Is Foursquare the next consumer internet startup that's on the verge of making a big mainstream splash? A growing number of print publishers seem to hope it is and are in turn aligning themselves with the young company.

Recently, I detailed the Financial Times' initiative with Foursquare, which will give certain Foursquare users the ability to access without a subscription at no cost for a limited time.

And now the Financial Times is joined on Foursquare by another newspaper with a successful pay wall -- the Wall Street Journal.

Unlike the Financial Times, which is using Foursquare to reach individuals who might subscribe in the future in a targeted fashion, the Wall Street Journal's relationship with the startup is far more gimmicky; it's offering up Foursquare badges and using Foursquare as a distributor of its New York content.

The New York Times is apparently amused, and the Foursquare-Journal tie-up has some questioning whether Foursquare really has anything to offer newspapers.

Even though the Wall Street Journal is one of the most successful dailies in the United States and its deal with Foursquare is obviously small potatoes, it has highlighted a flaw with many of the digital initiatives being implemented by print publishers today: platform is coming before strategy.

From the iPad to Foursquare, it's evident that many publishers are eager to jump on the latest trends. That's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, stodgy print publishers have traditionally been when it comes to technology. So it's encouraging to see them thinking about new technologies like the iPad and digital products like Foursquare. But jumping on a trend doesn't mean that it will take you where you need to go strategically.

In buying into 'the next big thing' print publishers can, at the very least, convince themselves that they're hip, and at the most, delude themselves into believing that they're finally figuring this technology thing out. But in far too many cases, they're buying into 'the next big thing' for the sake of buying into 'the next big thing'. It's easier to put the cart before the horse by betting on various platforms before a workable strategy is in place, but unfortunately print publishers will need to do the difficult if they want digital success.

Patricio Robles

Published 27 April, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Bravo, Patricio. Your analysis is a breath of fresh air. It's uniquely critical in a thoughtful way. Newspapers are in a position to innovate. And innovate requires experimentation with social media. Yet gratuitous uses are not strategic. Indeed, they're also not free of cost. And cost, for newspapers, is everything these days. I think the notion of social media not costing anything is at play here. As is the belief that talking about one's social media experiments is part of the plan -- that PR buzz generated by such moves is a reliable benefit and justifies the "free" investment.

about 8 years ago

Jon Vlahhos

Jon Vlahhos, Manager at Coming

Print publishers are coming to the realisation 10 years too late, that consumner journalism is a real power that should be harnassed. not ignored.

They are doing this by small increments, but i think your title is spot on. Platform over Strategy. Bravo.

Jon Hos

about 8 years ago


Brian Hayashi

Gratuitous pot-shots at the newspaper industry notwithstanding, neither this post nor your earlier analysis really talk about Foursquare nor its significance. 

Consider the act of logging into a website and its implications, and you are a step closer to understanding the potential of "checking in" to a physical location. It creates a secure method by which a user can be authenticated, thereby gaining access to menu of additional services. For example, checking in to a coffee shop could replace authentication through a paywall. It could simplify the cumbersome steps of signing onto a local hotspot while providing direct access to content plus special rewards to newspaper subscribers. It's a page right out of Coca-Cola's fountain business manual. 

Or, if you don't believe me, why don't you read up on some of Apple's latest patent applications, particularly the one where "checking in" to a location, such as a restaurant, triggers temporary applications (specifically, a menu app and a timer to let you know when you might be seated) to appear on an iPhone. Such reading might lead you to a more nuanced analysis of what geo services are capable of, and how fit a newspaper is to capture that opportunity.

about 8 years ago

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