I just began to understand the value of FourSquare's strategy to partner with content providers. I thought I understood partners like Zagat recommending better restaurants or to dos, but I recently checked in to Merc bar and was told by Bravo to go to Paul Smith. By choosing to "follow" them to get a badge, I essentially opted in to them pushing me content.
If you think about this closely, this is essentially a proactive magazine, pushing me content when it's most easily actionable i.e. when I'm nearby. Of course the content itself is a form of advertising. Go here, buy this.
So another way to think about this is me opting-in to local ad networks, based on brand affinity (ex. Bravo, Zagat, WSJ, etc.).
I opted-in because I wanted a badge and I wanted to experiment, but over the long term this strategy can only be successful if I care about the badge that much (limited once you get the badge), if the content provider negotiates better deals (couponing as advertising) or the info is insightful and wanted (content as advertising).
As banner ads continue to die as we get better at ignoring them (just like tv commercials) advertising will continue to be integrated into service and content (just like TV). FourSquare's content strategy is an interesting development that allows them to plug in content providers or in other words ad networks. They need to be smart about controlling the marketplace, but it's a brilliant idea.