Several decades ago there was a spirited advertising war waging between two rental car companies. The national leader promoted their status as #1 and said “we’re the best.” The second most popular rental company embraced their number two-ness, and peppered the market with the simple message “we try harder”. In those three small words #2 attempted to make their approach more personal while planting the seed that the top dog was far more concerned with their status than with their service. Both strategies worked.

This “Reader’s Choice” section is a compilation of those that you think are ‘the best’ and those who didn’t quite amass as many votes as their business neighbors and competitors.

I devoted a paragraph of this column last year talking about the pride I felt in being voted the region’s Best Local Website again. I thanked our newsroom, I thanked voters, I thanked the Academy. All was right with the world.

Except this year we were not voted the Best Local Website. We came in second. And while I personally disagree with our readers/voters on this one small issue, I’ll resist the (strong) urge to criticize the voting process. After all, it’s our process. And congratulations to for being voted #1 this year.

In fact, congratulations to all of this year’s winners.

I know I plan to do business with many of this year’s winners during the next twelve months and to dutifully conduct “extensive market research” by visiting every winner, runner-up and honorable mention designee in every single food and drink category. I’m quite the giver.

I challenge you all to do the same. Barry Hinson spearheaded our regional “Shop Southern Illinois” shopping effort during the holidays. Please consider this section a handy “How To” guide for doing just that.

John Pfeifer, The Publisher