Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yelp Spins the MSM, Again

By Robert Gammon
Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 2:18 PM

You've got to hand it to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman; he certainly knows how to work the mainstream media. One of his latest successful spin jobs was directed at San Jose Mercury News tech columnist Chris O'Brien. Somehow in the wake of legitimate allegations by numerous business owners that they had been extorted by Yelp sales people, Stoppelman convinced O'Brien that it was all some sort of grand misunderstanding caused by ignorant shop owners stuck in the "analog" world. Yelp's sophisticated "2.0" digital model was just too difficult for them to understand. Jesus, Stoppelman is a master. Dick Cheney should have hired him long ago.

As our two recent stories about the allegations (along with the Chicago Tribune) showed, business owners were upset not because of negative reviews and how they work on Yelp's complicated "algorithm." They were angry because they said Yelp sales people called them and told them if they would buy Yelp's advertising package, then Yelp would hide negative reviews about them. That's simple, easy-to-understand, extortion. Stoppelman has denied the allegations, which is his right to do, but those denials are up against more than a dozen business owners the Express talked to.

So, Chris O'Brien, this has nothing to do with a "culture clash," unless you mean between wealthy business people who have access to friendly columnists clashing with small business owners afraid of what will happen to them if they speak up. The next time you "chat" with a CEO of a company mired in controversy, you might also want to ask some tough questions. That's what journalists do, or at least that's what they used to do back in the days of "analog."

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