4.8.2014: Magazines / Chefs Read Reviews


Highlighting Reader Food Photos

I worked at a magazine before the ubiquity of smartphones and infrastructure to support user-generated content. This doesn’t mean we didn’t try — in the early days of branded Facebook pages and YouTube channels we did our best to solicit a reader response. Sadly, the practice of capturing amateur photos, videos, and all the other great user-created content wasn’t yet ingrained in our brains. (Ask me about the time my magazine ran a pretty awesome YouTube-based contest and received eleven entries.)

So, you’ll understand my elation at the ways titles are now able to capture, promote and share reader content — and the level of excitement expressed by said readers. This week, Bon Appetit is honoring its readers and including content like this slideshow of audience-captured Instagram images.

I still believe capturing decent food photos is an art (and have written about that ad nauseum), this sort of interactivity coming from a big title suggests a shift in the way big media thinks about and entertains its readers. More than just putting a smartphone in everyone’s hands, encouraging solid food photography, featuring said photography, and then using this information to dictate what the website and magazine feature seriously shortens the feedback loop for these big publishers. Plus, it keeps things interesting — connecting to the actual end-user of your product is almost always positive.

I don’t know that this will start to mean a fundamental shift in the way big publishers handle content, but it seems to be an of-the-moment response. And after too many years of closed-door, aspirational magazines dictating how things should be done, it’s a welcome gust of fresh air.

illustration by April V. Walters
illustration by April V. Walters


VICE’s “Munchies” Will Disrupt “Cozy” Food TV

Food is fun. Everyone eats. It’s a reflection of our culture and, like fashion, can be interpreted myriad ways. Enter VICE’s new food channel, Munchies. Part written word, part online video destination, the new content aims to reach an audience unimpressed with The Food Network but totally impressed with &*#%ing delicious food (and in that coveted 18-34 demographic).

Given VICE’s take on pop culture generally, it’ll be interesting to see how the new food content evolves. It seems so far, so good since yesterday’s launch. (I especially enjoyed this piece about dining alone. Great stuff.)


Videos of Chefs Reading Reviews of their Restaurants

This is The Best. Last week, ChefsFeed launched a new video series titled “Chefs Read Bad Reviews,” featuring prominent chefs reading, for the first time it seems, negative Yelp reviews of their restaurants. The reviews criticize everything from food to service, and the chefs have no qualms about rebuttling, but do so with funny and honest commentary. “They do have expresso,” reads one review. “Obviously you didn’t pay attention when you were in Italy,” responds the chef.

Each video is better than the last, and all are good for a giggle. They’re also a great reminder that an online review sent off into the ether can have real and lasting effects.


A Study of Online Reviews

Surprise! External factors, from the weather to the size of the city where the restaurant is located can affect its online reviews, according to data released last week. The worst reviews, according to the study, come when the temperature is below 40 degrees, above 100 degrees, or if it was raining or snowing. More unsurprising data: people in larger cities will tolerate longer wait times, and restaurant ambiance and higher prices can produce more favorable reviews.

Data came from reviews posted on Citysearch, Tripadvisor, and Foursquare — Yelp, apparently, wouldn’t release enough data to be included in the study.

And, for those especially interested in the online review space a recent Wall Street Journal article has a great rundown on the legal protection and other parameters around these user reviews and what they mean for businesses.


  • Good read: The world’s top 10 most innovative companies in food — Fast Company
  • Coming to a city near you: pizza vending machines — Epicurious
  • Things that are a thing: the Aromafork — HuffPost

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