We’re not sure how to feel, hearing that the Zagat empire may soon go up for sale. While the estimated $200 million transaction would surely secure the financial fate of Tim and Nina Zagat (not that they were in danger), and the sale might result in something like a Citysearch-partnered Zagat with more free content, we get uneasy at even a whiff of media consolidation, which would no doubt be the result of such a move.
We also feel conflicted at having hardships in the plight of Zagat’s laid at the feet of sites such as Menupages. This from the Associated Press via the International Herald Tribune:
In recent years Zagat.com has also faced growing competition from free Web sites that also offer information about restaurants, including Citysearch, a unit of Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp; a San Francisco-based startup called Yelp.com and MenuPages.com.
Well, it’s true that it’s hard to go up against competition that offers its product for free. We’ve got to wonder why Zagat didn’t start doing so a long time ago. From the same article:
Zagat has tried to build its online business, but it has largely remained a paid subscription service, preventing it from becoming a magnet for users and advertisers.
The thing is, Zagat’s niche isn’t really the online world, but the pocket of enthusiastic travelers who may seek to escape things such as the Internet while exploring things like obscure restaurants in obscure parts of the world.
Whatever form this transaction eventually assumes, we really hope that Zagat will continue to publish its paper guides while delivering online one-liners like, “Service with a grudge.” Priceless!
Publisher of Zagat restaurant surveys considers sale [International Herald Tribune]
Zagat Family Is Putting Guide Empire on Market [New York Times]