Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Landscapes Shifting in SF Online Food Industry Media?

eater     OR      steps_header_welcome

 

On Sunday, I had a chance to dine with a good friend and a well informed SF food industry member.  To whom, I posed the question: would you ever be interested in the Eater SF position?  The answer was no, but it was a response that was more based on circumstance and current disposition rather than an issue of desirability.  So, the conversation continued and we started to debate the presence and influence of the newly minted Chronicle insider versus the chief position over at Eater SF (and National).  Basically, all things being equal – leaving job satisfaction, environment and money out of any speculation (real reasons for leaving any position; I am certainly not speculating or commenting on Paolo Lucchesi’s choice), which position holds more gravity for the current and future media presence in the SF food industry?

While many prominent print papers have been forced into near bankruptcy, online media and journalism has blossomed and made its way into mainstream relevance.  Mockery and dismissal of online journalism is antiquated and asinine at this point.  For many print publications, it has essentially become a situation where the choice has been conformity or extinction.

While the Chronicle has enjoyed its ownership of being the Bay Area gateway for professional restaurant opinion, it has not been a relevant tunnel for industry information, commentary or controversy.  If anything, Eater SF has been the primary focus of restaurant fodder and holds a much stronger position in day-to-day industry presence.  Understandably, this move (Paolo’s hire) by the Chronicle makes a lot of sense, but one would question whether the Chronicle’s position as San Francisco’s print press stalwart limits their ability to provide some of the more sensational, non-sequitor and free form reporting without an editorial leash – something that the chief editor might happen to enjoy at Eater.  But then again, the Chronicle’s pure amount of readership and perceived prestige may be too hard to pass up. 

However, despite a lack in content and a true critical voice, Eater presently enjoys a clear cut advantage in their ability to provide content and industry relevance.  Hospitality and culinary professionals often tune into Eater on a day-to-day basis (or multiple daily visits even) whereas the Chronicle is not a relevant daily reader beyond the occasional poignant Bauer blog entry/reviews.  It is and will continue to stand as a newspaper geared to the consumer base.  While things have the prospect of shifting with Paolo now in tow, I wonder if a new and enthusiastic editor at Eater SF/National would entertain the idea of pushing the boundary of the current Eater mold into expanded content – utilizing a readership that consists of more industry professionals and well-informed diners.  Do you think Eater would ever have the ability to render the Chronicle any less relevant than it is today or vice versa?

I won’t dispute there are a lot of factors that may alter the perception, niche and style of the new Chronicle scoop page, but there seems to be a battle for market share on the horizon.  And, if you were to take odds on who would forecast to be the more prominent industry online presence in the near future, where would you place your bet on?