Marketing & Media: ‘Widgets’ May Snag More Ads
New data on viewing photos, videos and music on the Web may have an impact on the way advertisers and social networking sites perceive firms that help create this content.
Nearly 177.8 million people world-wide viewed Web content in April made with online tools from companies that let people post photos, videos and music on other Web sites, according to data that Web-tracking firm comScore Inc. plans to release today.
The comScore data is among the first to measure the reach of companies such as Slide Inc., RockYou Inc. and PictureTrail Inc., which create applications known as widgets that consumers can use to produce videos, photo slideshows and music playlists. These individual pieces of content can then be posted on blogs and social-networking sites such as MySpace, a unit of News Corp., and Facebook. So far, Slide and other widget makers have earned money mostly by selling ads on their own sites, but have found it difficult to generate revenue from the content created using their services and displayed on other sites.
The data from comScore could begin to change that by showing advertisers how widely distributed the content is, says Max Levchin, chief executive of Slide, which lets people make Web slideshows, among other applications. To use Slide, consumers first upload photos to the Slide site. Slide turns the photos into a slideshow that can be customized with special effects. Users can then automatically place that slideshow on an outside site, such as MySpace, by clicking a few buttons or copying and pasting a piece of code. According to comScore, Slide is the top provider of widgets, seen by 117.1 million Web users in April.
Content such as slideshows posted on other sites has “emerged more as a form of self-expression, but now that we have data that talk about how big the audience really is, I think that will really begin to spark the advertising,” says Linda Boland Abraham, the comScore executive vice president who spearheaded the study. To put the data into perspective, 105 million people visited MySpace in April and 38.8 million visited Facebook.
One big hurdle: These widget makers depend largely on MySpace and Facebook for their audience, and those two sites have so far been reluctant to let third- party companies include ads on their content in “profile” pages, where people post personal details, leave messages for friends and display photos.
MySpace doesn’t allow widget makers to sell items or advertise via content posted on MySpace. Closely held Facebook Inc., Palo Alto, Calif., lets widget companies run ads in certain areas of Facebook, but prevents them from embedding ads in Facebook users’ profile pages. Some social-networking firms are warming to the idea of allowing third parties to advertise via content on their sites. Bebo Inc., a San Francisco-based social-networking company that has many users in England, plans to start including ads with widgets displayed on profile pages and elsewhere.