The New York Times by Claire Cain Miller
: Starting next week, Yelp will
let small-business owners publicly respond to reviews. This is a big
change for the site, which has until now steadfastly refused to give
businesses significant access to its pages.
for years now have been asking for more and more voice on the site,”
said Geoff Donaker, Yelp’s chief operating officer. “As long as it’s
done in a respectable way, it’s good for the consumer and good for the
As Yelp has become more important in major
American cities, its relationship with small businesses has become more
contentious. Particularly in San Francisco, where the company started
in 2004, Yelp has angered some small businesses because it has not
allowed them to respond to reviews, as TripAdvisor and other review sites do.
co-founder and chief executive, Jeremy Stoppelman, has said that to
protect the voice of the consumer, the voices of businesses, many of
which advertise on the site, had to be muted.
As the site
matures, though, it has been taking steps to appease small-business
owners. A year ago, Yelp started allowing business owners to update
their businesses’ profile pages and privately contact reviewers.
latest step of adding public responses shows that the start-up company
is maturing, said Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market
Intelligence, an Internet research firm.
“They’ve received a
lot of criticism about their perceived bias against businesses,” he
said. “This is a concession to the needs and interests of small
businesses who sometimes feel powerless.”
that business owners use the public comments to correct inaccuracies,
provide their side of a story or explain how they have fixed a problem.
They are not supposed to use comments to advertise or make personal
attacks. Yelp will not screen comments before they are published, but
users will be able to flag inappropriate comments for review by Yelp’s
customer service team.
Peter Picataggio, the owner of Tart, a
Los Angeles restaurant, and an advertiser on Yelp, has been frustrated
by false reviews in the past.
He said that although he and his
staff responded privately to almost every Yelp review, he welcomed the
chance to do so publicly. “I think that’s great that I get to tell my
side of the story,” he said.