Re:Is DDD Out-Roadfooding Roadfood.com???
Wed, 10/9/13 2:07 PM
Page Productions and Food Network, whom I believe are the co-owners of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," have not mismanaged their brand nearly as badly as Roadfood.com has mismanaged its. I know exactly what a DDD restaurant is.
Even DDD's fan sites, such as Flavortown USA, don't have forums where people can talk about restaurants that have not already received the program's seal of approval. Now, don't get me wrong - the forums at this site (when they are not overwhelmed with spam and robots, as this morning) are by leagues the best thing about this place, full of awesome people and wonderful recommendations. I love this forum and this observation is not meant in any way to be negative or critical of a great social place. I would, however, also concur with Davydd that there are far too many off-topic areas in these forums.
The problem is that Roadfood.com is, for me, a forum, and no longer useful as a principal site.
See, from a brand perspective, people know exactly what "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" means, and apart from some "what TV show was that place on" confusion between DDD, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Man vs. Food (which is on another network entirely, but I've had people swear to my face that they saw Guy Fieri do a show from Kennesaw GA's Big Pie in the Sky, when, NO, it was Adam from MvF...), DDD has done nothing in its social world to damage the brand that it created.
I realize there is a contradiction there, and that's going to always be the case. Fan discussion of DDD places is going to center around "what I saw on the show." User discussion on this forum is going to center around "roadfood," regardless of whether Roadfood.com has featured / stamped approval on the places offered as suggestions by its users, or praised in trip reports.
The best way to fix this discrepancy is for Roadfood.com to develop a much stronger brand, letting the ideas, the trip reports, and the stories from the forum, which is the site's greatest strength, become the backbone of a stronger site.
A top-of-my-head example (of many) is Gary Lee's Market in Brunswick GA, which was mentioned in a number of forum posts, and which I never, ever would have found without this forum. But forum posts are ephemeral and don't have the brand's approval by way of a featured review. If people are using the forum to get this kind of information, Roadfood.com should be commissioning somebody with a camera and a notepad to get down to Brunswick and get a feature about the place, and direct traffic from the forums to the feature.
There needs to be a more open procedure for featuring new stories on the site when users think a restaurant or festival or something would make a good feature.
New "reviews" - I would use "articles" - need to be spotlighted and featured front and center much more frequently, rather than rotating or cycling through old things as is the case now. Look what the Roadfood of the Day is for Wed, Oct. 9 - why! it's Atlanta's Varsity. Hooray for FRESH CONTENT! Nobody has EVER spotlighted The Varsity before!
The site needs to vet new submissions and suggestions closely to ensure they're not getting inappropriate places like Skipper's Fish Camp or Village Burger in the mix. It diminishes the brand when people visit a restaurant that may be good and may be great but leaves them wondering "...what made this place roadfood?"
The site needs to not delete history with its idiotic purges. Show me the episode of DDD where they clipped out and deleted the segment on Atlanta's Cabbagetown Market, and the DDD fan sites that expunged that restaurant/store from its database, and I'll say that maybe Roadfood.com might be the more trustworthy brand after all.
I realize that the ship can't be turned around overnight, and that changes cost money, but if the site admins start working now, there's no reason why Roadfood.com can't solicit a whole bunch of new reviews and articles from people who have expressed a desire to write new things, VET THEM TO ENSURE THAT THEY ARE SUITABLE, and start stockpiling some great new material, including trip reports, news stories, reviews, and features, and start launching fresh new content on a regular schedule either daily or five times a week in the spring of 2014.
Make people want to use the site, not the message board, in other words.