For the last panel of the day at paidContent Mobile, moderator Ernie Sander, managing editor for ContentNext Media, asked what the biggest problems facing mobile, from a content perspective, are. For Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley, and anyone in the room who wasn’t tethered to their computer, the problem is battery life. Faulty GPS is another pet peeve. In terms of future hopes for mobile, Crowley is looking forward to phones that are “passively aware” and have augmented reality, where “you hold up your phone and see a subway two blocks away.”
For Michael Zimbalist, VP, Research & Development Operations for The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT), one of the biggest problems is trying to find greater, cheaper bandwidth. “This is something that still constrains us,” he said.
While the problems of batteries and bandwidth is beyond what Foursquare can directly address, one area it can control is development of its business model. “We’re looking at ways can we help local merchants connect with customers. “Our data set is fascinating: it’s all about who goes where and when and how long do they stay,” Crowley said. He describes approaching merchants by offering to find out whether their regular customers have abandoned them and how they can target them to get them back. In addition, Foursquare is also working on ways of helping merchants attract the kinds of customers they want. “This is all very 1.0 for us.”
Another sore spot for mobile content creators is dealing with carriers. One of the big differences between Foursquare and Crowley’s last start-up, Dodgeball, which was bought and killed by Google (NSDQ: GOOG), is that “we are no longer at the mercy of the carriers. At worst, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) might reject [our app] once or twice, but it’s not the same situation.”
Crowley also discussed ways that Foursquare can help traditional media outlets. To illustrate, he mentioned that a reader of local city guide Time (NYSE: TWX) Out New York will get the issue early in the week, then make some plans based on reviews and recommendations. By the end of the week, the magazine has been tossed aside and the plans made earlier have gone nowhere. “There’s all kinds of content that we can somehow revive and make useful.”