Ivan Pope is the CEO of Snipperoo, based in Brighton. Launched last year, it aggregates widgets for end-users to place in their blogs, social networking pages and other websites. It is also planning to launch an API which it hopes will ease the large-scale distribution of widgets for content producers.
With some expecting 2007 to be the ‘Year of the Widget’, we asked Ivan what online retailers and advertisers can do to get in on the act.
How do widgets offer a brand-building opportunity for marketers?
My feeling is that people are using their online existence to manifest aspects of their identity.
In order to make that happen, people look for ways to personalise their pages and blogs and reinforce the image they want to convey. Widgets are like badges of identity, ownership and consumerism – like being in a gang.
Marketers need to reach specific groups of people on the web, but it is hard to buy into these communities. What we are going to see emerge is a whole marketing discipline devoted to working out how to give value to people, by providing them with content objects they can use in their site.
If you get that right, then the end-users will take your marketing message and distribute it far and wide, in a very open and honest way. You become part of the community. We are working on this language of how widgets work.
We’re moving from a world where websites are monolithic and fixed, to a world where the web is made up fluid parts that flow in and out of each other.
People share content, pass things around and embed them in their sites, and in doing so construct a fluid presence from the parts they choose to use.
If content flows freely, they will reassemble themselves in the most efficient manner. So marketers need to be confident enough to throw stuff out there and allow it to find its most efficient home.
How do you measure the uptake or usage of a widget?
There’s this whole conversation getting started about the death of the page view, and that’s being driven at least partly by this atomisation of content.
If you look at widget producers like Clearspring, they are starting to build metrics and stats into their distribution systems. We will have metrics and stats for people using widgets, and probably beyond that, for people producing widgets.
You need to track the individual widget use and you can probably do that very specifically. So we think there will be very accurate metrics around widgets.
This is a subject we will be addressing at an event we are holding on widget marketing in April. It’s a key issue, but we don’t think it will be a very complicated issue.
What will widgets mean for sites with walled garden models?
I think it’s really interesting what widgets will mean for big silo-type sites, and what will happen when they start realising that they are too closed and controlling of what their members can do.
Myspace has a huge vested interest in controlling what its users can put in their sites. Although people say Myspace will be very powerful for widgets and some widgets are very successful in Myspace, the problem is that it will try and control what users can put on the site. For example, Myspace won’t allow you to put advertising widgets on the site as it wants to sell advertising, so there’s conflict there already.
Myspace – and the dozens of sites that have a similar issue – will either have to let people put whatever they want on the site, and Snipperoo does have a revenue sharing tool to allow them to do that, or they will start losing traffic to sites that have a different approach. They will find this out during this year.
What we will also see is smaller sites offering any widget in the world as part of their offering, and seeing if they can compete with the bigger networks.
We also propose that very soon, someone will create a widgetised blogging platform where you are not locked into what they want you to do, and you will construct your blog, wiki or social network by picking the widgets you want to use and dropping them into the hosting site you want to use. We see an end to big, monolithic sites.
What’s your opinion on
Bebo’s recently-launched widget strategy
Bebo are going in the right direction – we’ve had some conversations with them. But they are still very controlling.
Basically, in a year or so, we think there will be millions of widgets available – at the least, hundreds and thousands. A Bebo will only ever be able to say ‘here are all the widgets we’ve agreed you can put in your site, choose which ones you want’. But a Bebo member will say ‘all my mates are using this new, funky widget on this other site’, and ask why they can’t get it on Bebo. They will never have all the widgets available.
How do you see widgets being used in e-commerce?
We are seeing widgetised etailers already. We will see etailers soon who don’t have a website – they won’t have the central silo, all they will have is a place to construct your widget and put it on your site, and share the revenues from the stuff you sell. It’s similar to an affiliate marketing network.
If you are an etailer and you want to use widgets for marketing, you need to construct a very efficient widget system, which allows people to come along and construct the widgets they want, and make it very friction-less. It’s going to be a very efficient way of reaching your customers, rather than sitting down for months and working out a marketing strategy to buy advertising across thousands of sites. It won’t cost anything to distribute – it will distribute itself, although you will have to share some of the revenues.
Is this how you plan to earn money?
Our model is to earn revenue from widget producers whose widgets have a monetisation element. Things like ad network widgets and marketing widgets.
If you look at Adsense - if you want to put Adsense on your site you get a bit of code to put in your site. To us, a widget is anything that is a bit of code that can go in a site. Adsense, to us, is the most successful widget strategy in the world so far.
So we would look to partner with ad networks to enable their distribution and to take a small slice of revenues generated from that. But it’s early days on that front – it’s a chicken and egg situation where we need to have a critical mass of destination sites and widget producing partners first.
Ivan talked to Richard Maven. Comments to