Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

9 widget myths debunked

July 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

The truth about widgets

Ever since Facebook launched its f8 platform for application developers in May 2007, the tech industry has agreed that widgets are big business. Trouble is, for a long time venture capitalists and entrepreneurs couldn’t seem to agree on what the business actually was.

First, there’s the tricky job of defining a widget. Some use the term to describe bits of code that can be copied and pasted into a social network profile page or blog; others use it to refer to all embeddable Flash-based tools, and still others refer to widgets as entire applications built around site-specific application programming interfaces (API).

Regardless of your preferred definition, VCs were initially hesitant to invest in developers of widgets, reasoning that the growth of widget companies could only be secondary compared to the growth of the third-party sites on which their tools were hosted. At the same time, entrepreneurs were cranking out thousands of wacky new programs by the day in the hope that something — anything — might stick with consumers.

As the industry has grown over the past year, both investors and developers have gained a better grasp of what to do with widgets. But many misconceptions still remain, preventing marketers from taking full advantage of these tools. Let’s take a look, and separate the fact from fiction.

Myths 1-3: Trinkets, importance and social networks

Myth #1: Widgets are trinkets
Many consumers still see widgets as tools for “buying each other drinks and throwing sheep at each other,” according to Eric Alterman, founder and CEO of KickApps, a white label producer and tracker of widgets and other social media tools. Users also often view widgets as simply accessories for a site — to make it pretty or add features with limited functionality but lots of visual appeal.

Alterman admits that early on in widget development those were some of the main ways consumers used the tools, but he says widgets have evolved exponentially since their Jurassic days.

In fact, U.S. companies will spend $40 million in 2008 — up from $15 million in 2007 — to create, promote and distribute widgets, according to eMarketer.

Which leads us to our second myth…

Myth #2: Widgets aren’t important
Originally, widgets may not have been important, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) Alterman sees widgets as the future of the web. Many of today’s most popular websites, such as ESPN.com, were initially hand-coded, built one page at a time. Content management systems soon replaced such arduous coding of websites, but many industry experts predict widgets, which can easily be plugged into any site, will soon be the new model for the construction of whole websites. Soon, Alterman says, many major websites will be composed almost entirely of widgets.

That’s because not only can site developers use widgets to easily swap content in and out of a page, but users can do the same, tailoring major media sites to their personal preferences. In the process of constructing their dream pages, consumers provide publishers with key information about their media and information consumption preferences.

“Widgets will be the basic building blocks for pages that make up every network site,” Alterman says. “We’re already seeing widgets appearing on sites like CNN.com, but soon it’s going to be the lion’s share that’s going to be like that.”

Myth #3: Widgets are only about social networking
To date, the majority of widget-based activity has centered on sites such as MySpace and Facebook, as well as around personal blogs. Alterman attributes this trend to the fact that the main focus of these sites is on personalization.

However, as more traditional media companies and web portals become more comfortable with user-generated and user-mediated content, the industry is likely to see the widget world expand far beyond the realm of social networking.

Myths 4-6: Applications, no room, no ROI

Myth #4: Widgets are social applications unto themselves
Ro Choy, vice president of business development at leading widget developer RockYou, says this is not so. Although widgets have grown increasingly sophisticated over the last several years, they are still fairly small components of larger pages — not distinct microsites. Widgets must still compete with other widgets and other content on a page.

Choy says this distinction between widgets and social applications is key to advertisers because each tool — an embeddable widget and a microsite — offers its own value.

While a lot of advertisers may be uncomfortable with widgets because publishers can’t promise control over what’s happening in the next widget over, those same advertisers can comfortably monetize social applications (see Scrabulous on Facebook, for one popular example) that offer much more containable environments.

Choy points out that advertisers can use widgets to drive users to these social applications where they can employ all of the standard web business models, from advertising to subscriptions to the sale of virtual goods.

Myth #5: There’s no room for ads on widgets
When web widgets made their debut, traditional advertisers still struggling to overcome their discomfort with newfangled web banner ads certainly weren’t about to invest their web budgets on such uncharted territory. But, as Alterman points out, widgets are ads. At least, they can be. With the ability to insert dynamically changing feeds and run video within widgets, advertisers can take advantage of the medium to develop much more dynamic, richer campaigns. Alterman describes such tools as “widgeads.”

Myth #6: You can’t make money on widgets
According to Choy, another key misconception of advertisers about widgets is that there’s a dramatic difference between banner ad CPMs and widget CPMs. But Choy says CPMs on widgets are “the same, if not better,” than those of banner ads.

That’s because, unlike banner ads, which simply hover at fixed points on a page, widgets can be the source of interaction between millions of users. When consumers use widgets to exchange notes or send messages, the widget itself becomes a product or a conversation. And for the successful advertisers who can use widgets to build a user base and generate clickthroughs, “The value of that conversation is ridiculously high,” Choy says.

Myths 7-9: Uninformed, no traffic, not viral

Myth #7: Widgets are blind
Another widget myth is that widgets aren’t informed by the pages on which they appear. Sure, you can add a widget to a social network, a blog or myriad other sites, but the widget (and its owner) can’t possibly know what else is going on a web page.

Think again.

Like Facebook and MySpace, widgets are informed by social data. Each widget can be used to construct a unique social graph that tracks both user demographics and time spent with that widget across the web. In this way, publishers can collect data valuable to advertisers about entire communities of web users.

As of now, many publishers aren’t making use of this data. They may allow widgets, but they’re not yet collecting the data about their users. “In a sense these widgets are now untethered,” Alterman says. Publishers need to collect data, organize it and use the data to feed ads. Every website needs to find a way to feed its own widgets.

Myth #8: Widgets don’t bring traffic
Another common complaint about widgets is that they don’t drive traffic to a widget publisher’s website. According to Choy, if that’s the case, the publisher isn’t using the widget correctly. As an easy example, Choy says he has spent exactly zero dollars marketing his website but sees 11 million unique visitors via widgets.

Perhaps one reason this myth has persisted is that many of the main web metrics companies still struggle to track how widgets affect the flow of web traffic. Last year comScore launched a widget-specific metrics service to help determine exactly how and where widgets are being used.

Myth #9: Widgets aren’t viral
If a widget isn’t viral, then the advertiser or publisher behind the widget hasn’t done his or her job well. Advertisers still getting comfortable with the medium tend to rely on old tools such as lots of text presented in a less-than-thrilling way.

To make widgets viral they have to contain video, photos or music, as well as some content that offers genuine value to users. Another key to virality is the ability to generate clickthrough traffic to an advertiser’s own site.

An added bonus, Choy says, would be some sort of user-generated component that consumers can share with their friends.

Advertisements

Lotame Defines Social Media Ad Metrics

May 30, 2008

 MEDIA POST PUBLICATIONS 

by Les Luchter, Thursday, May 1, 2008 7:00 AM ET

 

 Keys to advertiser success in social media include increased frequency caps, targeting a user’s second and subsequent daily visits, and identifying, isolating and targeting influencers. Those are the metrics revealed in a new white paper from Lotame Solutions, known for its “Crowd Control Technology” designed to help advertisers effectively reach social media users.

Lotame found that advertisers need to generate 10 to 15 impressions to reach regular users of social media sites. Only 65% of visitors clicked an ad when they had seen it less than four times. But another 30% clicked after seeing the ad 15 times. “In other words, our partners would have been able to reach 95% of their audience had the frequency cap been set at 15 rather than four,” the company said.

Lotame also found that while people will log into social networks an average of two or three times a day, their first session is highly focused on such tasks as checking messages and providing updates–so ad response is “practically zero.” Ad responses increase in subsequent sessions, however, so Lotame suggests using engagement data from the first session of the day to “provide relevant ads that generate conversation.” Lotame noted that “traditional metrics have held that no one user should be exposed to the same creative more than seven times in any 24-hour window….Typically this cap is reached with the first session on social media and brands miss out on the opportunities offered at the next user log in….”

Rather than targeting users who simply view particular content, Lotame said advertisers need to isolate the people who drive “conversations” through such activities as commenting, blogging and uploading–and layer that with time spent on the social media site to “identify and target the most engaged users with pinpoint accuracy.”

Lotame’s research was based on 10 brand and performance advertisers campaigns it ran between March 4 and March 18 this year, delivering 63 million impressions and 25,000 clicks.

 

How to monetize social media

May 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/18989.asp

Underscore Marketing’s president thinks social media aggregators may have the answer to the platform’s scale and relevance issues. See why.

Whoever said that the media business was about re-aggregating fragmented audiences probably knew what they were talking about.

As an internet user, one of the most frustrating things about social media is its lack of interoperability. Facebook and LinkedIn do a good job of helping me keep track of and develop my social network, but aside from some apps that will let me import my contacts from one to the other, the two networks can’t be used interchangeably.

Similarly, social news sites like Digg, reddit and StumbleUpon work in a vacuum. If I have a profile on one, it doesn’t update the other. So anyone who wants to see what I post to any of those sites would have to look me up on each.

Fragmentation exists across many categories in the Web 2.0 world. RSS aggregators, blogs, photo galleries — you name it. These things tend to operate in a vacuum and attract their own user bases. These user bases may duplicate to one extent or another, depending on the application and the need it fulfills.

Whenever a disruptive technology pulls audiences apart, something new emerges to try to pull things back together. Aggregators like FriendFeed may just represent the glue that holds the Web 2.0 world together.

FriendFeed essentially lets people see what their friends are doing online, much like social networks like MySpace and Facebook do. The difference between it and a run-of-the-mill social net, however, is that it’s fairly platform-agnostic. Sign up on Friendfeed and tell it all about the social media apps you use, and it will aggregate your actions within those apps, making it easy for your friends and legions of fans to follow what you’re doing and see the things that you find interesting online.

FriendFeed has a model something like that of Twitter. Users follow their friends, and whenever they check in with FeedFriend, they can see their friends posting stories to Digg, photos to Flickr and musings to their blogs. And if your favorite friend uses these services but isn’t yet a FriendFeed user, you can still follow their activity by creating an “Imaginary Friend” — a sort of placeholder representing that person’s social media activity.

To me, this is where it gets interesting. People follow the people who are interesting and influential to them, so aggregators like FriendFeed will attract users quickly. And where there’s re-aggregation, there’s an ad opportunity.

But there are two caveats:

  1. I have no idea what FriendFeed’s business model is. I’m speculating here.
  2. It will be a crying shame if FriendFeed gets peppered with untargeted advertising.

There. Now here’s my assessment of the company’s opportunity.

FriendFeed aggregates many important data points about lifestyle and interest. Thus, it could become a very powerful behavioral marketing play. This wouldn’t be the place for demographically targeted brand advertising, or for FreeCreditReport.com to whack prospects over the head with direct response ads.

It would, however, be a good place for ads targeted by interest. Perhaps when someone reads that a friend posted a link to a product, or commented on a story about said product, or otherwise interacted with it, there would be an opportunity for a targeted online ad, once FriendFeed observed an interest in it.

For instance, if Jim Meskauskas twittered a link to a blurb about the new season of “Battlestar Galactica,” and I followed that link, I might start seeing ads for tune-in in my feed. In this way, targeted advertising would not only be able to inform, but it also could amplify viral effects, and we could avoid much of the criticism of online ads by steering clear of the shotgun approach.

I see an interesting ad play here, provided it’s managed such that the ads are kept relevant.

A low-cost plan to elevate your brand

May 2, 2008

iMedia Connection

http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/19129.asp

As the economy weakens and your competitors cut budgets, you can get the leg up with a thought-out digital marketing strategy.

As the economy grows more uncertain, a common reaction is to cut marketing budgets. Before following the crowd you may want to look for the silver lining. It is likely that your competitors will cut their marketing budgets thereby reducing their media presence. With a few adjustments in your marketing plan, you have an opportunity to eclipse the competition while remaining mindful of budget restrictions.

Now is the time to engage the full range of interactive media to create a powerful, targeted marketing mix. The following presents effective ways to move forward.

Use your data
More than likely your company has been collecting data from numerous channels — website, call center, direct mail, etc.­– but if you are like many companies this may be as far as it goes. Now is the perfect time to analyze your data.

A thorough analysis may uncover a trend that can be acted upon in a significant way, such as repositioning your website. As major overhauls are time-consuming and expensive, it may be easier, less costly and potentially more beneficial to create a targeted micro-site focused on a particular product, service or niche. With the intelligence gathered, this site should be optimized to yield meaningful results from major search engines. A micro-site is a good way to test the accuracy of your analysis and it can be the basis for a website overhaul later.

You may also consider creating several SEO (Search Engine Optimized) landing pages to target different audiences, which is one of the most effective ways to get powerful results from Google. Here, users arrive at a welcoming page that speaks directly to their search, and are guided to relevant sections of your site. This can bring them closer to a purchase decision or connect them with the information they want. Now analytics equals results.

Digital deals and opportunities
Traditional media buys typically have long leads before their effectiveness can be measured, providing little opportunity to tweak campaigns. By the time measurable results arrive, your budget is depleted. While traditional advertising can be expensive, digital media offers a wide range of affordable advertising options. With the ability to build highly customized campaigns that can be tracked up to the minute and down to the individual user, search engine marketing should be part of almost any advertising campaign. But effective digital marketing does not need to stop there.

Here are a few effective approaches:

Blogs and beyond
Advertising on a community site whose audience is inclined toward your product or service can build strong brand association. By getting involved as an active contributor with valuable content, you become part of a community and are able to monitor what is going on in your industry’s corner of the blogosphere. This can gain you invaluable market insight.

To take it a step further, consider micro-blogging through services such as Twitter or Pownce. Here you can keep a group informed of your every move on a moment-to-moment basis and learn what they are up to as well. This can be an even deeper way of involving yourself in the lives of a core group.

Podcasts
Often overlooked as an advertising vehicle, podcasts can also reach a core demographic. For example, if you’re looking to reach a tech-savvy audience, consider TWIT (This Week in Tech’s podcast.) Or create your own custom podcasts to get your message out. Startup costs are minimal, and if you offer valuable information, you can create a meaningful relationship with your listeners. (See “The Perks of podcast advertising.”)

Niche and community websites
The internet has no shortage of websites with unique audiences. MySpace and Facebook are the two communities that come to mind, but there are many others that are even more geared toward specialized interests. Check Ning.com for examples of easy-to-create niche social networks.

If you build it (right), they will come
Besides web-based advertising, consider fostering relationships with customers by creating a destination worth visiting or a useful widget to download. These interactive platforms can be custom built to effectively reach your audience.

Some possibilities follow, with a few examples of what has worked from my company’s clients:

The micro-site
Micro-sites provide a great way to promote a product or service at lower cost than a corporate site and can provide greater flexibility. Additionally, these sites are often more fun to visit as they can be built around a single creative concept. The Oprah, Dove and the Girl Scouts of America site, which we based upon Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, is an example of an effective micro-site. This provided an engaging environment built around user-generated content.

Landing pages
Landing pages are a powerful way to stretch one’s website development investment. A landing page designed around a specific search query, such as “hammer,” can send a prospect to the home page of a hardware store, where he will have to navigate through that site to track down the product. Alternatively, if the search engine had directed the consumer to a landing page for that same hardware store where a variety of hammers, nails and tool belts were featured, you not only have a result that brings you closer to making a purchase, but that also offers cross-selling options. This is where valuable online customer relationships can begin.

Mobile
Mobile communications as a means of marketing is one of the fastest growing options and enables users to connect with people in unique ways. For example, SiiTE Interactive worked with PayPal to create a mobile shopping environment that brought mobility to ecommerce. The way this works is the following: If a user spots a product in a store front window, in a magazine, on a billboard or almost any place, and she sees a PayPal ID, she simply texts the ID code from her mobile phone and the product is purchased and shipped directly to her mailing address.

Widgets
Widgets are distributed components used to present data through a user interface. They break into three major types. The first is the desktop widget, which lives within the highly coveted real-estate of your computer’s desktop or as an add-on to the operating system. The second is the embedded widget, which is typically placed into blogs, web pages and personal pages such as Facebook. The third type is the mobile widget developed for smart phones.

Widgets are powerful because they are trackable, easily distributed, and if the content is compelling, they will show up everywhere. Creating a custom widget can be a great broadcast medium for advertising or sponsorships. (See “The art of widgetry: a primer.”)

SiiTE has developed numerous widgets including branded shopping widgets that serve up favorite items for avid shoppers on a daily basis. This widget has a calendar-based system on the back-end that allows an administrator to serve new products on any date and for any duration.

Viral content
The current rage is creating content that is so compelling, humorous, or off-the-wall that people are driven to pass it along to friends. Well-known examples include the JibJab spoofs, the Cadbury drum-playing gorilla, and of course, Diet Coke-Mentos’ eruption videos. One favorite is Will it Blend, a website with 3.5 million viewings of the infamous iPhone in a blender video. More importantly, Blendtec quadrupled blender sales after the video hit.

This can be a great marketing tool on a small budget. It is even possible to create live streaming content from your mobile phone with services such as qik.com. However, purposefully creating content in the hopes of it going viral is a long shot. Have fun and get your content out there but don’t expect it to explode unless you’ve really got something unique or you have content that serves some positive social value. (See “5 consumer touchpoints for viral viability.”)

SiiTE Interactive worked with a major pharmaceutical company to help create personalized video messages directed toward caregivers of specific medical conditions. These campaigns generate tremendous pass-along appeal because of their personalized nature. Once customized by a friend or family member, a collection of video clips are automatically edited and sent to the recipient. The final video presentation speaks directly to the caregiver, even going as far as having the video spokesperson refer to family members by their first name.

Measuring success
Measuring the effectiveness of traditional media is often subject to a significant amount of interpretation. Digital media metrics, while not perfect themselves, are often more precise and more targeted. Digital media metrics can more easily track niche groups or even individuals right through to a sales conversion. This said, when money is tight, it may be comforting to see where one’s budget is actually going.

With the lower cost of entry that digital media offers, it becomes affordable to experiment. You can test various targeted buys that yield results within days or even hours, or build precisely crafted micro-sites. The bottom line — now is a fantastic time to explore the possibilities of digital media.

Top 10 US Social-Network and Blog-Site Rankings Issued for Feb.

April 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

Though again atop the rankings of US social-networking sites, MySpace.com‘s audience grew just 4 percent in February from Feb. ’07.

Meanwhile, second-place Facebook‘s more than doubled, growing 102 percent year over year, according to custom lists compiled by Nielsen Online, MarketingCharts reports.

LinkedIn increased its unique audience 271 percent year over year, reaching 7.4 million in Feb., compared with 2.0 million a year earlier – and challenging fourth-place Windows Live Spaces.

nielsen-online-top-10-social-networking-sites-us-february-2008.jpgMySpace’s unique audience totaled 55.4 million in February, more than double Facebook’s 20.0 million.

Top Blogger Sites

Google‘s Blogger remained atop the blog site rankings with 37.2 million unique visitors, up from 23.6 million in Feb. ’07 – or a growth of 58 percent. nielsen-online-top-10-blog-sites-us-february-2008.jpgWordPress was up an impressive 209 percent year over year, increasing its unique audience to 16.5 million.

Fifth-place TheHuffingtonPost.com’s growth was also impressive: Its unique audience grew from 1.1 million in Feb. ’07 to more than 3.7 million – or 241 percent.

DoubleClick’s Self-Publishing Widget Ads May Monetize Social Networks

April 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

DoubleClick, now a Google property, is launching widget advertising into the self-publishing ad market.

Powered by Gigya Wildfire, the option enables advertisers to encourage viral dissemination of interactive ads across social media. Gigya will provide metrics for advertisers.

DoubleClick expects the medium to blossom into an effective way to monetize social networks.

Online Radio Reaches 33MM a Week, Listeners Tend to Be Social Networkers

April 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

33 million Americans age 12 or older listen to a radio station over the internet during an average week – up from 29 million listeners one year ago – estimates the annual “Infinite Dial 2008: Radio’s Digital Platforms” report by Arbitron and Edison Media Research, MarketingCharts writes.

There is also a strong connection between online radio listening and social networking sites, according to the study, which will be released in April.

Among the findings:

  • 13 percent of Americans age 12 or older (an estimated 33 million people) had listened to online radio in the previous week – an increase of two percentage points from January 2007.
  • Though nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of all Americans age 12 or older have a profile on a social-networking site such as MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of online radio listeners have a profile on such sites.
  • One-third of online radio listeners with a social network profile visit their social networking site nearly every day or several times per day.
  • The top social-networking sites among online radio listeners are MySpace and the business professional networking service LinkedIn:
    • 28 percent of online radio listeners have a MySpace page
    • Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) have a profile on LinkedIn.

“Social networking is clearly not about creating exclusive, self-enclosed communities,” said Diane Williams, senior analyst, custom research for Arbitron.

“We found that online radio listeners are more than one-and-one-half times more likely to have a profile on a social networking site as compared to average Americans and that they tend to be power-users, with one-third of online radio listeners logging on to their social networking site nearly every day or even multiple times per day.”

Facebook to Launch IM Service

April 2, 2008

Marketing VOX

The war continueth

Facebook is poised to launch its own instant messaging service as early as next week. The service will be built into Facebook profile pages.

Facebook’s plans may be bad news for third parties like Social.IM and FriendVox, which built IM apps on Facebook.

The announcement comes a week after Bebo, the third biggest social network, was purchased by AOL. AOL says the merger’s success hinges upon the successful integration of AIM into Bebo.

MySpace also offers a rather sporadic IM service, which debuted in 2004.

Early this month, Facebook announced a music partnership with iTunes, right on the heels of MySpace, which itself is developing a music service with the four major record companies.

MySpace Initial Applications Launch

April 2, 2008

Threeminds

by Marta Strickland

MySpace launched their Application Gallery (beta) late last week to pretty quiet fanfare. Beyond the tech community, many probably don’t even know of its existence. MySpace Apps is not yet included in the overall navigation, and with no messaging API that feeds application interaction into a user’s “Friend Subscriptions”, it is going to be a long while before MySpace Apps adoption numbers reach those comparable to Facebook, if ever.

But, it’s early… and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to consider the initial burying of MySpace Apps is on purpose. They still need to work the bugs out and get some proof points under their belt to attract skeptical developers, who have recently feared social network fatigue and application clutter. Having spent an hour or so testing out some of the initial offerings, I think that is probably a very wise strategy. There was equal amount that got me frustrated as there was getting me excited, and to win over the new MySpace audience, they are going to have to improve that ratio.

What Got Me Frustrated
At first I was wooed by Shelfari, due to its pretty interface and mention on Mashable. It has a very engaging interface that makes it fun to search and add books, but after a few bugs in the application flow and the need to sign into a third party site to leave a comment on the book, my hopes fell a bit. Then, add that to a pretty obnoxiously big widget that gets put on my profile, with no way for me to move it down or customize it, leaving only the option to remove it. I was disappointed.

myspace_shelfari_settings.gif

What Got Me Excited Again
I took a peak at what the most popular apps are currently on MySpace. And even know the numbers are small (top app under 12K), I could see a few familiar themes running through the list. I had to smile at the Facebook-ness of an app called “DrinkSocial” which involved cataloging your drinking history and sending beers to your friends. Out of curiosity, I clicked and was very presently surprised at what I found.

Turns out that Hungry Machine has decided to pool together some of their Facebook applications (Beer!, Movies!, Restaurants, Visual Bookshelf, Video Game Rack, and Music!) under a larger umbrella called LivingSocial. All categories work pretty much the same way, which is like Netflix in its ability to rate, review, recommend, and add to your wishlist. Another thing that really impressed me about the series of applications was the ability to truly customize what information gets displayed on your profile.

myspace_drinksocial_sm.jpg

The interesting twist is that the social contributed content is not just coming from MySpace users, but from wherever else the application is installed (Bebo, Orkut, Facebook). Since there has been some MySpace integration from social content apps, such as Flixter, LivingSocial has the opportunity to dominate against competing app offerings in a new space. And with such openness and integration across many social networks, LivingSocial is certainly putting themselves in an exciting position not only in the social sphere, but to compete with big recommendation engines such as Yelp and even Amazon.

If they could just add WineSocial, then I could seriously get hooked…

Future Bright for Widgets, Say Media Execs

April 2, 2008

Media Week

Advertisers and media companies are beginning to embrace the power of widgets, particularly those thousands of mini-applications that have sprouted up on social networks like MySpace and Facebook.

Mike Shields

MARCH 12, 2008 –

Advertisers and media companies are beginning to embrace the power of widgets, particularly those thousands of mini-applications that have sprouted up on social networks like MySpace and Facebook. Those close to the phenomenon predict a robust moneymaking future for widgets, i.e. small Web-based programs or content packages that users can easily download and take with them to other sites though several basic business practices need to be established, said a group of panelists at the McGraw Hill Companies’ Media Summit in New York on March 12.In the future, content and ad portability will be so commonplace to the Web that “every consumer facing Web site will be a collection of widgets,” said Eric Alterman, chairman, KickApps, a firm that produces widgets for various companies. Alterman predicted that online ad networks will essentially become distribution networks widgets, and later boldly stated that as widgets take hold “all the money on the Internet will be in that space…and traditional media will be a leader.”

Right now, traditional media is still figuring out its role, said Dan Riess, vp, marketing and ad solutions, Turner. Riess said that CNN.com has had tremendous success in letting users grab mini-versions of the news site for their RSS readers or social networking profiles, but not every traditional media company has figured out how to uses widgets or how to cash them in.

“Right now, widgets have two values for us,” he said, namely marketing and media. While marketing is easier to swallow for media companies, said Reiss, using widgets are a form of media, which need to be monetized, “gets a little trickier. It’s not as clear.”

Riess acknowledged that as content becomes more and more portable, “It’s increasingly hard for sites to expect users to come through your door.” Yet that often means a loss of control, and often, some sort of “revenue share situation. That isn’t as exciting for a media company.”

One company that is enjoying some success turning widgets into dollars is Slide, which produces SuperPoke!, FunWall and Top Friends — three of the most popular applications on Facebook. Those apps, coupled with an extremely popular photo sharing application, give the company a user base of 170 million uniques, according to Kevin Freedman, Slide’s vp of finance & operations.

Application/widget creators like Slide have something highly compelling to offer advertisers: “an amazingly rich set of data,” said Freedman in an interview with Mediaweek. “We can target things in a much better way.”

For example, last fall Paramount created a SuperPoke! Icon for the animated Bee Movie through which SuperPoke’s 15 million users could “sting” their friends. And in the past week, the company has rolled out a SuperPoke! Icon for the upcoming movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – through which users can “whip” their friends – as well as an icon for McDonalds tied into the fast food giant’s current marketing effort. That icon provides users various ways in which they can “give props to” their various friends.

Freedman says that while Slide has spent the past few years building an audience, the time is right to focus on hauling in ad dollars. “We are on the right side of the curve at this point,” he said.