Yelp Enables “Check-ins”. Is #Foursquare Doomed?

Taking a page from Foursquare, Yelp has just rolled out an upgrade to their iPhone app that enables you to “check-in” when you frequent a local business. “Checkins” are a way to provide mobile users with on the spot deals, incentive points, accolades etc.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Foursquare and make no bones about how I think their model could be the most disruptive thing to hit the local advertising market in a long while, but I have to say: Yelp + “check-ins” is a killer app.

I’ve used Foursquare for months checking in everywhere I go but, after a while, my checkin’s have definitely slowed. I think the reason is that the game/points dynamics of Foursquare is not really what motivates me to checkin over the long term. My checkins are fueled by a desire for two things: status (yes, I’m the “mayor” of my favorite places) and the ability to get deals.

The problem I’m seeing with Foursquare is that after becoming the mayor of my spots, there are no deals to be had. If I was getting access to new deals I’d still be checking in daily, but alas, the only deal to be had in Palo Alto for the last few months has been half price pitchers at the Blue Chalk Cafe (nice! but not my cup of tea).

Foursquare needs more deals if they want to attract and retain a broader user base. This is where Yelp has the advantage. Yelp has relationships with tens of thousands of businesses and I’ll bet that e-mails will soon go out encouraging them to post special deals for frequent visitors that checkin. I already use Yelp to figure out where to go, so a checkin once I’m there is a no brainer.

So is Foursquare doomed?

I don’t think so, but they desperately need to figure out a model whereby they can organically acquire relationships with businesses as quickly as possible. The key move for Foursquare is going to be in leveraging their very loyal (and growing) user base to generate the awareness among business owners for them. Someway or another Foursquare has got to find a way to either shame or fame their users into getting their favorite businesses to engage in the model and post deals.

If Foursquare can turn their user base into their “feet-on-the-street” sales force, their advertising model could be explosive. If not, they run the risk of “dying in the sand”, just as countless other local content and advertising ventures have, as they attempt to scale their direct relationships with local businesses.

I’m hoping they make the right moves in response the Yelp’s play for the space.

Posted at 9pm on 1/15/10 | no comments; | Tags: , , , , | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, local | read on

Menu Designers are Marketers

Great piece in NY Magazine about the marketing tricks that are built into the menu at Balthazare. I’ve long thought that good menu writers and designers are worth their weight in gold to restaurant owners. Now I’m convinced of it.

Posted at 11am on 1/3/10 | no comments; | Tags: , , , | Filed Under: General | read on

Sky Pond Redux

Mist rising on frozen pond near Kingston New Hampshire.

Mist rising on frozen pond near Kingston New Hampshire.

Posted at 6pm on 12/28/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: My Photography, Photography | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-12-08

  • love it. Sebasian Bach blogs about our Jeff Buckley Documentary "Amazing Grace": #

Posted at 11pm on 12/8/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: General | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-12-04

Posted at 11pm on 12/4/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Sudden Departure

Supposedly this is really from the desktop of a designer that came down with a case of the “sudden departures”… Too funny, but unfortunately also too often true.


Posted at 2am on 12/2/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: Funny, Product Development, Silicon Valley, Web Development | read on

Best Ad Disclosure I’ve Seen Yet

This is from the “what’s this” link in the Sponsored Deals section on

OK, yes, companies pay a little something to be Sponsored Deals. But we don’t allow just any old crap in this section. Sponsored Deals are proposed to us by other retailers, manufacturers, and even other daily deal sites. If we find the deal compelling enough that our members will appreciate us bringing it to their attention, we’ll feature it here. Believe it or not, we have a reputation to uphold. If your store would like to be considered for this space, contact xxxxx[at] for details. But if your deal is lame, or sketchy, no amount of money will let you buy your way in.

I love it.

Posted at 4pm on 11/25/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, Social Software, Web Development | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-11-24

Posted at 11pm on 11/24/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-11-21

Posted at 11pm on 11/21/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-11-13

Posted at 11pm on 11/13/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Google Buys Gizmo5

Further positioning itself as a provider of phone service. Gizmo is like Skype for those of you that don’t know the name. Another brick in the wall.

Exclusive: Google Has Acquired Gizmo5 .

Posted at 2am on 11/10/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, Social Software | read on

In the Eye of the Whale

This is incredible for so many reasons.

via Short Film: In the Eye of the Whale on Vimeo.

Posted at 2am on 11/7/09 | 1 comment | Tags: | Filed Under: Photography | read on

Google Rolls out Comparison Ads

This is a logical next step for AdWords. Just showing a bunch of text ads isn’t very helpful for most product oriented search queries.

What I find very interesting, is the Google used an anonymous inquiry model that keeps the user’s contact info private by providing proxy or masked phone numbers to the business.

This is a model that we rolled out on two years ago – except we took it further and extended the model to include email as well as phone due to the fact that most people prefer to manage the quote process via email until they have decided who to contract with.

It will also be interesting to see how they try to scale managing unique product dimensions and advertiser data entry.

Posted at 1pm on 11/4/09 | no comments; | Tags: , , | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, Search Engines | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-10-31

Posted at 12am on 10/31/09 | 1 comment | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Photo Scanning Service Comparison

Macworld is running a nice piece that compares the top photo/slide scanning services.

I’ve used ScanCafe to scan several thousand slides/negatives and have been really happy with the quality and price. They do an especially good job with black and white negatives which are much more difficult to scan due to lack of dust removal technologies that are available when scanning color.

Here is the ScanCafe flickr pool if you want to see people’s images.

Outsource your photo scanning projects | Digital Photo – Page 1 | Macworld.

Posted at 12pm on 10/27/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: Photography | read on

iPhone TomTom Car Kit now available

Where is Garmin on this? Are they really thinking that they can avoid the iPhone as a hardware platform?

TomTom Car Kit now available at Apple Store | Accessories | iPhone Central | Macworld.

Posted at 12pm on 10/26/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: Technology | read on

Lightroom 3 beta

Is out… looking forward to playing with the new Flickr integration and noise reduction features.

Lightroom 3 beta now available – Lightroom Journal.

Posted at 7pm on 10/22/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: Macintosh, Photography | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-10-20

Posted at 12am on 10/20/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Foursquare’s Local SEO

If you are a regular reader you’ll know that I’ve been excited about Foursquare and how it has the potential to create a new model for local advertising.

Brief recap is that Foursquare is local-mobile-social network that makes a game out of sharing the local venues that you frequent with your friends. Foursquare users “checkin” on their iPhone, add tips (sort of like tiny reviews), and get alerted when their friends do the same. It’s a local social discovery experience that plays out on your iPhone – for the most part.

What might not be so obvious is the part of Foursquare that plays out on the web. I’m not talking about the twitter notifications but rather the user and venue pages on

When a user “checks-in” or adds a tip for a venue, the fact is published to their user page and also indirectly to the page for that venue. This creates a constant stream of new content and an explicit recommendation metrics that can be used to gauge the popularity of the venue.

For example, here’s the venue page for the Peet’s Coffee around the corner from my office (yes, I’m the mayor) and here’s the venue page for Citizen Cake in SF.

Local search and Yellow Page publishers will be quick to notice that every venue visited by Foursquare users has a page. As these pages get more popular, they are starting to get indexed by the major search engines. Here’s a screenshot of a Google search for Grand Sichuan on Second Ave. in NYC. Notice the first listing. If I were the owner of Grand Sichuan I’d be leaning into Foursquare in big way right about now.

Yelp has demonstrated that frequently updated user generated content is a key ingredient to local SEO. Judging by the upward trend that they are seeing, I think we are going to see Foursquare start to steal organic traffic share from Internet Yellow Page players.

Posted at 8pm on 10/19/09 | 6 comments | Tags: , , , , | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, local, Social Software | read on

Web Display Ad Click Rate drops to 16%

Wow. This is bad news for online display advertising and it confirms my theory that there is a correlation between an Internet user’s propensity to click on display ads and how long they have been using the Internet. Said another way, as Internet adoption slows, the user population becomes more mature and click less on ads.

That said, a 50% drop in CTR (from 32% to 16%). is pretty massive.

However, I can’t say that I’m too surprised. I don’t know a single direct marketer that can get display advertising to convert for them unless the CPM (cost per thousand) is pennies.

Sadly the industry seems hell bent on chasing the click-through rate of display ads all the way to the bottom instead of admitting that it’s generally the wrong tool for online direct marketing.

On the other hand, whatever company cracks the code on delivering metrics that quantify an online display ad campaign’s impact on brand awareness is going to be well positioned to capture these display ad dollars. It’s amazing that no ad company has captured this ground yet.

Posted at 8pm on 10/12/09 | 2 comments | Tags: , | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, Product Development, Web Analytics | read on

Omni Group Partners with GTD Creator

This is good news. I’ve recently started using OmniFocus and have found it to be really well suited for implementing “getting things done” (GTD) principles. Definitely check out the PDF to see how OmniFocus maps onto your typical GTD process.

Omni Group to partner with GTD creator | Business Center | Macworld

Posted at 7pm on 10/12/09 | no comments; | Tags: , , , , , | Filed Under: Macintosh, Product Development, Technology | read on

Google Offers ‘Simple’ Ads for Small Businesses

Greg has a good post about Google’s New ‘Simple’ Ads for small businesses.

Google is finally coming around to the fact that their core Adwords product is too hard for small businesses and instead is now offering flat free pricing models that have typically been offered by Internet Yellow Page players.

If you are a small business, flat fee pricing on Google might be the best deal in town depending on your category and geographic service area. However, it’s going to be hard to tell without giving it a try for a while.

Google is slowly putting the pieces in place to consolidate the Internet yellow page market (maps, local business center, simple ads, etc.). If “simple ads” are a sign of things to come, Yellow Page players should be very concerned by this announcement.

However, IMHO, they are still missing a few important pieces of the Local puzzle:

  • Business Profile page/web site creation
  • Call tracking and reporting (can you say GoogleVoice for businesses?)
  • A social consumer review strategy on par with Yelp
  • Simple web analytics so that small businesses can track clicks/calls from IYP channels on thier dashboard

Watch this space closely.

Posted at 6pm on 10/6/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, local | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-10-05

Posted at 12am on 10/5/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-10-04

Posted at 12am on 10/4/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Foursquare – Fun and Disruptive Local Advertising

Thanks to Kevin (@kevinberk) for turning me on to Foursquare (@foursquare). I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first but being in the local search business I decided to persist and install it on my iPhone.

For those not familiar with it, Foursquare is a location based social network set around the notion of sharing the local places that you frequent with friends and indirectly with the broader community. That might initially sound a bit silly, but Foursquare wraps it up in a game dynamic by showering you with points for each “check-in” you do and ultimately crowning you the “Mayor” of an establishment/venue if you are the user who frequents it the most.

Aside from the bragging rights, users also get badges and leader-board stats. Your friends get a steady stream notifications throughout the day as you check-in from different spots. If a place that one of your friends visits catches your eye, you can add it to your to-do list.

Pretty cool and fun, but so far you are thinking this is just another Internet ego trip, right?

Well yes, but there is a brilliant business model lurking just beneath the surface…

Local businesses can offer special deals to Foursquare users. For example, as I was “checking-in” from my favorite Mediterranean lunch spot today in Palo Alto, Foursquare showed me that just a few blocks away The Blue Chalk Cafe was offering Foursquare mayors happy-hour drink prices all night long! All you have to do is show the waitress your iPhone and your mayor badge to be sipping $3 pitchers all night my friend.

One part local advertising, one part couponing, one part loyalty program, Foursquare could be a powerful cocktail for local businesses to use to drive traffic through their doors. The Twitter and Facebook integration plus the friend stream drives discovery or “awareness” as advertisers and agencies refer to it. Also, the badges and mayor status provide much needed accountability to the business owners doing the advertising. I’m pretty sure business owners will remember their mayor walking up and introducing themselves!

What Foursquare needs to do next IMHO, is make it super easy for local businesses to add their deals (right now it’s just a link to a google docs form) and provide some good analytics back to business owners. If they execute this right, then they will have a viral local advertising machine on their hands – as their user base will generate the awareness among business owners for them. I can just hear several Yellow Page executives I know cringing…

Word-of-mouth customer acquisition plus customer loyalty is a very unique combination to create in advertising and I think the folks at Foursquare might have cracked the code on this.

Posted at 2pm on 10/3/09 | 1 comment | Tags: , , , | Filed Under: Internet Marketing, local, Search Engines, Social Software | read on

Interrupting a Beam of Light

We were proud to attend the opening of this very cool exhibition in San Francisco tonight that was curated by my sister Rachel.

Here’s a bit about the show:

Interrupting a Beam of Light is an exhibition that focuses on contemporary works that deal with the wonder of natural and man-made phenomena, the nuances of magic, and the importance of retaining lore and myth in our everyday

This is the first show of Rachel’s that I’ve gotten to see and I was very impressed. I think you will be too, so be sure to check it out if you are in SF. It’s showing untill the end of October.

Needless to say, a good time was had by all. Awesome job Rachel. We are very proud of you.

Here are some photos from the opening:

Posted at 12am on 10/2/09 | 2 comments | Filed Under: General | read on

Hidden Stairway

Hidden Stairs

Discovered this hidden stairway as we explored the forest on the coast of southern Ireland. Kind of Elvish don’t you think?

Posted at 1am on 9/28/09 | 1 comment | Tags: , , | Filed Under: My Photography | read on

Italian police seize mafia boss’ pet crocodile

This probably is not only happening in Italy, but still…

Italian police seize mafia boss’ pet crocodile – Yahoo! News.

Posted at 12pm on 9/23/09 | no comments; | Filed Under: Only In Italy | read on

Random Thoughts for 2009-09-23

Posted at 12am on 9/23/09 | no comments; | Tags: | Filed Under: General | read on

Google Sync Now Pushes Gmail

Google just rolled out push e-mail for Gmail users on iPhone. This makes Google sync basically a free alternative to Apple’s MobileMe and now an even bigger pain in the ass for RIM.

Remember when you had to pay for “push e-mail”?

Official Google Mobile Blog: Google Sync: Now with push Gmail support.

Posted at 4pm on 9/22/09 | no comments; | Tags: , , , | Filed Under: Technology | read on

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