Zagat goes free with launch of Google+ Local

Since Google (s GOOG) bought Zagat last September for a reported $151 million, the company hasn’t done much with Zagat’s local content. That changes today with the rollout of Google+ Local, which incorporates Zagat scores and summaries into its listings, replacing Google Places — and makes all Zagat content free.
Local content is integrated into search, maps and mobile and is a new tab in Google+. On its blog, Google explains, “Each place you see in Google+ Local will now be scored using Zagat’s 30-point scale, which tells you all about the various aspects of a place so you can make the best decisions.” is now free, too
On Zagat’s Google+ page, founders Tim and Nina Zagat write, “We’re excited to announce today that our content is now free on and a cornerstone of the new Google+ Local experience.” They go on to say,

As we’ve always done, we will continue to develop high quality content based on consumer surveys, and make that content available in print, online and on mobile. We hope you will participate by sharing your opinions with the growing community on Google+ — helping more people find great places around the world.

Zagat, which operates in 13 categories and over 100 cities, had charged $24.95 per year or $4.95 per month for access to all of its content. Now the paywall is down and all of that content is free online. Visitors to are prompted to sign in with a Google+ account.

As of this morning, Zagat’s iPad app still costs $9.99 for a “one-year subscription.” I’ve asked the company if that will change.

Will Google+ Local reviews be more useful than Yelp reviews?

With the incorporation of Zagat reviews into its search listings, Google is attempting to create a full-fledged Yelp competitor. (Google attempted to buy Yelp for $500 million in 2009.)

Google+ users can write their own reviews and upload pictures to Local, and can see their friends’ reviews (if their friends are on Google+, that is). As friends as reviews, opinions and pictures, that input is integrated into the overall score other people see. The feature is also integrated into Google and Google Maps so that as users search for locations with those tools, their results might surface reviews from friends.

The new feature and integration could give a boost to the flagging Google+, which, until now, hasn’t offered users much utility that they can’t already get from other social networks. By turning it into something like a Yelp for friends, with reviews, photos and opinions submitted by people you know, who possibly share your interests and taste, Google+ could potentially offer users new value.

Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land writes, “Marissa Mayer argued to me that Zagat scores can express much more differentiation and nuance because they contain separate scores for food, service and atmosphere vs. a five star scale, which is forced to factor all those considerations into a single rating (read: Yelp).”

He notes that users who want to leave a review “are now asked to fill out a more structured form (food, service, atmosphere/decor) and leave additional comments. Some of those online reviews may also make it back into Zagat proper, at the discretion of Zagat editors.”