Yelp, the popular community sourced review site, has announced that it will finally allow businesses a public voice on their forums. Prior to this reversal, companies were left with few ways to respond to negative reviews – they could either contact reviewers privately or in the case of one San Francisco pizza shop, showcase their bad reviews on employee t-shirts in a bit of ironic marketing – both of which fell short of addressing the public at large.

Yelp co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman looked upon this previous stance as a means of protecting the consumer’s point of view, but as the site’s reach has grown, it has increasingly come up against businesses – particularly those advertising on the site – that complained of being powerless. Considering that participation from both groups, in terms of revenue and content generation, are essential to Yelp’s long term success, addressing this disparity became necessary. Now that companies have equal say, maintaining the site’s delicate balance will pose a whole new set of challenges, especially considering Yelp’s ongoing decision not to screen comments before they go live.

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