Yelp and the “verb threshold”

I know this’ll sound pissy, but —

A story in today’s Washington Post claims that “Yelp” is becoming a verb, at least among Yelp users. The comparison to Google isn’t made, but it lurks between the lines.

I just don’t buy it.

The article is great for Yelp’s PR folks, as such assertions tend to get believed and spread, and it might even be a little bit true, but I doubt it’s a meaningful trend — and the reporter certainly doesn’t present a shred of evidence.

Now, let it be said: I like Yelp. This isn’t a slam on it. Still, I’d like this particular “news” to die aborning.


The reporter quotes only one Yelp user, plus analyst Greg Sterling (who blogged about the phone interview on Monday) and Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO.

None of them talks about using “Yelp” as a verb — and even if they all did, the assertion still wouldn’t be convincing.

The reporter does say (in his own voice) that the Yelp user “couldn’t wait to … Yelp about” something, and Greg’s comments indicate that this guy really did use the verb to the reporter.

But seriously: One guy? Who today was the reporter‘s only Yelp friend and the first source of praise for his first Yelp review — two days ago? (Maybe that interaction came after the interview, but still.)

The other evidence for “Yelping” is an unsupported claim that some undefined number of users also use the verb. The reporter himself is a Yelp newbie, so I’m not sure where this generalization comes from. Even if he knew a lot of Yelpers before joining, wouldn’t they now be listed as friends?

I sound petulant here. I realize that. I’m not sure why I care about this, to be honest.

Maybe it’s because the WashPost is being naive? It’s never written about Digg in this way, for instance, even though “Digg” is — I’d assert, admittedly without proof — a far more common Web 2.0 verb.

Yelp itself has been pushing “Yelp” as a verb for ages now, of course. It’s sort of cute when used on the site, I guess. And I’m sure that some users — among the Yelp Elite, at least — have carried it into their real lives.

But that’s a small slice of Yelp’s limited demographic, and hardly WashPost-worthy news.

The rest of the story, meanwhile, doesn’t say much. Yelp exists, as it has for years. It now has a DC “site,” but that happened months ago. No stats to say how the site is doing, or how Yelp is doing generally.

Also, Yelp is kinda social networky and kinda bloggy. And it’s spending money rather than making it.

In short, it’s a Web 2.0 site.

The only observation that I found worthwhile was that Yelp reviews are “less about the business and more about the reviewer.” This is true of the site as a whole: More than anywhere I know, it’s turned reviews into a platform for self-expression.

That would have been a worthy thought on which to hang a story. Certainly better than the verb thing.

In my pissy opinion.

1 Comment

  1. I agree 100% – if I hadn’t been away, that would have been the first comment on Greg’s blog 😉