ratings sites to read about potential purchases rather than reading the reviews on a manufacturer's site or even Walmart's site. Can I trust the TV reviews on the Toshiba website? I have no idea.
    cjgiant and drtth like this.
  31. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yes, we use many of the same strategies, although I will also read the site reviews (e.g. Walmart, Target, etc.) as a source of information to be taken with a grain of salt.

    As I was suggesting/arguing earlier in the thread, I seriously doubt that the purpose of the acquistion is to contaminate the data. Zx is charged by ABInBev with exploring "disruptive innovations." That is not best accomplished by "faking" data or deliberately skewing it to how you want it to appear, and may even be counter to facilitating disruptive innovation. You don't get new ideas by listening only to yourself repeating what you already believe or want to be true.
  32. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Meyvn (1,097) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Supporter Beer Trader

    I agree. I'm not much for conspiracy theories. Just seems shady.
    LuskusDelph likes this.
  33. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,067) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    As has been discussed it is difficult to determine whether the data is 'Invalid". I can report that for me the data is now not trusted.

    Now that the ABI investment has become public knowledge (8 months post the business deal), another unknown is how 'effective' the RateBeer website will be going forward. A number of breweries are attempting to break their ties with RateBeer, A few folks have posted they will no longer participate on RateBeer. I suspect in the near future we will be reading about more 'disruptions' due to the disclosure of the ABI partial ownership in RateBeer.

    I suppose it will take time to see whether the ABI investment in RateBeer was a worthwhile/useful venture for ABI.

    jvgoor3786 likes this.
  34. jvgoor3786

    jvgoor3786 Meyvn (1,097) May 28, 2015 Arkansas
    Supporter Beer Trader

    Thanks, Jack. I think your use of the words "trusted" and "reliable" are probably better than "invalid," as I stated. I'm guessing that it will be useful to ABI, in some way. I'm assuming they have a large enough research department to predict the backlash and then make a decision the investment is still worth it. As it stands, they got nine months of use without any backlash.
    VABA and drtth like this.
  35. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,225) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Minor technical point.

    Data can't really be valid unless it is first reliable. But just because it is reliable doesn't guarantee that it is also valid. So really the only data that can be trusted, regardless of the source, are data that are or can be shown to be both reliable and valid.
    LuskusDelph and jvgoor3786 like this.
  36. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,067) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    It would be interesting to know if that was their original 'plan': invest in RateBeer with the understanding that there would be no public disclosure of the business deal and do what they wanted to do until 'the jig was up'.

    Needless to say but we do not know how much ABI invested and we really do not know what they have been up to for the past 8-9 months so it would be pure specualtion what their ROI was (is).

    reefer_bob, jvgoor3786 and drtth like this.
  37. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (4,540) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota
    Supporter Subscriber

    Regardless of ZX Ventures' objectives and regardless of AB's involvement and level of control with ZX Ventures the move casts doubt of the future objectivity of Ratebeer.com. The injection of new capital may do great things for Ratebeer.com but I will wonder now when an AB beer gets a good review.
    Lone_Freighter likes this.
  38. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (4,540) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota
    Supporter Subscriber

    If Daddy Warbucks is paying you to carry his golf clubs, are you going to say bad things about his golf game?
    LuskusDelph likes this.
  39. marklyn

    marklyn Initiate (5) Apr 10, 2013 Texas

    We're done. Sorry, this cannot be an unbiased purchase. BA, full steam ahead.
  40. scotorum

    scotorum Poo-Bah (1,508) May 28, 2013 Massachusetts

    Especially coming on the heels of Heineken buying the other 50% of Lagunitas, this does tend to encourage an aroma of market aggrandizement. Buying a brew news and review site to merely review data already on public display at no charge does not seem very wise for the bottom line. However if the plan is to gain some control over news and reviews, it does. Rate Beer never appealed to me personally as much as BA because not only was their software less easy to use IMO, the heavy presence not to say dominance of foreign news and reviews was pretty useless except for those travelling to those countries or unless the product was widely imported into the US. To an increasingly global-market-oriented company like AB-InBev, perhaps it suggests an interest in improving worldwide production/distribution. But it still leaves a bad odor of potential information manipulation, and deity knows we are getting enough of that already in the realm of politics.
    SJDinAudubon likes this.
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