Well, the war of “local” sites which started last year is really on now. US local reviews giant Yelp, the model for many such sites globally, is to launch in the UK today, under Yelp.co.uk, and local competitors will be taking a keen interest in its launch.
There is already a swathe of players fighting it out in the UK, most in the London hothouse. Qype is well-funded and leading the pack. They are followed by Trusted Places, mobile-focused Rummble, Tipped, Brownbook and recent upstart (which probably now has little chance) YourLocalLondon.
Yelp’s US community is both famous and infamous of its reviews of restaurants, shops, events, you name it. And the startup plans to bring its community events as well – something the UK sites haven’t gone in for very often, outside of occasional parties thrown by Qype and Trusted Places.
Yelp says it has 100,000 UK-based Yelpers, which is incentive enough for it to start a UK site, and Yelp’s co-founder and chief executive Jeremy Stoppelman tells The Guardian “The best time to grow is when others are struggling”. But in truth the expansion is almost certainly down to wanting to garner more revenue via expansion into new markets.
As usual, the question is, will the plucky local players be able to hold their own? Here’s my prediction: Trusted Places will try to sell to Yelp, as hinted before Christmas. Qype will fight it out. The rest will either re-focus and get out of the way or die. The market simply will not sustain all the current players.