Good Pub Guide Announces Pay To Play

I’m not quite sure what to think about this. The Publican reported today that the highly respected and nearly 30-year old UK Good Pub Guide is going to begin charging pubs to be included in the guide. Starting with next year’s edition, fees to be included “will be either £99 or £199, depending on the size of the outlet.” The current issue includes over 5,000 listings, so that would mean future books would realize between £500,000 and £1,000,000 (or between $800,900 and $1.6 million dollars).

The reason for the charge is explained by editor Fiona Stapley, and it’s just what you’d expect. “Putting together a guide like this is quite expensive and we are looking at the business model. More and more guides like this are charging. She added that the judging criteria would remain the same and pubs would still have to reach the same standards to gain a listing.”


And yes, I’m sure that it is expensive to put the book together. Having been involved in publishing for a lot of years, I don’t doubt that it’s become increasingly pricey to produce the book. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is necessarily the best fix. As Stapley states, “more and more guides like this are charging.” Maybe, but I have a hard time believing by doing so they maintain the same level of integrity and independence. The most obvious problem would come when some, or perhaps a lot, of pubs choose not to spend the money. After all, a lot of pubs in the UK are struggling to stay afloat. As a result, the “Good Pub Guide” could become the “Good Pubs Willing to Pay the Fee Guide.” It would no longer be complete. Undoubtedly, many successful pubs would feel compelled to pay in order to not have their business suffer from being excluded. Whenever that happens — and however perfectly legal — it would still be hard not to see it as de facto extortion.

Could they charge pubs to be included and then remain independent in their reviews? I’m sure it’s possible. After all, magazines that accept advertising do it all the time. But this seems slightly different insofar as this is paying to be in a guidebook whose sole purpose it to provide impartial reviews of each pub’s quality and worthiness. Even if they started out with the best of intentions, it seems very likely, to me at least, that over time the pubs that are paying would come to expect something in return for their continued support and the dynamic of the publication would change. And increasingly, pubs that should be recommended would come to not be included just because they balked at the idea of paying for the privilege. That would do a grave disservice to both those good pubs and the potential customers using the guidebook to find them. No matter how hard they tried to remain impartial, it just feels like it would still create an undesirable perception of the potential for misconduct. What do you think? Inevitable and unconcerning or a death blow to impartiality?


  1. BikerAggie says

    Interesting. I am curious as to what the rest of their business model is. Do they send paid reviewers out to all the pubs? If so then they have a relativley fixed cost there.

    How great would something like the Beer Mapping website be if it had better reviews/reviewers and also the editorial content of something like this pub gude?

  2. Mr. Nuts says

    Dumb idea. There’s a difference between a “guide” and a “directory.”

    A guide makes recommendations on good places to go. A directory just lists stuff.

    As a result, if a really good pub doesn’t want to buy their way into the Good Pub Guide — guess what? The guide no longer lists all the good pubs.

    They should change the name to “The Directory to Pubs that Only Felt Like Paying to Be In Here.” Stupid name to be sure — but an accurate title to a stupid publication.

  3. says

    This doesn’t make sense. They already ‘have an app for that’, I know because I was just in the UK last week, and my friend took me on a pub crawl using the pubs listed on his iPhone Beer Guide app. If the cost of publishing the book (which consumers pay for) is getting too high, then they should just go electronic. The online version is a paid app, so it’s not like they’re giving away revenue or anything.

    (side note: pub crawl was in the Holborn / Farringdon area. Such a blast, but I was hurting the next day for sure. We ended up at the Black Friar, which has awesome architecture inside.)

    • Jay Brooks says

      Nice, I’ve been to the Black Friar, and it is a marvelous building. What stood out in the Holborn / Farringdon area?

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