Sack: How Yelp Beat Judy’s Book

There is no better guide to how to avoid the potholes in hyper-local than Judy’s Book cofounder Andy Sack, who has been writing a series of “don’t do this at home” posts about Judy’s Book’s failed efforts building an online review site (the site is now refocused on local promotions). In the most recent installment, Sack talks about how Yelp came into the game with a better strategy.

“We were focused on the soccer mom and Yelp focused on the younger twenty-something generation. When it comes to user generated content (and social networks), it turns out that the younger the consumer the better! There’s a reason MySpace is filled with teenagers: younger people feel more comfortable contributing and sharing online then their older counterparts. It’s a generational comfort with technology thing … plus they have more time.”

Sack also notes how Yelp basically out-marketed Judy’s Book. “They managed from early on to make their customers feel loved. They were the first site (amongst Judy’s Book, Yelp and Insider Pages) to focus on getting consumer photos up on their site. This was a very powerful marketing tool. They were aggressive at experimenting with parties and alcohol and building an offline community with their community. They made joining yelp a bit of a fraternity/sorority … in a good way. Their marketing efforts for a small company were better than ours.”

While Sack says that Yelp has clearly won at the user-generated content game, he wonders whether the winnings amount to more than a hill o’ beans. “We’ve ceded the directory business to other companies, including Yelp. We didn’t do this because Yelp won (though, they were getting more consumer traction)  but rather because we grew highly skeptical of the community directory business direction as the basis for a successful profitable business.

“Judy’s Book’s new direction includes a real revenue model  and a different set of challenges,” concludes Sack. “I feel confident that we learned lots of lessons about user generated content, local search, and businesses in general that will help us succeed going forward.”

(Thanks to the good eye of Niki Scevak’s Bronte Media for turning me on to the link.)

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