Google Buys Zagat, Will Keep Brand and Subscription Model

Google has made one of its biggest content acquisitions to date by buying trusted restaurant-review publisher Zagat for an undisclosed amount. Google sources tell LAUNCH it will keep the Zagat brand and Zagat's subscription content model intact.

"We have spent enough time with Google senior management to know that they fully share our belief in user-generated content, and our commitment to accuracy and fairness in providing consumers with the information necessary to make smart decisions about where to eat, travel and shop," explained Nina and Tim Zagat, the company founders, in a post on

In 2009, Google wanted to buy Yelp, where anyone can post reviews of restaurants and small businesses, for $500M, but Yelp said no. Since then, Google has been accused of scraping Yelp's content for its Google Places search results, and regulators have begun looking into Google's search practices.

LAUNCH has asked Yelp for a comment. We will update this piece if we receive a response. 

Founded 32 years ago, New York-based Zagat publishes annual guidebooks with smartly edited user-generated reviews of restaurants, spas and hotels in more than 100 cities worldwide. Access to its database of reviews is $24.95 a year and $4.95 for 30-day access.

Because of Zagat's pay wall, Google has not shown Zagat results on the first page of restaurant-related search results, which has meant fewer visits and fewer chances to convert to paid subscriptions, the New York Times reported last fall.

Zagat says it has more than 2M members and 1.2M unique visitors and appeals to an older more affluent audience -- more than 49% are ages 40 to 59. A slightly larger percent of Zagat users earn more than $100K a year. But in terms of Internet traffic, Zagat only had more then 570K unique visitors in Sept. of 2010 compared to Yelp's 9.4M according to Nielsen.

Even though Google will keep Zagat's subscription model, we expect some of the content to bolster the restaurant data found on Google Maps.

It's not clear if Zagat's daily deals will continue. Zagat entered that market last year by partnering with Savored and continues to offer exclusive 30% off restaurant food and drink deals -- including alcohol.

Google already has its own daily deals, Google Offers [ see our story ] , available in nine cities including San Francisco and New York, and will soon expand to 27 other cities including Chicago and Los Angeles.


Nina and Tim Zagat, Founders of Zagat
Twitter: @NinaandTimZagat 

Marissa Mayer, Google VP of Local, Maps and Location Services 
Twitter: @MarissaMayer

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