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Google buys Zagat in ‘high-profile’ purchase, more evidence the ‘search giant’ now ‘wants to be a content company’

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

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Zagat--the publisher of those "popular," "user-generated" guidebooks with "witty," "quote-filled" reviews--has been acquired by search giant Google. So let us report further in the Zagat vein: The deal was "announced" on Google's "fledgling" social network, Google+, by its "local, maps and location services" VP Marissa Mayer.

Tim and Nina Zagat, its "husband-and-wife" founders, have been searching for a buyer since at least 2008, when they hired Goldman Sachs to handle the bidding process; they were said to be seeking at least $200 million for the "32-year-old" company. However, "terms of the transaction, including price, were not disclosed." Tim and Nina "will remain active in the business as co-chairs."

While "popular," Zagat "has faced several challenges" in recent years, notably "a slew of Internet-based competitors"--such as Yelp--"that provide an alternate outlet for restaurant reviews." After "falling behind in the recent years," the "brand is back on the A-list."

For Google, it's the second "high-profile purchase" in as many months. The company "acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in August." And Google "has been itching to gain a foothold in the local business market for several years." In 2009, Google "tried but failed to buy Yelp." It's also another indication that Google, "the company that famously favors algorithmic knowledge over editorial judgment," now "wants to be a content company." (It bears reminding, and outside of scare quotes, that Yahoo! is a market competitor with Google.)

Despite the deal, not everyone loves the Zagat formula of "uncompensated labor aggregation." Some say Zagat, and now Google, exploit "user-generated content" and "the work of affordable scribes."

No matter. It "seems like a strong deal" for Zagat and "a win for Google." Market watchers give it a rating of 28.

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