Joining the ‘Best Of’ Bandwagon

April 6th, 2015 · No Comments · campaign finance reform

By Denise Tessier

A year ago, if the Weekly Alibi had called its annual reader’s poll story “The Only Survey That Matters,” it would have come across as just so much Alibi tongue-in-cheek hubris.

But with the staid Albuquerque Journal now in its second year with its own reader’s survey awards, this month’s Alibi Best of Burque 2015 cover headline – “The Only Survey That Matters” — takes on a different hue.

Yes, the Alibi has been doing the survey like, forever, and so the Journal’s decision last year to launch its own contest did come off as a bit copycat – like grandpa trying to prove he can be cool, too.

Readers following declining-sales-of-newspapers stats would have surmised correctly, however, that the Journal launch was yet another attempt at attracting more readers (maybe younger ones?) and, more importantly, at attracting more advertisers.

The Journal’s Reader’s Choice Awards is the latest in a list of measures the paper has taken in recent years in an effort to offset the collapse of the classified pages.

Some of those measures were jarring at first – like the one-two-punch desecration of the front page, first with printed advertising on the bottom and then a sticky-paper ad plastered on the top. No longer novel, both are now business as usual.

“It’s about time” might be the appropriate response to some of the other changes, however, like the Journal’s late-in-the-game decision to allow photos of the deceased in obituaries and then, more recently, to print obituaries in bigger type-face and arrange them in keepsake format – suitable not only for clipping but actual ease of reading. (Why this wasn’t done before is a mystery, considering obituary readership skews toward those with aging eyes.)

But while the Journal Reader’s Choice debut last year might have spurred some eye-rolling, practically eye-popping were the results. The conservative daily’s readers actually came up with favorites some might have thought more in line with those of the liberal Alibi.

One example: Journal readers said their favorite grocery store was Trader Joe’s (whose patrons were once characterized in a Journal UpFront column as, “Those folks who use reusable grocery bags, buy French wines, and eat organic this, that and everything.”)

Second place among Journal readers was Whole Foods Market; third was Talin Market World Fare. Runners up included Keller’s Farm Stores; Sprouts Farmers Market; Tully’s Italian Deli & Meats; Albuquerque Original Farmers Market; and La Montañita Co-op. Note: Not a Smith’s or WalMart Neighborhood Grocery in the bunch.

Similarly, both Alibi and Journal readers picked Rebel Donut as their favorite donut shop, leaving Donut Mart and the chains trailing.

This could, of course, say more about the typical Journal reader’s lack of a daily newspaper alternative to the Journal than it might about his or her politics and/or demographics. Despite the earnest and professional efforts of so many talented journalists in this state, the Journal remains the only comprehensive daily newspaper in New Mexico.

In announcing its second Readers’ Choice Awards, the Journal quoted its marketing director, Tanya Lenti, as saying:

Everyone enjoys ‘best of’ contests and we think the Journal’s Readers’ Choice is more fun because we have more readers than any other local publication. It will be interesting to see this year’s outcome compared to last.

As foil to the Alibi’s “Only Survey That Matters,” and to Albuquerque the Magazine’s “Best of the City” annual contest , the Journal’s Sunday plea for participation in its contest boasted:

There are many “Best Of” contests but only ONE Albuquerque Journal Readers’ Choice Awards!
More readers, more input, more favorites, more fun!

One can’t argue with the first claim: There IS only one contest called the “Albuquerque Journal Readers’ Choice” awards.

Lenti has already said the Journal has “more readers”. But the claim of “more favorites” is open to dispute. (More on that later.)

And while some of the Journal and Alibi categories overlap (i.e., favorite tattoo shop, restaurants, service businesses and shopping) they also don’t overlap – and in some very significant ways.

With 21 years of Best of Burque contests under its belt, the Weekly Alibi at times has almost had more categories than one can read about, let alone vote upon. They had enough fodder, in fact, to add a nostalgia-laced bonus feature to this year’s contest issue – a look back by Amelia Olson at some of the Burque Bests of the last 10 years, including a couple of categories not found in the Journal poll.

A Decade of BoB: Highlights from the archive” featured, for instance, such gems as 2012’s Best Burqueño (“Lynette”/ Lauren Poole), with this comment from the Alibi at the time:

A la modies! For the first time in our lifetime, someone has stolen the title from our resident tan, nearly nude philosopher. You’re all mad or what, (Don) Schrader? Not even. That dude lives by the principles of forgiveness and stuff. But Lynette, shooooot, this is her Albuquerque now, nuh?

Then there was the related Best Things Burqueños Say (obviously quoting “Lynette”):

Híjole, you guys! A la vergas is all kinds of dirty. Umberrrrs. Red or green? Oh si. Just go Christmas. Want a coke? You don’t EVEN know. Eeeeeeeeeeee. Bueno-bye.

Which brings us to a big difference between the Alibi and Journal contests.

While the Journal results are published as one-word answers, the Alibi staff come up with at least a paragraph attempting to explain or add info about who or what the readers picked.

And of course, they’ve got categories that go way beyond the usual tourism-type “where to go” and “what to do” entries. For example, Alibi readers are asked to pick the best and worst elected officials, the “best” local scandal, and best and worst uses of city money.

Sometimes, best and worst come up with the same answers, like this year’s selection of Mayor Richard Berry as “Best Elected Official” (followed by U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and City Councilor Isaac Benton).

Barry also showed up as no. 2 on the “Worst Elected Official” list. (The third-most answer given was “All of them.”)

Of Mayor Barry’s selection as No. 1 best, the Alibi’s Ty Bannerman wrote:

Ol’ Mayor Mustache wins again, despite a rough year that included harsh criticism for the city’s police force, Berry giving the go-ahead for the controversial Bosque trail construction and a difficult situation involving the city’s homeless problem. But, as far as our readers are concerned, Berry has emerged smiling wide and smelling like a rose.

Here’s what Bannerman wrote in explaining the name that attracted the most votes in the “worst” category, Gov. Susana Martinez (a paragraph one certainly wouldn’t find in the Journal):

La Tejana, on the other hand, didn’t fare quite so well. Even though she handily won her reelection bid, Martinez’ tenure as Governor has left a bad taste in our readers’ mouths. Whether it’s Martinez calling teachers lazy, attacking the state’s mental health infrastructure or controversially appointing former Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson—who has no social work experience or training—to head the Children, Youth and Families Department, our readers are pretty much over her.

But back to the Journal’s claim that it has “more favorites.”

Because the Alibi’s Best of Burque results annually spill over multiple pages, it seemed the Journal’s ad department might be stretching it a bit to claim it has “more favorites.”

This year’s full-page Journal ballot (that ran Sunday) included 101 categories, up from the Journal’s debut offering last year.

The Alibi, on the other hand, came in this year with about 50 listings (if I’ve counted correctly) for its spring Best of Burque issue. A number of additional categories that were regulars in past years appeared only if they had been added as “write-ins.”

But the Journal’s ad writers are hedging a bit to say their contest has “more favorites.”

That’s because the Alibi’s spring “Best Of” didn’t include restaurants, which are listed in a completely different issue that usually comes out in the fall.

Last fall’s Best of Burque Restaurants issue, in fact, had eight separate restaurant sections in which to vote, including breakfast places (with 13 categories, like “Best Waffles”), 11 “world” categories, seven veggie categories, 11 New Mexican food categories, eight dessert categories, and 51 additional categories in three other sections. That’s 144 ballot choices just related to food.

The Journal’s food section includes 28 categories.

The Journal format is reminiscent of the Alibi’s, with a requirement that voters mark at least 10 “favorites” for their ballots to qualify. Unlike the Alibi, however, which moved to online voting only, the Journal contest allows voting both online and by paper ballot (the latter perhaps a nod to those who don’t like the computer thing).

Voting in the Journal Readers’ Choice Awards runs through May 8. Results will be published in a special section June 28, according to the Journal.

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