Yesterday Eater exposed the identity of the author of one of our favorite nightlife blogs, Down by the Hipster. Though his day job remains a mystery (he won’t reveal details), Scott Solish wrote for Eater’s parent company Curbed for a year before launching his own blog to share scoops (notable early stories were about the New York ventures of L.A. clubs Mondrian and Ago). He’s been going strong in the year since then, regularly turning up nightlife and hospitality stories that are the envy of bigger blogs. That’s why, Solish believes, he was outed. We spoke to him now that his face has been put to his blog’s name.
How important was it for you to remain anonymous?
On a scale of one to ten, it was probably a two. The one thing I’m most nervous about is if I’m applying for a job somewhere … I’m sure there’s some negative association that can come from being a nightlife person. The best part of anonymity was getting e-mails from people saying, "You’ve gotta stop doing this or admit who you are because you're making my life difficult."
Anonymous bloggers get outed all the time — isn’t the real surprise that it didn’t happen sooner? What triggered this?
There was nothing to gain from them doing it until Ben [Leventhal, Eater’s editor-in-chief] decided to make a personal issue out of it. I was at the opening party for the Rusty Knot — the only reason I was there was because I got invited. Those guys [Leventhal and Curbed founder Lockhart Steele] showed up, and I think they were like, “You know what, he’s doing this,” and I started posting more just because there’s more information to put out. I think it all came together, and it was like, “Enough of this.” In his genius thinking [Leventhal] thought the best way to do it was if you put my picture on the Internet.
At the same time, your job is to fish out information that people would often rather keep secret.
We weren’t telling trade secrets — I never did anything to impact anyone’s business. There’s things you hear and know about that you’d never put out there, because it’s peoples lives. The site wasn’t being done for money. All I’ve gotten is two drinks, a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue, and over the past thirteen months there’s been $113 from Google ads that we still haven’t gotten a check for.
You know the identity of, for instance, Guest of A Guest’s editor, who is still anonymous. Have you ever thought about outing her?
Why would I ever do that? I’m not a 2-year-old. This is an act of a real 2-year-old.
But what if you discovered that someone — say Robert De Niro, or even just a regular guy — was a silent investor in a club — say, the Beatrice. Wouldn’t you do a post outing him?
Why do you put money into a club? The point is to say you have a nightclub. You also have to think about, what do people care about? Do people care that someone gave $70,000 to get a club off the ground? The whole point isn’t to out people; it’s to be a relevant source of information, to show that there are things going on that you can talk intelligently about.
Do you think the food blogosphere has become too focused on minutiae?
I do. I think that there’s this war to get information and what is information has grown so much that it’s kind of defeatist now. To have a restaurant and nightlife blog suddenly decide to become a gossip blog, it’s great sacrifice to get page views.
Your new contributor Nicolette caught a lot of flack for her post about Touch— the commenters seemed to feel you shouldn’t be covering cheesy clubs. Do you feel obligated to stick to a niche?
Has anyone else written a thoughtful piece about what it’s like to go to this club in midtown? She’s young and she’s fun and she’s never done it before and she got a great reaction.
In the year you’ve been doing this, blogs like your own seem to have popped up everywhere.
The economy is tanking and newspapers don’t have the staff to do it anymore and they rely on these [blogs] and there’s no barrier to entry. Someone always knows something. Sometimes people get sick of being the outsider and they want to see if they can be the insider.
Who are your sources? How many “little birdies” are there?
There’s a lot of them. There’s promoters, people that do event production, bartenders, people that go out or do point-of-sales work and install things in clubs, writers, people in finance. One of the nice things about being the little guy is that people take your side. They get it and there are tons of people more than willing to throw things your way.
What do you think about nightlife these days?
There’s a lack of originality. Part of that is because it’s easy to copy something, and it’s expensive to do anything now. You’re trying to find a model that really works. With the cost of real estate, the falling economy, the trouble getting a liquor license, and the cost of goods going up, there are high barriers of entry to get into this game. People are looking for a formula— the cocktail speakeasy has been beaten to death. The fact that the guys who did Retreat are doing a cocktail speakeasy on the Bowery— can you get any worse than that? It’s kind of hard to.
Related: Foodblogger Catfight: Eater vs. Down by the Hipster [Gawker]