Foursquare is blowing up in the tech mediasphere. It’s also standard issue for the mobile elite in cities like New York and San Francisco, and I admit addiction. But there is a certain amount of tech media distortion going on — also known as the Silicon Valley effect.
This refers to the coverage bias to focus on things we in the analyst corps and media tend to use ourselves. The mobile social service gets way more ink than its 500,000 users deserve, and it’s something that my parents, for example (and tens of millions of Americans), have never heard of.
To be fair it’s growing rapidly, now up to a million check-ins per month. But more so, the quickly growing list of traditional media deals it’s signing could begin to launch it into the mobile mainstream.
Most notable is last night’s 20-second ad that aired on Bravo — part of the partnership the two companies recently formed. Many will see it and shrug, but the reach we’re talking about in a major cable TV spot could pique mass curiosity. Bravo’s audience of young urban foodies is also on target.
The Bravo partnership itself creates a Foursquare presence with recommendations pushed to any Foursquare user who connects to it. This includes a series of special badges to unlock. These badges — plus competition to become “mayor” of local establishments — are central to the gaming element that drives Foursquare’s appeal.
Driving users to local bars & restaurants is ultimately the result, and the real value the company sits on. It’s already worked with this (no money exchanged) in its “nearby specials” feature. After first seeing this, specials are popping up more and more when I check in to local places on Foursquare.
The uncertain part is how Foursquare will directly monetize the foot traffic its driving. It’s seeing some money come through the door, but we’ll see more revenue models develop soon.