I wrote yesterday about Boorah, which is aggregating user reviews in the restaurant vertical to provide more coverage to consumers. Today, Marchex is formally launching its similar “Open View” technology on its Open List local/travel search site and its network of URL-based destinations, which have been substantially enhanced with Open List search and editorial content. (Marchex acquired Open List in May, 2006.)
The roll out begins in the restaurants and hotels categories but will extend to others in the future. Open View has been around for awhile, but this is the formal announcement. Open View aggregates user and expert reviews and generates a dynamic summary in more or less a single paragraph (not entirely unlike what Zagat has done historically).
This is very helpful for people who don’t want to wade through numerous hotel or restaurant reviews and just want some additional “color” to verify the accompanying star ratings are accurate. However, the full text of reviews is also available.
Here’s an example on the Open List site: W Hotel, New York
Prior to Open List integration, the Marchex URL network used to simply offer contextually relevant ads parked at a domain. But Open List search and content (plus maps) have turned them into real sites, which improves their monetization capability as well.
The launch of Boorah and formal announcement of Open View within 24 hours of each other suggests that we may start to see a trend toward the “commoditization” of reviews. It’s already happening with product reviews and now starting to happen, apparently, with user reviews.
The paradox of reviews and user-generated content is that they are extremely valuable to site visitors and hard for publishers to “organically” generate. But once critical mass has been reached on a site (think TripAdvisor) they can start to become unwieldy.
Nobody wants to read through 50 hotel reviews, so the Open View summary is valuable.