This evening, I flipped through the latest issue of NJ Monthly, which features what critics believe to be the best 25 restaurants in New Jersey. Since I grew up in New Jersey, I am very familiar with most of the restaurants in northern Jersey, and I disagreed with many of the choices for top restaurants in various categories.
I kept thinking about Yelp.com and how I could access hundreds of opinions about restaurants not even mentioned in the magazine. Websites like Chowhound.com attract devoted users who offer directed recommendations for anyone seeking a certain cuisine, atmosphere, or location.
(Pictured at left: When you drink the punch, you like the punch, by vsqz)
For every restaurant listing in the magazine, I wanted to write a letter to the editors about why I agreed or disagreed with the choice. Did the magazine want to start a dialogue? Printed magazines cannot begin dialogues. Sure, letters to the editor mimic a dialogue, but these letters are printed a month later, when no one cares anymore.
On the other hand, I did appreciate the restaurant listings for other parts of the state because I’m less familiar with them. Perhaps this guide would be good for someone visiting New Jersey for the first time. At the same time, I assume that most of the people who read NJ Monthly are from New Jersey.
Case in point? Magazines need to be more “niche” to survive by attracting advertisers. NJ Monthly is “niche”, but you can’t tell a “niche” audience what’s best for them because they already know. Readers from New Jersey selected some of these top restaurant picks, but these readers only represent a small percentage of the “niche” audience.
A “niche” audience is a community that needs a real-time method of communication. Printed magazines fail them.