Online review site and user review app Yelp continues to make an impact not only on the behavior of consumers today, but also on the online reputation and overall performance of local businesses around the world. Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp founder and CEO, appeared on Charlie Rose sometime last week to talk more about the company – and to answer some of the industry’s most pressing questions about Yelp.
(You can also watch the full video here.)
So how would he describe Yelp?
“One way to look at (Yelp) is that it’s word of mouth – amplified. We set out to create the new Yellow Pages: a better way for finding local businesses. We’re open to all commerce, anyone can come on to the site, write a review of their favorite local business, and all of that local knowledge can then be searchable, so you can find just about any business that you want.”
How did it start?
“It all goes back to 2004. It was summer. We were kind of looking for the next big thing on the consumer Web: the next big Internet idea. But the first month, I got sick. I wanted to go see a doctor. So I did a search online to see what doctors were near me, and who was good. But I couldn’t find a good doctor. There was no information that would lead me to a good doctor. I went to insurance websites, there was a little bit of directory information, and that just stuck with me. I was like: I should be able to know who the best doctor in the city is.”
How would he respond to criticisms of Yelp and the reliability of its aggregated reviews?
“There’s a lot of ways to try and dismiss the user base or the power of Yelp. But if you look at the demographics: they’re off the charts, they’re very attractive: 22 to 50 (years old), as far as the contributors. They’re highly educated, they’re high-income, the average age is mid-30s, so it’s not just young folks mouthing off about McDonald’s.”
How accurate and fair are the reviews of local businesses being posted on Yelp?
“I find it accurate. If you go and you find a 4.5-star business in New York that has 70-plus reviews, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good experience. Having quantity of reviews is part of it. Having quality of reviews is part of it. Having a rating attached to an in-depth review is part of it. Knowing about the reviewer themselves, their identity, is (also) part of it.”
What gets him most excited about building Yelp?
“For me, it’s always been about the consumer experience. That’s the thing that gets me most excited: solving a problem. If you’re able to connect people with great local businesses, those are transactions – there’s going to be a business model there. So we didn’t spend a ton of time in the very early days focusing on the business model. We spent it on: how do you create a destination where people contribute all these reviews?”
What does he think of Google’s acquisition and relaunch of Zagat? What would Yelp’s advantage be over Google?
“Every 6 months to a year, there’s a reinvention of what Google has been doing in the local space. There’s just been change after change. I think what that says, or I think what that should communicate, is that they’re struggling in the space. They’re having trouble finding something that really works and something they can stick with. Originally, it was Google Local, then they made it Google Maps and then they changed it to Google Places. And then they had Hotpot, then they bought Zagat, then they tried Frommer’s and then they sold Frommer’s and then they’ve revamped Zagat. If you’re winning, it’s calmer waters. The thing about Yelp is that we’ve been doing the same thing for nine years.”