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Time Out Buys LikeCube To Sharpen Its Targeting/Recommendation Plays

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Time Out, the listings and guidebook publisher, is upping its digital and social game: it has bought the UK-based semantic analysis company LikeCube to try to deliver more relevant events and offers to users. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

LikeCube creates recommendations based on semantic analysis. In its case, it uses your own reviews and reviews of people like you — its term for this is “taste neighbors” — to push recommendations to you based on your location. The latter, presumably, is to account for the fact that most people don’t leave reviews on sites like

Time (NYSE: TWX) Out says that it will be offering the LikeCube-generated recommendations, based on your “taste graph” (the listings equivalent of a “social graph” it seems), both across its online and mobile properties.

It is unclear whether the acquisition will mean that LikeCube will no longer be working with other companies, especially those who compete with Time Out. One of its named customers (there may be others) is the online, user-generated listings service

Nor has Time Out said whether it intends to roll out LikeCube’s technology only in select markets or across all of the publisher’s footprint. The company currently provides listings for 35 cities in 24 countries; and publishes guidebooks, including 50 city guides that have variously been translated into 10 languages.

Given that ubiquity, its digital audience is actually not as big as you would think: seven million global unique visitors per month, two million of which are in London. Its apps have been downloaded one million times to date.

Over the past several months, we have started to notice Time Out enhancing its mainstay event, venue and restaurant listings with other services as well — for example Time Out Live events; and Time Out Deals, which provides daily deals, along the lines of Living Social or Groupon offers.

Adding personalization into these kinds of services — so that I personally don’t receive offers for, say a whitewater rafting course (it’s happened; I didn’t buy it), but does get an offer for a discounted meal at a Scandinavian joint (this one I did), or for tickets to a band I might really like to see (yet to happen) — might make it more likely I will actually log in to buy the deal.

The personalization trend is one that we are seeing coming up increasingly in the mobile space. A study released just last week by Luth Research for Upstream noted that people were much more likely to respond to mobile ads and offers that fit their own likes and dislikes, than those that were based simply on location or lifestyle.

Getting that right for Time Out — in a way that doesn’t upset users for being too invasive or privacy-threatening — could mean creating more conversions for the companies that push deals via the Time Out channel. That crucial for the company as it looks to make more money from digital streams to supplement its traditional printed magazine and guide book business, and create loyal digital users in the sea of options now open to them.