Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More Restaurant Establishment vs Bloggers

There's a great article over at BlogSoop called Food Blogger’s Wear a Scarlet Letter. They cover the establishment vs the bloggers issue of who really is qualified to do restaurant reviews. Here's a great thought:
Our dining icons - the Bruni’s, the Bauer’s and the Gold’s - have ruled for decades. The monopoly enjoyed by print media has escalated the restaurant critic to demigod - their voices reign down in regular intervals as if from heaven. These titans of traditional media reach millions; rarely have we appealed so strongly or regularly to the voice of experts. If food is our God, they are our clergy.

Before the internet, as in early Christendom, there was no dialogue with the Almighty, except that which was sanctioned by their divine grace. In the past several years, however, new communication mediums have enabled the individual to participate in the conversation. A concept begun in print - the Zagat’s guide, which uses user generated content for its reviews - quickly found its way to the web. A Reformation, focusing on the individual’s relationship with Food, had begun.
While I'm not sure that food blogging will have the same impact as The Reformation, it definitely is rattling the cage of the establishment. Established food critics don't like the bloggers because it takes away their monopoly. And restaurateurs aren't too happy with it because it eliminates the "old boys" network that they're so used to dealing with.

There's a saying in sales that everyone has 10 friends. If you make them angry, they'll tell all 10. If you make them happy they'll tell 2. People tend to communicate in small chunks, so a bad experience will get more play, but mostly it's limited to the small group of friends that everyone has. It used to be that to get buzz all a Chef had to do was get a good review in the local paper. Impress one person and you've got it made. And you can anger quite a few people and word won't get out.

The blogosphere has changed that. A small blog can have 1,000 hits in a day. While that's nothing like the readership of the local newspaper, it's still a sizable number. Instead of 10 friends to tell about a bad experience, now it's 1,000. The converse is that a good experience also gets 1,000 hits. And frankly, most people online these days don't get their hobby specific information from the local paper -- they read the blogs and forums of topics they're interested in. So while their readership isn't as vast as a newspaper, it's a lot more targeted. And as anyone who sells to the public can tell you, targeted marketing is always more effective.

Google sees everything -- so when a potential customer is interested in your restaurant they can enter a search term and get back a list of articles on your restaurant. And like it or not, the blog entries have the same credibility when presented on the screen as an NYT food critic. And it's there for all posterity.

The argument by Mario and others that food bloggers are less qualified than established restaurant critics is totally beside the point. Bloggers aren't going anywhere. It's a force that has to be dealt with. Instead of complaining about comments from a few idiots, they should be actively embracing the blogging community and improving their relationships with their customers.

No comments: