Opinion: Bye Caterer, it was good whilst it lasted.

For any chef of my generation (let’s say mid 40’s and leave it at that), they can all remember Thursdays. It was the day that the GM had The Caterer delivered and by the finish of lunch service it would have made its way to the kitchen, where we could all fantasise about some exotic foodporn within its glossy pages.

That was the late 80’s and how times have changed.

The title went online with impeccable timing, catching the new wave of social media startups to spread the message because deep down every journalist knows that print media is dying.

Then the rot set in…

It all started when the 141-year od title was purchased by Jacobs Media Group, let’s face it The Caterer was a direct line to an industry which employs over 4 Million people so why wouldn’t you buy it? The old guard was eventually removed, people that spent journalistic lifetimes building up trust, rapport and insight with those within the industry and championing their causes.

A new Editor was brought in and instead of promoting from within they got somebody who knew nothing of the industry or the people in it. A new direction was instilled, The Caterer went from reporting the news in an independent way to instead trying to set the political tone, something its readership had never seen before and something I’ve written about previously: Here

But worse was to come…

I’ve advised on various projects concerning the internet & apps etc and people have always said the same thing; they want to charge for users reading their content. It’s a rookie error. The internet’s underlying popularity is built on one main thing. It doesn’t matter whether you are into Gerbils dressed in tutus or model aircraft – there is a site or two for you out there and they are FREE.

This month saw The Caterer go behind a paywall. Now sure that’s a great way to hide your gaffs, like these:

Think they meant Château d’Yquem, not like it’s famous or anything
Apparently, Leeds is now in the North West of the UK
Kingham where? Only had 3 rosettes at the time – Kingham Plough
… Pool? Is that short for Liverpool or is it Poole in Dorset?

But research has proven that a paywall is disastrous for your readership/user figures. A survey by the AMA in America used the paywall put up by the New York Times (NYT) to reinforce my belief that any website should be free to use.

  • Heavy users (A user who reads more than 4.4 pages per month) decreased by 57.2%, while light users decreased by 11.3%.
  • The drop was also accompanied by a significant reduction in engagement metrics such as visits, pages consumed, and duration per visitor.
  • Together, these results suggest that the number of advertising impressions that could be served at the NYT website decreased as a result of the paywall.

The survey also found that an average New York Times print reader was worth $126 in advertising revenue, or up to 80% more when compared to the same online version. But also the readership doesn’t care about your pedigree, they want their news for free on their phone when they want it and a paywall stops all of that.

The competition is fierce and cutthroat, the race to be first is one I can relate to. Whilst writing Chef Hermes, the constant pressure of ‘have The Caterer already published it?’, and The Caterer is losing that race too frequently as well.

A Chef’s ambition used to be about getting industry trinkets and appearing in The Caterer (I’m fortunate to have done both & written for them as well 😉 ) – Now only the trinkets haven’t lost their enduring sparkle to most chefs. The Caterer has been replaced with likes, shares & follower numbers.

So long Caterer & Hotelkeeper, you’ve been ruined worse than an ageing pornstar trying to retain their youth after discovering plastic surgery – it was fun whilst it lasted, but you aren’t the catch you once were.


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