While panic is never the solution, the second half of the headline just isn’t so. Much has changed. As you so rightly point out, just the loss of the lit stars is a HUGE conversion factor change. IMHO and based on unscientific polling, consumers were much more likely to select based on lit stars than on ranking.
Then you have the method of reviews, the way scores are determined, the loss of videos (at least for now), the loss of control of pictures, and more.
Much has changed. It may all work out for the good of the consumer, but business owners who try to manage this change without professional consult, will pay a heavy price in time and/or lost business.
Her advice was directed at the business owner and the issues that they confront. And from my point of view it is accurate.
The business listing has moved from maps.google.com to plus.google.com and is still managed from the dashboard. In the future this may mean something but for now it just a url change.
I would agree that the review story is bigger and more important but it doesn’t really change reality or process for the business person. They need to do what they should have always been doing…. making it easy for the clients to leave reviews and encouraging them to do so.
As to how consumers react to the change, yes that may include bigger change and different behaviors.
But the smb can’t control what Google does nor what the searcher does so stressing about those things is fruitless. The new search display reality is the new search display reality and while the stars are gone there are other display opportunities for a business to leverage.
As a small business owner, I find that there really are a lot of changes. Now I have a new interface to learn….and I don’t think there is any point in pressing in and learning it now as Google is likely to change it again and again. I’ll wait till things have settled down and then read what people who are in the know in Local start producing posts on how to best optimize my G Plus/Places/Local page.