(posted by Barry Graubart, Vice President, Product Management)

I had the opportunity to moderate a very interesting panel today at the SIIA Brown Bag, “Think Small: Why Widgets are the Next Big Thing for Content Distribution“.  We had three great panelists:

  • Alex Iskold, Founder & CEO, AdaptiveBlue
  • Steve Touhill, Vice President, Business Development, Clearspring
  • Jeff Yolen, Chief Revenue Officer, Sphere

The panel began with an discussion of why widgets are emerging as an important vehicle for the content industry.  While Web 1.0 was led by the “Field of Dreams” approach to creating massive portals, Web 2.0 is focused on personalization of content.  Users don’t want to use your site; instead, they want to take your content, arrange it with other content of their choosing, customize the look and feel, comment on it and share it with others.

Alexiskold_2 The discussion quickly moved to monetization, where the panelists discussed the various business models (sponsorship, eCommerce/affiliate programs and advertising).  Alex Iskold described how the AdaptiveBlue widgets allowed bloggers to use their affiliate accounts for Amazon and others to generate revenues.  All agreed that it was very early and the monetization models were just being established, although Google’s announcement yesterday of its Gadget Ads should accelerate adoption of that model.

Jeffyolen Jeff walked through the Sphere model, which is more of a pull than push.  While most widgets are used to push content out to users, the “Sphere It” widget is used on content provider sites to pull other relevant content in, improving the user experience.

The panelists agreed that one challenge with widgets is getting them discovered.  There were more than 3,000 Facebook apps launched in the first two months after their platform was launched; catalogs from Google and Netvibes are similarly overrun.

Lebronjames According to Steve Touhill, the most successful models for widget distribution have been those that include the widget inline with their other content (as the NBA does with player cards) and the “grab it” functionality that most widgets offer, which fosters viral growth.

The strong turnout and many questions posed reinforced that widgets are on the minds of content industry professionals.  While the business models may take another 6-12 months to work out, it looks as though widgets will be an important component of any content strategy.