Keeping Score

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Six months (plus a couple) into City of Ate and I'm still trying to figure out blogging. In the past couple of months, we've also added twitter--fortunately handed to someone else, since my response to the first mention of it was along the lines of 'I've read about it in the paper'--and a text message blast.

And yet, I'm still trying to understand the older format. Oh, we discuss possibilities from time to time. Some folks around here want to crowd the space with more and more posts, others want a different tone...Not too long ago, the powers that be offered a couple of suggestions, including a series of top 10 lists and a kind of side by side comparison dishes. Why not? I thought; seems like it could create some interesting pieces.

Of course, I'm not a blog-savvy sort.

So this morning I was flipping through one of the thought-provoking treatises by Scott on dallasfood.org when I found this: "People love competition. Comparative evaluations. That's why 'Best of Dallas' lists and issues perform well."

He wrote this in the midst of a discourse on star rating systems, correctly pointing out that one, two or three stars form a point of comparison around which readers can square off. The annual best of, the top 10 lists--yep, same thing.

Sometimes the powers that be know their stuff.

I would like to think that gimmicks aren't all that important when it comes to building an audience, but the evidence is there: hot programs on the Food Network and other channels seem to be moving almost exclusively to this format. Think of Iron Chef, The Next Food Network Star, Man vs. Food and such. Gone--or relegated to PBS/non-prime time hours--are many of the straightforward, Julia Child-style cooking shows.

I like Man vs. Food, by the way. Sorta my go to option when there's no sports and the History Channel is chasing down UFO tales or mega-somethings...OK, now I sound really pathetic.

Mind you, I actually enjoy the debate some of these contentious blog pieces generate. But I've turned away from the Food Network because of the competition yields little of interest. What will I glean from The Next Food Network Star, really? Does Iron Chef teach anything beyond the fact that different chefs will create different things with the same ingredients? Kinda knew that one already. You can cook a meal quickly? Hey, I did a stint at McDonald's, like everyone else.

Yet The Next Food Network Star is a hit. It gets people talking. It generates blog posts. So it looks like I'm in the wrong.

When I bailed out of grad school and into the broadcast world, I learned right away that some people will always hate your stuff, some will love it and most will just cruise through it with moderate interest...or, more likely, will ignore your work completely. So you just plod along without regard to the tricks that build listener (at least that's how it was on the AM side), viewer (I worked in PBS) or reader numbers.

I always thought of the 'best of' thing as a fun thing. Any true best would be determined by a set of criteria and lengthy examination of every example of whatever one is testing, after all...which gives me several ideas: best margarita, best martini, best...

Anyway, thanks dallasfood.org. Some of the suggestions tossed around the conference table when we've discussed the blog now make sense. Competition and controversy work. 

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