Yelp and Google Stage a Mega B*tchfight Over Internet "Property" and Content
Since writing = $ to me, I'm generally biased when it comes to defining and valuing content. I let sites republish part or all of my content with credit but at some point the potential to increase the reach of my content (a valuable commodity in itself) may stop being more profitable in the larger scheme of things than the time value of creating my content.
I used to crank out endless amounts of it on Yelp, free to them, and now they're trying to stage a subtle bitchfight over content that isn't even theirs showing up in Google Places. It may have started with trying to sell themselves (or rather the valuable aggregate contributions of its user base who continue to crank it out for "free") to Google and the subsequent epic failure of that attempt. In a technical sense, it does belong to Yelp since that's the agreement users sign when they start using the site.
Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman deserves credit for trying to play nice with Google, even appearing onstage at the Social Currency CrunchUp with John Hanke, a Google VP of Product Management. As expected the tension was palpable, as Hanke and Stoppelman discussed Google Places and the goliath’s heavy reliance on Yelp’s content.
As an increasingly robust aggregator of local reviews, Google Places is turning into a formidable opponent. Several years ago, Google paid Yelp for access to their huge database of reviews; however, eventually Yelp terminated the deal. All was well until Google started crawling Yelp’s pages for unlicensed content to populate Google Places. Adding insult to injury, Google often pushes Yelp’s data to the bottom of its review areas, favoring instead licensed partners like Zagat. Oh, what a tangled web of reviews we weave.
I think Yelp is forgetting where its power comes from. While I imagine some number of people actually use Yelp for its intended use - finding information on local businesses - at issue is the somewhat small but prolific center of Yelp's appeal: its major content producers. They do it for free and they do it trying to get the most attention, backflipping over each other to be funniest, most useful or cooler than the next douchebag who feels compelled to overshare. The model is brilliant and it works. Again, they do it for free. You can't count drinks at sweaty venues like 1015 Folsom as "payment" - but a lot of its major content producers do and it still works.
That's obviously worth something to Yelp. A lot of something.
Google, on the other hand, always has the leverage as it can give or take a huge chunk of the Internet (give if you play nicely with it). Even the parts of the Internet you don't really want stopping by.