March 1, 2007
“User reviews empower consumers to make informed decisions about where to spend their time and money, and our local merchants tell us that they are more likely to acquire a customer when user reviews are included as part of their online listing…
Through this acquisition, Citysearch will strengthen our breadth of user-generated content across numerous business categories nationwide. Competitively, no company online or offline offers the depth of content in local markets as Citysearch does, making us the most useful and valuable way for merchants to connect with customers, and for consumers to find exactly what they’re looking for.”
Hopefully these are positive reviews if it was meant to help their customers in acquiring consumers. Insiderpages was known for hiring people to review as well as giving away Starbucks gift cards for reviewing. This led to lots of reviews in a short period of time…but the majority of which were of poor quality. 600,000 reviews is how many reviews Citysearch has said Insiderpages had…but if half of them is bad quality (especially if they’re “positive” and are of less value to consumers because they are not sufficiently unbiased), then there are maybe 300,000 valuable reviews. If they plan on using the reviews only and eliminating the infrastructure/code they built, then they paid $43+ per review ($21 approx/review if we go with the 600,000 figure) if you go with a $13M purchase price. Furthermore, reviews get stale and no longer read well when they get to be 18-24 months old or so (on the average). Users would be another good resource. These users can come back to add more reviews but a large portion of the unpaid reviewers may leave. For example, will Citysearch load the users into their database as well? Well they provide a similar interface for logging in and reviewing to that of Insiderpages so those reviewers can have a smooth transition?…or will they just keep the insiderpages brand entirely distinct and just take in feeds of reviews (Insiderpages, by the way, provides feeds for their reviews to multiple different partners and if that is all Citysearch wanted, they could have come up with a much cheaper deal so this is doubtful).
Insiderpages also has forums, a place to ask questions to locals, etc. They do well with search engine traffic because of all of this content…but, ultimately, Citysearch makes money when you go to customer listings and they will have to work on better monetizing all of these features. So I wonder what the integration will be. With two distinct brands in Citysearch and Insiderpages, how will consumers react to whatever the integration is. So, while Citysearch is looking at their 2.5 million unique users every month, how many of them will be looking for business listings (a la Citysearch), and how many of them will be looking for other Insiderpages services such as the forums…in fact, how many of them will be coming in to Insiderpages while conducting a search on search engines? If Citysearch eliminates the forums/Q&A and other features, those listings in the search results go away over time and you can no longer redirect these users elsewhere…unless they keep this content up somewhere. The user base of each of these sites is very different with Citysearch catering to Arts & Entertainment users while Insiderpages catering to Yellowpage categories…the question is, how do you cater to both now?
Then there is the Insiderpages team (mostly techies at this point). They used to be located in Google have figured out the self-service model where users go to a site and sign up doesn’t work as well as a large sales force, especially a local sales force that can go and visit the customers and sign them up.
Disclaimer: I have worked for Citysearch in the past.