This afternoon, Google announced an acquisition that promises to add some flavor to its Places and Deals offerings: Zagat.
The restaurant rating publisher, which was purchased for an undisclosed sum, will be used as a “cornerstone” of Google’s local offering, according to a blog post written by Marissa Mayer, Google’s new VP of Local, Maps and Location Services.
"Zagat provides people with a democratized, authentic and comprehensive view of where to eat, drink, stay, shop and play worldwide based on millions of reviews and ratings," Mayer wrote.
On its surface, the Zagat acquisition is a no-brainer – Google needs data to enrich its Maps, Places and Deals (since stealing that data seems to have gotten them in trouble), and buying 32 years’ worth of it from a company that’s been hoping to get acquired since 2008 makes al the sense in the world.
What’s more interesting than the data that Google just bought, though, is its quality and its format. This afternoon’s announcement has revived a long-standing debate about whether Zagat’s reviews are better than Yelp’s, for example, and it raises the question of what large companies are buying when they purchase data about subjective things like restaurant food.
Will Google treat Zagat reviews as a turn-key solution, plugging them into its Local and Maps listings as is? Will bring its own algorithms to bear on Zagat’s raw data? How do Zagat reviews - filtered, excerpts of customer survey responses sewn together by anonymous writers - gibe with Google’s established ratings and review mechanisms?
Answers to most of these questions are probably forthcoming, but in the meantime, planning your lunch break is about to get a lot easier.