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#1
Posted March 25th 2007, 8:23pm
Interesting article in the S.F. Chron:


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Sunday, March 25, 2007 (SF Chronicle)
Food bloggers dish up plates of spicy criticism/Formerly formal discipline of reviewing becomes a free-for-all for online amateurs
Stacy Finz and Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writers

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... ORDSH1.DTL

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#2
Posted March 25th 2007, 8:31pm
Breach doesn't believe in accepting free meals, but many bloggers have no qualms about it. The code of ethics from the Association of Food Journalists, an organization for professionals, prohibits reviewers from taking freebies. But bloggers have no such restrictions.


Uh, helloooo, Earth to journalists writing about journalism? Reviewers don't take freebies because their meals are already paid for by their employers.

One of the main differences between people like us (bloggers, posters, whatever) and food critics for big papers/mags/whatever is that we pay for our own meals with our own money. I'm convinced that critics put up with a lot of meaningless sizzle and gee-whiz from highly hyped joints because they don't care what they're gouged for it on the bill later; while they might be tougher on other places because they don't factor in the modesty of the final check.
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#3
Posted March 26th 2007, 3:56pm
-Interesting point-I never thought about reviewers not factoring in cost. Seems to me that cost is usually covered carefully. (At least by the "big boys") Maybe there is still some subconscious effect of not paying.
-I guess I've always felt that the official critics too often hype places a bit too much because this feeds the overall industry, and part of their function is to be a cheerleader. I've certainly been disappointed ordering items touted in official reviews, and by the restaurant in general.
-I do think the article raises a valid point on how food blogs, forums, etc, can be abused by members.
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#4
Posted March 26th 2007, 5:23pm
I think any decent restaurant reviewer will be sensitive to price; it's part of the experience and has to be factored in. Responsible people who criticize restaurants, via print or web or television, consider the price as part of the "value equation" even if their publication or friend is paying for dinner. On LTH, I see people mentioning price all the time, and that's a good thing.

Here's a comment from the article that made me shudder: "Kridech said he begged Yelp staffers to have a complimentary meal at Senses, hoping that would turn the tide for his restaurant. Instead, he says, Yelp offered to sell him an ad in which a positive posting -- including a line from the restaurant thanking the reviewer for the kind words and noting that the business is a sponsor of the site -- is placed above all other critiques."

That seems simply disgraceful and, yes, extortionate.

This article focuses on negative web reviews, but a powerful incentive for positive reviews by "mainstream" critics is that your words are more likely to be quoted if you're helping sell the product. For instance, a movie critic knows that he's more likely to be quoted in nationwide ads if he waxes hyperbolic about a film with comments like "Quite possibly the most beautiful movie ever made" or "The feel-good film of the season." Such quotes are used in ads, and the more the reviewer is quoted, the more powerful the reviewer becomes.
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#5
Posted March 26th 2007, 5:47pm
There's a difference, though, between being rationally aware of price, and being personally sensitive to a good gouging. The difference can probably be summarized as "why Phil Vettel gave De La Costa three stars while everyone who posted here about it felt screwed."
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#6
Posted March 27th 2007, 12:24am
Mike G wrote:There's a difference, though, between being rationally aware of price, and being personally sensitive to a good gouging.


Yes, the latter hurts more, but from a reader's standpoint, having a critic who is rationally aware is sufficient -- the critic doesn't actually have to feel the pain in the pocketbook to communicate the details of a bad deal to readership.
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#7
Posted March 27th 2007, 12:49am
I certainly understand the paranoia of some restauranteurs, but there's one thing that doesn't sit quite right with me.

We all know a bad review by a high profile critic can kill a restaurant. But doesn't a broad spectrum of online bloggers, posters and commenters writing about multiple visits reduce the chances that they'll be sunk by a singular, aberrant meal? With a traditional critic, one or two bad meals and you're done. With a large number of people writing, that one bad meal will be drowned out by positive comments from other visits.

So shouldn't restauranteurs welcome the proliferation of online reviews as insulating them against bad luck?
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#8
Posted March 27th 2007, 12:56am
Maybe. Except the number of people who see reviews by high-profile critics probably far exceed the number that look at LTH, eGullet, Yelp, and others of that ilk.

I don't have any specific stats to support that assertion, but if others do, I'd love to see 'em.
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#9
Posted March 27th 2007, 1:15am
I didn't explain that well. I mean that with a traditional critic, you basically get one shot. With the online community, you have tens or hundreds visiting and writing. If you serve one or two of them a bad meal, their criticisms will be lost amongst other positive reviews. As such, isn't the online community less dangerous, since the larger sample is more likely to give a true picture of the restaurant?
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#10
Posted March 27th 2007, 1:29am
On that basis I agree completely.
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#11
Posted March 27th 2007, 9:05am
David Hammond wrote:This article focuses on negative web reviews, but a powerful incentive for positive reviews by "mainstream" critics is that your words are more likely to be quoted if you're helping sell the product. For instance, a movie critic knows that he's more likely to be quoted in nationwide ads if he waxes hyperbolic about a film with comments like "Quite possibly the most beautiful movie ever made" or "The feel-good film of the season." Such quotes are used in ads, and the more the reviewer is quoted, the more powerful the reviewer becomes.


How often in those ads is the reviewer named? It seems like an awful lot of them just say "New York Times" or whatever.
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#12
Posted March 27th 2007, 9:20am
I can't seem to find where I did this math but while the gap between their raw subscriber numbers and our raw unique visitors (both figures a very imprecise measure of the number of real humans paying attention) is still significant, it's not orders of magnitude different, and the real difference between media is that people who look at a board like this have much higher interest and motivation to act on what they read.

Or in other words, I think Phil Vettel can pack a new high-end place in Streeterville by giving it three or four stars, but I've been to places on the day Cheap Eats gave them three or four forks and they saw far less business from that than LTHers brought to Katy's, say.

Anyway, yeah, the whole point is that any one poster could be a chowderhead, or just not to your liking, but the overall perspective is much more informative-- look at a place like Aigre Doux, the range of wild raves and equally scathing pans gives you a much better sense of how to order smartly there and find its strengths and get your money's worth than any print review, no matter if it's based on multiple meals.
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#13
Posted March 27th 2007, 9:52am
Another factor in the Phil Vettel-De la Costa example is the possibility of him being recognized, which happens more often than one (including maybe even he) would think.
The restaurant community is small and tight, generally speaking. If recognized, he's sure to get way better service(mine was clumsy and crappy on 2 visits), and even better food.(just made ceviche as opposed to leftover, for eg.)
-At any rate, this De la Costa example is great because it really is a case(to me) of high prices and glitz without ducks being in a row. The Vettel review-positive for whatever reason, comes off as thrilled as Richard Simmons on a coffee buzz. Reading a string of LTH posts on the subject certainly provides balance by force of numbers, and empowers the customer with better knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the establishment.
-From the restaurant's standpoint, in general it is better to be talked about more than less even if some is negative.
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#14
Posted March 27th 2007, 10:43am
Mike G wrote: business from that than LTHers brought to Katy's, say.

Are you sure that it was the thread here and not the subsequent TOC write-up that did it? (I realize that TOC most likely learned of Katy's from that thread and so this forum should certainly get credit, but not in the direct way you're implying.)

I guess I'm slightly skeptical since all my effusing over Cafe Salamera appears to have absolutely no effect whatsoever on business. (And it's not just me! Reputable people, too!)
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#15
Posted March 27th 2007, 10:50am
I think "Time Out Chicago" and "strip mall in Westmont" are almost mutually exclusive in terms of audience, but in any case, I don't think they wrote about it until the thread had been going quite a while, with many many different folks trying Katy's and reporting back here.
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#16
Posted March 27th 2007, 11:34am
Mike G wrote:I think "Time Out Chicago" and "strip mall in Westmont" are almost mutually exclusive in terms of audience, but in any case, I don't think they wrote about it until the thread had been going quite a while, with many many different folks trying Katy's and reporting back here.


I think you're right because around the time of the TOC writeup some of their food writers* were on 848 on NPR to talk about what they considered to be the "hot" restaurants then and one of the writers said that there had been a ton of buzz and that everyone was talking about Katy's Dumplings in Westmont. Just previous to that NPR segment, the Katy's thread on LTH was at least 4 pages long with consistent accolades.

*My recollection is that they were from TOC although it could have been Chicago mag.
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#17
Posted March 27th 2007, 11:50am
Sazerac's post was logged several months before the paper press picked up K's. But that just proves who started the snowball rolling. I've though a little about why a place like Katy's gets a big bump from positive review, but other places don't. It's not just LTH that is unable to get people to try Salamera and similar spots. TOC, Steve Dolinski, Monica Eng, Mike Sula, the pillars of Chicago's ethnic dining press, have writeups in windows of deserving but empty storefronts all over town.

Katy's is one of those rare gems hidden in plain view. It is in a very accessible place that is also the crossroads for a major population center in the suburbs. But Katy's looks like just another bad strip-mall chop suey joint, which abound out there. Once the press, including the local neighborhood press in DuPage, caught on to what Katy's really is, the place took off. Also, despite the pig ear and black eggs, most of what Katy's makes is very easy to appreciate for most diners.
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#18
Posted March 27th 2007, 12:21pm
JeffB wrote:TOC, Steve Dolinski, Monica Eng, Mike Sula, the pillars of Chicago's ethnic dining press, have writeups in windows of deserving but empty storefronts all over town.


I would add that one good review in a print publication is just an opinion; several glowing reviews on LTH make it more of a consensus. Add to that the excellent food photography on this site and people are headed out the door.

As for Cafe Salamera, my understanding from some posts was that the hours are not so good which might be the cause of its "emptiness."
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#19
Posted March 27th 2007, 1:25pm
most of what Katy's makes is very easy to appreciate for most diners.


Where most of Salamera's problems in attracting similar folks, even more than its hours, can probably be summed up in the phrase "pork sandwich."
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#20
Posted March 27th 2007, 2:40pm
To get back to reviewers/critics and bloggers...I just read this piece today in conjunction with the author's awesome story about a MN chef and his restaurant, Hell's Kitchen. It's a very personal account of her couple of years as a reluctant food critic. Having just had a "bigger pictures, fewer words" conversation with an editor, it seemed particuarly relevant...and somewhat depressing.
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#21
Posted March 31st 2007, 4:41am
bibi rose wrote:
David Hammond wrote:This article focuses on negative web reviews, but a powerful incentive for positive reviews by "mainstream" critics is that your words are more likely to be quoted if you're helping sell the product. For instance, a movie critic knows that he's more likely to be quoted in nationwide ads if he waxes hyperbolic about a film with comments like "Quite possibly the most beautiful movie ever made" or "The feel-good film of the season." Such quotes are used in ads, and the more the reviewer is quoted, the more powerful the reviewer becomes.


How often in those ads is the reviewer named? It seems like an awful lot of them just say "New York Times" or whatever.


Well, at MikeG's direction, I no longer read newspapers, but I do have the DVD box from my director's cut platinum edition of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, and I notice on the back cover:

"A movie destined to become the most hilarious musical epic since This is Spinal Tap" (Pete Hammond, Maxim)

"Laugh till it hurts and and then you'll laugh some more" (Guy Farris, KXTV-TV, ABC).

Ever heard of Pete or Guy? Me neither (and I guess I'm related to one of them), but we both have now.

David "Better than Harold and Kumar, better even than Hey, Dude, this is THE stoner film for the new millennium. Dude." Hammond
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#22
Posted March 31st 2007, 5:59pm
David Hammond wrote:
bibi rose wrote:
David Hammond wrote:
How often in those ads is the reviewer named? It seems like an awful lot of them just say "New York Times" or whatever.


Well, at MikeG's direction, I no longer read newspapers, but I do have the DVD box from my director's cut platinum edition of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, and I notice on the back cover:

"A movie destined to become the most hilarious musical epic since This is Spinal Tap" (Pete Hammond, Maxim)

"Laugh till it hurts and and then you'll laugh some more" (Guy Farris, KXTV-TV, ABC).

Ever heard of Pete or Guy? Me neither (and I guess I'm related to one of them), but we both have now.

David "Better than Harold and Kumar, better even than Hey, Dude, this is THE stoner film for the new millennium. Dude." Hammond


Heh. Blows my theory right out of the water. :lol:

bibi "this cracked my s*** right up" rose.
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#23
Posted March 31st 2007, 7:47pm
I post with some regularity on Yelp Chicago. I find that it's best to approach that site with the understanding that somewhere around 85% of the people who review restaurants there wouldn't know good cuisine if it jumped up and bit them on the ass.

When reading a forum/blog like Yelp, you learn to trust the reviews of a few who share a common understanding of good ethnic cuisine with you and don't sweat it over the others who have far more opinion than they do knowledge.

You completely ignore the reviews of the idiots unless you're just looking for laughs.
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#24
Posted October 5th 2009, 10:26am
FTC: Bloggers must disclose payments for reviews


It's a short AP story with little detail, but of potential interest to LTH.
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#25
Posted October 11th 2009, 5:00pm


Looks as if it's unlikely to make much difference. Bloggers will not be penalized for failing to disclose freebies and kickbacks.

FTC Clarifies Blogger Guidelines: 'We've Never Brought a Case Against Somebody Simply for Failure to Disclose'
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#26
Posted October 11th 2009, 5:08pm
This blogger did an interview with a clearly confused and self-contradictory FTC spokesman. Here's his take on the claims now being made (as per the above) by the FTC that they wouldn't mess with bloggers:

[UPDATE 4: In an October 8, 2009 interview with Fast Company, Cleland has backpedaled somewhat, claiming that the $11,000 fine is not true and indicating that the FTC will be "focusing on the advertisers." The problem is that page 61 of the proposed guidelines clearly states, "Endorsers also may be liable for statements made in the course of their endorsements." And endorsers, as we have established in this interview, include bloggers. However, Cleland is right to point out that the guidelines do not point to a specific liability figure and that it would take a blogger openly defying a Cease & Desist Order to enact penalties. The Associated Press was the first to report the $11,000 fine per violation. Did somebody at the AP misreport the penalty information? Or was it misinterpreted?

Some investigation into FTC precedents would suggest that the AP reported these concerns correctly. Here are some precedents for the up to $11,000 fine per violation: non-compliance of wedding gown label disclosure, non-compliance of contact lens sellers, and an update to the federal register. On Monday, the FTC precedents establish heavy penalties for non-compliance, the the guidelines themselves specify penalties as endorsers, and Cleland insists that bloggers who review products are "endorsers." On Wednesday, Cleland now claims that bloggers won't be hit by penalties. The FTC needs to be extremely specific about this on paper, if it expects to allay these concerns. (Thanks to Sarah Weinman for reporting assistance on this update.)]


In short, your government, having announced that your free speech may be subject to considerable penalties at the whim of a federal agency with no clear jurisdiction over your kind of non-commercial speech if it decides that some little aspect of that speech renders it commercial... has now said, don't worry, we won't exercise that whim. Reassured yet?
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#27
Posted October 11th 2009, 8:38pm
I think it's fine that bloggers are going to be legally required to disclose that they were paid or given freebies for endorsements or good reviews. But I think that celebrities should also be held to the same standard. Commercials featuring celebrities endorsing cars or whatever should be compelled to disclose what they were given/paid in exchange for the endorsement. During the commercial.

Why should little ol' bloggers be held to a higher standard than big-budget commercials and celebrity spokespeople?
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#28
Posted October 12th 2009, 10:32am
elakin wrote:I think it's fine that bloggers are going to be legally required to disclose that they were paid or given freebies for endorsements or good reviews. But I think that celebrities should also be held to the same standard. Commercials featuring celebrities endorsing cars or whatever should be compelled to disclose what they were given/paid in exchange for the endorsement. During the commercial.

Why should little ol' bloggers be held to a higher standard than big-budget commercials and celebrity spokespeople?


I think the new rules do impose new rules on celebrity endorsements. My recollection -- which may very well be incorrect -- is that it even requires celebrities to disclose any affiliation when they go on, say, "The View" and causally mention that they really like some new hand cream.
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