Chowhound Comes of Age (For Better or Worse) 

Bay Area users chime in on popular web site's revamping.

Page 3 of 3

And, according to Goodman, the only real profit motive at play here is a desire to build the user base, and thus the site's ad revenue, by attracting new people to the site who may have been intimidated by the purely discussion-oriented format.

Leff, on the other hand, argues that Chowhound's primary value lies in a "critical mass of expert users" to whom a ratings system holds little appeal. What he fears is that the new system will be successful in attracting new users, but that these new users, who actually prefer a ratings-based model, are unlikely to be the type of discerning, independent-minded eaters who currently populate the boards. Over time, he worries, the value of the recommendations being made on the site may be eroded.

Nevertheless, whatever changes the folks at CBS Interactive implement, Leff hopes they do make money. After all, he says, "If they don't bring in sufficient revenue to justify the operation, it will be — must be — thrown under a bus. That's the fear for us all."

When asked about whether or not Chowhound was, in fact, making a profit at present, Goodman explained she wasn't allowed to comment directly.

"Let's just say, it hasn't been easy," she said.

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