Based loosely on “A Tale of two Cities” let’s talk a bit about books today. To be precise about the two different business decisions two of most renown brands in the book sector took recently.
Encyclopedia Britannica decided to go entirely digital – bookshelf makers across the world went probably nuts. Did you know that Ikea changed the measurements of the Billy book case? Nevertheless, I think this is the better idea of the two as the second one comes from the Guide Michelin.
Facing decreasing numbers in sales of their restaurant guides someone smart came up with the idea “Alors, let us make zeh guide morr sssexy!” which means that it needs to be social, like Yelp!. Of course, they just went public and made millions so people want this kind of restaurant reviews. No offense to my French readers, je vous aime!
Henceforth, the Guide Michelin now not only enables anyone to rate restaurants, but also add their favorite Pizzeria at the corner to the guide. Restaurant chefs from one étoile upwards are of course foaming out of their mouth that their restaurant is now listed besides all the others.
And that’s the big mistake Michelin is making here. Not only do they infuriate the restaurant owners who obeyed to the strict rules the Guide has established for all these years in order to get a star, Michelin also kills the authority of its restaurant reviewers by adding crowd-sourced opinions.
What is the difference between the Guide and Yelp! or Zagat now? Right, not much. Now why should I care to buy the Guide if I get basically the same information on other sites for free?
What Michelin also totally missed in their rather desperate move to become more relevant again is the fact that probably two to five years down the road we will see the opposite. People will start looking for curated and expert reviews again because there will be so many sites and services and so many bad reviews out there that a guide with clear guidelines and an editorial agenda will make the difference. So everything Michelin needed to do is slim down a bit and go into survival mode until better times return.
Or they should follow the example of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Though I would have wished for a print on demand version I think going digital and in the cloud is the right move in the age of Wikipedia and Google. Michelin could have done the same or they could offer an iPad app of the Guide with interactive and social features as I suppose that someone who can afford to eat in Michelin Star awarded restaurants will have one or two of these devices at hand.