By Nik Antona

For those of us who have been involved in the Campaign for many years, it is hardly a secret that What’s Brewing has undergone several changes to keep up with the times. Once the sole medium to share campaign news across every corner of the UK, today we are better connected than ever before – with information readily available at just a click of a button. 

The last year alone has brought about momentous changes to how CAMRA operates. Propelled by necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online zoom meetings have replaced country-wide pub visits. Virtual tastings at home have stepped into the role of our branch festivals, and pub closures have lost us the natural home for our beloved branch magazines. 

While I sincerely hope that many of these technological stand-ins will be short-lived and that we will be back in the pub and festivals in no time, I have been incredibly impressed with how agile and quick we have been to adopt the necessary changes to keep campaigning. In the last year alone, we launched a new Learn & Discover platform to host a range of video and audio guides to help members learn more about their favourite drink. The highly popular podcast Pubs. Pints. People. ran throughout the year and will be returning next month for yet another season of CAMRA chat. We built a virtual pub – the Red (On)Lion – and launched Brew2You to help local producers and pubs stay afloat during this difficult time. 

As we prepare our celebrations to mark our 50th anniversary – a truly momentous occasion in any organisation’s history – it is only fitting that we look to improve our hallmark publication What’s Brewing, to future-proof CAMRA itself for another 50 years of beer and pub campaigning.  

I am delighted to announce that from May 2021 we will unveil a new and improved digital platform to bring you the news you really want – when you want it. Rather than waiting a full month for stories that are becoming increasingly outdated by the time they reach your doorstep, you will be able to access a news website that is populated with more content and stories, easy to search for articles and supportive digital media assets, such as audio, video and imagery. 

The wb.camra.org.uk platform will soon be shifted behind a log-in function, helping us to tailor your news stories depending on your preferences as a member. Whether you’re interested in AGM updates, brewery stories or local news in the South East region, you will be able to tell us what you want to hear about, so that we can tailor your feed specifically to the news that matters to you.  

It is no secret that there is a gap to fill between local and national CAMRA campaigning. With many local branch magazines unable to reach their intended audience, we believe What’s Brewing can help promote our campaigns from the grassroots level up. We will therefore be welcoming volunteer writers from across the country to write more stories about your local region, giving you greater localised content at your fingertips.  

Despite these improvements, I know it’s difficult to remember to visit a website frequently to find out the latest news. That is why a new, tailored newsletter, based on your set preferences, will be introduced as part of this roll out. The comms team will also be unveiling a new Twitter handle dedicated to What’s Brewing news and updates to help keep you informed about news as it happens. 

As a result of these changes, we have decided to cease printed monthly production of What’s Brewing as of April 2021, saving the Campaign an estimated £130K per annum. COVID-19 has undoubtedly underscored the need for significant cost-savings across the Campaign, but this is not a decision that has been taken lightly or made overnight.  

The discontinuation of printed What’s Brewing has been under consideration for several years as we have recognised the real need to divert more of our resources straight back into our campaigning objectives. While this decision will undoubtedly sadden some of our members, it is not only the responsible action to take – but one that makes sense when planning for CAMRA’s future, taking into account how we are all digesting news in 2021 and beyond.  

I hope many readers will understand and support the decision to make a fully digital switch. However, I also appreciate that, for some, a computer screen will never be able to replace the feel of a newspaper. I would like to reassure those members that we have not forgotten about you.  

I am pleased to confirm that BEER magazine will continue to be published in both its printed and digital format four times a year. In addition, we will be enhancing the magazine by introducing a new, eight-page What’s Brewing insert section from the Autumn 2021 edition onwards. This insert section will include quarterly news and analysis from the Campaign, opinions and updates so that every member of the Campaign can stay connected. 

I hope you will join me in welcoming the evolution of What’s Brewing and the exciting changes ahead. We will of course keep you updated on our next steps and developments as we continue to improve and safeguard the organisation for years to come.   

If you would like more information about this decision, the timeline for changes, web platform improvements or how best to get involved as a volunteer writer, you can find more information and Q&As at https://camra.org.uk/volunteers-area/wb/ 

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