Contact: Internet Bullhorn

Ratings web sites began so innocently, with users posting their views on everything from restaurants and bars to today, one's dates.

Not only should your average Joe take notice of this growing trend, so should marketers. A bad review could spread like wildfire and could explain the rise in corporate executives launching blogs to dispel rumors, as General Motors Chairman Bob Lutz did.

Publishers are beginning to take notice of ratings sites - so much so that some have even purchased them. The New York Times Co. recently bought, a review-heavy site, and Scripps purchased Shopzilla, Add in such independent sites as, Citysearch, and, and you end up with millions of consumers uniting to make one powerful voice.

"Marketers should absolutely be looking at ratings sites for mentions of their products and services, but only if they're prepared to listen and make improvements based on the criticism they receive," concludes Tom Hespos, president of Underscore Marketing. "I'd love to see marketers taking it to the next step, offering up an online community to customers where [marketers] can [get] feedback, post it unedited, and respond."

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