We’ve launched! Here’s some introspection.

After much effort and emphatic handwaving, Betterpress no longer lives exclusively in the world of whiteboards, mockups and conjecture. We’ve launched our first feed, this one focused on the San Diego craft beer industry. The first fifteen breweries in San Diego are uploading content to our platform, and the San Diego Brewers Guild is publishing that content on their calendar and promoting it on social media. As soon as everyone is pleased that things work as expected, we hope to roll this out to all 120 local breweries and build a big audience of craft beer fans. And when that works, we’ll do it a thousand more times.

So, we’re finally at the starting line. Here’s some reflection:

The only form that matters
The only form that matters
  • Reid Hoffman quote: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Last year, I felt we must have done something wrong, because I was confident in The Upcoming Awesome. Now that we’ve launched, I see the product is shamefully riddled with missed opportunities, so I guess that’s good?
  • It took us longer than expected to get here. The product development was bumpier than planned, and it took us eleven months to deploy with the Guild. Turns out, they’re busy with day jobs and their world doesn’t revolve around this thing we’re so excited about.
  • We heard “no” a lot.  Still do — and that’s from the people who bother to return the phone calls and emails. Thick, calloused skin is really helpful. So is stubbornness. Maybe nerve damage. There’s no conspiracy against us — people are just busy, and there are a million of self-important tech entrepreneurs running around trying to get everyone’s attention.
  • Elon Musk quote:  “Running a start-up is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss.” Gah, so true. I’ve named my abyss Junior McChicken because that I accept he’s going to be with me for a while, and I want him to seem a little less imposing.

  • Start simple. We designed and built about fifty screens across five apps, and only one matters. We should have started there. Duh.
  • Surround yourself with trusted, entrepreneurial people who know both the right way to encourage and the right way to nudge you in a different direction. Pessimism is contagious, and one bad conversation can haunt an entrepreneur for weeks. At the same time, you’re not as smart as you think you are, and you need to be open to thoughtful nudges.

Where do we go from here? Betterpress is diving into nichey newsfeeds and event calendars.  We want to make it easy for you to follow X, where X is something you really care about. Our first X is San Diego craft beer. Wish us well!

The rise of variance

Tap List at Bottlecraft

The 24 taps at San Diego’s Bottlecraft, named after its extensive selection of beer in bottles.

A century ago, Atlanta was different from Philadelphia was different from San Diego.  But as successful corporations extended their reach, American consumers began shopping at the same stores, eating the same food, watching the same movies, and pretty much doing the same things. As businesses grew in scale, they bought the competition out or drove them under, and started stamping out chicken nuggets, front fenders, and housing developments. Meanwhile, technology was connecting everyone with radio, televisions, and computers. It was the American way, and it worked well.

But it came at a cost, and I’ve always regretted the homogenization of our culture. Road-trips lost some of their adventure. Everyone drank the same bourbon. Differences still existed, but they’re weren’t very dramatic — mostly weather, sports teams, and support for gay marriage.

This New Yorker article makes me happy. In its first paragraph, we learn:

Someone once said:

Walmart was once a small, family-run business too. Then they got their shit together.

It’s popular to hate on Walmart, but that’s not my intent. The company was founded with a single Arkansas store in 1962 and grew explosively. They realized that “paying the lowest price” is very important to many consumers, and a sure way to reduce unit costs is to scale up. So Walmart scaled up. Their business is a reflection of the price-conscious American consumer — as that segment has changed to value things like organic foods and renewable energy, Walmart has responded. Price-conscious American consumers aren’t going away, and neither is Walmart. However, the New Yorker article observes that not everything scales:

True differentiation will not and cannot work everywhere. We’re not likely to see hand-crafted 747s anytime soon, or friendly neighborhood oil refineries. The advantages of scale are too overwhelming. The true-differentiation strategy seems to work best when scale, despite its efficiencies, also introduces blind spots in areas such as customer service, flavor, curation, or other intangibles not entirely consistent with mass production and standardization. Where getting big begins to hurt the product, small can be bountiful.

In those places where scale confers no advantage, we see the rise of the small. If Anheuser-Busch InBev can’t produce a hoppy IPA and distribute it to San Diego, you’ll find 100 local breweries who do.

As this is catching on across the nation, road trips are getting more fun.

Facebook has changed, right?

You’re on Facebook. If you’ve been there for a few years, you’ve probably seen a change in the content shown to you.

Let’s say you have few hundred friends and “like” 50 pages from your favorite restaurants, stores, bands, and authors. In your main newsfeed, available here, you don’t see everything these guys post. If you’re anything like me, you see updates from about 30 friends, posts from maybe 5 pages you “like”, and a bunch of tailored promotions.

Facebook has learned to guess which content will be most interesting to you, and that’s the only stuff they’ll show you in the newsfeed. Comment on one of my photos? You’re more likely to see my next photo. “Like” a post about California burritos? You’ll see another. Your friends commented on a post? You’re more likely to see that post. There are dozens of factors that Facebook considers in deciding what to show you — the newsfeed algorithm is part of the secret sauce that makes Facebook Facebook.

For users, there’s an important implication here: you won’t see what your friends and pages have posted unless you specifically visit their pages.

If you’re a business using Facebook to connect with potential customers, there’s a critical implication here: most people who people who “like” your page won’t see your stuff, unless you buy ads. Facebook has inserted The Algorithm into business’ relationship with potential customers, in a big way. A few years ago, most people who “liked” a page would see content from that page.  Then this “organic reach” dropped to less than half. And presumably under the pressure that comes with being a public company with stockholders who like to see profits,  Facebook kept tweaking The Algorithm to limit this organic reach.


Eight months ago, Ogilvy and Mather — sort of a big deal in the world of marketing — used the term “Facebook Zero” and had this to say about Facebook’s organic reach :

Organic reach of the content brands publish in Facebook is destined to hit zero. It’s only a matter of time.

In 2012, Facebook famously restricted organic reach of content published from brand pages to about 16 percent. In December 2013, another round of changes reduced it even more.

By February 2014, according to a Social@Ogilvy analysis of more than 100 brand pages, organic reach hovered at 6 percent, a decline of 49 percent from peak levels in October.

Assuming a 5% organic reach, if 20,000 people have explicitly told Facebook that they “Like” Emily’s T-Shirt Emporium, Emily will reach 1,000 of them with her next post. 19,000 of them will not see Emily’s post in their newsfeed.

If you were Emily, what would you do?

Twitter audiences of San Diego craft breweries

We recently compared the Facebook “Likes” and Instagram followers of San Diego Brewers Guild’s 77 members.  Now, we’ve done Twitter.  Click the chart to see a larger version:



  • With 159,000 Twitter followers, Stone Brewing Co. dominates these rankings. And this isn’t counting the 44,000 personal followers of Stone’s CEO, Greg Koch.
  • This drops off more quickly than the similar chart we made for Facebook. Some big names dominate, but smaller organizations aren’t likely to have much of a Twitter following.
  • Only two organizations had no Twitter account, and one of those has since created one.  Almost everyone has at least secured an account, even if they’re not really using it.

Here’s the chart without Stone Brewing Co. Click for a larger version:


  • Green FlashThe Lost Abbey, and Ballast Point each had more than 35,000 Twitter followers.
  • AleSmith and Karl Strauss each have more than 15,000 followers.
  • All the way down to Valley Center Brewery, who has yet to tweet to their two followers.

Of those breweries that did maintain an Instagram account, half had fewer than 995 followers. That’s a very small retail audience for an industry that represented $782 million in revenues last year.

Instagram audiences among San Diego craft brewers.

We recently compared the Facebook “Likes” of the 77 brewery members of the San Diego Brewers Guild, and now we’ve done a similar analysis of Instagram, a social network built around the sharing of snapshots. Click the chart for a larger version:

Instagram followers

Two things to notice:

  • Instagram is not as popular as Facebook among these organizations. The 77 breweries maintain only 55 Instagram accounts.
  • With 66,000 Instagram followers as of early September, Stone Brewing Co. once again dominates the rankings — just not to the extent they do on Facebook.

Here’s the chart without Stone Brewing Co. Click for a larger version:

Instagram followers

  • Hello Saint Archer! This relatively new brewery had 37,000 Instagram followers, maybe signaling their different “lifestyle” approach toward the marketing of craft beer.
  • Ballast Point, Green Flash, and The Lost Abbey each had more than 10,000 Instagram followers.
  • And it goes down from there, to Arcana Brewing Company, who has yet to post a photo.
  • 25 breweries did not maintain an Instagram account.

Of those breweries that did maintain an Instagram account, half had fewer than 850 followers. That’s a very small retail audience for an industry that represented $782 million in revenues last year.

With its focus on simple photos and comments, Instagram is known among marketers more for its brand building opportunities, and less for its ability to directly drive sales. Want to get people in your doors to spend their money at a barrel tasting event on Friday? Facebook, Twitter, and your email newsletter.  Want to post a sepia selfie of your brewer enjoying one of his beers on the beach? Instagram.

Who has the biggest megaphone? Facebook audiences among San Diego craft brewers.

Our tactical data entry team has done a bit of analysis on the social media reach of San Diego craft breweries. But since this is our first real blog entry in, like, ever, let’s go big picture for a moment.

Nationally, craft beer is serious business, with almost 3,000 breweries addressing a $14.3 billion market. This market is growing at a 17% clip, which is a lot healthier than the recent annual 2% shrinkage in the overall beer market.  Candidly, I’d rather be selling Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale than Budweiser, whose brewer is having to get increasingly creative to sell beer to people who don’t really like beer. Here’s a Google search for Bud Light Lime-a-Rita.

In San Diego, we currently have 93 operational brew houses, and an unbelievable 42 more in the works. Together, these organizations had sales of $782 million last year.

Who’s drinking the craft beer in San Diego? It’s not just the locals: craft beer tourism is a thing here, where people come for our breweries, but sleep in our hotels and eat at our restaurants.  This has the attention and support of the  San Diego Tourism Authority and our Regional Chamber of Commerce.

It’s a big deal, and it’s no wonder that these businesses are run like businesses. To build demand for their products, the breweries maintain email lists, run advertisements, plan events, and increasingly, they’re turning to social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to connect with potential customers.

We had some spare time around the office, so we decided to take a look at this. A month ago, we researched the Facebook audiences of each of the 77 brewery members of the San Diego Brewers Guild. On Facebook, the easiest way to follow an organization is to “Like” their page — you’ll then have an (increasingly slim) chance of seeing news, photos and events from that organization within your Facebook newsfeed. In theory, as more people “like” you, you’ll address a larger audience with each post.

When we lined them up from smallest to largest, here’s what we found. Click the chart for a larger version:

Screenshot 2014-10-14 15.59.08

Stone Brewing Co. dominates these rankings with 259,000 Facebook fans as of last month. You can see their latest “Likes” on their Facebook page.

Their dominance obscures the rest of the data on that graph, so we removed Stone for a closer look:

Screenshot 2014-10-14 13.59.41

  • Green Flash, Ballast Point, and Karl Strauss were in the 45,000-65,000 range.
  • The Lost Abbey, Rock Bottom, Coronado Brewing, and Blind Lady follow in the 12,000-30,000 range.
  • And it goes down from there, to the small and new Jamul Brewing Co., for whom we’re all rooting.

Most San Diego breweries have fewer than 3400 Facebook “Likes”. Is that a lot?  Here’s a high school football stadium that holds about that many people. It’s a lot smaller than I would have expected for a city with a rabid base of craft beer fans, especially when you realize that breweries only reach 5-10% of these fans with each of their Facebook posts.