Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Media Transformative and other presentations from day 1 at Widget Web Expo

I spoke at WidgetWebExpo in Brooklyn, New York, yesterday. Michael Leis was good enough to be live blogging as I did so.
So here's a link to his writing about my presentation.
The slide deck that went with it is below:

I'm also delighted to have found some very nice tweets from the conference floor as I spoke:

mleis @davidcushman rocked the house with "the media transformative" http://snurl.com/2j92i #wwx

Armano @davidcushman just wrapped up a nice preso. I liked his POV that effective marketing happens in the mind of the individual. No hard sell.

stoweboyd @davidcushman is smart. Among other things, he quoted me! #wwexpo

Gentlemen, very flattering - and many thanks.

Fred Wilson
is doing the keynote today (June 17) and I'm very much looking forward to that. Fred sent me a link to a preview which I'm happy to share.

Will be adding more links to this the moment I get a chance!

Here's a summary of some of the many great speakers at yesterday's day one of widget web expo.

Ivan Pope opened the event suggesting widgets are a fundamental change in how we engage with online and noting that June 16 was the 2nd anniversary of the time he first coined the phrase widgetsphere.

Keynote on day one was clearspring ceo Hooman Radfar.

Some highlights:

Widgets are the building block for the social web: they have become the new web page, but they are intrinsically off domain.

When building you have to consider your experience in someone else's web space.

Advertisers are seeing them as a new kind of rich media. Entertainment industry is seeing them as a mechanism to promote their content with a higher engagement factor.

148mm us widget viewers

95% of facebook users add apps

massive adoption rate

Now they must be a standard part of online strategy.

“I don't know of any media company that doesn't have a widget strategy from the smallest to Disney.”

Widgets are not a fad, they are here to stay.

They catalyze the change of the web into more than a platform.

Kinds of widgets:

Phase one youtube and photobucket found what's missing. Youtube realised myspace didn't have a good video service and they found a way for users to add video - as widgets.

This is widgets attacking – appearing on myspace whether myspace wanted them or not.

Myspace got sniffy and battled with the widget makers. Meanwhile facebook accepted them - and open up the facebook platform.

Developers suddenly became welcomed on social networks and opened the door to the open-everything world.

Facebook let us add apps. They called us back if things broke, they allowed linking out! They opened the social context -

  1. developers had access to profile

  2. access to the network of people around them

  3. access to the activity stream, the newsfeed shared widget apps.

opportunity is to create end to end experience, you can visit me on my site which is synched with other social networks... you the url.

Important elements for social context:

  1. you need username and password consistent – open id?

  2. profile – helps everyone tailor app to you. but you are a function of the people around you. (the social graph). this is what facebook is aiming to do – be the centre of it.

  3. Presence ; what you are doing. everytime you do something on the web you are being tracked, you are generating data – so the value is in leveraging the derived data in the network.

Social context: all services on the web will leverage share of social graph. knowing who you are and that you are connected is powerful.

Layered on top of this are derivative services: video, pictures etc – how do you expose your services?

Widgets are emerging as a huge channel to deliver massive services overnight.

Hints and tips:

Think BIG act small: make widgets fast.

widgets are a building block, not a building. so think cross channel.

Need effective seeding processes; really direct people to your widget to increase your grab rates. think about your entire strategy. treat widgets like a first class citizen.

Data-driven focus on user – measure everything then you'll discover how the widget functions in different environment – measure the experience people are having. set goals and try to maximse against them. eg get people to take a quiz. focus everything around achieving that.

Iterate fast.

Repeat different cross promotion, see if you can find the viral loop, the point at which you get more inbound requests.

Study people who have been really successful, comscore200 etc. You'll see common trends so go with what works. Be rigorous about A/B testing. See if adding an image in a newsfeed makes a difference, for example. these are the things that make the difference. study the data.

cross promotion: Make sure everywhere you can you get cross promotion.

Lift your head up, ask are you really creating value. the data is a guide but human intellect is better at spotting the real value – know your user.

Be ready to fail. don't be afraid, assume you are wrong and ready to try new stuff and try it real fast.

social networks have helped us communicate better – this is just another channel, users haven't changed.

widgets have become a fantastic building block, they catalyze open social context, web is the platform. the web is becoming the centre of everything. Think big act small.

Ivan Pope: toward a long term web strategy.

When facebook launched its open thing overnight people only asked for facebook solutions.

But you don't have to second guess where your audience is and when. Widgets can do the work for you.

Widgets carry the ability to replicate themselves.

Widget strategy should look at what your biz objectives are be built to align with those.

We can use the potential of widgets to push marketing into social networks.

Widgets are mirror image of social networks, a vehicle you can use to enter those spaces, rather than an end in themselves.

Why use widgets at all?

alternatives: buying ad campaigns, building big websites, doing destination deals. widgets route around these solutions – diy solutions to carry your network into social networks.

Widgets work because:

  1. organic communication:

  2. viral intelligence; LEVERAGES the intelligence of the crowd

  3. infinite reach: they can go on forever, mutating, growing and unstoppable!

Long piece of string: you can have a piece of string to each and every widget no matter where it has gone.

Ally widgets to other strategies, don't just 'do widgets' don't build in isolation. experiment within a framework.

METRICS: what tools to use?

INTEGRATED planning: cross market,

SEO: and widgets,a huge win for people who get this right – using google juice!

AFFILIATE MARKETING: not just a crude sell this and you get x. Rather by distributing value through a chain that splits and moves on.

BBC Radio people wanted to give producers a tool kit to make widgets to add to their website BUT they have issues over control and management and re brand control, legal issues about what the bbc can do, image issues. The thought of allowing official widgets to go off where they like is difficult for them.

But we need solutions for control and lack of control to be developed at the same time.

Let them go, but always have some control. What happens when things go wrong and we want to turn widgets off. What happens when the BNP has BBC-branded widget on their website?

We needed political cover for management!

We wrap the building toolkit into a set of feedback tools which gave a lot of control points so we could know who do what with what.

  1. legal/brand/admin control given: sign off for adding the content to a widget in first place.

  2. Templates to control the branded bit, the image issue. The org can sign off the identity of the widget.

  3. Getting data back about widgets, giving people access to crunch that data and to use that to .

In publishing companies, lots of people do their own marketing, widget control can devolve that power throughout an organisation or open that control to external orgs with the neccesary controls.

Marc Canter spoke on How to build the open mesh.

We can all be a web celeb. you can promote yourself. plurk is an example of a swarming effect – couldn't invite friends from facebook en masse.

Brad's thoughts: a whitepaper about the social graph. Unless we have a way to centralise the social graph has to be rebuilt each time a new service emerges.

A new kind of server can assemble the open mesh. an 'our data server' implementation of a shared social graph. we have shared data.

Facebook wants to maintain privacy against/data portability.

I own my data.

everything will be/is a url, every person, event, etc

We need to build our own open mesh, there isn't going to be one standard, or one platform, but we need to control our data.


  1. Liveweb: real-time communicaton, conversation, presence, microblogging, streaming, eg twitter, meebo, im, vid conf

  2. Watch: Your friends and content sources – rss, newsfeed etc

  3. Express: yourself via txt media links – publish, upload, comment, rate, bookmark, blog podcast etc

  4. Media Gallery: your media stored somewhere – upload, share, tag.

You are what's important – user centric id

no one vendor

resusable components

two-way api.


Dave Armano chairs and asks his panel to define widgets:

steph agresta, internetgeekgirl, consults in social media pr and affiliate marketting: widgets are microcontent, interacting with consumers that's not a full site.

Ian Schafer: Deep Focus: focused on distributable sharable experiences. widget is a portable exp that lives on a particular platform. web-based apps?

Steve Rubel: edelman digital. “I study internet trends and advise teams, advise clients and counsel them, alk to industry at large. When i think about widgets I think they are the beginnng of the end of something, end of the website (death of the url) web content isn't going to die, but you now have a giant iceberg that's breaking up into thousands of pieces. You have to be able to go where consumers go.

Matt Dickman, fleishman hillard, pr agency. i came from a digital shop. every type of agency is trying to reinvent itself. widget is a portable brand gateway.

David Malouf, motorola. “I also teach interaction design and rich internet apps. Widget is not accidental, its a metaphor for small components that are interchangeable and portable across various systems.”

David Armano: Critical Mass.

Q”: to david malouf – what are some of the similarities and differences you see.

A: mobile interfaces are about interruption mostly, they are interruption from what you are doing, they are moments of tangent. I design apps that aren't interuptive but are on mobile devices.

Armano: I wonder if widgets are ready for prime time, do devices like the iphone help.

Dave ixd: widgets have been around for a while. i think what is different is a richness. now there is an understanding of the information density too.

Ian Schafer, done a lot of work in myspace – re content distribution. Networks are filled with people who want to be connected, so a lot of what we do plays on that community context.

You can wield influence with your friends, we create things that help people ID themselves as influencers, and then reach them. Clients want response fast. we are trying to change that.

Steve Rubel – what's the role of the brand in the community? web2.0 is made out of people, the brand has got to get the peeps from behind the gates. if the brands are going to create their communities they have to be participate.

Rubel: i study the internet for four hours a night and read and obsess, its an education process. you have a lot of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are different from the generation that grew up with the net, they want to do an old way of business and apply it to what is new and different.

armano asks matt dickman in the context of micromedia what is the relevance of an aggregator like friendfeed.

Many people are only just understanding blogs let alone twitter etc. We have to teach them how to listen online. friendfeed allows you to aggregage (looks like my typing made up a new word here, but I kind of like it so I'm going to leave it) all of these things in one place.

Armano, back to companies listening. ff is aggregation and distribution. Can we use portable formats to listen as well.

Rubel: listening and talking is a means to an end. distributed content works where brands and users have a shared outcome. trust in peers is ever rising. ff and services that will follow after allows you to see what your trusted circle is saying. if you can find that it's huge.

Steph: what is the role of people building reputations online

“I'm always impressed by someone like zappos, a company, top down from ceo, they are using it for customer service. a lot of it is about personal brand building. Tony goes to a lot of events, they are fuel for the social media world. this trusted group of friends is built stronger.

I don't just do twitter, I still do facebook and flickr.

Rubel I suffer from shiney object syndrome. it's very easy for the clients to come in with a notion that they want to focus on one site or one tech only.

Get Me One Of Those! We hear a lot of that.

Look at the trends and look where they are in your audience. 6-20% is creating content online. Take a look at mahalo.com social layer on top of search, then you are into big things.

Steph: I do think there are certain personalities that do better in an environment. you have to have a good product.

Matt D: I live in cleveland ohio, 10 years ago what would be the opportunity for us to meet. I've known these people online – that level of brand building is through the content you are creating.

rubel: don't think too much about the tech or tools. secondlife was web2.0's vietnam.

don't think of it as widgets and social networks and aggregation and video, its how they all connect up.

in five years you won't buy from amazon, you'll buy from which ever site you happen to be on and pop open the relevant widget along with recommendations, chat with friends about them and make the purchase.

Panel ends

Michael Leis:
Emerge Digital

For agencies, frequency's the thing.

widgets are all about little ways to make your life easier.

Clients get back insight, the metrics show you who people are and what their lives are like.

Associating the brand with the moments that make a difference – lots of little pings to audience.

What do agencies get? Ownership of an entire channel! at the heart of where the brand and users connect in real time. essentially its own network.

We think of it as the brand as a platform, todays most popular sites are all platforms, the website sits on that, blogs, widgets and mobile all feed off the same base.

The risk is the possibilities are endless -loads of great ideas which require loads and loads of budget and then they run screaming.

So keep it simple and start with a one-way comms model.

give core users promotional tools , they are early adopters and give them a way to share your brand. it empowers them, the people who really like your content can do something with it.




means to branch out

who are the people we want to reach?

what content can we use to reach out with them?

you learn when core users are online, what channels they are using, and how often they use computers...

GoGo, bringing wifi to aeroplanes:
we thought our audience for the game to promote this would be in facebook but our biggest engagement was in hi5 and friendster. You find out the metrics after launch. the goal is to get the metrics.

University of Illinois (Chicago) 8000uu and 22mins/users a month and all sponsored.

In version 2 we then try to take those points that have pain and stop insisting they visit our site. widgets are new ways to reach out to them. conversion, registration, sweepstakes, online tools.

artefacts of personality traits:

widgets can show what you are. virtual gifts, mini-apps on social networks. apply new coding and new places...

eg Miller; platform for bartender education: videos and quizzes with prizes. we rewarded them with a facebook trophy that can live on their profile. this pivots the social graph that already exists. Viral without having to constantly refresh content.

Darkhunter facebook app – a quiz, how much do you know about dark hunter. in 6hrs we had 4000 users. In 2 hrs the amazon book rank for pre-sales rocketed. we gave a context and they came together and set up their own groups, too.

Level 3:

utility: how can you make it work for your audience in the context of your brand; integrate with existing apps; browser communicaton, outlook and appointments, PDAs (good on the enterprise side).

service: with this tech you can bring audiences new experiences they wouldn't otherwise get.

fill the need that isn't being met for my audience – how can I program for it; itunes. itunes took a simple thing to catelogue and play mp3s. ecommerce version looks just like it.

eg Nike ID system; they looked at what their users do: they run with ipods, graphs your run.

Widgets can then inform your other channels, you now know more about the exact preferences and behaviours of your audience. you can zero in on where your people are really at. creatives get their scripts written by the audience – by the audience' behaviour.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?