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How BlackBerry Hopes to Make Money From BBM

With business still weak on the handset side, BlackBerry is hoping its popular messaging service can start to bring in some cash.

With its handset business still struggling, BlackBerry is working on several options to generate revenue from its BBM messaging service in the next 12 months.

Among them is a plan for the company to charge businesses that want a more secure and audited version of BBM, and some other ways to make money off the consumer version.

“There isn’t a single monteization model here that needs to ubiquitously work or be forced on things,” said David Proulx, senior director of BBM Business Development.

On the consumer side, BlackBerry says it won’t put ads in messages themselves, but will add so-called sponsored channels as an option for brands that want to start a direct connection with consumers. BlackBerry will also start selling virtual goods — initially, stickers — through a new BBM store.

Support for the BBM store and sponsored channels will come through a BBM software update, expected to arrive next week.

The new plans include another option, which we reported last month, that called for BlackBerry to use BBM as a means to send money.

“Because we are, by nature, private and secure and reliable and regulatory-compliant, we are ideally suited to bring value in mobile money and financial services,” said Proulx. A BBM person-to-person money transfer service has been in trials in Indonesia, but Proulx said to expect BlackBerry to expand to more countries and more services this year. One area of keen interest is international transfers, Proulx said.

In order to profit from any of these things, though, BlackBerry has to make sure that the messaging service continues to keep up its usage amid competition from a host of rivals including WhatsApp and Line, along with Apple’s iMessage and Google’s Hangouts. The company has been working to boost the usage of BBM through deals with carriers and hardware makers, including recent pacts with LG and Nokia.

Proulx said the company knows it has to walk a fine line as it looks to boost revenue to ensure it doesn’t hurt its user base.

“You can’t pretend that Version Zero of any of these things is going to strike that balance perfectly,” he said, but added, “at no point will we compromise the utility of BBM.”

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