Services & Software

Foursquare aims to turn a buck with 'Promoted Updates'

The online check-in service launches its first moneymaking feature -- letting brick-and-mortar merchants announce updates and specials to bring in local customers.

This is an example of a Foursquare Promoted Update for the Standard Miami hotel.

Foursquare has taken off the kid gloves and is ready to start making money. After rolling out "Local Updates" last week, letting any merchant allure potential nearby customers by sending out status updates, it launched "Promoted Updates" today.

Promoted Updates, which is still in pilot, takes the idea of Local Updates up a notch. Rather than being available to any merchant using the check-in service, Promoted Updates is only for those merchants willing to pay Foursquare on a "cost per action" model, according to TechCrunch. While in pilot, there are roughly 20 participating companies, including Gap, Best Buy, Hilton, and Walgreens.

These companies can send out messages over Foursquare that are either "updates" or "specials." So, for example, Best Buy can say it has new MP3 players in stock for an "update" or it can say all MP3 players are 10 percent off for a "special."

The idea is to get users who are in the vicinity to stop in and check out what the merchants are touting, so the feature uses technology that is based on users' locations and interests.

"What we're really excited about is that you have to be near a business to get an update," Foursquare's chief revenue officer, Steven Rosenblatt, told TechCrunch today. "No matter how much someone pitches us, it has to be relevant, based on proximity and based on intent. Those are critical."

Rosenblatt did not say when Promoted Updates will be available to more business but he did hint that more will be able to opt in. "We want to make sure we really perfect it," he told TechCrunch. "This will evolve, and as it evolves, when we feel ready we can open it up."