Widgets’ popularity tempered by issues of measurement

People are spending more time on social networks, blogs and the so-called long tail of the Web, so more advertisers are turning to widgets because of their interactive and viral qualities.

“You have to be able to have a distribu­tion component or approach that allows a user to take content and add it to their Web pages,” said Ori Soen, CEO of wid­get agency MuseStorm.

It is important to keep the content of a widget relevant, Soen added. “If a user installs a widget, they’re going to get bored if you don’t swap the content and update the functionality,” she said. “You need to understand which content will speak to those specific users.”

To judge the engagement of widget users, analytics are critical. Last Novem­ber, ComScore launched its Widget Metrix service to measure the online pen­etration of widget use in the US. Initial results showed more than 81% of users viewed widgets.

“Tracking metrics helps to inform future product development,” explained Cam­eron Yung, executive director of sales at Tribune Media Services, which has used scrolling news and sports schedule widgets for its newspaper Web sites including the Chicago Tribune and Atlanta Journal-Consti­tution. “Each time a user sends a widget in an e-mail or makes a recommendation to a friend, the ad is sent along with it. Those are metrics that advertisers are very interested in finding out.”

However, simply tracking click-through rates may not give advertisers an accurate picture, Soen warned. “The major prob­lem with widgets is that even if you do get a lot of impressions, marketers take that as success, but in reality it’s a different story,” she said. “You can put something on a Web page and get hundreds of thou­sands of impressions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the user actually interacts with that widget.”

When a widget focuses on a specific vertical, such as cars or health, advertisers can see what is watched and which top­ics are of greatest interest to people, said Gary Baker, CEO of video search engine ClipBlast, which uses video widgets.

“Tracking widgets is not unlike tracking your Web site,” he said. “It’s important to be able to see where people are clicking, how they’re engaging and what they’re linking to.”

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