You’ve heard the old saying, â€˜Everyone’s a critic.â€™ It seems it’s never been as true as it is today. Each day the cyber world is filled with thousands (millions?) of restaurant reviewsâ€”everybody from an esteemed critic from the New Yorker magazine to your neighbor’s high school-age daughter is hitting the keyboard with widely-read culinary opinions. It’s one more example of the trend we call â€˜Virtual Community.â€™
Internet site Yelp.com offers the most prolific of restaurant review forums, averaging 4 million reviews a month, and 15 million monthly visitors. According to web traffic auditors such as Alexa and Nielsen Online, Yelp is growing faster than Citysearch and has many more visitors than other review sites like Zagat, OpenTable and Chowhound.
Writing for the New York Times, Donald G. McNeil Jr. writes that, while some remain dismissive, many restaurateurs now embrace the Yelpers. He quotes a Chicago chef and restaurant owner who says that anyone who struggled through 20 to 30 Yelp reviews of one of his restaurants â€˜would get a fair impression of it.â€™
Yelp reviewers compete to have their opinions named the Yelp â€˜Review of the Dayâ€™ and to reach Yelp Elite status. Yelp does not disclose exactly how one attains Elite status, McNeil says. Elite members must use their real first names, last initial and photo, so, at least at that level, yelping is not totally anonymous.
According to Yelp, 81% of Yelpers are under age 40, which probably accounts for the high percentage of pizza joint reviews, McNeil speculates.
If you like to dine out, enjoy sharing your opinions and can put together coherent sentences, you’re more than qualified to become an empowered published restaurant critic. But, the next time you walk into a restaurant? Try not to let the power go to your head.
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