More exciting is the ability of A9/Amazon users to review local business or services. The Amazon user ratings and reviews of these businesses and services are likely to be the key long term added value to Amazon’s yellow pages, similar to the value added from user reviews of books or dvds on Amazon today. It should give all of the other online yellow pages some real competition.
I look forward to seeing the reviews for professional service companies, such as law firms. Amazon has the critical mass of registered users to make this a very valuable system to those seeking an attorney. Although Amazon has in the past had some problems with both fake negative and fake positive reviews of books and other products, Amazon has made moves to be more responsive in the last few years, including one-click off topic reporting (not sure if they have patented this or not) and the encouragement of reviewer validation (by way of credit cards) and use of reviewer’s real names in reviews. In my “extensive” use of Amazon, I have seen more fake positive reviews than negative ones, and relatively few off topic reviews.
Legal services should be interesting, as some consumer reviewers may not be in a position to accurately rate the lawyers services. And a negative review could lead to a lawsuit, by a lawyer who felt he or she lost work because of the review. But consumer reviews should lead to an increased level of customer service and responsiveness, as those are attributes consumers generally can judge more easily.
And nothing keeps attorneys from reviewing other attorneys on Amazon, so there may be some minor competition for Martindale on the professional rating side. In fact, this would be a good time for you lawyers out there to get your attorney friends to start reviewing you. Nothing leads to a prolonged higher rating than a good start :)
More importantly, Amazon is not reliant on any individual business or service type for its revenues, and in particular Amazon is not reliant on lawyers for a significant part of their revenue. Thus Amazon can allow negative reviews of lawyers to be posted, without worrying about significant losses of revenues by way of canceled Westlaw contracts of Martindale listings.
Over time it will be the honesty, transparency and narrative elements of the Amazon’s reviews that will lead to their directory being used more and more by consumers.
Amazon’s A9 service still has a lot of work to do with the usability of the site especially for lawyers and attorneys. Amazon needs to greatly improve their data to allow for practice area searches and fuller profiles (at least include a link to the law firm’s Web site). This is not Martindale/Lawyers.com quality data, not even close. And a search for “lawyer”, “attorney” and “law firm” should not return different result sets, and should give the same listing of browsable categories to select from.
Peace – Tim