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BlackBerry promises no ads on BBM chat

Sponsored content will pop up in BBM Channels, but BlackBerry says it won't interfere with actual chats.


BlackBerry is attempting to draw a line in the sand when it comes sponsored ads reaching BBM users.

In a blog posted Tuesday, BBM product and brand marketing head Jeff Gadway acknowledged that BBM Channel creators will be able to send sponsored posts and invites to their subscribers, but such content won't seep into the actual chats. The sponsored content itself will be "direct, relevant, friendly," Gadway promised.

BBM Channel users will potentially see three different types of sponsored content from channel owners, according to Gadway.

Featured placements will be promotions designed by channel owners looking to pick up new subscribers. These placements will appear on the Featured Channels landing page.

Sponsored invites will be sent by channel owners to select BBM users inviting them to join a particular channel. People will be chosen based on age, location, interests, and other information already provided by each user. BlackBerry will control which brands can use these invites and limit them to three per month per user, Gadway said.

Sponsored posts will venture a bit further into advertising territory. Labeled as sponsored, these posts will include updates from other channels and will appear alongside the updates from BBM Contacts and BBM Channels. But BBM users will be able to control which posts they see. As Gadway explains it:

Let's say you're a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and you are presented with a sponsored update from a competing hockey team. You can easily block future sponsored updates from this other team. The benefit to you, the user is clear -- you won't see sponsored updates from channels you're not interested in. But the benefit also extends to channel owners as well as they won't be wasting time and resources reaching uninterested BBM users.

BBM users who filter their updates to show only contacts won't see any sponsored posts.

Finally, Gadway made it clear that sponsored posts and similar content won't butt into your actual chats.

"We will not be inserting sponsored content of any kind in to BBM chats with your friends, family, and colleagues," Gadway said. "We understand that keeping the BBM chat experience you know and love free of this type of content is important to you."

Sponsored content was an inevitable development as BlackBerry struggles to raise money. With 85 million users, BBM is a ripe area for monetization. At last week's Mobile World Congress, BBM chief John Sims spoke to CNET about his plans for BBM in both the enterprise and consumer markets.