Now the company is calling them "place-based ads," a rebranding
that mirrors its current efforts to distance itself from check-ins.
The new Foursquare -- which executives say will launch this summer
-- will dispense with check-ins altogether and focus on discovery
of nearby venues tailored to users' tastes and will take on Yelp
and other local-search sites more directly.
The company is "slowly migrating people from the Foursquare app
into Swarm," according to CEO Dennis Crowley, and it hasn't
disclosed how many users Swarm has. (Foursquare reports having
over 50 million registered users, but the
company doesn't break out how many of them access the service on a
monthly basis.) In addition to the familiar check-in function, the
Swarm app has a new feature: letting users see which of their
friends are close by, up to within a 500-foot radius, even when
they haven't checked in.
"We wanted people in Swarm to have this sixth-sense awareness of
where their friends are in the hopes they would meet up with them
more often," Mr. Crowley said.
Foursquare's ad business
The core Foursquare app that's currently being overhauled has three
ad products. There are promoted places, which are mentioned in
small banners when users open the app; place-based ads that appear
after they check in; and the Foursquare Audience Network. For the
latter, the company works with ad-tech partners on the buy side to
let advertisers use its trove of location data to anonymously
target Foursquare users across the web and in other mobile
into the world of programmatic buying and selling was
formalized with its announcement this winter that it was partnering
with Turn to sell audience segments of people who frequently go to
the gym or grocery store, for example. Since then, it's begun
working with Google's DoubleClick Bid Manager.
While Foursquare is looking to sideline check-ins, they're the
foundation of its ad business, at least for now.
The audience network is Foursquare's only ad product that uses
passive location data, collected via tracking of users who've
installed the Foursquare app, in addition to explicit check-ins, to
build out audience segments. But it follows that Foursquare intends
to put more of that passive data to work. The company's chief
revenue officer, Steven Rosenblatt, said that place-based ads will
be present in the new version of Foursquare. A company spokeswoman
declined to comment on what those future ads will look like or how
they will be targeted.
As for new formats, Mr. Rosenblatt hinted that the "plans" tool
in Swarm, through which users can tell their friends what they're
thinking of doing later, might be an interesting place for
advertisers to run a promotion.
"You can imagine down the road doing some creative things
leveraging 'plans' with relevant merchants or brands," he said.
Foursquare has seen more revenue come in so far this year than
it did in all of 2013, Mr. Crowley said. According
to The Verge, it's on course to make $40 million to $50 million
this year, up from $12 million last year.
Separate from its nascent ad business, Foursquare signed a
multi-year data licensing pact with Microsoft in February. The
tech giant also invested $15 million in Foursquare's Series D
funding round, bringing the five-year-old company's total funding
to $162.4 million, according to CrunchBase.