The New York Times has lost control of one of its largest Facebook communities, The New York Times Cooking Community.
The 77,300-member group, created in February 2019, started out as a forum for recipes, recommendations, and the occasional pet picture, run by the Times Cooking team. Two years later, the group has devolved into a free-for-all, apparently overwhelming its four moderators. On March 16, the paper gave up moderating it altogether, letting group members submit themselves to become moderators. It’s been anarchy ever since.
The Times posted a statement that celebrated the group while explaining why they were saying farewell.
“One thing is clear: The interest in this group is about much more than recipes of the New York Times,” the post said. “As it continues to grow and change, it should be run by people who are an engaged and informed part of the community. And so it is time to hand this group over to you, its members.”
When The Business of Business reached out to the Times, they provided the same response. However, the head of NYT Cooking, editor Sam Sifton, told a Times media reporter that the group is “a lot of people who want to post pictures of their dogs next to their soufflé" and "not a place where we were going to March people toward NYT Cooking."
But according to freelance journalist Erin Biba, that’s not how the group behaves today. In a recent Twitter thread, Biba shared some comments from group members, most of whom expressed their frustration and disappointment.
“So disappointed in the NYT for abandoning this community, leaving us in uncertainty and limbo, as if there weren’t enough of that to go around,” one member wrote.
“If you’re determined to see only recipes, maybe cough up the cash for a subscription to NYT Cooking,” wrote another. “This group has been a slow motion train wreck for at least two years and I doubt any sane person would take on the job of moderating it even if they were being paid.”
Other members took the opportunity to make light of the situation.
“This brings new meaning to the old phrase, if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen,” wrote one member.
“Vote for me and I will delete the whole group, freeing us from this wretched prison,” wrote another.
Biba blamed the runaway group on the Times, saying that the group’s four moderators weren’t able to check on it often, as they were also full time reporters.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NYT Cooking section is one of its most successful — and most lucrative. Even during the pandemic, with an estimated 55% ad revenue shortfall, the NYT saw 119 million users flock to its cooking page, a 40% increase from 2019. According to our data, the NYT Cooking app currently has 229,000 reviews, a 110% increase year-over-year.
It’s unclear what the fate of the group will be, but its tens of thousands of members will likely vote for new moderators in the coming days.