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Yelp Wanted: The Zagat v. Yelp Take Down

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For Times Business section readers living in a cave, columnist Randall Stross explains the advances of "user review" sites, what Yelp is, and how it's phenomenally better than the old standby Zagat. While he is a tad too enamored with Yelp to our liking (easy to detect fraud! it covers every business with an address!), he makes some excellent points on how curiously behind the Zagat is in the online game. Moreover, it seems like the head honchos at the maroon guide aren't champing at the bit to improve or expand online service:

"In New York City, Zagat’s home, it offers ratings of 2,372 restaurants, 28 percent of the number on Yelp’s site...'Our goal is not to be totally comprehensive,' Ms. Zagat said. When I told her that I, a Zagat subscriber, wished that the service did try to rate every restaurant, she pointed to the company’s 30-year history and said, 'The proof is in the pudding.'

Good reporter that he is, Stross takes a look at the "pudding," revealing that Yelp's traffic is expanding "geometrically" while Zagat's moves very little. He critiques the site for updating its rankings yearly (a lifetime in the online world) for charging for content, and for not adapting to the new online environment. And then, of course, he goes out with a zinger: "Zagat’s management should discard its ingrained habits and permit its best reviewers to stand apart from the pack. As a Zagat customer, I’m looking for more — what’s the phrase? —Yelpitude."
· How Many Reviewers Should Be in the Kitchen? [NYT]

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