Last week, Google killed the Google+ Local mobile app for iOS, saying that all the same content was available in Google Maps for iOS. Today, the company announced the relaunch of the Zagat site and mobile app for Android and iPhone.
All the Zagat content is now free and there’s no registration required. And even though much of the Zagat content is available through Google Maps, the Zagat app and Google Maps are still distinct animals.
The newly redesigned app is being launched in nine cities, with a promise that it will come to 50 cities in the near future:The new Zagat covers restaurants and nightlife in nine cities, and over the coming months we plan to expand to 50 U.S. and international destinations and cover shopping, hotels and other places of interest. We know that many of you are eager to have continued access to our content in these markets, so in advance of this expansion, we’ll soon make our existing ratings and reviews available on Zagat.com.
Since its more than $100 million purchase of Zagat a couple of years ago — estimates ranged from $130 million to over $150 million — Google has preserved the brand. That brand is now more than 30 years old. How much longer it will last is anyone’s guess, though there are no overt indications that Google intends to shutter it immediately.
Google has largely absorbed Zagat scores into Google Maps and local search results. But without the Zagat brand those scores are less valuable (unless Google can turn them into “Google scores”). And though Google is seeking to bring social data, personalization, recommendations and discovery to Google Maps, Zagat still offers something different: editorial content (and its trusted brand).
In the new app you can search for places, but search is largely de-emphasized. Discovery and “curated” content are front and center: “best of” lists and editorial roundups are the star. Google probably hopes the new app will help it further compete with Yelp, whose advantage over Google Maps is its content depth.
TripAdvisor is another competitor Google probably has in its sights here. Hotels is one of the verticals covered and rated by Zagat. Finally Facebook (Nearby Places) may be on the radar too. The Zagat brand (at least for many) remains a trusted source of local reviews and recommendations vs. Google and other less venerable sources.
Zagat may turn out to be something of a model for Waze, which Google has pledged to maintain as an independent entity. By the same token Google appears to be deemphasizing the Zagat print books, which it will probably discontinue entirely within two years.
Even though print sales are waning, without print Zagat will have substantially less value in the marketplace. Indeed after print is shuttered the independent Zagat brand will probably not live on much beyond that.