Tag Archives: yelp

AlikeList, a New Local/Social Platform, Raises $5 million and Launches


This has been the year for new sites that combine service directories and social features such as ratings and reviews. Earlier this year, we’ve seen sites such as RedBeacon, HelpHive, and others launch. Depending on definitions, earlier entrants include Citysearch, Yelp.com, Tree.com’s DoneRight, FixR , LocalPrice, InsiderPages and Centerd.

Behind their fancy Web 2.0 veneers, they are all going after an SMB leads market that has previously been defined — and is still being defined — by ServiceMagic, Angie’s List and the Yellow Pages.

Now along comes AlikeList, a new contender backed with $5 million from Syncom Venture Partners. As the name implies, the 15 person company enables people to save their local business recommendations and share them with friends via Facebook, and eventually, other platforms. It also plans to bring together local groups such as Home Owners Associations and PTAs. At the same time, it has an “all members” section that goes broader for Yelp-like recommendations from the general community.

This new service efficiently connects all the dots of Web 2.0 marketing. In a single dashboard, it provides reputation management services, and provides full reporting on website clicks. If services have 20 or more listers, they can create instant direct marketing packages, with coupons, updates, etc. On the business side, businesses will pay on a monthly basis for membership, and a per contact basis for jobs they receive.

What we see is it all seems well executed, especially with its highly usable map features (one of its execs is a former MapQuester). But frankly, all of the new entrants look good.

Earlier Facebook-oriented services such as Loladex couldn’t get the traction they needed, and were ghettoized by relying too heavily on Facebook. But AlikeList’s timing ought to be better in terms of technology adoption, plus it has more money. In coming months, we’ll be studying this one closely to see whether it will stand out.

ILM:09: Keynote from Yelp COO Geoff Donaker


Yelp has taken a counter-intuitive approach by taking a slow and expensive city by city rollout approach – and has apparently succeeded as it attracts 26 million unique visitors per month, up 40 percent from last year, and has planted community managers in 33 cities in the U.S. and abroad.

Moreover, the site has an archive of 8. 5 million reviews about three million businesses, and the brand and its reputation now help to break in a wide number of new markets. The brand is also extended via the “Weekly Yelp” newsletters in every market, TV interviews with community managers, and other sources. BIA/Kelsey estimates that Yelp earned between $35 to $50 million in annual revenue, but the company has comment on the estimate.

Intrviewed by BIA/Kelsey SVP Matt Booth, COO Geoff Donaker said that Yelp’s well syndicated reviews are roughly 29 percent made up of restaurants, while retailers make up about 22 percent. “Then you get into the long tail of everything else…beauty, gyms, and things like that. Night life is small on a review basis.” But the relatively small quantity makes sense, as it does for services as well. “I tend to go to more meals than have root canals,” he observed.

The percentage of revenues from every category roughly follows the number of reviews in every category, he said. “We are not chasing any particular category for reviews.” Donaker noted, however, that it tends to take 18-36 months before “you get enough density for reviews to be useful.”

In terms of organization, Yelp now has 300 employees. Roughly 200 are working with its core constituency of SMBs for account management, ad ops and sales people. “Most of the sales people are inside, and they talk mostly over the phone. Most local advertisers are kind of ready to do businesses over the phone,” said Donaker – although “if they spend six figures, we’ll fly to them.”

Donaker also says that business has “been good. We’ve been profitable in the summer and fall, but we’ll go unprofitable again through next year. We want to expand through next year.

Looking forward, Donaker sees rich opportunity from mobile services, including its “Monocle” augmented realty feature, which allows users to point at a businesses using the compass and camera feature of iPhone. But Donaker said that such a feature is really only useful in a dense urban environment. “You don’t need it when you are on strip like Santa Monica Blvd.,” that is relatively unpopulated, he said.

Donaker also noted with amusement the fuss over Google’s new Favorite Places sticker, which has been distributed to 100,000 businesses and allows mobile users to scan over them and see reviews. Yelp has been distributing decals for several years, but they only go to less than ten percent of highly rated Yelp businesses. “This is a different kind of decal,” he says.

The ILM:09 Lineup: Dec. 9-11 in LA


The lineup for BIA/Kelsey’s Interactive Local Media ’09 is really taking shape. The speakers truly represent a “who’s who” of what’s going on in the space that is interesting, progressive and important.

ILM is the culmination of this year’s research and analysis, and takes place Dec. 9-11 at our favorite hotel, The Century Plaza in LA. Here’s the registration info. And here’s the current lineup.
Willow Bay, Senior Editor, Huffington Post
Cory Bergman, Director, New Product Development, MSNBC.com
Matthew Berk, Executive VP, Product Engineering, Marchex
Jason Boseck, President, Parking Data Ventures
Neil Budde, President and Chief Product Officer, Daily Me
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Executive in Residence, Accel Partners
Surojit Chatterjee, Product Manager, Google
Darrin Clement, CEO, Maponics
Court Cunningham, CEO, Yodle
Geoff Donaker, COO, Yelp
Aaron Finn, President and CEO, AdReady
Matt Howard, CEO. SMBLive
Mark Josephson, CEO, Outside.in
Warren Kay, VP, Local, Fox Interactive Networks
Tim Kendall, Director, Monetization, Facebook
Cyrus Krohn, Director, Online Services Programming, Microsoft
Chris LaSala, Director, Local, Google
Warren Lee, Venture Partner, Canaan Partners
Lem Lloyd, VP, U.S. Partnerships, Yahoo
Scott Moore, U.S. Executive Producer, MSN, Microsoft
Mike Orren, President and Founder, Pegasus News
Geneva Overholser, Director, USC Annenberg School
Meredith Papp, Director, Product Marketing, Google
Jim Pastor, Senior VP, ESPN Local Digital
Kevin Ryan, CMO, WebVisible
Lori H. Schwartz, Senior VP, Interpublic Emerging Media Lab
Doug Scott, VP of Marketing, RMG Networks
Julia Scott, Chief Blogger and CEO, BargainBabe LA
Andy Simms, Director of Advertising Programs, Skype
Scott Tobias, President and COO, Village Voice Media
Kinsley Wilson, SVP and GM, NPR Digital
Victor Wong, CEO, PaperG
Michael Yang, Venture Partner, Comcast Ventures

Fwix, a ‘Local Newswire,’ Goes Mobile for Easy Submissions


The opportunities for “citizen journalism” and “consumer nation” are there. Social and hyperlocal media sites like Yelp and Angie’s List have done more than OK. But mobile on-the-go apps are more than likely going to kick the roof off.

Citysearch has already seen this with its reviews. When people don’t have to wait to go home to submit something, they are many more times likely to submit a review, even with awkward thumb texting (Unless, of course, they are home.)

Now comes Fwix, a year-old news aggregator for 85 U.S. cities that sports “Real Time Local News” as its tagline. The site was founded by Darian Shirazi, a 22 year old that has already put in time at Facebook and eBay. According to PaidContent, the site has received some seed funding from BlueRun Ventures.

This week, Fwix rolls out an iPhone app that enables users to file news updates, photos and video. Fwix’s geo-filter leverages GPS to check for accuracy of locations and aggregate other postings from the location, as The New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller notes in her writeup. Indeed, the filter could make the site a better and more focused c-journalism site than Twitter, which has a lot of noise in the postings.

Will Fwix’s c-journalism be successful as a standalone app? Probably not, although Miller notes that the site can build up from 400,000 unique viewers that its news aggregation attracts every month. But if it starts to work with major media sites, along the lines of Everyblock, a hyperlocal data gathererer just acquired by MSNBC.com—or even build up a news consortia like an Associated Press – it could be on to something.

Potts: Yelp Squeezing Newspapers, like Craigslist Eating Classifieds


Local media consultant Mark Potts writes in his blog that “Yelp is doing the kind of fundamental damage to newspapers’ traditional local entertainment listing and reviewing role that Craigslist did to classifieds.”

For Potts, that means more bad news for newspapers. “The last really defensible franchise for newspapers is local news and information, and local entertainment, dining and business listings and guides are a critical part of that franchise—especially in the ways they can attract advertisers.”

“What’s happening is that Yelp now has enough crowdsourced participants and reviews of enough businesses in enough markets to be a truly useful tool in trying to decide what to do for entertainment (and more). Combined with search and geo-location (Yelp’s iPhone app is indispensable), Yelp is becoming a very powerful tool.”

YPG Launches ‘Answers’ Using Praized Platform


Yellow Pages Group Canada, the leading YP in Canada, is going deep into social networking via the launch of answers.yellowpages.ca, a new Yelp-like service that relies on the wisdom of the community to ask questions, and provide recommendations and information about local services. All the information is portable to Facebook or Twitter, and can be embedded in user blogs.

The service has advertising from Google AdSense. It is the first implementation of the Praized Media social platform, a Montreal firm co-founded by Sebastien Provencher, a long time YPG executive.

Soft-launched earlier this month, users have already received recommendations for restaurants, florists, dentists, mechanics, cosmetic surgeons, wedding photographers and DJs. Praized offers quick links to U.S. and Canada businesses via access to both YPG and Localeze data.

Yelp Has PR Problem Re: Reviews and Practices


Five-year-old Yelp has been something of a phenomenon, and is a preferred ratings and review directory for millions of people online and mobile in 24 cities. In December, ComScore pegged its traffic at seven million visitors, up from 2.8 million a year before. It also has gathered a library of five million reviews, which are widely syndicated across many sites.

But success sometimes breeds discontent, and there has been a steady stream of complaints about the service, and its alleged habit of deleting or boosting reviews of businesses based on whether they buy advertising with the service. This is something that Yelp absolutely denies.

What makes it difficult to tell is that the reviews aren’t vetted. Two California doctors recently sued Yelp reviewers, claiming they had written false reviews. Yelp’s formula for determining which reviews appear on the site is also less than transparent. In some cases, its spam filter appears to have been overly-vigilant. In other cases, it is unclear why reviews have been deleted.

A comprehensive article in today’s New York Times notes that Yelp feels it is not its job to “referee factual disputes between businesses and reviewers.” It also “won’t investigate reviews accused of being inaccurate or permit businesses to respond to reviews on the site.” Indeed, the company operates on the premise that greater accuracy will emerge from more reviews.

“Some of the confusion may come from the fact that advertisers, who pay $300 to $1,000 a month, are allowed to choose which review shows up at the top of their profile page and block ads from competitors,” notes the article. “For other businesses, the first two listings a reader sees could be an ad for a competitor and a one-star review.”

Yelp has, however, made some changes in the interest of helping businesses, including the addition of Yelp for Business Owners in April 2008. The feature allows business to edit their company profiles, post special offers and privately email reviewers.

The Times also notes that Yelp is stepping up its PR offensive. CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, “is blogging more often about how Yelp works. He has also started a Twitter account to communicate with business owners and reviewers. Yelp is also planning conversations at chambers of commerce and local restaurant associations.”
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