Angie's List dumps paywall, overhauls tech platform in turnaround effort

According to Angie's List CEO Scott Durchslag, the decision to remove the company's longstanding reviews paywall was prompted by the frugal nature of the millennial generation.

Home services review provider Angie's List is dropping its paywall and overhauling its technology platform as part of a major turnaround effort.

Angie's List has been a fixture in the $400 billion home services market since its launch in the mid-1990s. The Indianapolis-based company has posted mostly losses since going public in 2011, but it's since outlined a growth plan that executives hope will boost revenue and foster profitability.

Key to that growth plan is a shift away from its legacy, fee-based business model -- a move which CEO Scott Durchslag said is designed to bring more people into the Angie's List ecosystem.

"The paywall worked very well for most of the past 21 years," Durchslag said. "The problem came as more millennials became homebuyers. They were not willing to pay for reviews, and so they became unattainable."

Since dropping the reviews paywall, Durchslag said new member sign-ups have increased nearly fourfold compared to a year ago, and unique visits to the site have more than doubled. In that same period, member searches have more than doubled, as did the number of service provider profile views.

Going forward, Angie's List will look to value-added services to glean revenue from its more than 3 million members, such as access to a hyper-local project pricing tool that Durchslag said can give cost estimates on home services within a 10-mile radius.

The paywall removal coincides with a total migration of the Angie's List technology platform, which Durchslag said has been completed ahead of schedule.

Durchslag said the company had been operating on a Microsoft-heavy legacy platform, but is now running a "modular, open-source, micro-services based architecture" which he said will enable the company "to innovate at about ten times the speed of the legacy platform."

Formerly an executive at Best Buy, Durchslag stepped into the CEO role last September, replacing Angie's List co-founder Bill Oesterle. During his tenure with Best Buy, Durchslag oversaw the retailer's marketing and global e-commerce efforts, where he's credited with the company's multichannel overhaul and the development of the My Best Buy credit and loyalty card program.

Much like Best Buy, Angie's List faces a barrage of competition, especially from Amazon.

Last year Amazon launched Home Services, a hyper-local marketplace designed to connect shoppers with service providers. The program has yet to expand nationwide, but it has the potential to be a significant threat to Angie's List and other service provider marketplaces like TaskRabbit and HomeAdvisor.

Durchslag, however, seems undeterred by the competition.

"The Angie's List brand has a 94-percent awareness rate, it dwarfs anyone else," he said. "We have six times as many service providers as other brands and three times the number of reviews on service providers than Google. Combined, and without the constraints of the paywall, this will allow us to reignite growth."