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Letters To The Editor
We welcome your questions and comments. Click here to send them to us now, or write anytime to editors(at)TheNibble.com. Questions may be edited for brevity and/or clarity.
- Below Are Letters About Our Editorial Policy
- Click here for FAQs About Specialty and Gourmet Foods
- Click here for FAQs About Technical Problems With This Website and NIBBLE
- Click here for reader letters about our articles and reviews
Q. You state that you don’t receive fees from recommending products, yet I see advertising on your website for products you have reviewed. How is that different? — P. Abrams, Washington, D.C.
There are three points to be made here. The first is that nothing in THE NIBBLE™ is recommended because of any financial incentive. Among the thousands of products we taste each year, the few hundred we review are selected because they are the best we have tasted. Were we to recommend anything that is less than exceptional, it would destroy our credibility. There are publications where manufacturers can get coverage if they purchase an ad or can otherwise “buy” a review; websites and email newsletters where merchandise is only reviewed if the publication earns a commission on the sale; and other models where there is a financial incentive for certain items to be presented. Because this is common practice and in fact an e-commerce revenue model for other businesses (not ours), we feel it is important to make this distinction up-front. It is also important to distinguish THE NIBBLE™’s product reviews—the recommendations of an independent magazine—from those of e-tailers, or online stores, that own a particular stock of merchandise and have a vested interest in promoting those specific items.
Regarding advertising: we would not discriminate against companies who want to become advertisers just because we have reviewed their products or might review them in the future. Since we do not accept paid placements, this has nothing to do with the integrity of a review. Accepting such advertising is no different from a restaurant or show that is hoping to be reviewed by your city’s leading newspaper, choosing to advertise in that newspaper. The fact that an ad has been purchased has absolutely no bearing on the review or even if that restaurant or show will be reviewed.
A final point to make regarding advertising is that a number of products we review turn up as ads on our website that are placed by Google or other ad-serving companies. We have no control over what ads appear, on our 1000-page website we only pay attention to the new pages we are working on and have no time to look at prior months’ pages, nor do the advertisers know that their ads are appearing on TheNibble.com. They just request that their ads appear on certain kinds of websites—i.e., those about gourmet food—or on pages with certain keywords, and ad software places them on the appropriate web pages. It is very possible that an ad for Woodhouse Chocolate can appear on the page that reviews Woodhouse Chocolate. That’s because, per Woodhouse’s request to the advertising company, the software has placed their ad on a web page related to gourmet chocolate. It’s not surprising that wherever Woodhouse is reviewed online, if those websites subscribe to the advertising service, the Woodhouse ad may appear on the same page as its review. Neither Woodhouse nor TheNibble.com even knows that the ad is there, since the ads rotate constantly.
Q. Why do you add new stories during the month after the monthly issue is published? I seem to see new stories when I look at the table of contents. — Joe Levy, Brooklyn, NY
We post a certain amount of content at the beginning of the month and add additional stories during the month: readers like to see new content when they return to a website. In addition, our weekly newsletters are added to the table of contents each week as they are published.
Q. What are your favorite products? — Dave Stone, Pittsburgh, PA
This is our most frequently-asked question, along with “what gift should I get for a [fill in the type of person or occasion].” We have created a Gift-Finder section to compile our gift recommendations. And we’ve begun a list of everyday favorite products here.
Q. How do you find the products that you review in THE NIBBLE™? — Leonore Albert, Paterson, NJ
A. We find products in five basic ways. (1) The majority of our “food finds” come from attending a dozen major trade-only food, tabletop, housewares and gift shows each year, where we see up to 5,000 manufacturers, each with numerous products. (2) We find some other products by reading trade periodicals, and occasionally will find an item in a consumer periodical. (3) We browse all the specialty food markets, and sometimes we’ll find products on the shelf that we haven’t seen elsewhere. (4) Occasionally, we’ll taste something at a restaurant, a fair, or a friend’s home; or get a good tip. (5) Manufacturers send us products.
Q. How do you decide what products to review in THE NIBBLE™? — Kelly Whitworth, Burlington, VT
Our editorial policy is to feature only products that we think are outstanding and would buy for ourselves. If we don’t have unanimous agreement on the selection committee but the product has a majority of champions, we can revisit it at a later date. (Similarly, since our content remains online indefinitely, we can revisit a product we’ve already recommended, decide there are now products we like better, and replace it.)
After a product is put into the tasting pool, a team comprising NIBBLE editors and sometimes external specialists reviews it and decides if it should be recommended at all, and if so, in which section(s). For example, a product that happens to be organic and Kosher could be approved for Main Nibbles as well as NutriNibbles and Kosher Nibbles; or it we could decide to include it in Kosher Nibbles only. Since we seek “the best of the best” in each category, the Main Nibbles slots are the most competitive because they can take general-audience products from as well as niche products (i.e., an organic hot dog could be reviewed under Main Nibbles and cross-referenced under NutriNibbles). On the other hand, we may review some very good kosher chocolates, but if they were not on a par with the best chocolatiers in the world that happen to be non-kosher, they would appear only in Kosher Nibbles.
Q. What are your criteria for selecting products? — Mimi Ortiz Glass, Oak Park, IL
There are a lot of good products out there. Our mission is to find the “best of the best”: we taste everything to separate the good and the great, so you don’t have to spend your time and money doing it. Take something as simple as strawberry jam: it’s just fruit, sugar, pectin, and perhaps some additional flavor like lemon juice or an herb or spice, brandy, etc. When you taste seventy or eighty different strawberry preserves, they will be very different. More than half we will discard as tasting of more sugar than strawberry, some will have not enough concentration of whole fruit in the preserves, and only ten will distinguish themselves. We can narrow that down to the five best, depending on what particular style you like. The difference is, we would gladly serve you the top ten, and we would prefer not to eat the bottom half, because jam or preserves should taste of the fruit: in a specialty food product, the sugar should be in the background, not the primary flavor.
Q. What’s the difference between an newsletter recommendation and a regular product recommendation in your “Product Reviews” section? — Tim Pervin, Toronto, Canada
The newsletter (e-mailed newsletter) is the Editors’ product pick of the week. Long before there was an online magazine and website with many hundreds of archived product recommendations, THE NIBBLE™ was an newsletter mailing a weekly “food find.” The online magazine enables us to review fifty or so additional products a month. But since there still are only 52 newsletters a year, the products selected for the newsletter tend to be our personal favorites among all the great products we’ve found. Since we are journalists and do not sell the products we write about, our goal is not to present the most “popular” products in the newsletter, but the ones we think our readers will find interesting and will enjoy reading about.
The newsletters are archived on the website and are linked into the appropriate category sections in Main Nibbles. The newsletter is free, and you can subscribe to it here.
Q. Why don’t you use a scoring system to rate the products you recommend? — A. Scott Lasser, Upper Saddle River, NJ
We don’t give scores or ranks because in a panel evaluation, some tasters will prefer product A, some will prefer product B, and so forth. Our policy is not to proclaim a “winner,” but to provide a variety of products that we think are very good. See the next question for more elaboration. We try to show via our descriptive reviews whether we think a product is one of the best we’ve ever tasted, or just a distinguished example of its genre.
Q. You only have glowing reviews. Why don’t you critique the products you don’t like? — Nancy Sachs, Stamford, CT
We have a positive mission, to support the artisanal producers whose products we believe in. Given a limited amount of time, our readers are more interested in finding good products than reading about the less good ones.
In terms of critique, our editorial policy is to be a critic of product quality, in a way that educates about different styles and enables readers to make their own decisions. We all have different tastes: one person may like sweet milk chocolate and recoil at the thought of eating 100% cacao chocolate made with no sugar; it may be the opposite with the next person. One person may love everything hot and spicy, the next may prefer delicate flavors and finesse. Within these spectra, there is no right or wrong: there is only good or bad. Our mission is to point you to the high quality in any category, i.e., what is better than the other products with the same ingredient and flavor profiles.
Searching for “the best of the best” has been expanded our own horizons as well. We thought we did not like sweet milk chocolate, e.g., and had not had a satisfactory milk chocolate experience since childhood. But after tasting that of chocolatier Pierre Marcolini, we became hooked on his milk chocolate bars. We were not into hot and spicy because our prior experience had been with manufacturers who only knew how to delivery heat without flavor. We always chose the “mild” salsas. We are now avid fans of Cherith Valley’s super spicy jellies, salsas, and just about everything else they make. Such is the voyage of discovery with THE NIBBLE™.