Understanding your competition

By Conor O'Neill | February 14, 2007

Andy Sack recently wrote a superb blog post (and follow-up) on what Yelp did better than Judy’s Book. I not only admire his honesty and openness but also the clarity of his analysis. Yelp’s focus on a younger demographic and restaurant reviews proved far more fruitful than the wider net and older target audience of Judy’s Book. He also points out that they out-marketed them.

Both Judy’s Book and Yelp are competitors of ours in theory as we are all about reviews (I know this is changing in Judy’s Book) . Therefore I have studied both sites (and many others obviously) and I find Andy’s insights very useful.

As our site is built entirely around the idea of publishing reviews to and aggregating reviews from blogs, we will be a reflection of what our users are focused on already.  Of course we have our plans for the direction of the site but  rather than force it initially, we are using this pre-launch time to monitor the areas that users are blogging about and see how best to match that to what people are seeking. We’ve already been surprised by some of the areas of activity and luckily from a business perspective they also make sense for us. The blogging aspect obviously gives us a younger demographic by default.

I should point out that I’ve never been convinced that hyperlocal “User Generated Content” businesses based on closed data-silos can scale. The amount of investment that Yelp have required to just operate in a small set of US cities says a lot. Looking at the change of direction for Judy’s Book and what happened at InsiderPages just confirms that belief.

To me, the ultimate in Local is the individual’s blog reflecting the views, opinions and knowledge of that individual in a real community. If individual bloggers cluster together around areas of mutual interest on our site then Local is whatever they define it to be; restaurants in Boise, theatres in Cork, forest walks in Finland.

As with any business, the two challenges for us are marketing ourselves effectively and being able to generate revenue based on user activity and intention. I just don’t think we’ll be doing down the Yelp party route somehow 😉

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