A Community-Based Opinion Website Reaches Critical Mass

Media Morph: Yelp.com

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Every week Ad Age Digital's Media Morph looks at how emerging technology is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages. This week: Yelp.com
Because of Yelp's community nature, it's harder for publicists to post favorable reviews of their own clients, which plague some other recommendation sites.
Because of Yelp's community nature, it's harder for publicists to post favorable reviews of their own clients, which plague some other recommendation sites.

What it is: Think MySpace meets Zagat. Media Morph has been hearing about Yelp for several months now, but the community-based review site is just now getting to a point of critical mass, which means it's much easier to find reviews on everything from pizza joints to pedicures.

How it works: Members create Yelp profiles to which they add photos and friends. Then they write profiles of their favorite -- and least favorite -- spots in their city and other cities they've visited. Most of the Yelp content focuses on San Francisco, New York and Boston, although smaller cities such as Madison, Wis., are beginning to pop up.

Sample prose: "A dusty old neighborhood tavern with green-and-white checkerboard tablecloths, this small, unpretentious watering hole is the kind of institution you'd expect to find near a suburban college campus rather than in one of the city's most expensive neighborhoods." --Gourmet G. on Manhattan burger joint J.G. Melon

Best feature: The site lets you see the whole laundry list of what people have reviewed, so if you shared a particular user's taste in sushi spots, you might also like their favorite curry house. Also, because of its community nature, it's harder for publicists to post favorable reviews of their own clients, which plague some other recommendation sites.

Who's behind it: The site was launched a year ago by a couple of former PayPal employees who were new to San Francisco and needed some advice on where to go in the city. Late last year it received a $5 million injection of venture capital.

Advertising? Yelp only accepts ads from businesses with at least a three-out-of-five star rating on the site. But the demos are attractive: It touts that 60% of its audience is between ages 26 and 35.
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