For the past six months or so, Mark Canon, Yell’s head of online, has been looking to either buy or partner his company’s way into the recommendations and reviews space. As he put it, “At the center, our business is about generating and capturing content about merchants.”
Canon and Yell settled on acquiring the U.K. review site Trusted Places in a deal announced today.
Trusted Places is a U.K.-based start-up where consumers can share their opinions on merchants across the spectrum of local categories. The site has roughly 1 million monthly uniques and has been operating for about four years, competing with the likes of Qype and Yelp.
Canon told us yesterday that one of the key elements of the deal was Trusted Places’ intellectual property, its system for managing large volumes of reviews and, critically, stimulating review behavior.
The acquisition, completed a few weeks ago, will lead to the consolidation of Trusted Places into a new Yell site, which will operate as a review site, while the reviews will also be appended to merchant listings on Yell.com.
Canon said one of the key opportunities from the deal will be in encouraging Yell’s roughly 400,000 U.K. advertisers to stimulate review activity. Canon says U.K. merchants are increasingly aware of the “review ecosystem” and the impact it has on their visibility and reputation.
Canon says the Trusted Places leadership team will join Yell. He also noted that Yell’s integration of Trusted Places will eventually be exported to Yell’s U.S. and Spanish operations.
On a related front, Canon told us that Yell has opened a new Yell Labs facility in Central London that will eventually house up to 75 developers, programmers, digital sales specialists and others focused on developing and trialing new digital products.
Canon says a key side benefit of the new facility will be in recruiting top level new media talent to the company. Yell’s main offices are in Reading, a small city outside London with little cache. A Central London location has a much higher “cool” factor, not a small element in recruiting.
The Trusted Places announcement follows a recent substantial upgrade to the Yell.com Web site, which we posted on last week. The new version includes an elaborate 3-D mapping platform, a street view feature, a new video channel and the ability to “shortlist” favorite places and share the list with friends via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.