Widget Me This: Putting A Buzzword Into Perspective

"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 existing content or experiences to one or more other digital environments, and/or interoperability -- an extension of the functionality of a separate or third party tool or application 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 or associating 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 article.)

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.

This is why all media will be digital one day. The database abilities are the defining basis of content and marketing mobility.

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

Web widgets pull content and/or tools to other Web sites 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 on a consumer's desktop, or integrate into other applications such as your browser.

Content and tools can be used as a powerful resource, the value exchange providing you with the ability to cultivate consumer value -- attention, mindshare and sales opportunities.

Lastly, mobile widgets bring content and utility to the mobile device, currently with a skew towards utility. The twist for mobile widgets is the rigidity of the carriers and the necessity to focus more-so on 'off-deck' apps -- for now.

So in the spirit of the new official buzzword, here are my "three M's" of widgetology.


Your content and experiences can and should be distributed outside of the walled garden of your own Web site. We live in an on-demand media generation. Allow your content to spread the seed for your brand growth.


Provide on-demand content, tools and experiences that are relevant to the individual. Customize and individualize the experience to whatever degree you are technically and financially comfortable with.


Consumers will only have the capacity for so many widgets in their lives. Third-party Web sites will only have the real estate for syndicated content or tools from a limited number of providers. In order to snag your place as a piece of their puzzle, add some energy to your ideas, make your widgets stand out from the crowd.

Again, widgets may be the buzzword of the moment -- but the concept has power in execution.

So what are you doing to tap into the trend of non-linear consumption of content? Are you facilitating your content and experiences to mature past adolescence and venture outside the rigid confines of your Web site?

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma? Or growth wrapped in a feed inside a widget?

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