Virtually all Web content these days has some way for the users to write their own take. Newspaper sites have a comments section at the bottom of every news story; big sites like Citysearch have ratings for restaurants, movies, or entertainment venues; and comments are a centerpiece of MySpace and other social networking sites.
A newcomer called Yelp is making headway in this area by giving users a way to review their favorite restaurants, shopping centers, and even religious organizations. Small businesses like Splitends, a hair salon in San Francisco, are finding that Yelp drives more business than some traditional marketing methods, supporting the old adage that the best form of advertising is word-of-mouth.
Restaurants are used to critics, with restaurant reviewers having their own newspaper columns in most major cities, but the new breed of critic is a different animal, unknown to the restaurant owners and possibly could be anyone who walks in the door. The newest generation of amateur critics is also more forgiving than their more traditional brethren, with one site claiming that positive online reviews outnumber negative ones by a two to one margin. Yelp does not limit its users to what exactly they review, so many of the negative reviews are about a small piece of the experience, like a surly waiter, and business owners are paying attention, with one admitting that he has fired wait staff for consistently bad reviews.
For latest reviews, chefs look online (BusinessWeek)
Reviewers Twice as Likely to Write Positive Reviews over Negative (Technology Evangelist)
Small reviews site packs a loud Yelp (CNET News.com)
I have been reviewing various things online since the mid-90s, from eBay buyers and sellers to public opinion pieces in the newspaper. As mentioned before, nearly every site out there has some kind of user comment section or forums for members to discuss their common interests. However, Yelp seems to have reached into this niche to deliver content that is valuable to a great many people. The big question is: Does Yelp has what it takes to become a verb (as Google has for Internet searches), or is it destined to become yet another in the long list of fad sites? (Check out what TechRepublic blogger John McKee says about this topic in his post, Yelping yet?.) Do you think that Yelp has what it takes for longevity?
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