Boston Magazine Gets with the People

Best-restaurant lists are standard operating procedure for city mags like Boston Magazine. We all love lists, and it’s a no-brainer for the editorial team to decide to rank all the restaurants they’ve reviewed over the year.

This year, Boston Magazine did it a little differently: In addition to reviews from its staff and other traditional media, it used information from Yelp, Zagat, and Chowhound. Since Chowhound doesn’t have a star system, the magazine approached five Boston hounds and had them assign stars to each of the restaurants. Then Boston Magazine sent all the information off to a fancy statistician who did fancy statistician things to the data and spit back a list of the 50 best restaurants in Boston.

Is the everyman-reviewer now king? Maybe prince or at least duke—it turns out BoMag weighted its own reviews higher, but still, it’s not a top-down world anymore, with the editor sitting on high and pronouncing opinions to the hungry masses. As someone who has been humbled by Chowhounds, I love the idea that their expertise could eventually be elevated to be equal with a mainstream professional reviewer. Two of the magazine’s editors, Amy Traverso and Jolyon Helterman, even got involved in a Chowhound thread about the feature, explaining their process in quite some detail.

So is this a model that other media outlets will take on? What would the San Francisco Chronicle’s best dim sum feature look like if it had incorporated the thousands of opinions Chowhounds have on the subject?

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