CLBR #181: Meet the Producer/Director Whose Unaired Doc Has Cost Yelp Millions
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Kaylie Milliken of Prost Productions joins CLBR to talk about her documentary, “Billion Dollar Bully.” Prost recently secured over $90,000 from Kickstarter to finish the film (150% of their target), with Yelp’s share price falling 5% immediately thereafter.
Update: New Trailer.
About Kaylie Milliken
Over twelve years in the film and video industry as a producer and director. Kaylie travelled extensively and worked in some of the most exciting places in the world, including Europe and Tanzania. Kaylie began working in film while in college in Los Angeles, majoring in Film/TV/Radio. She has filmed, produced and distributed documentaries in Tanzania and Europe. She now works and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kaylie has also worked extensively in theater as a director, producer and choreographer. Kaylie holds a Masters Degree from the University of California, Davis.
Twitter – @ProstFilms
Yelp (NYSE: YELP) connects people with great local businesses. Yelp was founded in San Francisco in July 2004. Since then, Yelp communities have taken root in major metros across the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Singapore, Poland, Turkey, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Yelp had a monthly average of 142 million unique visitors in Q1 2015*. By the end of Q1 2015 Yelpers had written more than 77 million rich, local reviews, making Yelp the leading local guide for real word-of-mouth on everything from boutiques and mechanics to restaurants and dentists. Approximately 79 million unique visitors visited Yelp via their mobile device on a monthly average basis during Q1 2015.
Botto Bistro Takes on Yelp
Additional Media Critical of Yelp
Yelp has emerged as one of the leaders among review sites, with 120 million monthly users (including 53 million mobile visitors) in 26 countries it moved into profitability last quarter.
Throughout, Yelp has had it critics from the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern who famously called Yelp* a “tremendous forum for a bunch of uninformed morons to take down restaurants.” Yelp* has been plagued by charges that it engages in extortionate practices in which it promises to provide a more favorable mix of reviews should a business advertise with Yelp* or conversely retaliate should it not.
In April it was revealed that the FTC has received more than 2,000 complaints about Yelp since 2008 and there are media reports about Yelp throughout this period.
In 2009, an award-winning expose by East Bay Express entitled “Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0” explained:
During interviews with dozens of business owners over a span of several months, six people told this newspaper that Yelp sales representatives promised to move or remove negative reviews if their business would advertise. In another six instances, positive reviews disappeared — or negative ones appeared — after owners declined to advertise. . . . .
Business owners are also disturbed that some negative reviews are written by paid Yelp employees. When the company first launched in 2004, its staff wrote many reviews on the site. And to this day, Yelp hires “Scouts” or “Ambassadors” to write reviews — especially when they enter new markets. CEO Stoppelman himself has written nearly eight hundred reviews. It’s not immediately apparent which reviews are written by paid Yelpers until you click on a user’s name to get to their profile page, where they might display a “Scout” or “Ambassador” badge.
In some cases, businesses that received negative reviews from paid Yelpers were also asked to advertise. San Francisco’s Elite Cafe, which advertises with Yelp, received a two-star review by a paid Yelp ambassador, as did Anabelle’s Bar and Bistro. In both instances, the negative reviews appeared after Yelp sales staff asked them to advertise. Both business owners were unaware that a paid Yelper had written a negative review of their business.
When Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks wrote a critical piece about Yelp in 2013, her inbox overflowed with comments she summarized as follows:
Yelp is a complete and utter fraud. The reviews are too self-centered, not trustworthy and half the time really don’t make sense. It’s a wonderful populist device … But there’s a nagging feeling that Yelp isn’t as accurate and honest as I want to believe.
Most recently, in 2014 the Times business columnist David Lazarus noted
I’m no lawyer, but I know a racket when I see one. Anybody who calls to say that you now have a problem but that they can make that problem go away for $75 a month isn’t your friend. I asked Fonger how Yelp’s tactics differed from, say, Tony Soprano’s or Michael Corleone’s.
“Well,” he answered, “no one’s come by to break my legs.”
Then he thought about it a moment. “At least not yet.”
Alice Cooper’s Response
OK, maybe not since he released the song in 1973.
Orson Welles 100th Birthday
Legendary film and radio producer Orson Welles was born a century ago today.
A true lesson in the value of buying all relevant domain extensions.