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Can 'Loser' App Foursquare Survive?

Stocks in this article: FB GOOG AAPL P YELP

Weak social engagement. Twitter, Facebook and even random others have it covered. Strike one.

If I want directions, I use Google (GOOG) or Apple (AAPL) Maps. That's a big deal for Foursquare even if the company doesn't realize it.

Foursquare needs to be more than a check-in app. It needs to be, like Pandora (P), hyper-focused on discovery and personalization.

When I need to know my surroundings, I call up Google Maps when I want to type and I holler at Apple's Siri when I want to speak.

Consider the experience with Siri. I say, "Directions to an Italian Restaurant" and, within seconds, it spits out a list and directs me to tap the one I want directions too. At that point, I can say, "Play 'Scenes From an Italian Restaurant' " and it pulls up the Billy Joel classic in my iTunes library.

By the time I get to my destination, Foursquare, now an afterthought, never really had the chance to do anything for me. Strike two.

There's more to cover in category B, such as you go to Yelp (YELP) for reviews and Open Table (OPEN) for reservations. Foursquare owns none of this. None of it.

But, we only have time for A. And that will not take long.

I live in Santa Monica, part of the booming Southern California metropolis. It's next to impossible to find check-in deals at local businesses when I fire up Foursquare. I check in, get points, find out if I'm the "Mayor" and check out.

Am I just located in one of those odd geographic pockets where few check-in specials exist? Has Foursquare still not built out an advertising sales team large enough to saturate the nation's second largest market?

Whatever the answer, it's a problem. The future of mobile platforms such as Foursquare and Pandora is local. Foursquare needs to do better than "Promoted" businesses -- an obvious Twitter knock-off with far less appeal, hidden under the "Explore" tab of the only-slightly-intuitive Foursquare app.

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