The popular beer rating site quietly sold a minority stake in 2016. Now the other shoe has dropped.
Worrying about conflicts of interest doesn’t seem to be as popular as it once was, but typically, when a conflict of interest exists, it’s pretty clear why it could be a problem. For example, here’s a wild hypothetical: Let’s say you were the largest brewing company in the world, and you became the sole owner of one of the largest community-driven beer rating sites in the world. Though those two things could exist without any impropriety, it’s also very easy to see how it could be problematic — not just for the obvious reason of manipulating ratings, but also for less obvious reasons like determining how items are listed or search functionality. A lot of little things could be done (as well as big things) to push your products more than your competitors.
And so, though ZX Ventures — a division of Anheuser-Busch InBev — has insisted it has done nothing to tinker with the integrity of the crowdsourced beer rating platform RateBeer since it first bought a minority stake in the site back in 2016, today RateBeer announced it has been fully acquired by AB InBev. As a result, if you had a minor amount of worry about potential issues in the past, you’re now allowed to have a full amount of worry.
“While this won’t impact the day-to-day for anyone using on the site,” RateBeer's Executive Director , downplaying the news (as has been the case in the past), “I wanted to let you all know that ZX Ventures, a division of AB InBev, has fully acquired RateBeer.”
“After ZX Ventures took a minority investment in RateBeer, we were able to make improvements to infrastructure, put out an in-house mobile app, and modernize key pages that as the only full-time employee with help from some amazing admins and volunteer coders, I was never able to tackle,” Tucker continued, explaining the slow sellout. Later, however, he touches on the biggest question that now lingers. “RateBeer is a quality-focused organization, and our value to the community has always depended on our integrity, and willingness to put in greater effort to produce more meaningful scores and information.”
Frankly, it’s a bit of a vague statement at a time when users would probably prefer to hear a more firm assertion that the new corporate overlords won’t be given any wiggle room to tinker with a site that some people have been rating beers on for nearly two decades.
“Might not necessarily ruin the integrity of RateBeer, but it does make me a bit uncomfortable that a beer company owns a formerly independent rating site/app,” a user wrote . “It's like Holiday Inn owning a hotel rating site, or Applebees owning a restaurant rating site. Just doesn't seem appropriate.” He makes a very valid point: Integrity or not, the optics for RateBeer — and for AB InBev — look terrible.