Zagat's, known for its restaurant guides, has successfully integrated Web 2.0 capabilities into its site--boosting subscriber conversions by 14 percent. The company already had a somewhat successful Web presence, with customers paying to read the company's restaurant reviews (and other entertainment-related information) on the site. But Zagat's figured that offering site visitors some free content (that they could obtain from other sites anyway) would help draw them to the paid offerings. It worked.

Zagat's VP of marketing, John Boris, recently shared details of the initiative with MarketingSherpa ( Through surveys with existing subscribers, Zagat's determined that it would offer four free features: individual member reviews, member discussions, photographs of establishments and copies of restaurant menus. While these features were developed, Zagat's launched a Web marketing campaign to tout new site features. Visitors had to provide basic contact and demographic information in exchange for a user name and password.

The new community-based features have yielded more free users and more new subscribers. There has been a 45 percent rise in unique users and user sessions and a 20 increase in page views.

If traditional publishers think that the Web 2.0 revolution isn’t for them, they need to think again. Zagat's has shown that even one of the most traditional brand names in publishing can utilize the latest Web technology and generate traffic and revenues in the process. Connecting with customers has always been a challenge for companies; the Internet has gradually reduced the gap.

Many publishers were slow to embrace the Web; they shouldn’t delay this latest technological offering. Web 2.0 has taken customer communication to a new level--this is the best platform of personalization we’ve seen. Publishers who embrace it will undoubtedly build a strong bond with their customers--and it goes beyond just selling more subscriptions at the moment. By continuously gaining insights from customers, publishers will more easily (and accurately) learn what products and services they need to launch in the future to ensure long-lasting customer relationships.