Cofounder of Zagat Survey LLC, a New York City-based publisher of restaurant and travel guides
When my husband, Tim, and I wanted to take Zagat's online, everybody greeted us with open arms. We licensed our content to a number of providers, among them Prodigy, CompuServe, and America Online. And we thought our partners would have the skills to get our content online, which we felt we needed, believing the technology was more complicated than we could handle. We were wrong.
Some licensees didn't have the searching mechanisms necessary to display the material in the way that we had in mind. On their sites you couldn't search by type of cuisine and location and price, which is what we wanted. And when we came out with new surveys, we assumed that our partners would take an interest in keeping our material fresh. But most of them were not able to make rapid changes. Some of them said they would update their sites only four times a year -- if we were lucky! That's not what the Web is about, and that's not what we're about.
We began to realize that the only way we'd be able to get robust online delivery was by bringing our Internet strategy in-house and developing our own site. Today the revenues for Zagat.com are greater than the revenues we had previously from licensing. And in December The Silicon Alley Reporter named us one of the 100 best Web businesses in New York City. If we had started our own branded site years ago, we wouldn't have to play catch-up now. What I've learned through this evolution is that we're the ones who know best how to unlock the excitement and the information we have in our company -- and how to give it to our customers quickly, in a way they want it. -- Written with Mike Hofman