Stuffing the 'best of Indy' ballot box

August 19, 2011
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Anyone who follows a service provider on Twitter likely has seen the get-out-the-vote pleas: Help get my restaurant/store/salon onto one of the “Indy’s best” lists. I know my timeline has been full of them lately—enough so to make me question the business value of making the grade.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I’ve been a “best of” skeptic ever since Outback was named the top steakhouse in Fort Wayne more than a decade ago. In a city full of meat-and-potatoes restaurants, I just didn’t buy it.)

Of course, the lists are far from scientific. They’re typically compiled by media outlets who solicit votes from their audience. And I certainly can’t blame business owners for wanting a pat on the back.

But time is scarce, and money talks. So I wonder if the payoff is worth the investment. Sure, it’s nice to be able to say you’re the best cat wrangler in central Indiana, but does it bring customers through the door?


  • Best Non-revew to be found
    Unless the survey is conducted by outsiders, with objective units of measure counting for 75% of the total points, one should take these best, biggest, largest, etc. pronouncements as a flashing warning that a worm was planted in someone's ad department. Now they are phishing for suckers to buy their verdicts.
  • best ofs
    Greetings from another IBJ cubicle. Lou Harry, arts and entertainment editor here.

    I've edited more than my share of Best Of articles, both here in Indy (at another publication) and in Philadelphia.

    At best, these sections are fun opinionated pieces highlighting places and things that the publication staff feels are worth celebrating. In an ideal world, the word Best on such articles would be replaced with Our Favorites. (I hope nobody truly believes that a city or regional magazine has the funds to taste every hamburger in a town and try every cat sitter.)

    At worst, they are ways for advertisers to worm into editorial through pay-to-play deals.

    Somewhere in between (closer to worst, though), are those that are just the results of get-out-the-vote campaigns. The results may appeal to some non-thinking consumers but, for others, they taint the credibility of the publication that prints or runs them.

    Quick story: At another publication, which had an editorial-staff Best model, a fellow staffer insisted that a certain bakery had the best chocolate chip cookies. Relying on his passion and judgment, the editors that year awarded Best Chocolate Chip Cookies to said bakery.

    Unfortunately, that bakery didn't make chocolate chip cookies and called to complain. I took the call (I was an editorial assistant at the time) and listened patiently as the baker railed about how customers keep calling and calling and calling for the chocolate chip cookies now that the story was in print. "What should we do about it?" he demanded.

    My response: "Maybe you should start making chocolate chip cookies."

    --Lou Harry
  • Publisher
    It never hurts, to be on a good and positive list; it beats being on the bad list. It is always good to stay in contact with your customers, even if you are asking them for their vote. Best of all it is free PR in a great publication.
  • it totally depends...

    I enjoy the fact that sites like the Indy Channel's A-List exists because so many people leave comments on them. I don't pay the ratings any attention at all, but if I'm looking for reviews on a local bridal shop, for instance, the "best of" sites tend to have more reviews than the Google Places pages.

    I also appreciate it when journalists do the reviewing because (depending on the publication, as Lou pointed out) I semi-trust them to have actually gone to the places. It's not how I would find a heart surgeon, but I'm willing to gamble $5 on a chocolate chip cookie they say is good, assuming it exists :).
  • National "Best" List
    Bible of upscale travel internationally TRAVEL +LEISURE in current issue amazingly names a local Travel agent-specialist Kelly Shea,Kelly Shea Travels--as among top Super-Agent,A-Team etc IN THE WORLD....and apparently the ONLY super star in our area over 9 or l0 years! BUT readers don't know that from local "best" lists--so does that prove a point?

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