Friday, January 28, 2005

Bloggers versus Bauer

A little while earlier I was settling down with a Feb 05 copy of 7x7 Magazine when I literally jumped out of my seat and exclaimed "oh my god!" (a phrase Fred heartily disapproves of, and which I rarely exclaim). I was reading the article entitled Blogger v Bauer (Bauer is San Francisco's most famous restaurant critic, writing for the Chronicle), when suddenly I saw my very own name in print.

A quote from the article:

...we figured chefs might also be getting familiar with food blogs such as Chez Pim (written by Pim Techamuanvivt), Tastingmenu (written by Hillel Cooperman) or Becks & Posh (written by Sam Breach and named for a Cockney term that translates to "nosh") Surely, in this technocentric city, chefs must regularly take peeks at websites such as Chowhound, Citysearch and eGullet...

Despite all my initial excitement at having a name-check, it appears that the chefs don't really give a toss about anything us little blogging and Chowhound people might think. If they do happen to witness any of us rant and rave online, then they might just laugh. Bauer's opinion is declared to be far more influential than ours. And, of course it is, his readership is infinitely larger, so it's hardly suprising.

But it's ok, I'm happy making very little ripples. I do it for love, not for money...

NB. Fred assures me I said "oh my goodness", not "oh my god" as previously thought. I am relieved that my old-fashioned, British, jolly-hockeystick speak came through for me in a moment of need.

I do have some more thoughts on the article. I will post them in the comments section.
Bloggers versus Bauer


  • At 29/1/05 01:34, Blogger cedichou said…

    The numbers: SF Chron daily distribution, half a million, SF Examiner, 125,000 a day, SF Weekly and Bay Guardian, about 100,000 copies a week. Plus the web traffic on their own sites. Bauer gets the web for like 10 days, the weeklies for ever, with high page rank in google.

    Chowhound does get quite some traffic, but the information gets diluted as opinions differ a lot. So while it is influential if there is some consensus, consensus is rare.

    The individual food bloggers, like you or Pim, are a few orders of magnitude away, for now. On the other hand, I'm sure you are seeing a steady increase of traffic: it is only a matter of time till Bauer or Brody are irrelevant.

    Until then, Bauer vs. blogger is won handily by the institutional reviewer. But do keep up the good work!

  • At 29/1/05 08:29, Blogger Karen said…

    Coincidentally, I just bought the magazine yesterday! While I have yet to read the article, I can attest that those in the food blogging community certainly value opinions of fellow food bloggers like yourself!

    Congrats on your name in print!

  • At 29/1/05 09:53, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh my god! (I'm going to say it anyway) you're famous! Sweet.


  • At 29/1/05 10:29, Blogger Sam said…

    Hi Ced/Karen/Molly and any other readers!

    My initial post was a very brief summary of the whole article. it is clear that the newspapers are influential and can really change the way a place is perceived by the public. They can make people walk in and walk out.
    Personally I particularly like chowhound because because it goes one step further than that, gets closer to the truth that is behind any hype. But most consumers aren't as dedicated as people like the bloggers and the chowhounders, so they don't do as much research before eating out.They just go where they are told is the latest cool 'in' place.
    Ced - sometimes blogger restaurant reviews actually get a higher rating than Bauer in online searches. I was quite suprised sometimes to see that my reviews might get top place, I don't know why that is. It kind of seems random, but I do get a lot of referrals that way.
    In the article, the chefs do contradict themselves a bit from time to time. Some of them are a bit dismissive of the punters point of view, saying they have no credibility. I would say to that chef - generally people dont put in all this effort to tell lies, people are just recounting real life experiences.
    Phan, from the Slanted Door, for example, admits "the word on the street is much more scary".
    Craig Stoll from Delfina says it is part of his job to check the online opinions. He says he's even made changes because of them. He adds, that if he recognises a reviewer he'll do everything in his power to make sure the best meal possible. Hey, Craig, if you are reading this - take a look at mine and Fred's picture closely, (I don't really have pink hair, my name is Sam Breach and we have been meaning to try Delfinia for quite a while...)

  • At 29/1/05 10:44, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just addressed the same topic in my own blog

    Well, not 7 X 7 magazine specifically (which seems to be published for the express purpose of showing Kimberly Guilfolye's teeth) but the role of the media. I don't know that bloggers will render Bauer etl irrelevant but it is a welcome addition.

    Unlike Zagat, bloggers have an individual voice. This is present somewhat on Chowhound and eGullet (horrible new format BTW) but really not too many people follow those voices when they are aggregrated on those sites. After reading someone's blog you can get sense for whtether their palate is similar and whether to use their opinions as a guide.

    PS Try Delfina. It's one of the very restaurants we return to again and again on trips to SF.

  • At 29/1/05 11:20, Blogger Grins said…

    Hi Michele sent me. Had no idea I was going to a celebrity's site. Enjoying your blog, even though I'm not in your area to enjoy some of the reviewed places.

  • At 29/1/05 18:35, Blogger drbiggles said…

    HI !!

    Eeee, that was over hyperactive. Uh, Hey.

    Please don't listen too darned much to the 'media'. Or any one person. You know damned well you're doing a great job and clearly having a good time. As long as you're having a good time, damn them all. Shoot for the good time.

    Hey, uh, Meathenge is having a contest. Please come participate.



  • At 29/1/05 19:23, Blogger Alder said…

    Sam, Congrats on the press mention !! I know Pim has been looking for a copy of the magazine, perhaps you can share when you're done.

  • At 30/1/05 23:34, Blogger Jackson said…

    Yeah, congrats on the shout out, Sam. I had to snark just a bit on 7x7...I'll have to go thumb through a copy at Fog City News over chocolate.

  • At 31/1/05 12:28, Blogger Owen said…

    I don't think it'll be all that long before sites like yours and Pim's are taken very seriously by chefs. I already don't bother reading newspaper reviews of ANYTHING - restaurants included. No slight on Michael Bauer - he's one of the rstaurant critics I quite like.

    But I trust the opinions of people who know (for example) that a soft naan is as bad as a piece of toilet paper and TELL me that.

    Anyway, congrats.

  • At 31/1/05 15:21, Blogger Hoff said…

    I agree that we wee bloggers don't have much voice, but at the same time, I've been party to some situations where we've helped people find a restaurant which otherwise wouldn't have gotten as much notice early on (before the 'professionals' reviewed it), and the restauranteurs were not only very friendly, but extraordinarily appreciative, and also quite interested in the honest feedback.

    So sometimes, we do get noticed. And man, does it feel good. :)

  • At 7/2/05 23:56, Blogger Elise said…

    Hi Sam,
    How great to stumble upon your own name in print, and in such worthy company! We are still relatively such few voices. I predict that will change this year, and many more will take notice.

  • At 12/8/05 11:00, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't have a blog, but I do read them so I think I can give a more neutral opinion on this since I'm neither a professional restaurant reviewer or a blogger. I still go to newspapers to read the reviews. The one thing you are forgetting in all of this is that most of the professional reviewers (not all of them) are journalists and they also have access to many more restaurants than we do (and go to many more than we ever could.) And even a weekly or a monthly publication may have 100,000 readers or more, and they have done studies that show that people believe print far more than online for information. I'm a waiter in a pretty nice place and I know that our chef barely even knows how to use the computer. But he definately reads all of the print publications that review him. I've told him about blogs that mention him and he has no idea waht a blog even is. There's also the question of integrity. I think Pim hurt bloggers' credibility alot when she started dating david kinch after gushing over the restaurant for months and months. Imagine if Michael Bauer or any of the print restaurant reviewers started dating a chef - bloggers would have a field day screaming about how unprofessional and unethical it was. I also find it interesting that you all say "it doesn't matter to you" and you are doing it for love, but you seem really excited just to be mentioned in a legit print publication. I don't believe that you wouldn't join the "main stream media" if someone offered to pay you full time to write about restaurants. It's a plum gig. I know I would love to do it for sure. Just my observations.

  • At 12/8/05 14:37, Blogger Sam said…

    Thank you - anon - for your interesting thoughts.

    I would like to address your points from my perspective, not from a general bloggers perspective:

    1) I don't get what point you are making about access to more restaurants. There only 3 meals a day and any one who can afford it can eat out every meal of their life if they choose to which would be more than a restaurant reviewer.

    2) We all know print, currently, is far more well read. It is kind of obvious. Studies are all very well being cited, but really please back up with evidence otherwise they don't mean much. I read newspaper reviews myelf. I like to read them, but they only give opinion from a critics point of view, from the view of someone who never pays for their supper.
    Online, unpaid reviewers have the point of view of the paying customer so I like to double check with them too. If the chefs aren't satisfying the paying customer, they aren't doing their job well, whatever Bauer does or doesn't say.

    3) Pim does not represent food bloggers.Please don't think she does. She is not a spokeswoman nor an example for the collective group. I have my own values, I stick by them, i don't play by any other blogger's rules. The only credibility any blogger should have to worry about is their own.

    4) Integrity - some bloggers write about free samples without declaration. Me, I prefer transparency so my readers will respect me and so I can respect myself.

    5) I have been offered money for advertising. I turned it down.

    6) It doesn't matter to me. I get paid a lot more in my day job than I would ever be for wiritng about food. It's a hobby. I am prob different to a lot of bloggers in this respect. Even if I did want to change my career, I couldnt in this counrty because of my visa. But I don't want to so that is ok. I've written freelance for quite a few publications before now. With the exception of The Daily Mail in the UK, it was never worth the money. The only way I can do this is for myself. The only pressure I enjoy writing under, is my own.
    I would hate to be a professional critic. I enjoy my dining freedom too much.

    I guess I don't fit the stereo type you had of me. But I hope that fact refreshes, rather than disappoints you.



Post a Comment

<< Home