Saving the Scandinavian Brewers’ Review as we know it

In my latest editorial from back in May, I outlined the efforts undertaken by our owners, represented by the Danish Master Brewers’ Guild, and ourselves at the magazine in order to relaunch the magazine on the very positive background that our magazine, as a consequence of our move to go digital, now has a platform that enables a giant leap forward, getting a far bigger and better reach, making us much more relevant to both our readers and advertisers. 

But, as I also made very clear in that editorial, the Scandinavian Brewers’ Review right now – paradoxically – is in a deep crisis. Allow me to repeat my words from May on this:

The stone cold truth is that the SBR is in a crisis of a magnitude we’ve not experienced before! The new digital platform has by no means yet been embraced by our readers to anything resembling a satisfactory extent. Many members of the guilds in all the member countries have either given up their subscription or have not yet logged on to the digital version of the SBR. Thus, a decimated subscriber base when we look at the ‘core subscribers’, i.e. the members of our Brewers’ Guilds. And further, our move to go digital has not yet been translated into a sufficiently significant increase in our advertising revenues.

Our conclusions regarding the necessary steps we should take in order to fight our way out of the crisis, and onto the road towards a brighter and more prosperous future, was a 9-point plan (please refer to the editorial in SBR No. 2, 2018 for the full text) with a strong focus on sourcing much more editorial material from our local area. The initiatives we’ve undertaken in this respect are as follows:

  • Editorial content with a more Nordic relevance will be prioritized.
  • More ‘Personalia’ – i.e. anniversaries, birthdays, significant job changes for members of the Brewers’ Guilds – will be included onwards.
  • ‘Correspondents’ within the national brewers’ guilds will be appointed, and these will be given the responsibility for supplying us with material for articles or contacts to people or organizations that may contribute.

In order to get the most essential element in our strategy – finding and activating the ‘local correspondents’ we need in order to source local editorial material onward – I wrote to all the boards of the Nordic Brewers’ Guilds, asking them to communicate the message to a select number of their members – and other local key people in and around the industry. But the result of this initiative has been hugely disappointing. I only got one answer, namely from the Swedish Guild, and although this answer contained a very relevant and constructive list of topics that would be of interest to our Swedish readers, it contained no names of and contacts to potential correspondents. In other words, I have not yet been able to attach a single Nordic correspondent to the SBR!

Here’s the list of topics provided by Sisko Nautsch Rönnmark from the Swedish Master Brewers’ Guild:        

  • Spent Grains – Animal feed, soil improver or fuel? Has the demand for spent grains been affected by this summer’s drought and lack of feed for livestock? 
  • Deficit of industrial CO2 – a hostage? How has the deficit of industrial CO2 arisen and how can it be prevented?
  • Organic Beer – Supply of raw materials, new legislation 
  • Vatten – How do we ensure an adequate supply of water in the future? Both a climate change issue but also one concerning justice in a global perspective.
  • Losses – How can we reduce losses in our processes? Managing our resources is an important sustainability issue. 
  • Large versus small – How can we assure the necessary level of competence in small-scale brewing, thus preventing that the image of the entire industry suffers due to beer of low product quality?
  • Environment/Climate/Sustainability – How is the industry affected, and how does the industry affect those topics?

The other points in our ‘action plan’ will be implemented as soon as time allows. 

Another issue has been looming since the digitalization in January this year. Many SBR subscribers would actually prefer to continue to receive the magazine in the ‘good, old’ paper format instead of or as a supplement to the digital version.  And I’m receiving a solid stream of reports that there are significant levels of anger and frustrations over our decision not to uphold the significant expenses related to printing and sending out paper magazines. The offer to still supply ‘hard copies’ at a price fully proportional to the cost does not seem to do much to set minds at peace. My personal feeling right now is that our decision might have to be reconsidered, as the survival of the magazine is at stake if you, our readers and subscribers, continue revolting and refusing to use the digital version of the SBR. But, as I’m sure everyone will understand, we’ll need to act based on facts and not rumors and a few angry messages. Thus, we must have your feedback, so we desperately need your answer to the following question:

‘Do you support – or even demand – that the Scandinavian Brewer’s Review shall be issued in both hard copy and a digital version to the subscribers wishing this?’

And if you answer this question affirmatively, you’ll need to also tell us how you think the costs involved with this should be covered: 

  ‘Should the price of distributing paper versions of the SBR be covered by those subscribers demanding this only, or should it be covered by an increase in the membership fees of the Nordic Master Brewers’ Guilds?’

I must obviously underline as strongly as I can that such decisions will not and cannot be made solely based on the feedback gathered from this ‘questionnaire’ as it is an issue that will demand formal, democratic voting at the annual meetings in the guilds. But it is essential for us, at this point, to gauge the mood amongst our readers in order for us to prepare for the future scenario.   

As also explained in the previous editorial, we receive no economic support for our work in servicing you and everyone else in and around our industry. On the contrary, our owners depend on some kind of revenue from issuing the magazine in order to support their activities to the benefit of the members of the Nordic Brewers’ Guilds.  And this brings me back to the dramatic title of this editorial, because the situation surrounding the SBR as it has developed lately is not sustainable – without a sufficient subscriber base, we not only loose direct income, but we become irrelevant to our advertisers, meaning that the economic base for the magazine disappears. How our owners will respond to this is not for me to predict, but a couple of likely scenarios are easy to outline: One is quite simply to discontinue the issuing of the magazine altogether, and another one is to increase the subscription price dramatically, meaning increasing the membership fees for the Nordic Brewers’ Guilds. In any case, I feel that the days of ‘The Scandinavian Brewers’ Review as we know it’ may well be over.       

On behalf of Tuen-media, which is responsible for the practical work involved with issuing the magazine, and myself as your technical editor, I have to underline that a success with the implementation of our ‘rescue plan’ is a precondition for our continued work with the SBR. And as a mobilization of a large number of engaged and active correspondents is the most important element in our plan, succeeding with this is absolutely essential. Thus, as a last – call it ‘desperate’ if you will – alarm call, we have chosen to publish our invitation to become a correspondent again in this issue of the SBR. > Read it here.    

Please remember that we at the SBR always very strongly encourage you to comment on anything you wish to comment on in the magazine, but obviously particularly to the editorial. May I remind you that this request this time is more critical than ever! 

Please forward your comments to anders@kissmeyer.dk.

Anders Kissmeyer, Technical Editor
Scandinavian Brewer’s Review

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