A month after Ad Age learned that Foursquare will soon launch advertising products, the company has hired its first-ever monetization lead.
Steven Rosenblatt was officially brought on last week as Foursquare's chief revenue officer but had been advising the company as a consultant since February. He left his position as director of advertising sales and strategy at Apple's mobile-ad platform iAd in January and had previously been an SVP-advertising sales at Quattro Wireless before Apple acquired the company in 2010.
Mr. Rosenblatt told Ad Age that Foursquare is eyeing mid-summer for the launch of its paid-media platform, which will include a product that allows merchants to promote their deals. When users search for local specials, they'll be able to see offers via paid ads, and those promoted placements will be targeted using the same algorithms that power the "explore" functionality, which recommends establishments based on a user's check-in history, as well as check-ins by friends and the wider Foursquare user base.
"I think what we're most excited about is helping create new products and building new tools for our merchant partners to be able to reach new customers," said Mr. Rosenblatt, who declined to describe the other ad products that Foursquare is developing but noted that they're being built on top of a redesign of the app that 's slated to launch in June.
"A special is one tactic that could be used by a merchant, but there's lots of other ways to drive loyalty between merchants and consumers, and that 's what our goal is ," he said.
After launching in 2009 as the darling of the South by Southwest Interactive conference, Foursquare was notable for being a startup that actually embraced partnerships with big-name brands like Pepsi, Tasti D-Lite, Bravo and Starbucks. Mr. Rosenblatt said Foursquare is working closely with agency partners and plans to launch its ad products with some of those large merchants.
But there's still a question of the platform's scalability and whether it can grow its user base far beyond its current 20 million with its "check-in" model that requires users to take a break from what they're doing and actively choose to engage with the app. Part of Foursquare's initial appeal is that it was set up as a game to accrue points and badges through check-ins, which are both addictive to some users. But to grow further, Group M Next CEO Chris Copeland thinks it needs to offer something for more passive users.
"What that business needs, in my opinion, is consumer permission to push content out instead of [users] having to pull it out of Foursquare," said Mr. Copeland. In terms of implications for marketers, he floated the hypothetical of Foursquare users receiving a notification after walking into a Macy's that they can check in to redeem a discount.
"Whether it will be Foursquare or someone else who does that , that 's where I see the real long-term play here," he said.
Foursquare launched an update for iOS 5-enabled devices last year called "Radar" that can deliver alerts to users when they're near a location they've somehow flagged on the platform, such as a venue on their "To-Do List."