After 32 years in private hands, Zagat became part of Google’s portfolio, it was announced today (September 8, 2011). In a statement on their website, Nina and Tim Zagat pointed to the value of consumers’ “witty comments” and impartial reviews as the key to Zagat’s longevity and success. No purchase price was disclosed.
Zagat, although resting on substantial laurels for its curated content and high trust factor with consumers, nevertheless had an uphill battle in competing with a growing number of review/search sites (Yelp being the preeminent contender), particularly since it has much of its content behind a pretty high paywall. Toque editor and LA Weekly restaurant critic Elina Slatkin predicted Zagat’s paywall would ultimately hurt it as “the latest generation of eaters has acquired much of their food savvy from websites and mobile apps (gratis). Zagat’s decades-long dominance of printed food guides has no resonance for this demographic.”
With today’s news, speculation over whether Google will keep the wall in place is the big question. The other big question is whether Google will continue to give fair access to what are now its competition: Yelp, OpenTable and the like.