Archive for February, 2008

Widgets are the new ad kid on the block

February 28, 2008

By Elinor Mills
Staff Writer, CNET

 Forget static banners. Online ads are evolving into mini-applications with video, games, and dynamic content that people like enough to embed in their own Web pages and share with others.

These widget ads aren’t commonplace yet, but they are cropping up more and more, further blurring the line between advertising and content. For some it will come as an improvement over flashing emoticons, dancing silhouettes, and expandable text boxes that cover up the item you want to read on a page.

Many people are already using desktop widgets, which are small applications that update dynamically and offer a limited function for things like calendar, clock, weather, and news or RSS feeds. Yahoo offers them, as do Microsoft and Google, who call them “gadgets.”

Then there are the thousands of widgets on Facebook, things like Slide for photo slide shows and iLike for music recommendations, which have boosted the popularity of the social-networking site.

The interactivity and viral nature of widgets make them attractive to marketers looking for new ways to expand their audience. Brand advertisers are jumping on the widget ad bandwagon at a rapid clip.

“This is an effective way for marketers to share their brand with influencers out there…It has to be compelling enough for someone to want to grab it and place it onto their page.”
–Peter Kim, president of Interpolls This week, Ford will be launching a new online ad campaign using widgets that will run on AOL sites. The widgets advertise Sync, an in-car system that lets you speak commands to use a mobile phone and digital music device. Sync is powered by Microsoft.

The Sync widget ad lets you download a free song or view a number of short humorous videos, and offers more information about the product. You can also grab the widget and embed it into other sites.

“This is an effective way for marketers to share their brand with influencers out there,” said Peter Kim, president of Interpolls, which is hosting the Sync widget ads, as well as tracking their performance even as they get passed on to blogs, RSS readers, social networks, and home pages across the Web. “It has to be compelling enough for someone to want to grab it and place it onto their page,” he said.

If the Sync widget ad doesn’t grab you, maybe the widget ad for the Warner Brothers film August Rush will. It’s got photos, a trailer of the movie, and lets you find show times for theaters near you based on your zip code.

Then there’s the Interpolls widget ad for dating site eHarmony that has rotating questions about dating. If your curiosity is piqued, you’ll answer the question and a pop-up window will tell you the correct answer (45 marriages each day are “fostered” through eHarmony, according to the widget ad), while offering you a sign-up form for a free personality profile.

Other widget ads let you buy tickets and make other transactions and e-mail the ads around. “These widget ads can help qualify users for clients,” Kim said.

Last week, PointRoll launched what it calls SnaggableAds, which are distributed over Clearspring Technologies’ Widget Ad Network. These ads can be animated cartoons, videos, and games, such as one similar to Space Invaders.

Real-time feedback
Beyond the viral distribution aspect, marketers are attracted to the tracking and reporting that Interpolls and PointRoll can offer. Interpolls, for example, offers real-time data on how many times and in what way people have interacted with a particular widget ad. It also tracks how many times the ad has been grabbed and where it’s been embedded–whether it was in a specific blog, Facebook or iGoogle. The ad companies also track all interactions within the widget ads that have been grabbed.

“We’re tracking all the impressions of the ads that were served,” said Kim. “Then we track every single response to the question or click to any of the features, as well as any interactions on subsequent panels.”

Even Google has gotten in on the act, launching a beta of Google Gadget Ads three months ago. The ads are served on Google’s content network, which reaches 800 million people, said Christian Oestlien, product manager of Google Gadget Ads.  

And Honda Civic partnered with pop punk band Fall Out Boy and created gadget ads in which people could submit questions to the band and receive answers, Kim said.

The gadget ads allow marketers a “more emotional response than they are used to in their traditional campaigns,” he said.

“In the future, this is probably going to be the model for all advertising across media, but we’re still in the early stage of the evolution of these things,” said Andrew Frank, a research director at Gartner. Down the road, we’ll see mobile widgets, TV widgets, widget-enabled devices like Chumby, and widget ads in games and other interactive content, he predicted.

However, it’s premature to say if the ads are all that much more effective than traditional banner ads, said Tim Hanlon, executive vice president at Denuo, the media futures arm of ad firm Publicis Group. “It is very early for this hyper-distribution scenario for content, let alone the advertising component of it,” he said.

One thing is certain, there will be only more “widgetization” of content and ads, particularly when the distribution is so easy. “This lets advertisers bypass media properties and communicate directly with consumers,” Hanlon said


Consumers who are Content Creators, Views and Aggregators

February 11, 2008

Not everyone is a content creator. Open up any report of statistics on social media, and you will usually see some standard ratio of content consumers to content creators that typically ranges from 1 in 10, or less.

This means, on average, that in most communities less than 10% of the individuals in that community are creating content. This post is about the biggest myth many people believe about the other 90%. The easiest way to describe behaviour online is by breaking it into two buckets: content creators and content consumers. The creators make the content, and the consumers watch, read or listen to it. If you think about this in relation to business, the correlation would be businesses and brands that make something, and consumers who purchase it. The problem with this model is that it forgets the third leg of the model: the middleman. In business, this is usually someone who facilitates transactions between two others. So, if business has this additional layer, why shouldn’t content and media?

Actually, it does and it always has. This layer, of course, is alternately called the editors, producers, studios, or just about any other title you want to put on the layer of people who decide what content we get to see. As consumer generated media has gotten more and more popular and prevalent, it is easy to believe that this middle layer is vanishing. After all, everyone is talking about the democratization of media and how it means that anyone with a message can reach anyone else without being forced to go through the gatekeepers in media. In some regards, it is. But there is a phenomenon taking its place that brands need to start paying more attention to, because of the impact it has on public perception about their brand.

This phenomenon is called microsharing and it refers to the act of individuals sharing pieces of content with others in a group who have similar interests or needs. Some common activities today that would constitute microsharing range from saving a link on to posting an interesting story or video on Digg. Tagging an existing piece of content or using a “send to a friend form” are also examples of this. The most interesting thing is that as the volume of content continues to increase, more and more people rely on this microsharing to get the information they need. It is the new editorial model, and the editor is each of us.

The implication for brands in this is clear. There are certain individuals who are tastemakers and influencers. They are the ones who apply their own lens to content out there, and sift through it to provide a boiled down list of what people should pay attention to. They are not so much content creators as they are content aggregators, and they serve an important role. The next time you put together a social media strategy dedicated to getting people to create content and others to consume it … make sure you also have a smart way of engaging those who will be microsharing it. This is a population of people you can’t afford to ignore anymore.

By Rohit Bhargava
Expert Author
Article Date: 2008-02-05

What is a widget and how can it be used in marketing?

February 11, 2008

What the heck is a widget, or what is sometimes called a gadget, badge, module, capsule, snippet, plug-in, mini or flake?

Widgets are basically embedded code in an HTML page. And whatever you call them, they are popping up all over the Internet.

Since Facebook opened up to third-party applications in May 2007, nearly 15,000 applications have been developed. Overall, some 100,000 developers are working on widgets and applications worldwide.

All the excitement aside, eMarketer estimates that US companies will spend only $40 million in 2008 to create, promote and distribute widgets, up from $15 million in 2007.

The figures do not include desktop widgets, which are downloaded and used by a single user.

”Despite the level of activity, questions about the future of widgets and applications persist,” says Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer Senior Analyst and author of the new report, Web Widget and Applications: Destination Unknown, “Are they a fad or are they the future of Internet marketing?”

Concerns related to Web widgets and applications include “application burnout,” measurement difficulties, distribution challenges and deceptive techniques used by some widget developers to increase their installation rate.

But for every nay-sayer, widgets also have many proponents.

In a sign of how much widgets have intrigued the marketing community, 58% of attendees at last December’s iMedia Agency Summit said they thought widgets would play a bigger role in their strategy than mobile.

”The online landscape continues to evolve,” says Ms. Williamson. “Even as the audience is fragmenting, young people are spending more and more time within social networks, leaving less time for other Web activities.”

According to a Dynamic Logic survey, 51% of Internet users ages 18 to 34 reported visiting a social network site at least once every few days.

”Some people believe that social networks are becoming ‘walled gardens,’” says Ms. Williamson. “So many advertisers are experimenting with widgets as a way to penetrate them.”

Widgets would seem to be a natural fit in a world where consumers time-shift television, check user reviews before they buy, mash up Web content from various sources and spend hours customizing their social network profile pages.

“One of the hallmarks of Web marketing and media over the past year has been decentralization and syndication,” says Ms. Williamson. “The general idea is to reach consumers where they spend their time, rather than force them to come to a destination.”

The widget industry supports this idea wholesale.

“The days of digital ad sales where you buy a banner and [consumers] click on it and go to a Web site, that’s dead,” says Chris Cunningham, founder of a the widget and application marketing company AppsSavvy. “The idea that media companies or brands need to make a destination of their own is completely flawed. Rather than drag people to a destination, [companies can] take some content they want to showcase and bring it to people.”

”Given the grand ambitions of the widget and application market, and the social networks that support them,” says Ms. Williamson, “the business still has a lot of growing up to do before it can attract significant dollars from major marketers.”

Find out where widgets are headed, download the new eMarketer report, Web Widget and Applications: Destination Unknown, today.

Who’s watching user generated videos

February 11, 2008

 User-generated videos (UGVs) tallied 22 billion views in 2007, up 70% over 2006, according to Accustream iMedia Research‘s “UGV 2005 – 2008: Mania Meets Mainstream” report.
Paul A. Palumbo, research director at Accustream, told eMarketer that the 22 billion views was a worldwide figure. In other words, user-generated videos on US-based Web sites drew 22 billion views from users worldwide.

User-Generated Online Video Views in the US, 2005-2008 (billions)

Accustream said that user-generated videos had an average of 10,695 views in 2007., which emphasized category expansion and more professional content, had the highest average number of views among the sites measured, with 216,596 per video.

Who is watching all this homegrown video?

Harris Interactive asked US adult Internet users about the types of online video they would like to see more. The supply of UGV was apparently sufficient for most of those surveyed, since it drew the lowest response rates. However, young adults were most likely to want more user-generated video.

Online Video Content Categories that US Adult Internet Users Would Watch a Lot More if Available, by Age, November 2007 (% of respondents)

An even more detailed picture of UGV viewer demographics came from the “Annual Gadgets Survey 2007” by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which profiled active adult users of video-sharing sites where many UGVs are hosted. Pew found that more than half of these site visitors were 18 to 29 years old.

Demographic Profile of US Adult Internet Users Who Actively* Visited Video-Sharing Web Sites, December 2006 & December 2007 (% of respondents in each group)

That is a far more lopsided age distribution than is found among online video viewers overall.

A separate Pew study found that while more than three-quarters of 18-to-29-year-old Internet users had watched some type of online video in February or March 2007, more than half of 30-to-49-year-old Internet users had viewed online video as well.

Nearly four out of 10 Internet users 65 and older had also tuned in, proving that the general online video audience is not exclusively young.

Demographic Profile of US Online Video Viewers, February-March 2007 (% of respondents in each group)

Online videos viewing in general is no longer a niche activity and is widespread among Internet users of all ages. Marketing that incorporates user-generated video, however, should probably still target young adults in particular.

Social QA Testing

February 11, 2008

utest-logo.pngIt’s open bug hunting season over at uTest which is rolling out its QA marketplace and community.

The startup is trying a crowdsourcing approach to testing software bugs. Anyone can sign up to test software and make some cash. uTest estimates that its testers will be able to rake in anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per month, depending on tester-expertise and bug pricing.

It is important to note that bug prices will fluctuate in real-time based on a variety of parameters, including: Bug type (logical, GUI), type of application (Web, desktop), number of testers that fit the required profile for the testing environment, bugs left to find, and more.

Over 2000 testers from around the world have already signed-up, so it seems the company’s pay-per-bug model is resonating well across testing professionals.