Happy New Year from everyone at E-consultancy. We’ve picked out a few interesting stories that came out over the holiday season, in case you missed them…

Bebo to launch ad widgets

The fast-growing social networking site is planning to launch ad-supported widgets this year, according to this post on Mashable. This could be a busy few weeks for Bebo by our reckoning, with the debut of its SMS services and ongoing engagement marketing plans.

Newsweek also predicts that 2007 will be the ‘Year of the Widget’ as users customise their favourite webpages, and we expect advertisers to quickly catch on.

Wikia to take on Google with social search engine

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is planning to launch a user-generated search rival to Google. He explains why in this interview with Danny Sullivan.

Will search engines penalise paid-for posts?

One SEO issue that could be worth watching in the coming months – search engines’ policies towards paid blogging, according to this piece on SEOmoz.

Although companies like the much-maligned PayPerPost are causing quite a stir in the blogosphere, Tim Converse from Yahoo! says it will not assign a lower value to seeded content. But Google’s Matt Cutts hinted it may be taking a different approach:   

“Google wants to do a good job of detecting paid links. Paid links that affect search engines (whether paid text links or a paid review) can cause a site to lose trust in Google.”

Christmas cheer for etailers

The IMRG says that the etail sector achieved a 50% rise in sales over the holiday season, with earnings for the 10 weeks up to Xmas reaching as high as £7.5bn. Our gut reaction is that it could, if anything, be higher than that. This year was a real coming of age for internet shopping, and practically everybody I know bought some of their Christmas presents online…

Online and mobile TV ad deal reached

The Guardian reports that a deal has been struck over copyright issues relating to simulcast mobile and online TV ads.

Social lending set for take-off?

This survey suggests that the conditions are right for growing uptake of web-based social lending sites such as Zopa. It has various stats to show that people think banks are greedy and evil, and that social lending is a good way to cut them out of the loop.

Moneysupermarket to float?

The financial comparison outfit is considering whether to launch an IPO which would value the company at up to £1bn, according to various reports.

And finally, Digg gets some more cash

The popular news-sharing site has received around £4m in funding from a range of investors, a month or so after rival Reddit was acquired by Wired Digital. We fully expect Digg to face more scrutiny this year over its voting system, as well as how it intends to pay back its investors.

Onwards is upwards, folks…