The decline of Chowhound, by the numbers

Based on your first chart (number of new threads on Chowhound), one would conclude Chowhound is already in decline and they did a Hail-Mary pass in 2015.

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Well, they did a previous one about a year before that, didn’t they?

I think even if they do or did care, they have no authority to act on any good intentions. marssy seems to have been a more willing, or just compliant, conscript to the dark side, of the two.

CH is not in the business of promoting forums any more, just clicks.

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Yes, they did. The 2015 change is the biggest though.

Oh, totally agree. I got nailed during the last one for being so critical of THAT brouhaha.

ALL of the above . . . are you and I reading different threads?

And if that is not enough, how about here?

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The charts in this thread show a decline in CH traffic overall. I don’t see any statistics (other than my own wild anecdotal stab) about the overlap in CH/HO users. What I do see are duplicate posts here and on CH - as noted here = and a lot of the same user names on the boards I follow.

Brilliantly written. Deep thanks.

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Yup, when push comes to shove, this is their new bottom line.

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Ya know, Lynda, I guess that’s all companies’ bottom line. It’s just that we got used to it being kinda/sorta a nonprofit. I wasn’t around when Leff owned the site but it seems that not a whole lot changed. And now it has. My (very Southern) mother had an expression: “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

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Unless there is someone or a team who’s highly focused on building a community, the community isn’t going to magically appear. SEO gets a site eyeballs, but it doesn’t say what kind of eyeballs. The one thing that Jim Leff got right at the beginning was spending a ton of time getting the word out and market the site, and got a bunch of highly proficient eaters onto the site.

I just don’t see a corporate team with that mentality, or these proficient eaters inclined to pour their hearts into a corporate site with a storied history but questionable recent track record. The top two in the team are traditional Silicon Valley product managers so the focus is always going to be building a next-gen product. Though that site is no typical general purpose Internet product, but more a enthusiast nerd-out site that has been re-purposed to be general purpose. The community manager is supposed to build community, but she’s too bogged down in the last few months, by day-to-day tactical executions related to product roll-outs.

And if you look at the picture from a monetary perspective today, there is no strong reason for the team to invest in marketing that forum- its a high-cost low-return endeavor. You run a forum because you love something as a hobby (e.g. food), not because you love money, because there is no money to be had.

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I believe there is a slow death in the forum format. I’ve seen food and non-food local boards close. My home board on egullet, once vibrant is now moribund. Folk have found other ways to get restaurant information, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, local review sites, etc. I still regard the forum as “the best”,as it allows an easy interchange of information but it is dependent on people posting information to start with.

The excellent research figures in the OP show some evidence of a steady decline in Chowhound that is probably only worsened by recent events over there.

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It’s my preference as well, since it works like a conversation rather than a series of pronouncements (which is what Yelp and TripAdvisor seem like to me). And I don’t have to cruise around to multiple Facebook pages or Twitter accounts to gather inte if it’s contained within one forum.

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I rarely post reviews to TripAdvisor. The problem is that, assuming everyone is like me, then you only read the last few reviews which means that, after a week’s gone by, your review is probably never read again.

There’s a Spanish resort we visit annually and I contribute to the TA forum for it. The last couple of years, I’ve posted reviews to the restaurants’ pages and then posted a forum thread with links to all the reviews. Means that, if anyone searches on the forum for restaurant reccs, they may find my thread and then the reviews.

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Nothing lasts forever. You get a bunch of seed users which generate the majority of the content. Many people lurk. The seed users don’t mix with the new ones and cliques form. They splinter off. The cycle repeats with a new group.

I am also of the general mindset that people are far less participatory than they were at the height of food board popularity which was around 2003. I would know, I ran the biggest and most active one there ever was at the time.

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Egullet is dead/low traffic because one of the founders disassociated himself from the site after six years and became an independent food blogger. The other one had to go make a real living and then subsequently died. The current staff is essentially off mission. But it exists.

The one that disassociated himself and is still alive moved out of the NY area to FL, abandoned his food blog after 10 years, had a sleeve gastectomy, lost 150lbs and has to practice his foodieism In extreme moderation now. Better than the alternative though :slight_smile:

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I would not call eGullet dead Jason. Not what it use to be but there is a lot of good talented people making great food and posting about it. Was it suppose to be more than that?

You still in South Florida?

Yes. Have been since 2012. Have no intention of returning :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I realize of course it isn’t dead per se. You also cannot judge a community by the volume of posts it generates, it’s more about the quality of the discussion.

I am glad that there are people that continue to keep the lights on there. I lurk. But it isn’t the site I set out to create. It stopped being that after the first four years or so. I had a lot of lofty ambitions for it that far exceeded simple food discussion.

Reality would have intervened regardless, I was far happier being a food blogger. For a while anyway. That’s another thankless job, with its own set of issues. But at least you’re not beholden to anyone else.

Jason, what did you set out to do and what did it become after 4 years then?

I have sympathy for Marssy and Pat Sully. Redesigns of this kind – for companies as big as CBSi – are huge multi-year undertakings, with a ton of sign-offs from upper levels of the organization (if the plan didn’t itself come from some CBSi higher-up who doesn’t have anything to do with Chowhound).

Both of those two are fairly recent additions to staff – I suspect the redesign was plotted far earlier than either of them came along. As employees who are fairly low on the sky-high corporate totem pole, they likely had little influence to do anything other than execute the pre-existing plan and make fairly minor feature changes.

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