Angie’s List is an American company founded in 1995 by Angie Hicks and William Oesterle. The site works as a database for consumers to share experiences about businesses and service providers, specializing in home services. Within the first year Hicks recruited 1000 members to join the database. In 1999, the reviews database created originally on paper was moved online. The company allows their subscribers to submit comments anonymously and provides the opportunity for the businesses to respond to reviews both positive and negative. In 2013, Angie’s List had 70 000 subscribers and in 2015 the company boasted 3.2 million paid members, $15 billion in transactions and $315 million in revenue annually. In September 2015 they reported a revenue of $87 million USD.
This seems like a great service, one that would be extremely useful for consumers if the service was not already provided for free online in a quick Google search. Adapting with the times Angie’s List decided to provide free subscriptions in March of 2016. This only took the company 21 years to offer its clients. However, the company boasts that once subscribed you have access to 10 million verified reviews. According to many unsatisfied customers (254 negative reviews posted on Consumer Affairs since May 2016), the service is still not free. Subscribers who joined before March of 2016 are receiving emails with a 24 hour notice that their subscription is being renewed, and their credit cards are charged. Angie’s List also refuses to return the cash, claiming it is part of the payment structure.
What does this mean for your business? Being reviewed on Angie’s List does not mean you are affiliated with their brand, and it may be wise to stay unaffiliated. The company is struggling to mend relationships with its users. In the online share-economy we now live in, charging people for services easily found for free is not a wise business decision. Business owners should also note your monitoring tools may not work on the site. Because Angie’s List was previously a pay service, the website has a paywall blocking unpaid search results and monitoring tools will not be able to pull from these reviews to your database. Though the company has been having troubles determining the viability of their “free” future the website often has reviewers that contribute more than a ‘star’-ranking. They contribute ‘meaty’ descriptions of the services and events that transpired during their experience with the business.
There are further implications for businesses other than positive or negative reviews on Angie’s List, the once $40 per year database hid their content behind a paywall. This means that if a consumer did a Google search for service reviews those from Yelp may appear, but Angie’s List reviews were hidden. This was good news for companies who received bad reviews on Angie’s List that would not be visible in Google search queries. Now that the service is free, and anyone can add comments to Angie’s List without paying negative reviews will not be as easy to hide from.
Angie’s List is struggling in the marketplace. The company is valued at just a quarter of the price it was being traded for 3 years ago. This change to free subscriptions is a drastic measure but one that is necessary to bring to company into the share-economy. With more people being able to log onto the website and comment about their experiences it may be possible the brand will expand on their expertise. Right now it mainly focuses on home services; plumbing, electric, roofing etc. Though it could branch out into Hotel reviews or tech and software reviews.
Media attention to the Angie’s List business overhaul has been slim to none, but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect small or local business. Businesses should note the changes to the reviews once hidden behind a paywall. Even those who once had no connection with the website may now see their name pop-up in reviews where they had once not found them. Angie’s List is struggling to maintain their relevancy – attracting more reviewers with more to say on a more broad service spectrum will be the first step in turning the company around, and getting noticed.