Friday, November 30, 2007

Web widgets: connect the missing link

A successful widget should not only be entertaining and inline with content available on a given site, it should also fulfill ad serving requirements set forth by portals and publishers.

Advertisers aggressively are seeking new ways to reach elusive demographic segments online, fueling the explosion of widget marketing.

Widgets can be published on desktops, on personal web pages and shared virally. They can also be tracked and monitored. The opportunities for marketers are virtually limitless. Web widgets stand to become the Toyota Prius of the online advertising industry, with their ability to integrate new technologies and deliver excellent mileage, all in a very resourceful and drivable machine.

However, until recently, finding ways to effectively disseminate widgets have left many scratching their heads in search of a distribution model that makes sense from a business standpoint.

It appears it might not be enough to simply take a "build it and they will come" approach.

The challenge of portal and publisher requirements
Monetizing and effectively distributing widgets has proven challenging to date, but it becomes even more challenging given the specific requirements many of today's leading web portals and publishers employ.

While these entities have demonstrated they are eager to embrace the widget phenomenon, there are certain requirements they are not willing to compromise -- and with good reason.

At the top of the list is security. Portals and publishers alike have concerns over widgets that require users to input user name and password data, since that data is sensitive and thus subject to possible hacks or liability issues. The potential of security breaches and lawsuits, regardless of the level of security in place, simply has not made the risk of accepting these types of password-protected widgets worthwhile. This, in turn, has made distributing widgets all the more challenging for providers. Unfortunately, many of today's current widget providers don't offer the level of security needed to ensure safe dissemination.

The second requirement relates to many leading portals and publishers maintaining policies that do not allow fourth-party hosting of a widget, or any other type of online content for that matter. An example of fourth-party hosting would be a standalone widget provider who is not authorized to distribute content through the portals and publishers.

A key concern is that the party hosting the widget or content is not only a reliable host but will be able to manage, host and track the widget based on portal and publisher peak traffic levels and certification test requirements. Most do not want to go through certification of new fourth parties and prefer to have everything hosted, tracked and reported by the third party serving the ad.

The third requirement relates to specifications and policies. Portals and publishers need to ensure that specifications, site requirements and policies for their property are met during each campaign, regardless of the type of content going on their site. Multiple parties involved in the process -- creating the widget, hosting, tracking and distributing the widget -- will make it challenging to ensure the widget is within site requirements.

This presents a tall order to fill for widget providers that lack the experience or history of serving content to mainstream sites and portals, be it banner ads or beyond.

Enter rich media ad serving: the missing link
The widget future appears bright for third-party organizations that are already approved to provide sites and portals with banner ads and other forms of online content.

Rich media widgets provided by established third-party providers can serve as the effective missing link. Rich media widgets are web-based widgets that, at the same time, serve as rich media ad formats that can be ad served through a certified ad platform. Because of their ad compatibility, these widgets are served, hosted, tracked and reported through a single solution.

Similar to a banner ad purchase, marketers can distribute a widget across all sites and portals on their media plan, without having to worry about site kick-backs or launch delays. The learning curve is virtually nonexistent, and, as an added bonus, the trust with publishers and portals has already been established.

The bottom line is a successful widget should not only be functional, entertaining and inline with content available on a given site, it should also fulfill the complex ad serving requirements set forth by portals and publishers.

Compliant rich media ad-serving widgets placed on a variety of leading sites and portals enable advertisers to achieve the next level of widget success -- ensuring the widget is highly visible, easy to find and simple to "grab."

Peter Kim is founder and president of Interpolls. Read full bio

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