Yelp gets more reviews per reviewer than CitySearch or Yahoo Local

Author attributes it to the fact that reviewers are anonymous at CitySearch and Yahoo local, but build up reputations on Yelp. Of course, there are also other differences between the sites.

Zhongmin Wang (2010) “Anonymity, Social Image, and the Competition for Volunteers: A Case
Study of the Online Market for Reviews,” The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy: Vol.
10: Iss. 1 (Contributions), Article 44.
Available at:

This paper takes a first step toward understanding the working of the online market for re-
views.   Most online review firms rely on unpaid volunteers to write reviews.   Can a for-profit
online review firm attract productive volunteer reviewers, limit the number of ranting or raving
reviewers, and marginalize fake reviewers?  This paper sheds light on this issue by studying re-
viewer productivity and restaurant ratings at Yelp, where reviewers are encouraged to establish a
social image, and two competing websites, where reviewers are completely anonymous. Using a
dataset of nearly half a million reviewer accounts, we find that the number (proportion) of prolific
reviewers on Yelp is an order of magnitude larger than that on either competing site, more produc-
tive reviewers on all three websites are less likely to give an extreme rating, and restaurant ratings
on Yelp tend to be much less extreme than those on either competing site.


About Paul Resnick

Professor, University of Michigan School of Information Personal home page
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