Today’s New York Times has an article on hotel and restaurant reviews. They mostly talk about TripAdvisor and IgoUgo (which I had never heard of until today) and compare them to Zagat. Most of the information in there has been thoroughly discussed before (user reviews vs. editor reviews, moderated vs. un-moderated comments) but one quote from Tim Zagat (Zagat’s co-founder) really stood out for me. Talking about consumer reviews, he said:
“Some Internet companies are running into the problem that anybody can throw up things on the wall, and after a while there are just too many people doing it.”
What it means: Tim Zagat is onto something. He doesn’t express it that way but it’s all about reviews from “trusted sources”. A trusted source could be, for example, a pro reviewer/critic (aggregated in sites like Metacritic.com), a friend or someone from an affinity group (or trusted community). Some of the travel and review sites out there suffer from a lack of “trusted sources” and it’s the reason why we often feel like there’s too much information to process when we see hundreds of reviews for a hotel or restaurant. Why would I trust travelingmom526 or baroudeur2004? If they’re not direct contacts, how do I know if they have the same taste as me?
Zagat Survey has launched its first ad-supported Web site for mobile devices, a platform it believes will be a primary way to serve, and advertise to, “affluent and engaged” customers. The site, Zagat.mobi, is sponsored at launch by the entertainment- and dining-themed Visa Signature credit card, which appears in clickable banner ads on the new mobile presence. Visa Signature will be the exclusive advertiser on Zagat.mobi for the first two months. (…) Mobile services player Starcut helped Zagat design the new Zagat.mobi site, which features Zagat restaurant, nightlife and hotel content for all major U.S. cities, London and other select international destinations. (…)
The mobile site differs from the company’s main Web site, ZAGAT.com and from its $30-per-year ZAGAT TO GO smartphone software (…). It is optimized for quick display on all Web-enabled mobile devices, offering free access to restaurant, nightlife and hotel information. Mobile-friendly features include links for directions, movie times, airlines and other information as well as the ability to use SMS to communicate with friends, said Zagat. Mahle said ZAGAT.com subscribers will be able to view Zagat ratings and reviews of businesses.
What it means: A couple of interesting insights on that roll-out:
- Zagat has redesigned their site specifically for mobile access. That’s a smart decision. (It’s funny how everyone uses the iPhone now to showcase their mobile site…)
- They’re promoting it using the .mobi extension. I’m still not sure .mobi domain names will catch fire but I think it can help brand recognition at this point.
- They say they’re going ad-supported but, in reality, they kept their freemium subscription model in place. You need to pay to see their trusted ratings and reviews. BTW, an interesting debate around the freemium vs. ad-supported model is happening currently.