I received an e-mail early this morning from Judy’s Book COO Chris DeVore saying that the company will wrap up operations. This comes as a surprise, because it was in the middle of a model transition from review-centric local social search to one built around local shopping search and coupons.
The new model seemed to have potential in this growing area that includes ShopLocal, NearbyNow and Krillion. I hope to find out more about the rationale for the decision, and some information is provided by CEO Andy Sack on his personal blog.
You also might remember that Sack was very open with public statements on his blog last October, about what aspects of the site’s former review-centric model didn’t work. That forthrightness was a breath of fresh air in a market otherwise filled with positively charged marketing rhetoric.
I look forward to any learnings we can all take away from this event, and the hindsight of Judy’s Book’s model and site development. Local shopping search and local social search are indeed areas filled with opportunity but equally weighed down by question marks.
Judy’s Book was among the small graduating class of review sites that entered the market a few years ago, including Insider Pages and Yelp. Yelp of course is going strong (the “last one standing,” according to Techcrunch), while Insider Pages was acquired by Citysearch last spring.
Still a lot of opportunity here though, and growing consumer expectations around reviews and user-generated content. Also a few interesting models we’re seeing developed around review aggregation (OpenList), automated ratings (Grayboxx) and local social tagging (Yellowbot).
Monetization, as always, is the tough part. User-generated content in some ways should be used to grow and retain traffic that is monetized in other ways. In other words, as we’ve said before, user-generated content will slowly become a standard in local search, but one that is a feature layer in most destinations, rather than a standalone feature of a few.
Best of luck to Andy, Chris and the rest of the team in their transitions to whatever is next.