Many Forms of Widget Monetization

Although there are many forms of Web Monetization (I’ve listed out nearly 15 forms), the newest iteration of web marketing: widgets, haven’t yet fully cashed in.

Widget, Gadgets, Applications, Canvas Pages, Embeds, it goes on and one. One thing is clear, the rate of widgets continues to increase, take for example Facebook’s application platform has over 15,000, 20,000 applications in just about 9 months. Granted, many of those are slightly tweaked clones of each other, the top 100 widgets clearly has adoption.

In some cases, there are sophisticated companies developing widgets, the RockYou’s and Slides of the world can really zero in and focus, or take the garage developers such as the two Russian developers who created Scrabulouos, or lastly, the big corporations or interactive firms that are getting in on the action –often with limited success.

Yet, how do we monetize widgets? There’s only a few ways, some tied back to traditional methods, and some leaning on the new media.

Many Forms of Monetizing Widgets

Advertising/Sponsorship: CPM models sit nicely here, yet research indicates that users don’t go to social networks for finding products, CTRs are pretty damn low. Why? because people go there to socialize and self-exprsess, not find products, (that’s what Google, eBay, Craigslist is for). Banner ads count too, such as this case study with Vampires and Sony.

Interactive Marketing: Some widget developers are selling their already existing application space to large brands, who can insert this branded engagement into an existing community. Take for example Dell’s regeneration campaign case study.

Branded Entertainment: Somewhat different than advertising and interactive marketing, popular media or widgets can be put forth from funding from large companies, while we’ve yet to see this occur, Intel comes to mind: they sponsored a feature on Digg, and paid for the development, all in the context of their brand.

Cost Per Install: I personally think this is a dangerous way to monetize, although I realize the top widget networks are getting sizable revenues from selling the opportunity for other applications to piggy back off their success, and sell installations. If everyone does this, we’re going to end up with an excess of applications installed, based upon lower value. I somehow imagine successful widgets should grow naturally and organically, not sold from a mercenary application.

Acquisition: No brainer here, but folks like Scrabulous (if they weren’t shut down) could sell of their application to an interactive firm or widget network and all the community members that come with them.

eCommerce: Surprisingly, we’ve not seen any great applications spur forth with adoption in social networks, it just isn’t happening yet, expect to see an existing eCommerce site to create a successful widget by end of year, and likely a new form of social shopping to appear. Update: Rodney is watching this new type of ‘classified’ widget Radical Buy make some traction.

Lead Generation
Techcrunch profiles how some application developers such as OfferPal are able to view ads, collect user information and send them to marketers for lead generation. Specific numbers have yet to be published in public.

Now if I’ve missed any forms of widget monetization, do leave a comment. Also, see the Many Forms of Web Marketing for 2008.