Earlier this week, Yelp’s Official Blog posted a story listing its Top 100 Places to Eat in the US for 2016. I saw it on television. Our news team covered it. Regional sites wrote quick stories about local restaurants that were named. And Twitter, a semi-private club exclusively used by businesses, self-congratulatory journalists, and PR interns working for celebrities, filled up with back-slapping tweets.
Also, it is not a great list.
Though listicle backlash is in serious bloom right now, and bad listicles speak to everything the Internet does wrong -- lazy journalism, poaching off of other people’s work, just creating a thing because people can’t resist looking at it -- Yelp, to their credit, are not doing that (if anything, many of the worst listicle offenders likely poach ideas in regions they’ve never been to, from positive Yelp reviews).
They have tons of original data from hundreds of thousands of people who feel very compelled to offer up ratings and tell you about their club sandwiches and Yelp attempted somewhat admirably to parse this data and these opinions into some sort of a national list. The way they’ve framed it is “businesses that rank so highly in the Yelp community’s opinion that they have earned the status of ‘must try within this lifetime.’” And that is all well and good, until you actually read through the list.