Marissa Mayer Teaches Us How To Pronounce “Zagat”

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt, the closing talk was between Michael Arrington and Google’s Marissa Mayer. As Mike noted, the two of them have been on stage together more than any other interview duo at TechCrunch events, so it’s fitting that Mike’s final interview as a TechCrunch employee is with Mayer. He focused on one thing: Zagat.

Mayer led the recent acquisition of the review site by Google. It’s going to be a key part of Search, Maps, Google+, etc, going forward. And that has some competitors worried. But let’s forget all of that — here’s what really matters: how do you pronounce “Zagat”?

“It’s like the ‘cat’ — ZaGAT,” Mayer noted. She shared a story from founder Tim Zagat who said a customer once called him for a guide and mispronounced it. When he tried to correct the customer, the customer refused the correction. This is something Mayer can relate to. Even though her name is spelled “MAYer”, it’s pronounced like “Meyer”.

Mayer noted her excitement about the deal. “They really were one of the first forms of user-generated content,” she said. Incredibly, Zagat has been in business for 32 years, and it started out as Tim and Nina Zagat asking friends for restaurant recommendation and those two turning around and printing those recommendations out and sending them other others.

Now the business operates in over 100 markets and spans 13 different categories.

When Mike asked what the deals means for Yelp and other competitors, Mayer made it clear that those competitors would continue to be a big part of Google Places. Google will aggregate anything they think is good content and link to it. At the same time, they’ll now have deeper access to the Zagat data to surface it in a more appealing way.

As for OpenTable, there was some controversy because the stock plummeted after the Zagat acquisition announcement. But Mayer notes that Zagat has a partnership with OpenTable and that will remain in place after the Google deal closes.

When Mike asked how they kept the deal totally secret, Mayer seemed quite proud of that. She noted that she’s been talking to them informally for years, but this past spring they started talking about a deal. But it was held very closely. Most in the company didn’t know about the deal until it was announced — that’s how you keep a major deal a secret. Who would have thought?