Yesterday I had the opportunity of sitting in on a forum called Widget World: The ME Revolution at the iFocos We Media conference. Jeff Nolan, VP of Business Development at News Gator kicked off the forum by defining widgets and how they work. So what exactly is a widget? Simply put, a widget is a self contained container of content that is portable. Widgets contain not only text, but images and video. Still not sure what a widget is? Well, if you’ve ever had a Facebook page or iGoogle page you know that you can add different applications to your profile such as daily quotes, horoscopes, videos, local weather, etc…, these examples of widgets.
So what is the point of a widget? Nolan explained that widgets have both a promotional and social purpose. On the promotional side, widgets enable companies to get their brands out there to the masses. Brand logos and sponsored links can be placed around the frame of a widget, roll in and roll out ads can be placed on videos, and users who place these widgets on their webpages become ‘readvertisers’ of these brands. According to Nolan, “Widgets drive huge clickthroughs, more than banner ads.” An example of the promotional power of widgets is ‘Daily Cuddle’ sponsored by Animal Planet. The widget contains the Animal Planet brand logo and link which has increased traffic to the Animal Planet site.
Widgets are also popular social tools because they allow for interactions among users. An example of this would be the ‘add me’, rating and comment features of many applications. People like to surround themselves with customizable content that interests them which is another reason why widgets are so popular.
After hearing Nolan speak about widgets, I began to think about how these applications would be useful in the area of public television. As more and more people turn to the web for their entertainment, public television needs to find a way to remain relevant and visible. While PBS does have a number of widgets out there, I think local affiliates like WPBT need a greater focus on creating these portable widgets of their own content. By tagging the frames and videos with logos and links allows for higher traffic to local sites and more visibility in the web universe.