My friend Mike Boland (BIA/Kelsey) discusses check-ins, geo-location startups and monetization over at SearchEngineWatch:
(…) But in all of the excitement, there’s still something missing; a clearly defined path to monetization. Some of the players mentioned above are exceptions with national advertisers, and other revenue streams such as carrier deals. (…)
The problem is that this ignores what those in local space have known for years; self-provisioning ain’t that simple. But the line is still the same from newcomers to the geo-location game: “Why wouldn’t any SMB want to sign up for something that drives foot traffic into their store or restaurant?”
In theory, I agree. But the thinking falls apart with the reality that most SMBs don’t have the time, technical competence, and inclination to launch and manage these promotions. Plus, don’t forget the complexity of countless sales reps and new digital options flying at them from all angles. (…)
What it means: Monetizing online “local” is very difficult. Even Google has had difficulties with it. The only ones who have been massively successful are directory publishers but they forgot to take care of users all these years. It’s difficult to monetize but not impossible. Just look at Groupon. And I think we’re starting to see savvier small merchants out there, who are starting to use the Web in a very strategic fashion. But it will take time.