As a serious foodie and a fan of Zagat’s Restaurant guides, I was rather intrigued by the fact that Google has decided to buy this popular product. Tim and Nina Zagat have worked tirelessly for decades to create what has become one of the best restaurant guides available. And to us foodies, they are rock stars.
Now, Google has bought them to presumably serve as the cornerstone of their local services and almost overnight they have become a serious competitor to the likes of Groupon, Yelp and Open Table in the local markets for offering specials for local dining.
But this move is important for another reason. For a long time, Google has denied that they had any interest in being a content provider. But this purchase suggests just the opposite. Sure, Zagat can be used as a vehicle for offering deals but Zagat content and the legion of personal restaurant reviewers becomes a powerful model for Google to add even more related content and tie it to their search engine and localized social services in the future.
In fact, it most likely will serve as a model for what else they do in content. What is interesting about the Zagat guides is that they, in a sense, were one of the first real social networking products. They started out only in print, but recently moved much of their guide online. They tapped into the interests of a particular crowd-people who wanted to review their meals and the eating experience and then allowed them to rate them using a Zagat dedicated rating system.
This same idea can be used anywhere there are people of like minds who want to connect. This can be applied to broad areas of interest such as sports, news and finance, but that may not be where they go with this. Instead, as the Zagat purchase may suggest, their content play may be a more focused vertical one for other areas of like-minded individuals, such as those with hobbies, specific things to sell around these hobbies and any other interest group where content and commerce can be applied to their search engine and a local scene.
While Google may somehow spin this to say this is not a content acquisition and that they are still not a content company, I beg to differ with them. To me this signals a strong interest in finding ways to add content perhaps in not conventional ways to their product mix and use “content” of various sorts to bring more people into their various Google properties.