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Google Acquires Zagat to Get Into the Local Review Business

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Google announced today that they've acquired the proto-Yelp restaurant survey, Zagat. No word yet on how much the restaurant recommendation service cost them. The acquisition is an effort to "augment the information available in its search and Maps tools," or, as Google VP Marissa Mayer put it in her announcement post, "to bring their innovation, trust and wealth of experience to our users." The poetry of the acquisition doesn't end there. Mayer is also writing rhyming haikus about it on Twitter: "Delightful deal done; Zagat and Google now one; foodies have more fun!"

Tim and Nina Zagat have been trying to sell the company for a long time. Back in January of 2008, the Zagats put the company on the market for $200M.

Bizarrely, OpenTable share prices are down 9% based on the news — but OpenTable is primarily in the reservation business (reviews are secondary).

The real target is Yelp. From Google's failed acquisition of Yelp in December 2009 (for $500M) and its rather unsuccessful Yelpish-clone Google Places (nee hotpot), there wasn't much going on for the company in the location/review business. Google was desperate for reviews to the point that the company even shamelessly scraped reviews from Yelp.

So what will happen? Is Google after all the reviews so they can just be dumped into Google Places? All of Zagat's user-generated reviews and seemingly arbitrary number scheming could theoretically be plugged into Google Places' recommendation engine, so there's that. It's hard to imagine that Google will run Zagat independently and stay in the book publishing business. Will Google tweak their search results so that Zagat restaurant listings appear higher on the page? Also, will Zagat's paywall come down?

In a blog post announcing the sale, Tim and Nina Zagat said they'd remain "active in the business as co-Chair." They also wrote: "We are thrilled to see our baby placed in such good hands and to start today as official 'Googlers.'" We'll see for just how long.

Also fun tidbits:
- Nathan Myhrvold of Modernist Cuisine owns a piece of Zagat.
- Tim Zagat apparently once passed on making an angel investment in Google (oops!)
- In Sept 2010 Zagat had 570k uniques vs. 9.4m for Yelp. Zagat said then their worldwide uniques were at 1.2m. Either way it's a lot less than Yelp.
- Zagat posted this cute "review" of Google that gave it 30 out of 30 in every regard:

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· All Google Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Zagat Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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