BooRah Upgrades Restaurant Site, Seeks Broader Distribution

boorah.gif  BooRah, the Bay Area restaurant review site, has raised some seed funding from Storm Ventures and other investors (amount undisclosed) and plans to use the money to grow beyond its roots as a tech vendor for alternative newsweeklies. The “new” BooRah will continue to work with alternative newsweeklies, but it intends to create a more robust platform so that it can also share content with Internet Yellow Pages, newspapers and city guides.

CEO Eric Moyer says the four-person company has been limited by its previous focus, and is now undergoing a makeover to aggregate more content from across the Web, while adding a level of user-friendliness. “We’re building a tech platform from user-generated content,” he says.

BooRah’s five-star rating system, for instance, will still be available to its 12 existing affiliates. But otherwise, the ratings are being simplified to “Boo” or “Rah” votes. And users don’t need to directly vote, either. The site’s computers will semantically review user comments to sense whether users are positive or negative about a place. In doing so, BooRah begins to resemble other “semantic” review companies, such as Marchex’s OpenList and UrbanSpoon. But Moyer says it will be different.

“I do not believe that either OpenList or UrbanSpoon generate ‘votes’ by analyzing the text of reviews. This is unique to BooRah,” he says. “I believe their ‘votes’ are just user clicks on the voting buttons, and are entirely separate from any reviews they display. BooRah combines both elements (voting ‘clicks’ and analyzed reviews text) into a single overall score.”

The home page is also being reworked and will now feature contextual ads from the likes of ValPak.com and Restaurant.com, in addition to the latest reviews. “The ValPak and Restaurant.com deals and ad units provide examples of how we combine ‘offers,’ reviews content, and ratings in a single ad unit to generate better conversions from local business sponsored listings and ads,” says Moyer.

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