Tuesday September 15, 2009
From Paul Tharp of the New York Post: After failing to sell their guidebook empire for $200 million, Upper West Siders Tim and Nina Zagat are not only putting off their retirement plans, they're struggling to keep it afloat. Over the last three decades, the pioneering Zagats — he's 69 and she's 67 — have turned a hobby that started in a Manhattan apartment kitchen into a brand that sells millions of books, reviewing eateries, hotels and leisure spots in 104 countries. But it is losing substantial ground to online rivals, including Chowhound and Yelp, said a source familiar with the matter. Sales are down dramatically, said another source inside the company.
And Zagat has moved slowly — and perhaps misguidedly — online, allowing Yelp and others to dominate the market. According to Quantcast, Zagat.com has roughly 270,000 unique visitors a month, and is trending downward. That's perhaps because there is a $25 annual fee to access the site, which doesn't include full Zagat reviews. Yelp, which is free and rates almost every joint in a given locale, now boasts more than 7 million US visitors, nearly double its traffic from summer 2008. The site reviews stores, spas and other non-restaurant businesses as well. Zagat has been cutting costs, laying off about 16 people from its small staff in May. The Zagats themselves, who live on Central Park West, are today [Sept. 8] in Britain — back on their globetrotting road — pressing palms and touting the new 2010 London edition of their beloved Zagat Survey. They declined to be interviewed for this story."