Metromix is a nationwide entertainment guide website that has a strong Baltimore presence (it was founded in Chicago, but Baltimore was one of its first additional markets). Metromix's parents are newspaper publishers Tribune and Gannett, and its local partner is the Baltimore Sun. It's an interesting experiment to try to garner an advertising alternative to local newspapers, and it's geared specifically for an 18-34 year-old demographic. But the question at hand is: how well does Metromix serve Howard County? The answer: not too well.
The problem is the questionable quality of the user reviews and "Metromix Picks". It's too bad, because there's a lot I like about Metromix. It's real easy to zoom into the 163 restaurants in Howard County, then see which have 5 stars (21 of them, they say). The restaurant listings themselves are informative with maps, photos, thumbnail descriptions and special event listings. But is Zapata's really the best restaurant in the county? And why does it have 5 stars, but no user reviews?
When the "top ten" listings make no sense, you've got problems. I'm not just being a restaurant snob. Here are Metromix's top ten by user ratings and "Metromix picks" for Howard County.
User ratings: Zapata's, Mango Grove, Charter Deli, Longhorn Steakhouse, Sakura, Bippy's, Fuji, Phoenix Emporium, Kelsey's, Lakeside Coffee
MMX Picks: Ram's Head, Aromi d'Italia, Judge's Bench, Hunan Legend, Mad City Coffee, Crab Shack, Manna Food Plaza, Mongolian Grill, Korean Takeout, Dahlgren's
You tell me, do they have any basis in reality? By the way, among the top ten User Ratings list, there were a grand total of two actual user reviews. And what's a MMX Pick? An advertiser? There's no explanation. So, for me, the credibility of the Metromix listings are sadly lacking. And it's too bad because it really is a well-designed site.
Can we, as users, do much about it? I've added a few reviews, but it's hard to get enthusiastic. You get to write your comments and grade the establishment on overall rating, food, ambiance, service and value. Those ratings are aggregated -- you don't get to see the individual user ratings, nor can you see other ratings by that reviewer. And regular users can't add restaurants if they're not already listed. Yelp has a much more vibrant and informative community of user reviews. And there's no support for bloggers like there is in Urbanspoon.
Metromix undoubtedly covers the Baltimore restaurant, bar and music scene more effectively, but for Howard County it's a disappointment. The groundwork is there to make a really good site, but the user community seems to have passed it by.
Who do you trust when it comes to restaurant reviews? Who does the best job of covering Howard County restaurants? I hope my blog is a help, but there are certainly lots of other resources available on the web. This is one of a series of Restaurant Review Site postings that aim to find which are really the most reliable when it comes to local coverage.
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