Conscious of the advancing, diversifying competition to its location-based gaming/info services, Foursquare is not sitting on its laurels: It’s announcing new partnerships with some big-name media companies to add content to its system.
First up is a deal with Zagat, which will add some named-quality reviews to Foursquare and act as a promotional vehicle: Foursquare players will be able to earn a special “Foodie” badge if they check into the right eateries–a lot like the special reward badges that the deal with Bravo kicked off in January. Zagat itself will get a boost, as its traditional stomping ground is invaded by crowd-sourced review systems like Yelp, and you could almost argue the deal with Foursquare is more of a “if you can’t beat ’em…” maneuver than anything else.
There’s also other news that Foursquare’s about to enter into content deals with Warner Bros and HBO. Warner is promoting the new movie Valentine’s Day while HBO is trying a promotional deal for How to Make It in America, and there’s word that the History Channel is still mid-negotiation. Location-based tie-ins like Bravo’s, Warner’s, and HBO’s do make sense, of course, though they’re effectively just the same kind of simple placement advertisements, designed to raise awareness of a new product, that have been used since advertising began … but you can imagine that the History Channel’s tie-up with Foursquare could yield some much more interesting results.
What’s all this going to do to the Foursquare experience? At this point it’s hard to tell, of course, but it is clear that Foursquare may have to tread a very careful line. If it goes in for this sort of extra content placements with too much gusto, it risks swamping the user-to-user mayorships competition that really drives the way it works at the moment. In this regard Foursquare is a little like Twitter, since they both lacked a way to tie their real-time status-updating tech to advertising–in Twitter’s case this was a deliberate maneuver.