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If you read my last blog in this series, you will know I have now been a member of CAMRA for just over a year. In this short blog, I offer my thoughts on CAMRA’s most well-known publication: The Good Beer Guide.
Last month, I submitted my scores and preferences for the Pubs nominated to be in the 2017 Good Beer Guide. Now, for a Pub to be a contender for entry into the Good Beer Guide, they need either to have been nominated by members, or, to have performed well in the integrated National Beer Scoring System and WhatPub to which members contribute. The 2017 Good Beer Guide will be published this coming autumn based on data from as far back as January 2015, I am sat writing this blog in the last week of January 2016 and that for me appears to be a problem.. A lot can change in this time; as anyone who knows the nature of the Pub trade recognises. Every month in CAMRA’s newspaper What’s Brewing, there is always a listings section of corrections or deletions to be made aware of from that year’s Good Beer Guide.
Admittedly, the nature of compiling and fact checking a book as thorough as the Good Beer Guide explains the early deadlines on gathering data. I also recognise that the Good Beer Guide is a major revenue maker for CAMRA. But I question whether a 900 odd-page book can survive and be a great product for consumers as we move into the future. The very time consuming nature of producing and publishing the book is one of my main reasons for suggesting it becomes a digital publication. Information is inevitably out of date quite quickly. In fact, I believe that it could potentially make volunteering more active.
The Good Beer Guide already exists in App form. It is quite good. Offering most of the information available in the book. It is also cheap at £4.99. It uses location services to locate GBG pubs near you. You can take notes and list favourites. It also works offline. Most importantly though; the App takes note of changes to pubs which happen between print editions. All I would change to this would be to:
Let me give you a hypothetical scenario the type of use I would like from an Interactive GBG to do.
I am on holiday. I look at my GBG app on my tablet to read descriptions of local pubs currently qualifying as a GBG entry. I visit one of the pubs and I am very happy with my pint. I submit a score which contributes to a transparent average score (for CAMRA members to see). I post a comment to that pubs GBG entry (in a similar way to say Tripadvisor) noting my positive experience. I now visit a second pub and I am disappointed with both the Pub and my beer. I comment on this on the GBG pub page; feeling the description doesn’t match my experience. Local members can now see my comment and take this into consideration immediately. The book does obviously not allow this.
So in a way I am proposing that WhatPub and the GBG combine in the form of an App. Would this create a sort of Tripadvisor for CAMRA? Yes it would. But I think this could be a highly beneficial app for CAMRA which could compete with the likes of Untapped. From a member participation and information point of view, I could see this being of huge potential. You can quickly communicate change to the wider public and carefully monitor pubs. Okay, you could still start the year with a set numbers of GBG pubs for your region. But CAMRA can challenge complacency as those listed ‘Good’ pubs could be subject to change in a constantly altering publication.
So there you have it. I believe the GBG has had its day in print form. The GBG as a digital application, with constantly changing information benefits not only the consumer, but also the committed CAMRA member.