First up, Loopt [iTunes link] has announced a partnership with a company called Mobile Spinach to start trying to monetize this kind of app usage. Mobile Spinach delivers local ads, and Loopt says that it'll be using their location-based social networking service to bring specials and deals to users from wherever they check-in from. Note that while Apple doesn't necessarily want location-based advertising as the sole purpose of an app, it seems to be all right with location-based advertising as an extra feature like this. Loopt tells us at TUAW that it's a great deal for the company, as it is "an easier and cost-effective way to do online/mobile advertising," and that it means "Loopt users can get great free offers on everyday things they want in need just by walking around in the neighborhood." It'll be interesting to see just how useful this extra advertising can be.
After the link below, read about how MyTown finally got the success they'd been hoping for.
Elsewhere in check-in app news, PocketGamer has an interesting interview with Keith Lee of Booyah about their extremely popular MyTown check-in app. It's been fascinating to follow these guys -- they're former Blizzard devs, and their first app called Booyah Society, had some good ideas but failed to impress. So they went back to the drawing board, and MyTown [iTunes link] (which I've been playing with lately) has definitely made a few steps forward. As Lee points out, they looked at how they could better validate what people were doing, and they also upped the "gaming" side of it -- you can earn points and money and even buy the properties you check in from to create your own kind of social networking city. And then when other people check in from the properties that you "buy," you earn "rent."
Lee says they really pushed on iteration and what felt fun for the team -- he says that they had a few different expectations for Booyah Society, but that the relative failure of that app helped them learn a lot about which directions to go with on MyTown. Lee also talks about monetization -- the app currently has a partnership with Citysearch (so you can easily access news and information about the places you check-in from), but they're just running in-app ads, not necessarily anything tied to location yet. The app also has some in-app purchases -- Lee says that they wanted to design for both the occasionally "check-in" user as well as the social "spammer," so there are a few ways that the game balances those two types of players out so everyone levels at a fair rate.
Very interesting stuff. With their pedigree, it's not surprising that Booyah eventually hit gold with MyTown, but the way they did it is really fascinating. I think we're only scratching the surface of these check-in apps, whether you like them or not. As they get more competitive and more popular, we'll really start to see some major innovation happening.