Foursquare Signs a Deal With ZagatBy JENNA WORTHAM
Update | 1:43 PM Adding
Foursquare, the location-based mobile application that is capturing the fancy of hip urbanites, is a bar game that lets users compete for points and badges when they go out at night. But recently the service has been branching out beyond its bar-hopping origins.
On Tuesday, Foursquare is announcing a partnership with Zagat, the restaurant-guide publishers. It plans to offer a “Foodie” badge that can be earned by checking into Zagat-rated restaurants in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and other major cities.
In addition to pointing toward a business model for Foursquare, the collaboration with Zagat underscores the popularity of the service and could help extend its reach to a mainstream audience. It is one of several deals that the company has been hammering out.
Foursquare recently signed an agreement to integrate Bravo TV shows with the game aspects of its service, and it is working with Warner Brothers topromote the studio’s romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day.” The company is working on a similar partnership with HBO, said Tristan Walker, Foursquare’s head of business development, and The New York Times is experimenting with the service. Some of these companies are paying Foursquare, Mr. Walker said, but he declined to disclose the terms of the deals.
Ryan Charles, a senior product manager at Zagat, said the collaboration was a natural progression for the company, which has dabbled in other creative online ventures, using Twitter and creating a so-called augmented reality application for Android-powered mobile phones.
“We saw thousands of Foursquare users checking in to Zagat-rated restaurants, and saw an opportunity to present content to them as well as engage them in game-play,” said Mr. Charles, who first heard about the mobile company last year at the annual technology conference South by Southwest Interactive.
In addition to offering a special badge for Foursquare users, Zagat will begin piping tips and recommendations into the Foursquare system, which already doubles as a user-generated city guide. Foursquare users can submit their own suggestions for activities and dishes to order at a particular restaurant, which will pop up when their friends “check in” on Foursquare from that venue.
But the Zagat partnership will add a slightly different layer to the content by incorporating recommendations culled from the company’s repository of reader reviews. For example, users who check into a Zagat-ranked restaurant will receive suggestions about great dishes or the best dessert on the menu.
Zagat also plans to run a series of “Meet the Mayor” interviews on its Web site, featuring Foursquare users who have checked in enough times at a particular location to earn the “mayor” title.
“There’s an added incentive for users to be the mayor of a Zagat-rated restaurant,” Mr. Charles said. “Also, visitors to our site who may not already know about Foursquare will learn about it. It’s a great cross-promotion.”
Foursquare has also been forging partnerships with city transit agencies, universities and media companies, like the Canadian daily Metro News. On Friday it will add The New York Times to the list.
In conjunction with the Winter Olympics, The Times will be offering recommendations to Foursquare users on restaurants, attractions, shopping and nightlife in Vancouver, Whistler and the nearby town of Squamish. The tips will be pulled from The Times’s travel and entertainment coverage.
Foursquare users who check in at one of the suggested venues will earn a New York Times Olympics badge, said Stacy Green, public relations manager for The New York Times Company.