News Update :

Google Gadgets and White-Label Widgets

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of widgits. They offer useful content and functions. Even more important, they are completely controlled by the user and improve the web experience instead of interrupting and degrading it.

So last week when this video floated into my inbox, I took the time to watch it. It was filmed at the Google Developers conference and the quality reflects that. The content is well worth the 4.5 minutes it takes; it ranges from the new Gmail widget (available only for iGoogle pages at the moment), to a Google Maps applications that lets you follow a soapbox derby down city streets, to an app that lets you control the way you embed videos into blogs and web pages.

Most of these are entirely DIY; the YouTube video embed may require some knowledge of JavaScript. That means, for most of us marketers, that it may require a developer to install. That’s doable; the question we should ask is will we be able to maintain it without undue difficulty once the developer is finished? The answer is “probably yes,” but it’s a question that needs asking. If the freebies don’t work, you can get rid of them as easily as you acquired them; most of us want to exercise care when we actually spend money on these things. Do you have an iGoogle page—or any other personalized page (if you have Gmail, I think you automatically have an iGoogle page; you just may never have used it)? I’m surprised how many people don’t. It’s a useful experience to see how some of their widget collection works. Some is useful content—notice that weather is the first listed. Others provide an often-used function—I saw both a calendar and a calculator. Some are just plain fun—I loved the Yoda-speak gadget. Note the comments and that the developer is responding to his users. Don’t find one you like? Create your own from easy-to-use templates! The downside is that these are only for iGoogle pages, at least at this point.

There are alternatives—the so-called white label widget (or, more generally, marketing services) providers. TechCrunch defines the concept in terms of a social network; it applies equally to the creation and deployment of widgets. “The idea of white labeling a network is to make the platform provider as invisible as possible to the social network’s users and to brand the network with the builder’s identity or intent.” According to today’s Media Post one of the white-label widget makers, KickApps, is partnering with Clearspring Technologies to allow marketers to distribute their widgets through its network and track their use.

Whether you want a Google Gadget or you want to create your own branded widget from scratch (note the National Geographic widget in the Google list), there are platforms and services to meet your needs. Become an avid user of widgets and use your experience to think about how you can use them to provide branded content to your target audience. It’s content they have chosen and are likely to pay attention to. Can we say that about most advertising?
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