Monday, June 4, 2007

Widgets: Advertising Will Never Be The Same

So says this article that ran originally in Billboard.

Widgets are those handy little apps you can place on a PC (or Mac) desktop that transmits information to you from a website, such as news headlines, weather forecasts, sports scores, etc., without you having to endure the pain and agony of opening a web browser and visit the website itself. The Vista operating system has embraced the widget concept (calling them "gadgets").

Remember the old application PointCast? It was essentially the same thing in that it used what was called "push technology", i.e., it pushed information to you through this application, without your having to manually request it. Same deal here, essentially, except each widget is standalone, with its unique stream of streamlined information, as opposed to the omnibus that PointCast was intended to be.

So who benefits from widgets, from a marketing point of view? Seems to me that those who can deliver information in a branded environment would obviously benefit (,, etc.), although their ability to directly monetize it might be hampered in this format. After all, a widget is almost by definition of very small app, as opposed to large desktop apps like Weatherbug, so the ability to carry advertising on a widget might be difficult.

Perhaps widget content providers would like people to click headlines and come to the site for more information, but isn't the point of the widget that you receive the information in the widget without having to come to the site? Seems to defeat the purpose, n'est-ce pas? Used in that way, the widget is not more than an RSS conduit.

From my standpoint, of course, I am most interested in how direct marketers can use the widget for customer acquisition purposes. I'm a bit doubtful that you can successfully engage widget users to sign up through a complex registration form on the widget itself, and using it to drive traffic might be a testable proposition, but I wouldn't bet on its success as a high volume generation marketing vehicle. I'll keep my eye on it, though, in case an acquisition usage tactic becomes clear to me.

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