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The politics of a review...


OMDave
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But I sell advertising based on readership - unless you have an avid, loyal reader and an audited reader demographic profile to present, why would anyone advertise? 

Put the readers' interest first - the advertising will follow.

Exactly!

Cheers,

Anne

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^ An interesting thought. Maybe reviews really ought to post the day of the week and time the review took place. This would give readers an idea of what a "tuesday night at 6" might be like over a friday night at 8.

I always read rave reviews of places as well as "how busy" they are but man, if you go a 5pm on a tuesday I'm pretty sure it won't be packed and the chef(s) might even have more time to really give your dishes some good lovin. Of course this means you're eating at 5pm which for me is just past lunch on some days :biggrin:

Edited by fud (log)

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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I think you have to decide what will be your editorial policy.

Do you want to give honest reviews of the food? The dining experience?

Do you want to steer clear of brutal honesty - and focus instead on, say, everything but the restaurant and its food?

Restaurant Magazine in the UK has looked at restaurant reviewers' columns - and has rated them/broken down their content according to how much (percentage of copy) is devoted to the food, to a description of the room, to unrelated topics - particularly how much is all about them (the reviewers).

Some reviewers make it a point to barely touch on the restaurant - and it then becomes all about them, who they're dining with, aren't we special and self-absorbed, etc.

Someone like AA Gill still draws a cult following (I'm a fan) - but he hardly treads into the depths of the restaurants in his columns.

Memo - are you an urban diner or an urban whiner?

Edited by Memo (log)

Ríate y el mundo ríe contigo. Ronques y duermes solito.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Snore, and you sleep alone.

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^ An interesting thought.  Maybe reviews really ought to post the day of the week and time the review took place.  This would give readers an idea of what a "tuesday night at 6" might be like over a friday night at 8. 

I always read rave reviews of places as well as "how busy" they are but man, if you go a 5pm on a tuesday I'm pretty sure it won't be packed and the chef(s) might even have more time to really give your dishes some good lovin. Of course this means you're eating at 5pm which for me is just past lunch on some days  :biggrin:

Good point. I'm usually very careful about pointing out if I'm dining at an unusual time of the day or week. Most of my visits take place on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, which I think is fine because that tends to be when the majority of the dining public dines out.

Jason

Editor

EatVancouver.net

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Some very good information posted, thanks everyone. Some response....

Barolo: I just sent off an email to our editors with your suggestions. I think a little disclaimer at the start of reviews definately couldn't hurt.

Andrew M:

You'll gain a lot of credibility if your business immediately divorces itself from the reviewing process. Again, hire someone, pay them, and stay out of their way. Print what comes in, both the good and the bad. You might piss a few people off by being on the level, but that is the risk you take when you review anything.

We currently do have writers on staff for our reviews. Although many of them are not on the professional level as yourself and some other food reviewers, we would like to give them the opportunity to grow and develop their skills rather than hiring someone to replace them.

I agree that Open Mouth as a business should stay out of their way but my original question stemmed from the writers wanting to have some direction as to our magazines "guidelines" on reviews. Hence my question to eGullet, as we didn't actually have any set guidelines. From your response I understand you think we should keep it that way and I fully agree except in some extreme circumstances.

"According to your website, you're in charge of Business Development. Ask yourself if your personal thoughts should come into the equation at all, and then weigh your answer against its relevance. If you're concerned about the hurt feelings of restaurateurs, tell your writers not to be."

Business development is probably the most ambiguous title on the face of the planet. Needless to say, any questions and/or responses to my posts will be read or forwarded to the editorial and design staff. We have already started to make some changes based on the feedback you and other eGullet members have provided. Keep them coming!

"As it stands right now, just about every restaurant "blogger/reviewer" out there is doing a better job than Open Mouth with 1/100th of the budget, zero advertising, and no agenda, so I don't really think you're in a position to discount "just another" anything, David. Also, none of them are what I'd describe as particularly negative."

I hope we can change your opinion of us over time. As for negative bloggers, I think you may have overlooked some. There are more than a few blogs and websites out there who rely on negative and sarcastic writing to draw readership. I don't even particularly think there is anything wrong with many of those sites but I wanted to explain that we don't intend to be anything like them.

"Right now, it sounds like you are micromanaging editorial content. If you don't allow your writers the kind of independence of thought that translates to the page you'll stick dead and irrelevant to the industry and about as worthwhile a resource to the public as a puddle of pee. Also, look at what is working for other publications, both online and off (presumption is the mother of many things, but seldom success). You've got great potential, but if you want to make an impact on the dining scene in Vancouver within any reading demographic I think the only viable way to do so is through strength of editorial. In other words, I'd tell your editor and publisher to step away from the vehicle a little and let the writers do their own thing without having to toe a policy line of that uses "positive" and "negative" as goal posts."

Thank you for some very good advice.

Lauraf:

"Put the readers' interest first - the advertising will follow."

Again, thank you for the very good advice.

fud:

"Maybe reviews really ought to post the day of the week and time the review took place. This would give readers an idea of what a "tuesday night at 6" might be like over a friday night at 8.

I always read rave reviews of places as well as "how busy" they are but man, if you go a 5pm on a tuesday I'm pretty sure it won't be packed and the chef(s) might even have more time to really give your dishes some good lovin. Of course this means you're eating at 5pm which for me is just past lunch on some days biggrin.gif"

Very cool idea. Maybe we could place the time and day at the top of every review in the title area? I know many reviewers mention the time they went but I haven't seen it done at the very top, and every time.... Thanks for the idea fud, I'll pass that on.

-----

Thanks as well to everyone else who posted and to whomever sent me the email about the dead link on our website. As I mentioned in the other thread, if anyone ever has any questions, advice, hate mail, or would like to help us out with some writing please don't hesitate to email. :smile:

Thanks again,

Edited by OMDave (log)

Dave Williams

Open Mouth Magazine

dave@openmouth.ca

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Best of luck, Dave.

When you wrote of negative bloggers/reviewers, you meant local, right?

Hey Andrew,

That must be where the confusion lay. I didn't mean any blogger in particular. I have lived all over Canada and tend to think of websites/blogs from other provinces as well as from the States.

Dave Williams

Open Mouth Magazine

dave@openmouth.ca

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You know, Dave, I wasn't a huge fan of your first issue - but still say good on anyone for putting out a new publication, and like I mentioned in another thread, I'm likely not your target market anyway - and I should also do another dash - I haven't seen the November issue either - I have to give you a lot of credit for the grace with which you are taking the 'advice' (and the whuppings) from this site's contributors. I look forward to continually improved editions. You seem to have the right attitude.

Hey, it's a free consulting service you're getting here, right? :raz:

Edited for excessive bitchiness.

Edited by lauraf (log)

Laura Fauman

Vancouver Magazine

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