Hooray! Rejoice! Celebrate! Huzzah! Etcetera!
Today has seen the Australian launch of yet another previously-contained-solely-to-the-United-States-for-some-strange-reason social network.
Yelp, the restaurant and business review site, has finally come to our shores to tell us all about the hot, hip places that the cool people visit to drink their $13 skim decaf double whip quarter shot mint tea fappocinos served in a porcelain thimble.
Yelp launched with the usual fanfare from the usual mob of “digital people” who love nothing more than to jump on a bandwagon about a social media product that’s going to revolutionise the world despite not being used by statistically significant percentage of the population.
I’ve played around with Yelp this morning and, really, all I can say is that it’s unlikely I’m ever going to get any real use out of it.
What Yelp have done, in order to get a foothold into the Australian market, is team with Sensis so that they have something in their database that people can search for. You would think that would be a good idea. Who wouldn’t want access to all the business data in the Yellow Pages but presented in a form that’s useable provided by a search that actually does what it says on the tin (users of the Yellow Pages website will know what I mean – it’s awful).
Sadly, that hasn’t happened.
A search for “coffee shops” in “Newcastle, NSW” yielded results in Anna Bay, Boolaroo and Charlestown. The Charlestown listing actually seemed to be more of a clothes shop than a coffee shop – which is a whole new level of odd in itself.
There was no mention of Coffee on Crown (my personal favourite), Sprocket, One Penny Black, Suspension, Three Bean Espresso or the myriad of other places one can procure a warm, caffeinated beverage around town.
The “pubs” search was even worse. The top result was from Catherine Hill Bay, then Pokolbin, then Nelson Bay. It would seem Newcastle is living in prohibition times.
But the thing I found most interesting, was that the Yelp results
do not, in any way, match the Yellow Pages results for the same search queries – although both are horrendously inaccurate. Even though they both have (I would assume) the same information source. You can see a comparison screenshot below. (You may have to click for the big version)
Even though Yelp specifically said in their launch presentation that they had gone out of their way to source user reviews (what really drives their site) for business around Sydney, searches for “pubs” in Cronulla didn’t yield a single result south of Surry Hills. That’s hardly useful.
If you’re going to launch a business directory – and that’s essentially all Yelp is – you have to have solid, useful, accurate data to launch with, otherwise you’re doomed. Yelp’s teaming with Sensis does not seem to have provided that and I can’t imagine how they’re going to gain a userbase if basic functions like at least finding somewhere to go for dinner so you can review it don’t work.
But the biggest problem Yelp will face is that it just doesn’t serve a purpose here. Mostly because they’re just too late to the game; partly because they’ve launched with a “you will build it for us” attitude that’s just not going to fly.
Firstly, I’m never going to use Yelp when I’m at home in Newcastle. Why would I? I already know what’s around and where I like to go for a drink or dinner or what have you.
Secondly, why, if I had a nice, quiet, favourite spot to go that had a crowd I got along with, would I encourage it to be flooded by people? I mean, the fact that it’s quiet and not crowded would be the reason I go there. What’s the point in ruining it?
Thirdly, I’m unlikely to use it when I travel because I’d be more inclined to ask Twitter where I should go. I’m more likely to get honest reviews (gaming systems like this isn’t hard and I expect there will be a lucrative Yelp-based SMEG business crop up by the time you read this) about places I’m likely to enjoy from a group of people whose opinions I trust. Why would I use another service over that invaluable resource?
What I imagine happening, is that Yelp is likely to become very similar to Google+. It’s going to have a small, core group of users (who’ll likely all agree with each other where is hot/not hot to go) that will swear by how awesome and revolutionary it is. The rest of the population will ignore it/not care and just do what they’ve always done.
(NB: I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard the iOS and Android applications/sites are just abysmal. So…that’s another positive thing…