James Smith of The Crafty Pint: I trained as a journalist in the UK back in 2002 after spending 18 months traveling while deciding if that was the path I wanted to follow. After a few years as a news and features writer, I moved to Melbourne, Australia, with my wife where it soon became apparent opportunities within traditional media were few and far between. At the same time, I’d met people working in the nascent craft beer industry and realized it was receiving little coverage in the media, and that there was next to no relevant or up-to-date information online either.
I had lined up a bunch of diverse freelance gigs, but none in which I saw a long-term future, had an interest in shining a light on this new and exciting scene, and the industry needed someone with my skills to help bring it to a wider audience. The Crafty Pint was the solution.
What are some of the challenges you face as a content creator?
James Smith: Specific to the craft beer industry, probably the fact that after a few years of rapid but relatively steady growth, things exploded at a pace that nobody expected. From our perspective, it’s meant going from seeking out every story we can tell to deciding which are the most worthy of coverage and hoping we don’t miss anything important.
More generally, it’s a case of trying to adapt to the changing way in which people access and consume information: new social media platforms, the swing between the written word and audio or video-led content, and so on. Sometimes, we just have to accept it’s not possible to be all things to all people and focus on what we’re best at and can achieve to the standards we’ve set since 2010.
What are some digital publications that you follow?
James Smith: Aside from staying abreast of developments in the beer world both locally and internationally, for the most part it’s either a case of catching up on world news or escapism. The Guardian is a great one-stop shop for most of my interests, including music and sport, while I’ve found podcasts handy when following important political issues; I’ve been a paid-up subscriber to Sara Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa’s Gaslit Nation since they launched in the lead-up to Trump’s election, for example. Aside from that, music mags and shows occupy most of the time I’m not working on The Crafty Pint or spending time with the family.
Why did you decide to syndicate your content with Newstex?
James Smith: Since launching in 2010, I believe we’ve created a body of information that’s unique in the Australian beer industry and figure it will be of use and interest to people who don’t yet know The Crafty Pint exists. Since starting discussions with Newstex in mid-2022, we’ve started planning a restructure of the site to make this information more readily available and easier to navigate. All being well, this will be in place before the end of 2022 – there’s a lot to rejig!
What do you like most about creating digital content?
James Smith: For me, I guess it’s a by-product of the enjoyment I get from telling stories, especially those that otherwise wouldn’t be told. I enjoy writing and language itself, as well as interviewing people either in front of audiences or for recordings – there’s a lot of pleasure to be taken in making people comfortable on mic or camera and seeing them relax and open up.
When it’s done well – whether that’s a beautifully written feature getting to the heart of a story or a deep dive into an issue or import – there’s a sense of satisfaction at contributing something of genuine use to the world.
Pros and Cons
What do you dislike most about creating digital content?
James Smith: As mentioned above, the need to stay on top of the ever-changing way in which people access content can feel relentless at times. Equally, a large part of that is undoubtedly related to the fact our industry is into its third incredibly tough year in a row, which means we’re operating with less resources than I would like.
We’re also operating in a space where so much of what is published is created because it’s paid for by businesses / organizations that can afford it. This means there’s a significant number of people and businesses doing great things on a small scale which remain practically invisible because they don’t have the budgets or resources to compete in such a landscape.
What inspires you to keep writing?
James Smith: Keeping a roof over the family’s heads?!? On a more serious note, I genuinely love telling stories, and there are so many people doing amazing work within the wider beer industry whose stories deserve to be told.
It’s both a pleasure and an honor to spend time with those who are pushing the boundaries or simply acting in positive ways, whether that’s in developing new beers, exploring new techniques, creating new ingredients, finding more sustainable ways of operating, and so on. Then there’s the pressure of doing them justice, but I always find it’s easiest to produce high quality content when the subject is a good one.
What do you think are the benefits of syndicating your content through Newstex?
James Smith: From our point of view, we’ve spent more than a decade covering our industry in a manner unlike anyone else so we’re always keen to reach new audiences. There’s little point yelling into the void, right?
And for any potential end users, we’d hope they find information that’s of use to them, their research or studies, and ideally sparks an interest in learning more. Beer and brewing have a history that stretches back millennia and the more you dig, the more fascinating it gets. What’s more, the past few decades are arguably the most exciting, fascinating and outrageous in all of those millennia. And we still don’t really know where it’s heading!
What are the top 3 tips you can give to others wanting to develop successful digital publications?
James Smith: They’re probably tips that would apply to any business, but for longevity I’d suggest you need to have an interest – ideally a passion – for your chosen topic.
It would be foolish to get into it without doing your research to ensure there’s a need / niche for your chosen topic / field, and that you have the right – or distinct enough – skills or approach to be adding something new, useful or interesting to the landscape. Otherwise, where’s the audience coming from?
And work out what your skills are, and in which areas you’re lacking them. Then find the right people to do the things you either can’t do, or that they can do better.
Looking to the future
Where do you see your publication in 5 years?
James Smith: One of the reasons driving the restructuring of the site is to make relevant content more easily discoverable and navigable for newcomers to craft beer. Once that’s in place, we plan to expand the scope of partners we work with further outside what’s often referred to as the beer bubble. This will enable us to play a role in providing independently created high quality, accurate, entertaining and enlightening information on all things beer in Australia to a wider audience.
Much of what is published on beer and brewing in the wider media these days is produced by generalist reporters rather than specialists in their field, is there for a purpose that suits a sponsor or partner of the publisher – whether declared or not, or features only brands with significant marketing / advertising budgets. As such, it’s not a genuine representation of reality and puts much of the industry at a disadvantage. We hope to act as a counterbalance to this.
What has been your proudest achievement as a content creator?
James Smith: I’ve been told many times over the years that we have played a significant role in helping bring the Australian craft beer scene to the place it is now, in a way that has helped excite and educate drinkers while inspiring some to make the leap and enter the industry. We also appear to have played a role as something of a hub, helping tie together many of the various threads that make up the wider beer world.