Marketplace Scratch Pad

Yelp, Kindle and other strange words

Scott Jagow Feb 11, 2009

If you’re tired of reading about stimulus and TARPs, here are a couple of technology stories that drew my attention. One is about the new Amazon Kindle 2 digital book reader. As cool as this thing sounds, a writers advocacy group called the Authors Guild objects to the Kindle’s read aloud feature. You can read about the controversy here. At issue is whether a computer reading a book aloud is a copyright infringement. Who knew a computer reading a book aloud would ever be an issue?

The other story involves the restaurant review site, Yelp.

The Los Angeles Times has a story today about whether Yelp’s sponsorship system conflicts with its user review system:

Is Yelp … a shakedown racket for merchants? Some restaurant owners say the San Francisco company is unusually aggressive in trying to get businesses to pay hundreds of dollars in monthly “sponsorship” fees to improve their ranking in search results and to move their most positive review to the top of the page.

Yelp says this isn’t true. But writer David Lazarus also points out in the article that Yelp could do a better job differentiating between sponsored reviews and user reviews. It’s not as clear as it is on Google’s search page for example. This seems to be one of those “how to make money on the internet” stories. Yelp has yet to turn a profit, and it obviously does need to cover its costs.

So my question is: If you use Yelp or sites like it, does this gray area bother you or do you just accept it as the new paradigm of internet commerce?

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