Monday, April 23, 2018

Hired Guns

About a year ago I wrote an article about my growing concern for a new tendency among my fellow whisk(e)y bloggers but decided not to publish it, because I was concerned that I might appear supercilious.

Ever since writing the article, the tendency only seems to have increased, gaining a foothold, allowing the beast to grow stronger, so maybe, after all, it’s time to speak my mind.

Over the last couple of years, a large numbers of new whisk(e)y bloggers, whisk(e)y critics, whisk(e)y podcasters, and whisk(e)y writers have crawled out of the woodworks and joined the game, and that’s all perfectly good news, the more the merrier! But among them, lives a new breed, whose prevailing moral and ethics seems to be all about what they can gain for themselves, instead of what they can give, in the end, letting the consumers pay the price.

Whiskey continues to grow in popularity, and every single day a new whiskey fan is born. As a direct result of this, more and more whiskey enthusiasts are reading whiskey blogs. Again, this is all good news, but the marketing department of a wide variety of whiskey brands are beginning to realize that the consumers have changed direction, and are heading for the online whiskey blogs, so instead of focusing entirely on expensive advertising in the printed whiskey magazines, they are now trying to buy their way into whiskey blogs, by offering bloggers free products or money.

The whiskey industry itself is defiantly not blind to the facts that whiskey has become a lifestyle, and an increasing numbers of consumers are going from “being the guy who use to pick up the same brand of whiskey at the local grocery store”, to someone who is developing whiskey into a passion, and is educating themselves by reading about whiskey. That's exactly why the industry is paying attention to what the bloggers have to say. Otherwise, I highly doubt that they would care one bit about, what any given blogger has to say about them or their products.

Some bloggers have already ceased the opportunity to make a fast buck while the party is still going strong, by advertising and speaking highly of products and brands. I know for a fact, that some doesn’t seem to think that there is any kind of problem in this development, but I strongly disagree. Because as soon as we allow brands to pay us cool cash or sending us free stuff in return for branding their products in a positive way, or we no longer are able to speak our minds freely without thoughts for pleasing anyone or saying things that could damage our relationship between ourselves and a brand name, or we simply withdraw ourselves from pointing out the negative things about any given whiskey or brand, we lose our integrity. Because, if we don’t point out the flaws, how can anyone trust us, when we say that something is great?

Whisky bloggers who are accepting samples or sample bottles to review isn’t necessarily a problem on its own, as long as the bloggers are absolutely open about their relationship, and are willing to accept the product in exchange for a fair, honest and impartial review.
But if the readers/consumers aren’t being represented by honest opinions and reviews, and the bloggers aren’t offering their readers full transparency, in the end, the readers are being tricked into spending their hard earned money on a whiskey, that might is of less quality than the blogger made it out to be.      

I truly believe that whiskey bloggers do have an important saying and are the watchdogs in the world of whiskey, but if we start to take their bait, we are simply becoming puppets on a string, and that would be the end of the independent whisky blogs.
The independent whiskey blogs are written by fans for fans, and if we are all slowly starting to become spokespersons for the whiskey industry and start to speak highly of brands that are paying our rents, we might as well close up and throw away the key.

My hope is that we all start using our better judgment and common sense before the damage is done and that the consumers are considering who they are taking advices from.