Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Foursquare Opens Up Its Self-Serve Ad Platform


Asa Mathat /

If you want to be a big Web/mobile company that makes money selling advertising, then eventually you need to give small advertisers the ability to buy ads from you without talking to another human.

Facebook built this kind of self-serve ad business a few years ago, and Twitter is building one, too. Google makes a ton of money from self-serve. And now Foursquare has one, too.

If you’re a Foursquare user, you probably won’t notice any change to the service, but if you look very carefully, you may see more local shops and restaurants pitching you in places where Denny’s used to buy ads.

The change is on the flip side, where Foursquare has built a platform that lets a local bar or restaurant buy an ad without ever picking up the phone.

Foursquare started testing the software this summer, and said it has tried it out with a thousand buyers so far. Now anyone can buy an ad on a cost-per-action basis, as long as they’re willing to spend at least $50 a month.

Foursquare Ads 4

If Foursquare is going to be a standalone business, self-serve will be important. If it eventually ends up selling to someone like Apple or Yahoo, presumably for the value of the data it has built up over the last four years, its ad platform won’t really matter that much.

What still matters a lot to Foursquare is whether more people are using the once-buzzy discovery service.

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley is excited about a new feature that allows the service to give people tips about the places they’ve walked into, without ever summoning up the app.

But there’s no way to tell whether that’s getting people to use Foursquare. And we won’t have a sense of how well the company is doing until/unless it releases monthly user numbers.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google