Widget Network Clearspring Gets ABCi Clearance
Clearspring President and CEO Hooman Radfar portrayed the audit as an important step toward widgets becoming a standard part of online advertising. "I think this gives media buyers a lot of comfort to know that our numbers have been audited by a third party," he said. "It shows the maturity of our platform and the space."
ABCi's Digital Technology Accreditation initiative is aimed at providing auditing services for emerging technologies such as widget platforms, ad-serving technology, e-newsletter delivery systems and gaming platforms.
The new program "formalizes our service offering in this area and demonstrates the leading role ABC plays in auditing both traditional and new media," said Michael J. Lavery, ABC's president and managing director, in a statement.
Widgets and applications have exploded online since Facebook began letting third-party developers distribute their creations throughout its network. Sites such as MySpace, AOL, Google and Yahoo have followed suit by taking steps to open their online real estate to outside developers.
Ad dollars in the nascent category are still small, but growing fast. Market research firm eMarketer estimates ad spending of $40 million on widgets and applications in 2008, up from $15 million last year. Social networking spending overall will hit $1.4 billion this year.
Emerging networks such as Clearspring that help serve, track and monetize widgets have become hot properties among tech investors.
Venture capital firms have pumped nearly $70 million into widget development companies since mid-May, including $35 million for RockYou, $18 million for Clearspring, $10 million for Mpire Corporation (parent of the WidgetBucks ad networks), and widget-maker Sprout's $5 million.
Even so, industry standards and guidelines are only just beginning to coalesce around widgets. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, for instance, issued guidelines last year for measuring impressions in rich Internet applications including Ajax, RSS feeds and widgets. Earlier this year, comScore unveiled a new audience rating service focused on widgets, although it hasn't publicly released new figures since January.
Radfar believes the ABCi accreditation of Clearspring will help bring further legitimacy to widgets as a new ad format. "This takes us out of just the widget space and brings us into the overall online advertising space," he said.
Among the metrics audited by ABCi over the last few months were views, unique visitors, placements created, active placements, clicks, click-throughs and average time spent.
The Clearspring executive also said the organization rigorously examined internal processes such as how the company collects data and calculates widget metrics, as well as taking a sample of raw data to tabulate on their own.
The McLean, Va.-based company says it serves nearly 4 billion widgets per month and has served over 31 billion widgets in the last year.
ABCi said Tuesday that AdJuggler Inc. had also signed up for its new accreditation service to have its ad-serving technology audited. The Audit Bureau of Circulations has traditionally been relied on for vetting the circulation numbers of newspapers and magazines.