Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Widgets Craze In Full View

Widgets Craze In Full View

by Tameka Kee, Wednesday, Sep 26, 2007 6:00 AM ET


AT OMMA'S WIDGET SESSION TRACK on Tuesday, executives from RockYou and, two companies at the forefront of the widget craze, said
their portable applications netted 90 million and 134 million unique
monthly page views respectively (and Slide didn't even count Facebook

But when asked how many of those viewers had actually loaded the widget
onto their page, the numbers dropped to about 15-20 million for RockYou,
and 30 million for Slide--roughly one out of five for both companies.
This distinction between page views and actual user engagement with
widgets (and ultimately, the brands associated with them) was a focal
point of the panel's discussion.

According to panel moderator Seth Goldstein, CEO of the Facebook ad
network SocialMedia, the widget "users-to-viewers" ratio was an
important takeaway for all marketers in attendance. "The big numbers you
hear are people that are passively encountering the widget," said
Goldstein. "And any time a company can throw out [stats] in the millions
and billions, that's a sign of where dollars are going to go. But it's
the level of engagement for marketers that's the question mark."

Goldstein also tasked the panelists with spelling out the difference
between portable applications and widgets, as the terms are often used
simultaneously--adding "confusion to the hype" surrounding a medium with
clear, but slightly misunderstood, potential.

According to Sonya Chawla, senior director of ad sales at,
"We're open to every platform. Some people call them widgets, Google
calls them Gadgets--but we call them TV boxes internally because it's
like letting users take a little TV and put it on their own profile

"A widget is a simplified app," said Maurice Boissiere, vice president
of client services of the widget development and management firm,
Clearspring Technologies. "They can have dynamic functionality, like the
ability to make content fresh and relevant, but not the two-way
communication of a deep application that's fully integrated into a
social graph like Facebook. But I think both terms will stay around."

The panelists agreed that publishers or advertisers planning to use
widgets need to make sure they have enough quality content to feed them
with and an actual strategy for promoting them--because widgets don't
just go viral by chance. "Viral growth is engineered," said Goldstein.

"You can't just build a widget, put it somewhere and they come," said
Boissiere. "The initial burst comes from seeding a widget inline with
content. Users are going to for content around 'The
Office'--they're not going to go to Facebook first to get that content."

According to the panelists, the recent wave of publisher and advertiser
interest in widgets was arguably tied to Facebook's decision to open its
platform to developers. "With an app on Facebook, you as an advertiser
can build a multipage experience that goes beyond just a widget," said
Ro Choy, head of business development, RockYou. "You can create a
microsite in a user profile."

Choy added that the widget's success also depends on building real
functionality into the application. "You have to create an experience--a
reason for users to invite their friends to that application," said
Choy. "The engagement of the social network user is tied to the
platform, so if it sits directly on the page, it's easier for a user to
invite their friends and engage with it."

Chawla added that applications and widgets are the way to go for
advertisers targeting social networkers, as brands like Cover Girl and
content partners like MGA Entertainment and CNN have already run
successful widget campaigns. "People are so engaged in the social
network, if you require them to leave to monetize them, you'll never
win," said Goldstein. "It's selling against what they want to do. You
build an app where they stay, and you use it for branding, direct
response or to get some data."

Tameka Kee can be reached at

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