Revenue from Widgets

Yesterday, at WidgetCon , there wasn't agreement on what a widget is (Must it be a distributed application, or can it reside on a desktop? Must it be fully interactive, and forwardable?). But a common strain was that publishers are struggling to find revenue models that work even as marketers struggle to figure out the new technology.

There was lots of talk about how typical reach and frequency measures don't work.

"With traditional media, whether you're buying a piece of print or a homepage takeover on MySpace or whatever it is, it's very static, it's somewhat linear, it's got a beginning, and you buy an audience you buy impressions," said Chad Stoller, Executive Director, Emerging Platforms, for Organic.

"I don't envy the position of a sort of junior media buyer who has to figure out how to force fit [a widget] into a flow chart or into an I/O," he said. "It doesn't have an explicit end to it, it doesn't have a specific beginning to it. It just grows like a weed, and marketers aren't used to having things that are undefined and that are very blurry and aren't entirely accountable."

Some, though, are trying to fit widgets into typical ad models. Widgetbox CEO Ed Anuff proudly showed off a suite of widgets with ads embedded that both partners announced Tuesday. Anuff said the ads were not only dynamically generated, but also tracked through ad servers.

And along with the ads, there was discussion about tracking. As the prominence of the pageview is lessened in favor of "user engagement," Web traffic trackers like Nielsen/NetRatings and comScore have been looking for other means to take applications like widgets into account. ComScore, which was at the conference, began compiling widget data this spring, and today privately shared information that showed widgets are exploding, growing from 170 million views in April to 220 million in May. In May, comScore says, there were 80.8 million widget viewers in the U.S., and widgets they reached 45.5 percent of Web users.

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