What Growth In Widget Networks Means To The Web Strategist

Why Web Strategists should consider widgets
Expect widgets to act like a network, the span over many different containers like social networks, websites, and blogs. Since widgets are opt-in by the publisher or social network member, it’s a great way to track who’s actually interested in the content. As a result, the opportunity for more sophisticated marketing and advertising moves from carpet bombing to opt-in nearly GPS radar-like accuracy.

First, understand the distributed web strategy
Need to get up to speed on this, start with my primer on web marketing is distributed, not on two domains alone, followed up by a former CMOs perspective on the distributed web. Getting users to come to your corporate website is not the only goal, savvy fisherman fish where the fish are.

New players as widget networks emerge
I’m closely watching the widget industry with colleague Charlene Li. This time last year, there were no widgets in Facebook, and now there are over 13,000. I recognize that this is a growth market Widget ad revenue was estimated at about $20 million in 2007, or about one-thousandth of Internet advertising as a whole. According to the new comScore data for November, Slide claimed almost 144 million unique viewers, for a 16% market share, and RockYou claimed a 11.7% share, with 104 million individual viewers. In July, Slide had 130 million individual users, or a 15% share, while RockYou boasted 96 million users, or 11.1% of the total. (stats via MSNBC)

Spending low, but expect growth
According to the data (from Comscore) that 6% of internet advertising dollars were being spent on social networks, and only a fraction currently is spent on widgets. Expect that to grow in both camps. Widget networks aren’t limited to social networks alone, in many cases, they can be repurposed for mobile devices as well as standalone embeds on websites and blogs.

Measurement key as dollars shift
The article states that some of the growth is capped due to lack of measurement (a good reason why I created this list of widget measurement companies). You’ll need to measure to show success, as well as make in-flight course corrections in near real time.

Expectations in 2008
So, expect widget networks like Slide, Rockyou, Widgetbox, Watercooler, and many many others, to become like syndicated networks, offer self-serve advertising, begin to offer metrics, and offer unique co-branded, and co-sponsored marketing campaigns to brands. Two of these networks will likely be acquired by large media or internet companies in the next 11 months.

Case Study: Forbes Widgets
Here’s a case of a company letting go to the distributed web, I just ran into the Forbes site, and saw they had a full page devoted to widgets, that let it’s content, and brand spread of it’s site. Interesting that it’s sponsor, in this case Visa, goes with it.

What you should do
First, determine if your community and marketplace is using widgets, do research. If so, seek one of those widget networks, and trail an advertising campaign that will match to your right community. Don’t try to recreate a widget, leave it to the experts, and likely, your interactive firm won’t do it well, these are very specialized products. Rather than have the widget network vendor recreate a new widget, leverage an existing one by sponsorship, rebranding, or integrating with a unique marketing campaign.

  • http://amichitwood.blogspot.com Ami Chitwood

    Great information as usual. Curious what you are seeing companies doing with widgets in MY favorite place “behind the firewall?”

    What role do widgets play in intranet development, for example.

    Thanks!
    (I’m the voice of E2E – because Employees are Customers, too.)

  • http://www.iowaavenue.com IAAdmin

    I’m working on a few widgets as we speak. It’s a great way to “spread the love” so to speak.

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  • http://www.music.bodoglife.net Adam Gershenbaum

    You are so right about the what you should do paragraph.

    Unless you are going to be able to create a widget that outshines or revolutionizes what is out there now, just take advantage of the great work some of these company’s are doing. They have huge networks and it’s better to try to land a front page feature, create custom skin to fit your brand, and maybe gain some editorial space on the site than to recreate the wheel and try to compete with these well established sites for rank.

    Re: Ami Chitwood: The company I work for has our own company wiki on the network a secure instant messaging client as well as a project management tool. I am thinking of setting up a streaming video of me at my desk as well. It would be great if I can integrate all these things plus email into one widget. There is a beta version of an email client that is like email 2.0 at http://www.xobni.com. It is invite only right now. I think has great potential. Still waiting for my invite to try it out myself! Xobni if you are reading, send me an invite already haha :)

  • http://beth.typepad.com Beth Kanter

    Jeremiah,

    Last year did an analysis of how widgets can build communities for nonprofits (screencast, etc) in prep for a nonprofit tech panel on the topic with Marshall K.
    http://nonprofitwidget.wikispaces.com/

    I agree with point about doing research post – asking is your community already using widgets?

    Seems like survey of web site visitors would be a great way to gather information. But, do you know if there are any published (free) studies of the demographics and technographics of widget users?

    Also, in terms of the execution of strategy for an organization – the don’t build it yourself is great advice. I wonder though, how effective it is to have the widgets in a widget ghetto on the corporate website versus integrated with other content and conversations. You probably need to have both – and I suspect the Forbe sites does but didn’t really look at closely.

    The America’s Giving Challenge is using a rebranded widget from widgetbox — that’s what I am using for the Cambodian campaign – http://americagivingchallenge.wikispaces.com/

    The bottom line is that if you slap widgets on your web site without a strategy for spreading, they don’t spread themselves.

  • http://furrier.org John Furrier

    As you know Jeremiah I’m watching the widgets myself. Don’t forget Clearspring.

    Widgets represent the application layer for web 2.0. I’d like to know who has the platform or system social software??? Hmmmm

    http://furrier.org

  • http://furrier.org John Furrier

    Sorry Jeremiah just saw the link to analytics where you mentioned Clearspring.

    Great post as usual. There is a bigger picture going on here.. very interesting area…keep the coverage..

    thanks

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    John

    Keep us updated.

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  • http://www.widgify.com Hooman Radfar

    Great post. I definitely agree that widget networks are going to be a huge growth area this year. Clearspring is doing a lot of work on this front in terms of leading monetization and distribution networks. Look forward to speaking with you on it soon! :)

  • http://blog.musestorm.com/blog/ Ori Soen

    Jeremiah,

    Metrics / analytics are key to widget market growth, no doubt. Without real interaction metrics, growth will not happen (impression numbers alone are not enough for advertisers and marketers).

    Check out the work MuseStorm is doing in the field – only platform with deep analytics into interaction/engagement + REAL cross platform capabilities.

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