Fake News

How many restaurants are there in New Orleans now?

New restaurants bloomed five years out from Katrina, as did the overall population, but all at once it seems that restaurants are closing like crazy. I’m not surprised. How many eateries can survive over the course of three to five years. There aren’t enough people eating out to justify the numbers of new restaurants. Some long-established restaurants have recently bitten the dust: Back To The Garden, Mizado, Phil’s Grill, Slice, Manhattanjack, Mat & Naddie’s, and many more in 2017. It’s perhaps a function of competition from newer restaurants, not enough population to go around, or maybe even the fact that the summer of 2017 has been pretty lousy in terms of convention traffic.

All of us, of course, love the wide choices of restaurants we find in the New Orleans market. As old restaurants close, new ones arise to take their place.

But how long can they survive?

I believe it may also be a result that many restaurants no longer feel the need to advertise, and let’s face it: the competition is so fierce and profit margins so thin in the restaurant business that they constantly need to let not only their “regulars” about their restaurant, they constantly need to bring in new markets, or to invent a new branding strategy that will develop a new market.

Many businesses are using social media more and more as their only marketing strategy. As the owner of media that has seen a severe impact on our regular advertising base lost to social media, I can attest that I’ve heard many restaurants (and bars) say that social media is so cheap and targeted that they’d rather use social media alone. Because (they’ve heard) it’s the future and probably more importantly, it’s cheap.

This is a mistake.

Effective social media is more expensive than it’s perceived to be because it takes a lot of thought, work and strategic moves to make any impact at all. And if you want it to be effective you have to pay someone to actually do the job. Unfortunately, most of these “social media experts” basically know enough to take and post a food photo with a short caption and a hashtag or two (this is “content”?). Or maybe a restaurant is paying a traditional media for placement on their social media. That’s free marketing? No, it’s not!

Gaining a large following on social media isn’t easy. It might be a cliché but I can guarantee you that content is definitely king. We pride ourselves on the fact that OffBeat’s social media contains actual editorial content that we write as journalistically as possible, and that is what has grown our social media followers. We don’t regularly post photo posts like “Relax and go to Blah Blah Restaurant to taste their blah blah. #blahblah.” First of all, our followers access our social media because we’ve got content they are sincerely interested in knowing about. They don’t want to be bombarded by blatant promotions (read advertising) for BlahBlah which are slyly portrayed as editorial. They aren’t. They are paid for. In the print world, this is known as “Advertorial” and it’s supposed to be clearly marked as such. “Special Sections” in newspaper, weeklys and magazines are paid advertising. But there’s no such appellation on social media that you see on media websites. So how can you have any trust in the credibility of social media when they contain posts that are nothing but disguised adverts? There are websites now that depend on “sponsored posts”—that means paid-for advertisements. See Buzzfeed, for example.

I don’t know about you, but I swiftly hide or delete anything on social media that I know is an ad. I’m probably more attuned  to the use of advertorial in print and television (most of this advertorial is marked as such), and the web (but web advertorial is hardly ever designated as such, and this IMHO is seriously messed up. How many social media users are aware that they’re being persuaded by rather nefarious means? A very few.

Check it out. Most restaurants and clubs have way fewer followers than traditional media’s followers. Readers want content, not ads. And reputable media won’t try to deceive. In this day and age, one must always question whether the content is real or a disguised ad that’s being paid for. It’s a shame, but it’s what’s happened with the rise of social media. It’s much  easier to play the reader with “fake news.”

I realize I’m old school, and it’s really sad and scary that many people don’t know or can’t discern the difference between journalism (real news) and advertorial (fake news). Time to wake up.