Zagat: The Next Generation

Sometimes people act like crowdsourcing is new, when really it’s been going on for quite some time. It’s just that some companies (or people) are better at harnessing that knowledge through new mediums and making that information useful and impactful.

Zagat was actually one of the best at crowdsourcing restaurant information for a long time. Back in the 1970s when food critics were the prominent source of information about the best dining establishments, Tim and Nina Zagat realized that by creating a standardized survey that they could administer to anyone, they could provide the most relevant and meaningful information to diners everywhere from the best source possible – other diners. In the beginning, the Zagats shared the survey with their friends who passed it on to their friends, who passed it on to their friends, and so on… Low-tech crowdsourcing. You can find out more about the history of Zagat here.

But in the past few years, the Zagat authority has seemingly been trumped by sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon. Places where the crowd can easily upload and simultaneously view the opinions of others. After a bad movie-viewing experience earlier this year, one of my friends was threatening to write an angry letter to the management and one of my other friends turned to him and said “To hell with that, slam them on Yelp.”

Even so, Zagat has found ways to differentiate itself through its willingness to filter and edit those opinions submitted by the average user and their ability to manage their rich data. Still, to stay competitive, Zagat has introduced some new features outlined in this Daily Finance article. In addition to opening up their site to raw reviews and allowing users to compare the stats of competing restaurants, Zagat has introduced the “Matrix” a new graphical presentation of Zagat’s data.

According to Tiffany Herklots, Zagat Communications Director, the Matrix which can plot up to 100 different restaurants fitting selected criteria shows “the relative value of a restaurant, essentially the ‘bang for the buck.'”

What do you think of the new Zagat additions? Do you prefer the polished user-generated opinion? What other ways can Zagat compete in the world of crowdsourced reviews?

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