BBM is looking to monetize its messaging platform sooner rather than later, at least judging by a new preview update for the app being pushed to Beta Zone members today (via MobileSyrup). The update adds two types of in-app ads to BBM, including sponsored invites for BBM Channels, and sponsored channel posts. Really, they are not unlike the promoted Tweets and FB posts that those two social networks use in part to monetize.
BlackBerry’s ads for BBM put either sponsored invitations to join a Channel in the “Invites” tab of the app, or put sponsored content right in the “Updates” tab. It’s live for Android beta users, but is said to be planned for iOS and Windows Phone users, too. BlackBerry natives who use BBM might be spared any ads whatsoever, however, according to reports, meaning that this is essentially just a tax levied on users that are running BlackBerry competitor mobile operating systems.
Of course, BlackBerry sells this as a value-add feature in its release notes somehow, and even goes so far as to warn users that they “MUST stay on this version of BBM to receive ads,” while also noting that since ads might not appear right away, users should “be patient and keep an eye out when using BBM.”
It’s highly, highly unlikely that any end users see sponsored content as a “feature” to get excited about, but BlackBerry’s approach to in-app ads seems mostly inoffensive on the whole. The ultimate effect will depend on frequency and nature of content promoted, of course, but at least ads aren’t showing up in your conversations or anything.
BlackBerry is looking to mature the platform, CEO John Chen said recently, perhaps with an eye to eventually earning somewhere close to the $19 billion exit that competitor WhatsApp struck upon. Trying out ads gives it a revenue model to explore if it wants to run the service in-house over the long term, but it’ll be interesting to see how and where this strategy is applied with its wider roll-out.
Other monetization options on the table include adding money-transfer services to BBM. The company debuted a program to do just that last year in Indonesia and reiterated that it was exploring further possibilities for that project earlier this month at MWC in Barcelona.