By Harry McCracken | Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm
I’ve been playing with Bizzy, a new service that feels a little bit like Facebook, a little bit like Yelp, and a little bit like Groupon. It has lots of potential, although at the moment it feels like an interesting framework that hasn’t yet been stocked with useful information.
The site–which currently provides information for San Francisco, New York, Dallas, and Shreveport, Louisiana–is one of a bevy of new companies built around the idea of connecting consumers with local businesses. More than most, though, it focuses on letting you keep tabs on your favorites rather than helping you find a place to go on one particular night.
The interface resembles what Facebook might look like if you friended businesses rather than people: You can use the site to connect to establishments you like, and as you do, you create a “Bizzy List that includes offers and news items from them and the ability for you to post on their walls, endorse them, and share them on Facebook and Twitter.
(One thing I found confusing: Bizzy says you’re “requesting” a connection, as if there’s a chance the business in question will reject it. But when you do, the business shows up immediately in your Bizzy List.)
After I signed up for Bizzy, it showed me a long list of local businesses I could connect with. I picked nine restaurants and other local establishments to add to my Bizzy List. But it wasn’t clear that these businesses aren’t really on Bizzy yet; the only information the site has about them is name, address, phone number, and general category. If they join the service, I’ll see their offers and updates, and I can already find other fans of the establishments I like. For now, though, the list feels like a not-very-useful shell. (There are businesses that are already on Bizzy–like this one, for instance–but what’s available feels like a random assortment rather than anything like a comprehensive range of popular destinations.)
You can browse the Bizzy Lists of other users, too, and see which businesses they’ve connected with. But these lists too are thin on information–almost every list I saw consistent mostly of businesses which aren’t yet on Bizzy.
One place where Bizzy does feel…well, busy…is in a section called “What’s Happening.” It’s a rolling list of offers and news from local businesses, and while the deals I saw didn’t involve Groupon-like massive discounts, there was plenty to choose from.
The site also has an iPhone app–its features are similar to the Web-based version, and it doesn’t let you check into businesses.
Bizzy faces the same chicken-and-egg problem as any new site that’s dependent on content provided by consumers and local businesses: It needs content to attract users, and it needs users to supply content. (Unlike many local-info sites, it doesn’t provide material syndicated from other sources or give you search-engine results from elsewhere to fill in holes in its own repository of information.) If the site can convince local businesses to join up and start engaging with their fans, it stands a good chance of being really useful.