Not your grandfather’s widgets

By Steve Outing

Widgets should be a huge part of most media companies’ strategy in the years ahead, as a way to spread their content around the web widely. (aka, the Distributed Web.) Here’s an interesting widget example from Pulse360 that comes with built-in advertising and revenue sharing, so that there’s incentive for lots of websites to carry the widgets.

This particular one is called the CBS 4 Denver network, and includes content from Channel 4’s news operation in the widgets in either video or story format. Topics include Denver news, sports, politics, lifestyle, arts and culture (standard local news fare). Website owners that choose to carry the widget select from among the general topic feeds.

As you can see, the largest portion of the widgets is taken up by advertising. So for website owners, it’s like adding another ad network to their sites, but with the added benefit of some (hopefully relevant) content added to their pages. According to Pulse360 VP of business development Mark Wolfson, the ads you see here are earning a CPM of only $0.50 for hosting websites and blogs, but he’s hoping that will increase soon.

News publishers should be thinking hard about how to craft widgets like this. It’s essential that there be a shared-revenue advertising component, so that website publishers have strong incentive to carry the widgets on their pages.

The widgets I’ve seen to date, like this one, are still thin on content choice. Ideally, you’ll want to offer widgets that can include fine-grain content. (This isn’t rocket science; you just need to have enough diversity of RSS feeds to include as options for the widget.) For instance, a newspaper offering content widgets like the ones described above might have widgets that are customizable down to news about specific sports or teams.

As an example of how a local website owner might use a newspaper’s widgets, a local specialty store that sells shoes and running equipment might want to feature the paper’s running and track coverage on its website (not general sports coverage; that’s not a good-enough fit). That’s a great service to that running store and its website, and a revenue source for it. (The news organization, of course, benefits from new users being driven to its website, plus advertising revenues coming from sites outside of its own.)

With the emergence of companies like Pulse360, there are now options for implementing a widget strategy without having to do the heavy lifting of developing them on your own.

To learn more about widgets and publisher widget strategies, you’d do well to follow Jeremiah Owyang, who’s a guru on the topic of the distributed web. Here are his writings on widget strategy. Also good is his discussion of widget networks.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!