BlackBerry Reveals Plan to Monetize BBM App with Brand Sponsorships and Virtual Good Sales

Alongside a robust patent portfolio and a reputation for trusted security, BlackBerry Messenger is today one of BlackBerry’s most valuable assets.

But—until now—it hasn’t generated any revenues for the struggling company.

BBM has come a long way in the past year, expanding to all major mobile platforms and consequently expanding its userbase substantially. Now it’s going to (hopefully) bring in much-needed revenue for the struggling smartphone maker who develops it.

The next update to BBM, due soon, wil aim to monetize through sponsorships with brand names and microtransactions for virtual goods (think “stickers,” or over-sized emoticons mostly popular in overseas Asian markets). BlackBerry affirms the app will remain completely free and any money-generating features will not negatively interfere with the user experience.

“At no point should monetization come at the expense of the user,” David Proulx, senior director of BBM Business Development, said at a meeting with reporters Tuesday. “Approaches we’re taking all—in their own way—add incremental value to the BBM experience.”

Given that Facebook recently paid a staggering $19 billion for instant messaging platform WhatsApp, it’s crucial for BlackBerry—whose current market value is merely one-third of that acquisition cost—to bolster the value of BBM if it ever wants to revive its glory days.