The New York Times finally wrote something about Foursquare, the much-buzzed-about mobile app for telling people where you are that's disproportionately popular among NYC media professionals (or whatever they're called now that most are laid off). We like and use Foursquare, even if we're a bit too set in our ways to participate in the app's competitive aspects, like the ability to become "mayor" of a venue if the app finds that you spend more time there than anyone else, or the "badges" one can earn for going to new places — two examples of Foursquare's brilliant way of allowing users to feel as if they're winning a game just by leaving the house. We generally just use it to find out when friends happen to be a block or two away from us. But if somebody out there really wants to be the mayor of that horrible Chili's at La Guardia's Delta terminal (and, trust us, someone does), we're not going to judge. Anyway, reading the piece, this example of the app's potential monetization, which was, to be fair, probably approximate, jumped out:
"Eventually, [Foursquare founder] Mr. Crowley said, he would like to work with businesses on sponsored badges. For example, Starbucks might agree to give a player who visits 10 different Starbucks locations in a week a special badge and a free coffee drink."
First, because in what world would a Monopoly-money badge (think Facebook gift) and a free coffee drink be worth TEN trips to different Starbucks in seven days? Even if you didn't buy anything! Even if you LIED about your ten trips. It's still too much work. And second, because, LOL, as if Foursquare users are out there drinking coffee every night. Right! Evidence: When Foursquare first came out, it actually blocked users from checking in during weekday work hours. That sentence would be more truthful to the real world if you changed "Starbucks locations" to "bars owned by the same people" and "free coffee drink" to "free Maker's Mark." Which is how Foursquare is going to probably do very, very well.