Elisia Menduni, a journalist we follow on Twitter tweeted on Monday that editor of Observer Food Monthly Allan Jenkins had said that the food critic in newspapers will no longer exist in 10 years time.
She was participating in the Parabere Forum organised for the first time in Bilbao. The forum aims to bring a collective of women from across the gastronomic industry.
We replied saying we thought that this will happen much earlier. Twitter is a great tool for engagement but it is not necessarily the best platform to delve deeper into why we think so.
So here are a few points on why we think that food critics (as we know them today) will disappear in newspapers sooner than 10 years.
1. Go back 10 years and think of what did not exist back then. When we look back, it is amazing to see how quick the pace of change has been. Few would have realised that such major disruptions in many industries were around the corner.
2. The newspaper (and media organisations as we traditionally know them) will change beyond recognition over the next 10 years. Some newspapers have already adopted a digital first approach but this is not enough to counter the trend. Newspapers will need to change beyond recognition if they are to survive the next 10 years.
3. Nowadays the barriers to entry are falling rapidly. Everyone can become a publisher or content provider. It has never been simpler. The role of gatekeeper is also diminishing. The number of bloggers reviewing restaurants probably exceeds by far the amount of articles that are published by food critics globally in the media. Understanding who holds power in today’s social media world will be key.
4. Bloggers, whether we like it or not, are becoming more influential. Not all can have the same influence as the big names currently writing in newspapers and many are still not on the radar screen. But the challenge is rising.
5. Bloggers may have a passion and that is the reason why they write about a given subject. But what about all the other platforms like Tripadvisor and Yelp which instantly turn everyone into a critic? Will the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ defeat bloggers and even critics in newspapers. We doubt it, but we must admit that they also influence people.
6. We think that some of these food critics, who are already brands in their own name, will eventually embrace change and also build a following on their own terms. They might do it either with their own media organisation or independently. A food critic’s platform in a newspaper may be authoritative but rather limiting.
7. We think that newspapers, faced with all this competition and monetary pressures, will eventually stop reviewing restaurants because it is not their core business.
8. There is clearly a lot of noise and this will continue to grow. But in this noise, new players will emerge. We think that these will be the curators who will guide you to the best content, the best places and the best products. These curators will have major influence. They will build that influence on the basis of trust. The trust they are given will need to be handled carefully because once its gone, it will not come back.
9. Guides will remain important but they will continue to lose their influence. They may need to adapt very quickly to the changes taking place. For example, does it make sense to have guides published on a yearly basis in the era of digital books and digital publishing?
10. It will not take long before we see restaurants producing their own media content. Some chefs and restaurant owners are already prolific on social media. As soon as they get to know it better, they will start to create their own content and become media brands in their own name. Consider this as an ancillary service they offer to their followers.