Big media is getting into widget advertising, in order to reach people on sites across the web. One example: Media conglomerate CBS is launching a local widget ad network today, with the goal of drawing more traffic to its own web sites — and making money from partner sites in the process. Another example: DoubleClick, the advertising giant (that Google has just gotten final approval to purchase), has announced its own widget ad network today.
Widgets are small snippets of code that web publishers can embed on their sites, that feature live, interactive information from other sites. But many have wondered how widgets — and more complex versions, such as Facebook applications — can make money. The answer is emerging now, as companies like CBS and DoubleClick start running more ads within widgets — and make money for themselves, for their widget-technology startup partners, and for publishers.
CBS is offering a local widget ad network where a third-party site located in the same geographic area as a CBS television station can run a widget that features news clips from the station as well as CBS’s own ads. Local blogs and other social media sites are new competitors to local television. This is a way for CBS to make money and gain traffic through these sites at the same time, turning them into partners, not just competitors, with CBS at the center. CBS has been one of the big media companies to aggressively experiment with widgets and social media, such as its widget that shows sports scores, here.
Sites that run the ad widgets will get a share of the revenue from CBS — and must be approved first. CBS, in turn, will make money from the ads on its partner sites. Since the widgets are designed to drive local users back to CBS, its local station web sites themselves will also presumably see an uptick in online traffic and online advertising.
San Francisco-based SFBayStyle is one local site running the widget already (see screenshot, above). Other cities with CBS local stations offering the ad network include: Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, and Chicago. Other stations that will soon offer the ad network include New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.
Meanwhile, Doubleclick will offer a more general form of widget advertising. It has partnered with widget distribution technology company Gigya (our coverage), with DoubleClick offering widget creation services within its existing interface for ad creation and management. Gigya already offers an ad-widget service to site publishers (more here), where you can grab a widget featuring an ad and put it on your site. The DoubleClick deal makes it easier for DoubleClick’s large base of advertisers to try their hand at widget ads and increases the inventory of ads that Gigya users can run on their sites.
Numerous startups have already been experimenting with running ads within widgets on web sites, including Clearspring (our coverage) and Widgetbox (our coverage), and so have numerous Facebook application ad networks such as RockYou, Slide, Social Media, Lookery and others. But it hasn’t been clear how these companies could find large amounts of advertising revenue — the answer may be brand advertising, because the large advertisers that companies like CBS and DoubleClick serve are hungry for better ways to reach users. John Battelle of Federated Media (which VentureBeat uses for some of its advertising) has more thoughts on the evolution of brand advertising here.
Note: Applications on Facebook and other social networks are essentially more complex versions of widgets, because they’re able to incorporate data and features of social networks using the social networks’ developer platforms. Google and other large advertisers have also been experimenting with ads that run within Facebook applications (our coverage), but neither CBS nor DoubleClick are getting into that game — at least they haven’t yet.