Tag Archives: ratings and reviews

Avvo Adds Local Doctor Ratings

Avvo, the Seattle based vertical site that launched its Lawyer ratings service in 2007, has now added Doctor ratings, using the proceeds, in part, from a $10 million raise it did in March. In launching a doctors site, it goes head to head against Angie’s List, Everydayhealth.com and dozens of others that view doctor ratings and other medical practitioner information as unchartered territory.

Avvo Doctors, which works off a common platform with Lawyers, is launching with numerical ratings and profiles for 800,000 doctors in all 50 states, or 90 percent of all U.S. doctors. It also includes medical misconduct information for roughly 50 percent of doctors — a percentage it hopes to boost to 90 percent by Q1 2011 as state medical boards improve their reporting systems.

The site include 400 questions and answers from certified doctors. It expects the Q&A forum to grow at a faster rate than its legal counterpart, which receives over 50,000 contributions per month.

Avvo has also put together a medical advisory board that the former president of the American Medical Association, a chief surgeon at the University of Washington, and two doctors who run their own elective clinics on the east and west coasts.

“In the online marketing world, doctors look a lot like lawyers did before Avvo arrived,” notes CEO and Founder Mark Britton on the company blog. “Consumers are lost when trying to find a doctor, let alone trying to understand the doctor’s background and reputation. few doctors understand the art or science of marketing – especially online marketing. Doctors still spend over $500 million dollars annually in the Yellow Pages (yes, the yellow pages).”

Angie’s List Raises $22.5 Million; Sees IPO Within 18 Months

Angie’s List, the premium ratings and review service for home and medical services, has announced that it has raised $22.5 Million from institutional investors as it prepares for an IPO within 18 months. Investors in this round include some public funds managers, including Wasatch Funds. The company previously raised $48 million, making for a grand total of $70.5 million raised. Battery Ventures remains the lead investor.

The Indianapolis-based service charges members anywhere from $10 to $67 per year for access to its ratings and reviews. The service reports over one million members, which probably translates into at least half a million paid and trial accounts, since there are typically two members per account.

Current revenues are not disclosed. But in 2008, roughly half of Angie’s List’s $50 million in revenues had come from membership and set up fees. The other half had come from advertising from reviewed companies that are highly rated (“B” and above) as well as national companies, such as appliance makers and retailers. Advertising can be found on the website as well as in a printed, monthly magazine that is well read by members.

Angie’s List has grown its mission considerably in the past couple of years. It has raised its profile with aggressive television, radio and print advertising, and added medical reviews, which it has intended to eventually break out as a separate, paid service. It has also added national services, for categories such as custom car restoration – it takes its Indianapolis roots seriously– and recently unveiled The Angie’s List Big Deal, a group buying effort that is now in 30 local markets and will be in 50+ markets by year end.

The big question marks for Angie’s List are whether it can simultaneously sustain its growth in the face of free competitors, such as Yelp, ServiceMagic and others; get beyond its older, home owner demographic; successfully extend its service to the new categories, and others; and maintain its friendly, home-spun “community” image.

InsiderPages Launches Doctor Finder

If you do a search on a doctor, you may come up with five or six spammy, ad-supported links. But now InsiderPages, a property of IAC’s Citysearch, has launched DoctorFinder, a new service that hopes to simplify the complex task of finding good medical recommendations. Revenue-wise, the service is hoping to get the high CPMs associated with medical search, which can be in “double digits” for general practitioners and as high as $80 to $100 for specialists such as Chiropractors.

The new focus on medical follows similar efforts by Angie’s List, which launched medical provider ratings last year for its paid members.

General Manager Eric Peacock tells us that most review sites have focused on restaurant reviews and beauty salons “but it is hard to pick a doctor. We’ve been coming up short.” He says that the joke at his company is that “most people spend more time picking out a flatscreen TV than picking a doctor.”

Medical information is especially well suited for InsiderPages user demographics, which lean towards “middle aged mothers who may be looking for a pediatrician that takes Blue Cross and is located two miles from their house,” says Peacock.

Insider’s efforts will collect three pieces of information: types of insurance accepted, practitioner credentials, and patient reviews. The reviews are based on a 10 question survey that asks key questions such as “does the doctor spend appropriate time with you? Does he listen to your questions?”

Peacock notes that Angie’s List also has a survey, but it is “really, really long,” he says. Angie’s List also is more of a metropolitan area provider, while InsiderPages is more urban, he adds.

The Insider surveys are being conducted in partnership with HealthGrades, which already has a 1.2 million review database, and information on 800,000 U.S. doctors. Peacock notes that HealthGrades is not directly competitive with InsiderPages because its primary business is providing data to hospitals and other medical businesses.

Competitive is information provided by the key insurance companies may prove to be more competitive. Anthem, for instance, partners with Zagat for its online review database. Blue Cross, Aetna, Kaiser and Cygna also have major online efforts.

Trulia Asks: What Do You Think of This Neighborhood?

Real estate and rental agents get into big trouble if they mouth off about a neighborhood’s quality of life issues. The most they can do is point to web sites that provide some general stats (i.e. school info, crime stats and market trends).

Now Trulia is getting deeper, a la user generated content. Three weeks ago, it launched ratings on 12, well-researched quality of life issues. Ratings are provided on a one to five star basis, and include safety; pet-friendliness; walkability; restaurants & shopping; parks & recreation; schools; traffic; parking; entertainment & nightlife; public transportation; community involvement; and cleanliness. Users may submit their ratings via mobile or Internet. So far, more than 140,000 ratings have come in.

Today, Trulia added reviews as well. The site is asking users to “tell us about the surrounding area, be it the neighborhood, sub-neighborhood, or actual block. The more local your knowledge, the more helpful it will be to another person! Do you live on the coolest block in your city? Tell us about it. Does your neighborhood have the best restaurants and stores? We want to know.” Over time, the site hopes to showcase its aggregated local area ratings, and reviews for every neighborhood and every block.

Think about your own neighborhood. Would you have been able to use something like this? I would have. After seven years, I have learned that my neighborhood is very safe, relatively pet-friendly (except for the lurking Coyotes), and has excellent shopping and restaurants that are nearby, but requires a car to get to. Other than dining, it has no nightlife. It has good schools through middle school, but the high school is in the tougher, adjacent town. It has very good parking, lots of tot lots, two pools and weekly block parties for young children but no other community involvement. It is also quite clean.

It might not be the neighborhood for everyone. Most of this would have been picked up by Trulia’s ratings system, which has been expertly thought out by its research team.

Red Beacon Teams with BigTent, Adds ‘Friendly Advice’

Red Beacon, one of the new breed of social/local leads providers for SMBs, said it is now available throughout the entire Bay Area and teaming up with BigTent, a mega-moms network in the Bay Area with more than 100 local cells. BigTent will receive a revenue share carved from Red Beacon’s 10 percent commission.

The deal between BigTent and Red Beacon positions the company not only against Yellow Pages and other newbreed leads providers (i.e. ServiceMagic, AlikeList, HelpHive, ThumbTack and Sears’ ServiceLive) but also against other sites that specifically tailor to moms (and women generally). These include sites such as Angie’s List and Center’d. It plays on the theory that some women are intimidated by home and trade professionals and may be more likely to seek out a social network for advice and recommendations.

For BigTent, the partnership marks the first time it has partnered with an organization to promote local businesses. It had previously worked deals with a number of national brands.

The BigTent news caps off a campaign to land associations and other organizations as partners. The results of the effort means that the site now boasts listings of 16,000 service pros with the badges of their organizations – a major trust factor. One of the key prizes has been the local branch of the Better Business Bureau, which previously hadn’t loaned out its list.

In other site developments, Red Beacon, which won the top prize as best new idea at TechCrunch 50 six months ago, is adding “Friendly Advice.” The feature lets friends comment on job bids (and the bidders). This complements the company’s matching engine, and reviews and ratings found on other parts of the site — including both positive and negative reviews.

“We’re crowd-sourcing recommendations and sharing,” says CEO Ethan Anderson. One added benefit is the viral element and the added exposure for Red Beacon: 500 views may become 2,500, he says.

Anderson notes that the company has been in a constant state of “iteration” since launching, and will only begin the process of raising money when it is satisfied with the end product. So far, the site has added several features, such as enabling private communications between consumers and providers in the middle of a bid; and allowing providers to additional information upon request. “Consumers need lots of information to make a decision,” he says. The site has also syndicated reviews from Yelp, Google and Yahoo to complement its own.

One milestone reached by the site is that it can now successfully furnish a quote for every job that is bid. In fact, it had over 1,000 service providers almost immediately after launch, and continues to rapidly grow its base. “We don’t have a chicken or egg problem,” says Anderson. “Signing up (service providers) has been easy.”

Red Beacon CEO Ethan Anderson will join AlikeList CEO Jim Delli Santi and Reply.com COO Sean Fox on the “SMB Marketplaces” panel at Marketplaces 2010. ServiceMagic CEO Craig Smith is a keynoter at the conference.

AT&Ti’s Buzz.com Now in Beta

AT&T Interactive has put up a beta version of its new Buzz.com site dedicated to eliciting positive social recommendations and answers to questions from friends, friends of friends and throughout the Buzz site ( which unfortunately, may get confused with Google Buzz, which was developed after AT&T had announced plans for Buzz.com.)

The site’s main purpose is to zero in on nontraditional categories that aren’t really met by Yellow Pages (such as “romantic hotels”). While no advertising is currently being sold, it will be sold in the future. There is currently no plan to integrate with the reviews that users provide Yellowpages.com, or its new prototype, YP.com – buzz.com users will have a different intent in mind.

The beta hooks in with Facebook Connect, and will roll out over several weeks after initially being limited to invites only. Project leader Charlie Hornberger notes that Buzz will eventually also be enabled for Twitter, instant messaging platforms, Q&A sites (such as Answers.com), and other social networks as well. “Social search is the future, but not in 2010” he says. As with AlikeList, which we also wrote about this week, the positive nature of a recommendations-only site represents “extremely qualified leads.”

Hornberger notes that the user interface remains a work in progress for the project team, which has less than two dozen people. Initially, for instance, the site was going to limit its big red heart for favorites to a single choice. It quickly found out that people want to have multiple favorites. The site also currently has a list of favorites for each user. But in the future, that list might take more creative forms, such as tag clouds.

The site will also eventually feature “best recommenders.” Future versions may also have some aspects in sentimental analysis and reputation and presence management. AT&T is investing in these areas. But Buzz.com is actually a fairly simple idea. It just needs strong execution. “You don’t need a PhD” for it, says Hornberger. Current plans are to market it virally, with some advertising on social media likely as well.

AT&Ti Executive Director Greg Isaacs is a featured speaker on the New Directories Panel at Marketplaces 2010, along with execs from Local Matters, SuperMedia and MerchantCircle.

AlikeList Launches Self-Serve ‘Minute Ads’ for SMBs

Self-serve ads will bring the SMB masses to the Web. But they haven’t made much of a dent in SMB advertising at this point. That hasn’t stopped a rush of new self-serve products coming out, several married to social media features. The latest is “minute ads” from AlikeList, one of the new crop of social/directory plays that also includes RedBeacon, ThumbTack, HelpHive, PriceLocal, Center’d and many others.

AlikeList’s Minute Ads allow business owners to create and publish offers on the fly, and change the offers as often as they like. They can be sent out to consumers that specifically request recommendations for a specific type of provider (i.e. plumber).

The Minute Ads are part of Alikelist’s “Business Central” platform, which is being priced at $19.99 a month. Included in the subscription is a “PromoSite,” along with presence and reputation management capabilities that enable customers to see how many people have “liked” or “want to try” their business, or who have clicked to their Web site or phone number.

CEO Jim Delli Santi believes that ALikeList’s like-only platform is highly differentiated from simple reviews and ratings sites (i.e. Yelp and Citysearch). “Review sites are more like media companies broadcasting review content generated from consumers,” says Delli Santi.

In theory, the site also does away with the “volume” problem of not enough reviews on a social site by letting users see “likes” from their friends, friends of friends, and then also from all over the Web.

By focusing only on “likes,” it also skims off the negative reviews. That obviously has pros and cons. I tend to like negative reviews because they provide nuance and important warning signs and make for entertaining reading. But negative reviews may also be the work of consumer vigilantes, and they don’t necessarily help people quickly find a business that they want to use.

AlikeList CEO Jim Delli Santi is speaking at Marketplaces 2010 on a hot session with RedBeacon CEO Ethan Anderson and Reply.com COO Sean Fox.