Google Acquires Zagat

Google has just announced that they’ve acquired the respected restaurant review publisher Zagat, Mashable reports.

If you wanted to find out what the best restaurants in town were, in the past you’d open up your trusty Zagat guide. But in recent years, sites like Yelp and Google’s own review have given the venerable company, which was founded in 1979 by Tim and Nina Zagat, some real competition. Even in the digital age, a high rating on Zagat’s 30-point scale means a lot to any “foodie,” even as their dog-eared copies of the Zagat guides may be replaced by smartphones.

Zagat website

By collecting reviews of restaurants by actual customers, the Zagat Survey was a pioneer of user-generated content long before the introduction of Web 2.0.

You might be tempted to think of the Zagat Survey as an old media dinosaur, but Google certainly doesn’t think so. Marissa Mayer, Google VP of Local, Maps and Location Services, announced the move on the company’s official blog as an effort to improve the quality of the information they offer on their map services.

“Zagat will be a cornerstone of our local offering—delighting people with their impressive array of reviews, ratings and insights, while enabling people everywhere to find extraordinary (and ordinary) experiences around the corner and around the world,” Mayer said.

This announcement comes on the heels of Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google’s offerings have previously been based exclusively on the Web, but now they’re branching out into the real world. It seems appropriate, since Android-based smartphones integrate the real world with the Internet as well.

The question remains whether Google and Zagat will be able to work together after the acquisition. Sure, Zagat was an early adopter of user-generated content as mentioned above, but publishing for print (which is still a substantial amount of their business) is quite different from publishing on the Web.

The move also raises some questions about Google’s power.

Still, it’s often better to have some real weight behind the reviews you see on Google, instead of just seeing reviews of random people who don’t always know what makes a good restaurant or perhaps just caught the restaurant on a bad day. Zagat’s expertise at collecting surveys and reviews should help make those pins in the Google maps really mean something.