Village Voice Media Buys Tardy Social Networking Site

We hear Village Voice Media has bought a controlling interest in social networking site LikeMe.net. But we can't imagine why.

It's clear what the alt-weekly chain's hope is: That LikeMe will form the backbone of a viable internet strategy for the company, which has seen its once-robust classified ad business swiped by Craigslist and now faces a deep recession in display ads. Village Voice Media began rolling LikeMe out in Denver last week and will soon spread the Web application to papers in its other markets, including New York.

Advertisers should be pleased, since users can only mark what they "like" in their respective cities, including restaurants, bars and music venues. There's no "what I hate" function.

But Yelp already does this, without the bias and with far, far more users. Per the concept of network effects, this makes Yelp hugely more useful to a visitor than LikeMe. With a weaker product and a late start, Village Voice Media's effort is doomed before it launches, even if it includes exclusive tie-ins to the chain's dwindling river of original, professional reviews (which people can get for free anyway). Watching this company struggle is getting increasingly sad.