3.2.2016: Instagram / How to Be a Reviewer when Everyone’s a Critic



The Power and Importance of Instagram

As I re-entered archived newsletters into the new ChefsTech site (yes, manually, that’s a story for another day), mentions of one company stood far and above the rest: Instagram. Surprised? Me neither, but nothing like re-tagging three years’ worth of archives to drive home the point that the photo-centric social network has made a massive difference in the way we talk about, write about, recommend, and interact with restaurants. It’s undeniable. (I’m still hung up on Twitter’s biggest critics from years ago who just couldn’t understand why anyone cares “what you had for lunch.”)

Instagram does “from my perspective” better than any other platform, though, and with the power of Facebook behind it for a few years, has a reach far and wide and niche and involved. This week, a poignant reminder of that in the form of an Atlantic piece displaying Instagram images posted from food deserts. The images, to someone used to looking at well-composed restaurant meals and plates full of California produce, are sobering. In fact, Instagram is so good at telling us what people are eating that researchers at Georgia Tech  are using the platform to do research. Their findings, after analyzing 3 million food-related images:

“In every region of the United States, the foods shown in Instagrams posted from food deserts had higher cholesterol, sugar, and fat than the posts from non-food deserts. Popular foods differed by region: In the southeast U.S., food-desert dwellers posted a lot of bacon, brisket, and grits, while non-food-desert dwellers posted more peaches, beans, and collard greens. In the Midwest, food deserts were full of hamburgers, hot dogs, and the generic descriptor “meat,” while kale, turkey, and spinach were more popular outside of food deserts.”



How to Be a Reviewer when Everyone’s a Reviewer

This New Yorker piece isn’t about food criticism (it’s about books, film, and art), but it might as well be. It asks, “What’s the point of a reviewer in an age when everyone reviews?”

The piece does a better-than-anyone-ever job at articulating the difference between a professional and an armchair reviewer with phrases like, “We’ve reached peak criticism; a peacock spread of hermeneutic attention has become our basic greeting for creative work. What are the professionals doing for us today?”

Criticism is, like everything else, an evolving form in a digital, increasingly fragmented world. As niche content proliferates online, “mainstream” becomes less relevant and following your friends — or just those who hold similar opinions as you do — becomes the most efficient way of receiving information. (I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about the election… but you see the parallel, right?)

At any rate, the old way isn’t necessarily the best way, and the new way isn’t necessarily wrong, just different. But this piece, which is sort of a state-of-the-review-machine, will become a great resource as the age of the everyday critic continues.



Real-Time Ask-and-Answer’s Where It’s At

What’s better than the social internet? The real-time internet! Just today, two giants in the world of online food content promoted live ask-and-answer sessions: a Reddit AMA from Serious Eats and a Facebook live Q&A from Epicurious.

In many ways, the social internet contributed to the popularity of these live events from big brands: readers/viewers/fans/followers want to see the faces behind the big names; and the big names sure do want to tout their staff as accessible professionals, not just worker bees toiling away behind computer screens. In my magazine editorial past, part of the magic of the glossy final products was getting to know the names and personalities of the names on the masthead; digital connectivity has ushered in a new wave of this, giving the ability for aspirational and service-driven brands like Epicurious or Serious Eats or any other big name to offer real-time interaction with those who need it. Expect more of this!

*I would be wrong to not mention how awesome Noma’s Rene Redzepi has been on Periscope lately as he and his team put on their Australia pop-up. Check it out!



Companies Fast Company Overlooked

I’m very happy to have contributed to Din co-founder Emily Olson LaFave’s recent post about innovative food companies that should have made it onto the recent Fast Company list.

With so much change for good and innovation in the space, do companies like Taco Bell, Domino’s, and McDonald’s deserve to take the top spots… in innovation? With the stellar input of some other food-minded thinkers, this is a list we’d rather see in print. (And in digital.) Thanks, Emily!




Are You Going to Austin Next Week?

I am, and I’m speaking on a panel (stay tuned for more about that.) I’m also looking forward to meetups and parties and other panels (and Anthony Bourdain!) Here’s where you’re likely to find me, but please get in touch if you’ll be there. I’d love to say hello.







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