Yelp Me If You Can

I finally caught up with Jeremy Stoppelman, one of the founders of Yelp, a social networking + YP site. The site has had a much lower profile than competitors with very similar models, i.e., InsiderPages and JudysBook . Like those sites, Yelp also uses PPCall business model.

The site is national (major U.S. metros), but with coverage concentrated in the Bay Area. The surprisingly rich site looks and feels more like a social networking effort (especially the photos) than a directory site. However, paradoxically, Stoppelman told me that while Yelp began with the ambition of being a vehicle to ask for and make local recommendations, the company quickly discovered that people were less interested in that give-and-take-advice model than in writing unsolicited reviews.

Come again? Say what? Que? I was surprised by that.

We talked for some time about a range of local players, models and sites. Stoppelman argued that success in local is not unlike building the pyramids (my analogy) — brick by brick — a painstaking market-by-market process that would take considerable time and effort. (IYPs and newspapers are ahead on the ground; the question for them is: Is the product right?)

He also argued, perhaps in a self-interested way, that local would not be dominated by a single player and there would be different authoritative sites in different locations.

That's true now and, given the fragmented nature of local markets, perhaps will be true for some time.

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