Widget Me This: A Primer

Posted: July 20, 2007 in Emerging Media, Trends, Widgets

“Widget” is officially one of the buzzwords of the year. Congratulations widget!

However, buzzwords, like folklore, stem from roots that are planted in reality. This is certainly true when it comes to the concept of widgets.  Ironically, widgets are far from new; they have been around for years. The Web2.0 elements of  ‘collective experience’ have made widgets more popular than ever among both consumers and marketers, and for good reason.

Widgets essentially are web-based, desktop or mobile applications that provide digital mobility – an extension of an existing experience to one or more other digital environments. To date the most successful widgets provide consumers with a level of frequently accessed content and utility. Stock tickers, count down clocks, horoscopes, local weather or news updates are prime examples. Merriam-Webster defines a widget as “an unnamed article considered for purposes of hypothetical example”. So the application of the term within the context of digital marketing really means that widgets can be anything.

Widgets can be branded or not. Marketers are still trying to figure out how to offer content or utility value to customers and prospects, while wrapping the widgetized experience in their brand. There is only room for so many widgets in a consumer’s life, and widgets are not a silver bullet. (More on branding widgets in another post.)

If I can take a moment to simplify a concept that I’ve been talking about for years …The future of marketing is, in its simplest form, essentially databases of various content assets and tools that can be delivered [matched] to consumers based on self selected and/or behavioral criteria, across the entire palette of digital channels. 

Generally, widgets fall into three categories – web widgets, desktop widgets and mobile widgets.

Web widgets pull content and/or tools to other websites through a small chunk of easily embedded code. Most widgets are powered by RSS, however there are javascript and alternative language widgets as well.

Desktop widgets are downloadable applications that sit passively on a consumer’s desktop, or integrates into other applications such as your browser.

So in the spirit of a buzzwordy approach, I’ve developed the “three M’s” of widgets. Stay tuned to my next MediaPost piece for the remainder on this topic… 

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