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Pay for Play

I was alerted recently to a website that was asking restaurants to pay for a spot on their list of “Top 100” restaurants for Mardi Gras. This website, Eating Nolawas not really on my radar, but when I saw a few restaurateurs commenting about being hit up for placement on said list, I checked it out.

The page is no longer there, it appears, but essentially there was a list of 100 restaurants, with some spots identified as “already filled” and others up for sale. As I understand it, the website had contacted restaurants with a simple message: Pay us and we’ll include you on our list. None of the people who disclosed the message responded to them, but I imagine the amount the restaurant paid determined their placement on the list. I say that because the page I saw before it was taken down had certain places on the list marked as “purchased” or something of the sort and the other places on the list were listed as “available.”

Here’s what I said when I was first alerted to the situation:

I have a hard time believing that this website is a real thing (eatingnola.com) because it appears to offer spots on a list of “top restaurants” for sale. And it appears to be an Instagram thing that has more than 150,000 followers. Now I don’t know whether that’s a real number or whether it’s spoofed or there’s some astro-turfing going on, but from my brief perusal of the site, it looks like someone at least knows how to operate a camera and how to game social media.

But selling spots on a “top 100” list? That’s the sort of thing that IN MY OPINION ought to be publicized if it’s true, because it shows utter contempt for the site’s readers.

Again, I have a very difficult time believing it’s true. It can’t be, right?

I’ve posted the following on the Facebook page that, it appears, is associated with the eatingnola.com website, and while my post hasn’t appeared on their page as I write this, I’m hoping the folks behind it will respond to me. Here’s what I wrote:

Hi, is it true you’re selling spots on a list called “The Top 100 Mardi Gras Must Eats!!” to restaurants?

If not, who owns eatingnola.com?

If it is true, who bought spots on the list? Have you been to those restaurants? What did you charge for placement?

I’d love to have a chat with you to clear up what I suspect is some sort of fake news thing. And if it’s not a fake news thing, I have a lot more questions.

I hope you are not shocked that I did not hear back from Eating Nola, but my friend and former colleague at Renaissance Publishing Jordan DeFrank alerted me shortly thereafter to an “apology” issued by Eating Nola. In the event you don’t want to follow that link, or in the event it gets taken down (as did the page that showed how many slots on the “top 100” list were still open), I’ll paste it here:

We would like to respond to recents [sic] events by issuing an apology for the shortsighted marketing strategy that was the Mardi Gras Top 100. While we do not shy away from paid advertising, any compensation should not and will not influence the rankings of such publications.

We will continue to strive to support local business and share worthwhile content as we have done for many years.

Again please accept this as a formal we’re sorry and we hope to earn the respect back that took us years to earn.

Now, let’s get back to eating Nola and beyond.

Thank You,

The Eating Nola Team #eatingnola #nola #neworleans

Translation: “We are so sorry we got caught, y’all! #nola #eatingnola #shakedown #money #gotcaught #unethical #paidadvertising #formalwe’resorry etc.”

I don’t know whose trust these folks have earned, because the best I can figure their “website” is just an Instagram dumping ground for photos they may or may not have taken. I assume they did take the photos, and if so, good for them. I can only scroll down so far on their Instagram page, because I am not registered and have no desire to register on another social media page. Perhaps one of you, kind readers, will correct me and point out that beyond my scrolling capacity the two guys behind Eating Nola have written eruditely about food and restaurants and eating in New Orleans.

Perhaps, but based on the “apology” they wrote, I’m not going to hold my breath.

They have around 150,000 followers on that Instagram page, if the Instagram page is to be believed. I have no reason to doubt the number, but I’m a little disappointed if it’s accurate. Because that’s a lot of people following a couple of guys who in my opinion don’t deserve the attention and probably wouldn’t know good food if it walked up behind them and smacked them in the bottom. 

But on one thing we agree: Let’s get back to eating. Let’s just also agree we’ll ignore the opinions of people like those who run Eating Nola going forward. #dustbinofhistory #learntowrite #dumbasses #dontextortrestaurants




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