When BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY) opened up its popular messaging application, BBM, to iOS and Android last year, it more than doubled the user base in the first two months. The company said in its most recent earnings call that it had 80 million active users, with 60% of them using BBM every day.
But like with Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR), both before its IPO last year and since, the question is whether there is any money in it.
BlackBerry is looking to advertising to generate revenue. Select companies will be able to connect with users who follow their brands through the BBM Channel platform. Businesses will pay for sponsored ads and other paid kinds of interaction. But BlackBerry assures users that sponsored posts will be clearly marked as such and they will be limited in frequency.
The next iteration of BBM is due to roll out next week. Besides sponsored posts, it reportedly also will include virtual stickers from the BBM Shop. In the United States, stickers are mainly of interest to younger users, but they are more popular in Asia. Down the road, the BBM Shop is expected to offer other virtual wares.
Clearly Mobile messaging services are hot these days. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) recently paid $19 billion for WhatsApp. And Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba led a financing round of $280 million in messaging app Tango. Some are predicting that these apps eventually will go beyond their core chat functions and allow for other kinds of services. Could they become the next big thing, becoming indispensable to users? If so, that would be welcome news to BlackBerry.