advent of Web 2.0, the world wide web is changing, and a new kind of netizen has evolved - the 'prosumer'. The prosumer is a user who creates, consumes and shares content on the internet. Blogs, social networking sites, photo sharing sites, video sharing sites and personal web pages like iGoogle and Netvibes are the key tools of prosumers. Now, web widgets are the latest content syndication tools to catch the attention of the online world.
Wikipedia describes a web widget as "a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation". Simply put, widgets are dynamic boxes on a web page or desktop which feature information on news, video, music, weather, time or a to-do list -- which get automatically updated from its original source.
In fact, Newsweek declared the year 2007 as the 'Year of the Widget'. comScore launched its Widget Metrix this year, and Google launched Google Gadget Ventures to help developers create more of its widgets, called Google Gadgets. Other dedicated widget programmes by big publishers are Microsoft Gadgets, Yahoo! Widgets and AOL Whimsicals -- indicating the rising popularity of widgets.
Since widgets are mostly free, easy to insert in a blog or personal home page, or download on a desktop, they offer a lot of opportunities for advertisers and content developers for brand building, advertising, viral marketing and content syndication. Needless to say, many marketers globally are using these tools to gain visibility across web pages.
For example, the National Basketball Association (NBA) in US, wanted to reach the desktop of its viewers. So, it developed a widget which streams NBA's events online. Akamai Technologies helped them deliver this content. Tarun Bangari, head, product marketing (India) of Akamai Technologies, says "I see similar possibilities for content companies in India".
While Indians are getting active on social media and widgets, marketers have still not caught up. Prasanth Mohanachandran, executive director, Digital Services, Neo@Ogivly, says, "Clients have been introduced to the concept of brand building through widgets, but the uptake has been slow. Although clients have taken on to RSS advertising, the next step would be custom widgets". Some companies like eBay India and Yahoo! have created India-specific widgets, but they have not been promoting them much.
Amit Ranjan, COO, Slideshare.net believes that "marketing of widgets is happening through blogs, and as the number of blogs in India increase, there will be rise in the use of widgets too". He adds that the rise of multimedia will fuel the growth of widgets.
There is a possibility that the distribution of widgets may develop on a model similar to that of display advertising today. According to Bangari of Akamai, there are two ways to go about it. A website owner may pay to acquire a widget for his website. Or, a developer may create a branded widget for a company and get it embedded on a publisher's site like My Space. These models, however, are not yet clearly defined. Very often, branded widgets are created by consumers, and the company has no role in it.
There is also the fear that widgets may take away the traffic from the advertiser's original website. Sanjay Trehan, CEO, NDTV Convergence, feels otherwise, "Widgets will act as brand ambassadors for the parent site, and due to its viral effect, traffic on the parent site will increase and not reduce". He adds that widgets can be used to serve local content in the Indian web space, like widgets for cricket, Bollywood (PVR timings, for instance), entertainment, news and finance (like stock quotes or mutual fund quotes). The company is also in the process of developing widgets for its brands, NDTV News and NDTV Profit.
It may even be that mobile will be the next medium on the widgets front, as Bangari seems to suggest, "In India, local content mobile widgets, such as a weather widget on mobile for will be of great utility".
Branded widgets, powered by the local content and promoted by viral marketing, will help companies to spread their reach geographically, boost traffic on their sites in the long run, offer bloggers an option to earn money other than Google AdSense and also help in brand building. And it's about time, online advertisers in India added these powerful tools of interactivity in their media plans.