Et tu, Angie’s List?

[Editor’s Note:  The views expressed here are solely those of Ross Kaplan, and do not represent Edina Realty, Berkshire Hathaway (“Berkshire”), or any other entity referenced. Edina Realty is a subsidiary of Berkshire.]

You don’t usually notice something that doesn’t happen.

So, after paying an annual membership fee for Angie’s List for, I dunno . . . forever, I stopped seeing the automatic debit on my credit card statement about two years ago.

I didn’t think anything of it, till I read a recent news story discussing the company’s 2017 acquisition by IAC, and its subsequent switch from a subscriptions-based business model to an advertising-driven one.

That Déjà Vu Feeling

If that all sounds familiar, it should: that’s the same business model long embraced by such social media goliaths as Google and Facebook, as well as online review service (and Angie’s List competitor) Yelp.

Why should consumers care?

Because, as Silicon Valley is fond of saying, “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer . . . you’re the product.”

The corollary to that, of course, is that businesses cater to their actual customers — in this case, advertisers.

Proving Bias

Can I document that Angie’s List reviews have become less reliable, are now biased towards their (paying) advertisers, etc.?


But, just like political contributions, ask yourself this question: if the people writing the checks weren’t somehow getting increased visibility, access, etc. . . . why would they be doing it??

If you think “civic duty,” “patriotism,” or the like, I’ve got a great investment opportunity in a certain bridge I’d like to talk to you about. 🙂

P.S.: What does it say about consumers that they won’t pay for a service that they clearly value?

Journalism’s decline in the age of online media is another casualty of that conundrum.

Which is truly a collective loss.

If you don’t think so, ponder how much you’d trust Wikipedia — one of the few non-profit online holdouts — if it suddenly announced that it was now ad-driven.

See also, “Realtor Reviews on Angie’s List“; “Client Kudos on Angie’s List”; “Realtors and Angie’s List“; and “The Value of a Contractor “Deep Throat.“”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

Leave a Reply