Local listings website operators will face an overseas competitor with the arrival of US giant reviews network Yelp, which launches in New Zealand today.
Based in San Francisco, Yelp is a business listings-reviews website with social networking features that currently operates in 20 countries.
Yelp vice president of new markets Miriam Warren says that a launch in New Zealand, Yelp's 21st country, was a “natural fit” especially considering that Yelp was already operating in Australia and Singapore.
Yelp will be launching here with a single New Zealand-based employee, a community manager who will liaise with business owners and encourage local reviews by establishing an “Elite Squad” of active users.
“We’re in progress of hiring a Kiwi to fill that role,” says Warren.
Meanwhile Warren says that the overseas content on Yelp, including 36 million user generated reviews of businesses “from shoe cobblers to real estate agents” would be of immediate benefit to local users as “New Zealanders travel so much.”
“Yelp is useful if you are travelling to California or France as well as being helpful in your own home town,” she says.
Yelp will not be selling advertising here yet, Warren says, but local business owners will be offered a free presence on the site and will be provided with tools to upload photos and brief descriptions of their businesses.
Warren says that a point of difference between Yelp and local listings websites was Yelp’s range of apps which allow the site to be accessed on iPhones, iPads and Android devices.
Unlike the local listings website Localist, Yelp allows negative as well as positive reviews and many of the user comments on the US Yelp site could be described as colourful.
Each Yelp review includes a rating of between one to five stars, and according to Warren 80 percent of Yelp reviews globally are in the three stars category.
“If you look at week of your life you might have had one fantastic experience and one terrible experience and the rest are somewhere between,” says Warren.
She describes Localist’s positive only reviews policy as “interesting”. “If people have been to a restaurant where they’ve eaten something bad I wouldn’t want to deny the opportunity to warn others to stay clear,” she says.
Warren says that Yelp reviews are posted automatically as they are submitted and are un-moderated. However reviews may be removed later if they are reported as violating Yelp’s terms of service.
Yelp was founded in 2004 by former Paypal vice president of engineering Jeremy Stoppelman and his former Paypal colleague Russel Simmons. Stoppelman remains at Yelp as chief executive officer.