The company's director of sales and revenue operations, Eric
Friedman, says that Foursquare has been working with Turn to show display ads to users on the web
since late spring of last year, and mobile inventory was added to
the mix in early fall.
The deal allows Foursquare to target its users when they're
browsing the web and other mobile apps. Since it began last year,
Foursquare's ads have been appearing on Turn's ad exchange
partners, which include Facebook's exchange.
Foursquare is selling the ads directly via its 30-person
national sales team, buying on the ad exchanges via Turn and then
selling to brands and agencies on a CPM basis and pocketing the
Horizon Media has been using the "Foursquare
Audience Network" for its client base, but Mr. Friedman declined to
name specific brands and other agencies that have bought the
Foursquare's notion is that the real-world location data it
captures from users via their check-ins -- through which it can
build audience segments of people who go to the gym or grocery
store frequently, for example -- is a powerful indicator of what
people really care about.
Chief Revenue Officer Steven Rosenblatt says he thinks the
company's location data will have unique value in the programmatic
"Everyone's got the same commoditized data sources," he said.
"[They're] getting the same data from Acxiom and Experian and the same publishers over and
over, and I think there's some fatigue in the market."
How it works
Foursquare can anonymously match user email addresses to web
cookies for desktop targeting through a third-party match partner
like LiveRamp, which then subsequently matches to
Turn. (Users who log into Foursquare.com can also be matched for
web targeting, but that's a less common use case, since the lion's
share of Foursquare activity occurs on mobile.) For targeting via
mobile ad exchanges, the matching is facilitated via device
The targeting only extends to users, and Foursquare isn't
expanding the reach of campaigns through lookalike modeling, though
Mr. Friedman doesn't rule out the future possibility.
It's also only using explicit check-ins -- is has 5 billion in
its history to date -- and not any other location data that it may
be possible to capture from users who have the app installed on
their phones but aren't actively checking in.
For example, users may see push notifications from Foursquare
alerting them to fact that they're close to restaurants or bars
they might like. But Foursquare isn't putting any of that passive
location data to work for ad targeting, though it also hasn't been
"You can imagine a time where we get smarter about where people
spend their time," Mr. Friedman said.
But as is often the case when the prospects for Foursquare's ad
business are raised, the underlying question is scale. The company
has 45 million registered users but doesn't break out how many of
them are active on a monthly basis.
"Two years ago, we were asking, how do they get scale of
download, and we're still asking," said Chris Copeland, CEO of
Foursquare won't disclose its revenue, but
Fast Company projected that it was on course to bring in
between $15 million and $20 million last year, up from $2 million
Going into 2014, the 170-person company is trying to make its
data a revenue-generating asset, separate from its nascent ad
It signed a multiyear
data licensing pact with Microsoft earlier this month, when the
tech giant also invested $15 million in Foursquare's Series D
funding round, adding to
the $35 million the company had already raised in December.
How Microsoft intends to use Foursquare's data hasn't been
specifically disclosed, but potential applications include baking
location data into Bing or even into the operating system for