Foursquare’s Crowdsourced Travel Guide — the Future of User Reviews?

Most Twitter and Facebook users have gotten used to asking their social networks for tips on which hot restaurants, bars and other spots are worth visiting. Now Foursquare and the Independent Film Channel have teamed up to create a travel guide using the same kind of crowdsourcing philosophy, providing a glimpse of what curated user reviews combined with real-time location can produce. The guide, which appears on the Foursquare website, includes recommendations from users of the location-based service as well as fans of the IFC, and Foursquare users who check in to more than three of the locations in the guide get a special badge.

The film channel and Foursquare asked users to submit their favorite restaurant, bar or other attraction that shared what the IFC calls its “off-kilter sensibility,” and then the channel chose the 100 best locations for the guide. In keeping with the IFC’s new tagline, “Always On. Slightly Off,” the guide is called “The IFC Always On. Slightly Off. Guide to America.” When users of Foursquare check in near one of the locations in the guide, a description will pop up with a suggestion that they visit the spot — a list that includes The Other Side Cafe in Boston and Cardullo’s chocolate shop in Cambridge, N.H.

The Foursquare-IFC guide is aimed at fans of the film channel’s alternative brand, but in many ways the guide is an example of how crowdsourced reviews could disrupt the business models not just of traditional review providers such as Michelin or Zagat, but also digital review-based services such as Yelp. Although the latter has added Foursquare-style check-ins in an attempt to keep pace with the location-based service, Om has noted before how the combination of real-time reviews — whether on Twitter or elsewhere –and the magic of location creates a potent combination that is difficult for many services to match.

Reading reviews of restaurants, bars, theatres and other services is something that most Internet users take for granted, whether it’s through Yelp, Urbanspoon or many other apps and services. But the killer feature for businesses that use these services is to reach someone when they are both motivated (i.e. hungry, thirsty or bored) and when they are nearby — and crowdsourced guides like the one that IFC and Foursquare have created give us a view of what that future might look like, with location front and center as part of the experience. The IFC guide also suggests what might be possible for a range of different brands that want to connect with their fans by aggregating their recommendations in a similar way.

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