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 FT.com
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.