Feeds

Yelp 'pay to play' pitch makes shops scream for help

User generated discontent

High performance access to file storage

Personal Attacks

If it's nasty enough, a single negative review can seriously damage a small business. Kellinger, Deep Fried, and our anonymous San Francisco business owner - we'll call her Miss Lonelyhearts - were all hit by personal attacks that bordered on the slanderous. Kellinger and her staff were dubbed "racist". Deep Fried was hit with comments about his ethnicity. And Miss Lonelyhearts received an attack that focused on her physical disabilities.

Officially, Yelp does not allow personal attacks. "Feel free to explain your bad experience with a salesman," the site reads, "but Yelp's not the place for vicious attacks or name calling." And you can "flag" such reviews, urging Yelp to take them down. There's an on-site tool that lets you send emails to Yelp customer service reps and alert them to questionable content.

But Kellinger, Deep Fried, and Miss Lonleyhearts all complain that those blatant personal attacks were not removed from their Yelp pages. And this caused no small amount of anxiety for these small business owners.

But even then, all three repeatedly declined advertising agreements.

Kellinger, however, took matters into her own hands, asking longtime customers and friends to post positive reviews to her site. Yelp then removed some of these reviews, accusing Kellinger's Razzberry Lips of gaming the system.

Yelp director of communications Stephanie Ichinose accuses Mary Seaton's Sofa Outlet of much the same behavior, saying that both businesses are biased against the site because positive reviews were taken down. "They're creating fake accounts and writing shill reviews of their own business," Ichinose said. "They were both trying to game the system. If they weren't, their stories would be more legitimate."

Kellinger and Seaton acknowledge they drove the positive reviews. But they say this was their only means of fighting back. Kellinger wouldn't pay an advertising fee. And Seaton believes she was fooled into paying a fee that ultimately did her no good.

Yelp Logo

"Real People. Real Reviews."

Economics 2.0

For nearly four years, an army of clever marketers has trumpeted that Web 2.0 moniker. "User-generated content," the voices keep saying, will change the world as we know it.

In a way, they're right. There's no arguing with the runaway popularity of sites like YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Yelp, and so many others. But Web 2.0 is haunted by the same question that brought down what we'll reluctantly call Web 1.0: How will all these sites make their money?

Clicks don't always mean cash. User-generated content may be wildly popular, but that doesn't mean it's wildly lucrative.

Yelp may or may not be a big money maker. But the site's business model is proof that Web 2.0 is only half a proposition. It may change the world. But it doesn't change internet economics.

Unlike Google's or Yahoo!'s, Yelp sales are dependent on old fashioned cold calls to people who may or may not understand how the internet works. At the very least, this is a tough way to make online money. At worst, it could undermine a site's reason for being.

Have you received a similar sales pitch from Yelp? If so, you can contact us privately here ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Sorry London, Europe's top tech city is Munich
New 'Atlas of ICT Activity' finds innovation isn't happening at Silicon Roundabout
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.