GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

January 23, 2007

When there’s an article on something in the New York Times, as there was last week on widgets – you know the concept has gone mainstream. I’ve been spending a lot of time recently reading blogs about, thinking about, and most importantly, meeting with entrepreneurs creating endeavors which leverage the ramifications of an increasingly decentralized widgetized web. And the primary focus has been on advertising. How will advertisers play in a world in which widgetized microchunked content proliferates?

Hooman Radfar over at the blog Widgify recently pointed to Universal’s use of a snaggable movie trailer promoting this week’s debut of the film Smokin’ Aces (with the help of his company ClearSpring). When people post this snippet of code on their site, they are in effect standing behind it, creating a validating point that this is content worth watching, and consequently promoting the film in an engaging way that an interruptive advertising type couldn’t do.

With marketers searching for alternative means to reach consumers – even going as far as placing branding ads in airport security bins – Greg Verdino of the Emerging Channels team at Digitas recently cautioned, “Just as the smartest marketers are realizing that interrupting unreceptive consumers is no longer an effective means of spreading brand stories, other backward-looking media and marketing companies seem proud that they’ve found new ways to interrupt… you can’t break through advertising clutter by simply creating even more clutter.”

Interactive online widgets offer a viable alternative for spreading advertising and branding messages which rise above interruptions and facilitate direct consumer interaction with true engagement. Seeing this opportunity, UK-based social networking site Bebo announced just a few weeks ago that they will feature advertiser supported widgets in their widgets gallery in this upcoming year. Another example is that nearly all of the professional sports leagues are starting to embrace widgets to promote their teams and games. Many of the social commerce startups, like ThisNext and MyPickLIst, feature product-based widget apps. And this potential goes beyond just pure commercial advertisements. Consider ChipIn, a web service which allows organizations looking to raise money for causes to do so via an online widget proliferated via social network pages.

I agree with Radfar’s sentiment that “it will take some time for the right models to work themselves out, but with all of the [widget] activity mounting this year is promising to shake up the world of online advertising.”

  • Hooman Radfar

    David, another interesting trend to note is that some of largest PR and advertising agencies on the planet are starting to leverage this new medium. One of the folks you mentioned, Greg Verdino, is definitely is championing cutting-edge projects using widgets in his own organization. I would keep a close eye on this area. Exciting stuff all around. :)

  • Rahul Roy-Chowdhury

    Nice post Dave! Another emerging use of widgets is in the enterprise, where it will change the way apps are built and delivered. Essentially technology staff will build generic widgets (low rate of change) and users will encode business rules (high rate of change) with no technical knowledge by connecting together the appropriate widgets. There are huge efficiencies to be won in this area.

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