Quantcast
Latest Stories

Internet ‘floggers’ cash in on food-mad Asia

By

This picture taken on January 5, 2013, shows a worker walking past a pork burger advertisement poster inside a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. As a Hindu who cannot eat beef, Tashny Sukumaran satisfies her meat cravings with pork burgers, a new food passion she discovered via her native Malaysia’s vibrant food-blogging, or “flogging,” scene. AFP /MOHD RASFAN

KUALA LUMPUR—As a Hindu who does not eat beef but craves other meat, Tashny Sukumaran discovered her new passion for pork burgers through her native Malaysia’s vibrant food-blogging, or “flogging,” scene.

The Muslim-majority country’s mainstream media shy from references to pork and other foods objectionable to Islam, but blogs have helped spark a burger boom in a nation with sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

“I kept reading about pork burgers on ‘flogs’ but have never seen much in newspapers, I guess because it’s non-halal,” said Sukumaran, 22.

Food blogs have come to dominate Asia’s gastronomical discourse, turning diners on to new foods and giving small eateries valuable exposure in an Internet-fueled “democratization of food reviews,” as Australian “flogger” Thang Ngo puts it.

“The number of restaurant reviews is limited by a few pages in the paper each week. Smaller restaurants in particular love bloggers because many may never be reviewed by newspaper critics,” he told AFP.

Food blogging is a worldwide phenomenon but has found an especially eager readership in Asia, a region whose diners are typically passionate about eating and fussy about taste, and where food holds great cultural importance.

In China, for example, a common greeting is “Have you eaten?—or, in other words, “How are you?”

Nowhere are the passions stronger than in Malaysia, where the dining scene is dominated by open-air cafes and food stalls.

These are typically too small for a restaurant review but inspire intense devotion and debate on blogs about where to find the perfect bowl of steaming noodles or best scoop of spicy curry.

“People don’t pray before eating any more, they take pictures instead,” says Nazeen Koonda, marketing manager for Time Out Malaysia.

As “floggers” draw increasing clicks, they are finding ways to milk cash from their following.

Singaporean Brad Lau, whose www.ladyironchef.com saw 1.5 million page views in December, sells ads on his site including some unrelated to food.

“Blogs are word-of-mouth on steroids,” says Lionel Lau, co-founder of Des Gourmand, a restaurant group that runs several trendy eateries in Malaysia.

South Korea’s vibrant online community has no shortage of food bloggers, including so-called “power bloggers”— reviewers read by tens of thousands daily who can make or break restaurants.

Janice Tan, who runs Ninja Joe, the Kuala Lumpur fast-food joint whose pork patties are favored by Sukumaran, opened the first outlet in 2009 with husband, Tee Tsun Joo. They now have five sites as revenues have soared.

They credit their success to blogs, saying newspapers have avoided mentioning the non-halal pork burger trend. Tan adds that they were refused space in two of Malaysia’s largest malls as they sought to expand.

“We didn’t invite bloggers, they just came. But as of last year, we had over 130 postings on us,” she said, adding that they have never advertised.

But can you still trust food blogs?

That is a question increasingly asked as flogging grows and becomes susceptible to the same influences for which it was supposed to provide an alternative, some in the industry complain.

Chief among these is a growing “pay-to-praise” industry that has spawned brokers who charge businesses large sums for media coverage and positive reviews.

Tony Hong, a South Korean actor who runs several successful restaurants there, de-listed one outlet from a popular review site in 2011, claiming one of its regular contributors demanded 120,000 won ($114) per month for positive comments.

“After we refused, the number of bad comments snowballed,” Hong said.

Lee Khang Yi, food editor for The Malay Mail, a Kuala Lumpur-based newspaper, said Malaysian bloggers can earn from 300-1,500 ringgit ($100-$500) per favorable posting.

Bloggers in Singapore say restaurants will pay up to 2,000 Singapore dollars ($1,630) for a positive posting on a popular blog.

Restaurateurs also increasingly complain of camera-wielding bloggers demanding free meals and threatening bad reviews if denied.

Brad Lau had to publicly deny allegations that he refused to pay a bill of 435 Singapore dollars ($350) for himself and three friends at a top restaurant in 2010.

Lau said he was invited for a tasting and eventually stumped up 160 Singapore dollars ($130) to cover two meals after the restaurant waived some charges.

Doubts about blogs have opened space for hungry diners to turn to more direct social media avenues like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and smartphone apps, where they can find out where to get that tasty-looking meal that a friend just posted in a photo.

Despite the complaints, Time Out‘s Kuala Lumpur editor Lim Chee Wah says food blogs and social media tools have enriched the food scene and provided new opportunities for smaller eateries.

“The coverage on blogs, traditional and social media has raised the level of discussion here. They set trends which develop taste buds because people will try it out and the scene becomes more sophisticated,” he said.


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter




Recent Stories:

Plane lands at Bali airport in suspected hijacking—Indonesia air force 13 mins elapsed Guiao fined P100,000 for ‘mongoloid’ comment vs Meralco forward 23 mins elapsed Obama lands in Seoul as N. Korea nuclear test fears grow 28 mins elapsed Businesswoman allegedly killed by husband, brother-in-law 32 mins elapsed Roxas suspended from golf club for outburst over P5,000 guest fee 35 mins elapsed SC reschedules oath-taking of new lawyers 54 mins elapsed Hawks and Grizzlies revel in home wins 1 hour elapsed Militant protests vs Obama, US set 1 hour elapsed
Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Asia , Australia , flogging , food , food blogging , Internet , Lifestyle , Malaysia , Singapore , South Korea



Copyright © 2014,
.
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement Advertisement
  1. Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  2. Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  3. Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  4. Nokia to be named Microsoft Mobile
  5. ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  6. No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  7. Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  8. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  9. Senator wants to probe PH slow Internet connection
  10. Philippines has slowest, poorest mobile LTE connection, says report
  1. Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  2. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  3. Senator wants to probe PH slow Internet connection
  4. Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  5. Nokia to be named Microsoft Mobile
  6. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  7. Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  8. ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  9. Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  10. Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  1. #RejectedBbPilipinas2014Questions flood Twitter
  2. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  3. Netizens fall in love with Crimea prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya
  4. Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao scores, takes over social media
  5. Nude and so dangerous
  6. Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  7. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  8. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  9. Russia tries to curb Crimean prosecutor’s Internet fame
  10. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory

News

  • Businesswoman allegedly killed by husband, brother-in-law
  • Roxas suspended from golf club for outburst over P5,000 guest fee
  • SC reschedules oath-taking of new lawyers
  • Ex-COA chief seeks bail after arrest for plunder
  • Aquino expects more from new Air Force chief ‘since I know him so well’
  • Sports

  • Guiao fined P100,000 for ‘mongoloid’ comment vs Meralco forward
  • Hawks and Grizzlies revel in home wins
  • Floyd: Manny’s power gone
  • Michael Phelps loses to Lochte in comeback meet
  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Lifestyle

  • ‘Recovered’ Banksy works on display ahead of sale
  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Entertainment

  • Paul McCartney to play at Candlestick concert
  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • Business

  • PAL hailed for ban on shark fin cargo
  • BSP to change tint of P100 bill
  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Technology

  • Cloud strength helps Microsoft earnings top Street
  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • Opinion

  • Corruption not invincible after all
  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • Global Nation

  • Plane lands at Bali airport in suspected hijacking—Indonesia air force
  • Obama lands in Seoul as N. Korea nuclear test fears grow
  • Militant protests vs Obama, US set
  • Filipinos second-shortest in Southeast Asia
  • China welcomes PH apology
  • Advertisement
    Marketplace