Foursquare Teams With Zagat to Make Yelp Squeal

Foursquare is looking beyond virtual badges to high-profile content brands to give it a leg up on competitors such as Gowalla and Yelp.┬áThe company said today it’s inked a deal with Zagat to enable users to access restaurant reviews and recommendations, according to the New York Times. And AdAge reports it’s in the process of deploying promotional campaigns for HBO and Warner Brothers. The moves follow its recent tie-up with Bravo Media as well as a deal with the Canadian version of Metro that will provide users with local news content as they check in. The strategy appears to be about making Foursquare fun AND functional.

The Zagat agreement is a counterpunch to Yelp, which last month continued to take its offering to mobile by launching check-ins for iPhone (s aapl) users. (The friend-finding app Loopt has joined the bandagon, too, adding local reviews two months ago.) And the flurry of new partnerships continues a roll that has seen Foursquare close in on 300,000 users — roughly tripling the base of its rival Gowalla — as it expands to 50 new cities.

The deals will give Foursquare a chance to gain mainstream exposure by opening the door for nationwide cross-promotion through well-known media companies, and will enable Foursquare to continue to gradually introduce sponsors to its users. Most importantly, though, partners like Zagat and Metro bring value to an offering that’s essentially a friend-finding service. Foursquare’s fun, gaming-style service has built considerable momentum — and is the reason it has become Om’s favorite mobile app — but virtual pats on the back and mayoral crowns will only go so far. The addition of valuable, location-based content will be crucial if Foursquare is to move beyond early adopters and into the mass market.

Image courtesy Flickr user cambodia4kidsorg.