Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

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Archive for December, 2007

The widget-mobile. Allowing your distributed content to travel freely.

Posted by widgetgirl on December 31, 2007

I went out to lunch with a friend the other day and once again I got the question of “what does your company do again??”. “We have a widget serving platform” was my response. Come again?

So what is a widget serving platform? Really, it is a vehicle to allow your content to leap off of your site and traverse the Internet without parental guidance. Think of a car, plane, train, etc. Each one of these vehicles serves a purpose – they get you from point “A” to point “B”. The vehicle itself is just that, it does not care who the passengers are, it is there to provide a service. Widget platforms, and Clearspring’s specifically, serves that exact same purpose. We provide the vehicle, you provide the passenger.

Monkey Car

The basic steps of “wrapping” your widget (think of “loading your car”) are as follows:

  1. Create an account on Clearspring.com (this takes literally less than 30 seconds).
  2. Select “Add Widget”.
  3. Select your widget type (flash, js, image, RSS, web site).
  4. Enter the parameters about your widget – source URL and widget name.
  5. Click on “Save new widget”
  6. Publish your widget by either “grabbing the embed code” to place it on a specific web site – OR – use one of our sharing tools to publish it directly to a social network or widget gallery.

Here is a technical description of the above: Provide the widget serving platform with the source URL path of your widget and we’ll provide you with our widget code that will request your specific widget when it loads on the page. As visitors want to “grab” your widget for themselves, our platform (the flash container that is wrapping your widget) will provide the “bridges” for the widget to travel to MySpace, Facebook, iGoogle, Netvibes, etc. The “bridges” and the ability to track where your widget is traveling is what the widget serving platform brings to the table. A one or two click process to push the widget from one page to another is the vehicle itself. Going back to the “automobile” example, the car has an engine, ability to travel through rain, snow and sleet. The widget container has the ability to drive from MySpace to Facebook, Facebook to iGoogle and so forth.

These are the steps you need to take in order to successfully load a widget onto a widget serving platform. The main thing to note here is that the platform doesn’t host your content, you do. So you have control over updating the content, deleting it, modifying it – you are in control of what your visitors see.

Is it easy to publish a widget, yes! The difficult part is designing a widget and determining what the content will be. I wrote a post a few weeks ago that outlines the steps for a successful widget strategy. Anyone can build a widget, just as anyone can build a web site. Content is still king – and the creation of content that is engaging and compelling to the user is critical in launching it for viral promotion.

Happy New Year!

Posted in widget analytics | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Cloverfield widget mania – the making of a monster widget!

Posted by widgetgirl on December 28, 2007

Last week I briefly mentioned a widget that Paramount launched for their new movie Cloverfield. Little did I know that this widget would become a phenomenon! Paramount knew what they were doing when they created a contest to see who could spread the widget the most. The end goal being that whoever has the widget “grabbed” (new placements created from their placement) would win a private screening of the movie in their home town.

Specifically, the contest works like this:

  1. Visitor clicks on the widget to view the video trailer.
  2. The Producer of the movie, J.J. Abrams, pre-rolls on the trailer to introduce the contest and encourage visitors to grab the widget and place it on their web site.
  3. Visitors can then register for the contest by entering a screen name and email address for the contest. By doing so, the placement ID assigned to their instance of the widget will be registered to their contest registration information.
  4. The visitor then places the widget on their social networking profile page, blog or web site for others to grab for themselves.

Check out the steps for the contest here:

Cloverfield Landing page Cloverfield Contest Entry Cloverfield Trivia Quiz Cloverfield Trivia Quiz End

The first thumbnail is what the actual widget looks like. The second thumbnail is the screen that displays when you click on “Grab this!”. The last two thumbnails are of the widget trivia quiz. I obviously didn’t take the time to answer all of the questions, so forgive my score of 2 out of 20. You can go check out the widget on the Clearspring widget home page here.

Some interesting things to note:

The Cloverfield widget has experienced monster growth (no pun intended) due to the contest and the mysterious nature of the movie. The widget was publicly launched on December 7, 2007 and to date has over 17M views and over 25k placements – yes, 25 THOUSAND placements. That means that visitors have clicked on the “Grab This!” link on the widget and placed it on a web page where it has been viewed at least once. Those are some amazing statistics. What drove this?

  • Paramount hit the jackpot with a two-pronged approach:
    • Widget content that is engaging and interactive. The widget contains a streaming video trailer of extraordinary quality, a contest with compelling prizes and a trivia quiz. One thing to note too is that the trivia quiz is updated every few days and encourages visitors to come back frequently to check out the new questions.
    • Strong seeding strategy – Paramount reached out to bloggers that they were familiar with and had them place the widget on their sites on the same day that the widget was launched. They also created a Facebook Canvas page to seed the widget inside of Facebook for maximum spread. You can go directly to the Facebook page here.

Facebook offers some very creative merchandising options for advertisers. The viral aspect to be able to hook prospective movie goers directly to the Cloverfield community provides a channel for engaging these customers and building interest and a direct relationship with consumers.  The page (like any other Facebook page) includes features like:

  1. Fan section – this is a section to join the Cloverfield community.
  2. The Wall – a place for Facebook users to write comments about the movie.
  3. Information section – details about the movie such as the web site, director, actors and summary of the plot.
  4. Photo album – pics from the set of the movie.
  5. Movie ticket and location finder tool.
  6. Facebook apps – the Cloverfield widget plus a new widget that displays the leaderboard stats.
  7. Reviews
  8. Discussion board

 Cloverfield FB landing page   Cloverfield widget on canvas

No need to tell you what my favorite widget is this week.  This is a fun one to watch.  The contest ends on December 31st at 12am PST.  To see who the winner is, you can check out the leader board here.   Happy New Year!

Posted in widget analytics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Measuring widgets – what skills does it take?

Posted by widgetgirl on December 18, 2007

So what skills does it take to not just measure widgets, but analyze their behavior? If you are a traditional web analyst like myself, you at least have a good foundation for understanding data collection, parsing, filtering and reporting. Measuring widgets outside of a somewhat controlled environment (your own web site or sites that is) is not as easy as it sounds.  The most important aspect is expanding your breadth of knowledge across the internet space.  Understanding the tools that are used, how sites host content, how data can or cannot be collected is a mandatory requirement for getting started.  Putting the pieces together to answer business questions and optimize how visitors engage with your widget and where it travels is the next step.

The critical skills for a web analyst:

  1. A strong understanding of web analytics – what I mean by this is that you understand the three core metrics of unique visitors, sessions, and page views for starters. You understand how to analyze incoming traffic to your web site and where people go through path analysis.
  2. Social networking smarts – anyone analyzing widgets and how they traverse the social networking space needs to be out there on the social networks. Web analysts should set up accounts on Facebook, MySpace and perhaps Friendster or MyYearbook. It depends on the space that your company is advertising or marketing within (but Facebook and MySpace are prerequisites for now).
  3. Start page smarts – a subcomponent of social networking is the ability to grab content and build your own start page on the internet. The most common ones are iGoogle, Netvibes and Pageflakes, but there are several out there to explore.
  4. Version analysis – browsers, operating systems and flash versions change with the wind. Understanding the changes in default security settings and capabilities is key to analyzing data out in the wild. Wild widget data is dependent on third party cookies and being first, second or third to load on a page. There is a lot of competition.
  5. “Environmentally aware” – Analyzing widgets in the wild is far more complex than keeping up with the changes that are going on within your own site. There are a lot of methods for keeping up with the environment, but the main ones that I would recommend would be following sites such as TechCrunch, Mashable and Media Post. It goes beyond that though – you need to have a critical eye to those factors that will effect your analytics.
  6. Troubleshooting skills – Finding the needle in the haystack is an art. When it comes to widget analytics, you can’t always be “right there” to recreate how a page loaded, which tag was called first, second, third, fourth……you catch my drift? I have spent the last few weeks trolling through use cases to understand our customers Google Analytics tags, Omniture tags and so forth. Some of these tags are firing from within a flash content file that is within a widget container that is within a page. Combining art and science is sometimes the only way to understanding and documenting the corner cases in the environment.
  7. Methodical and tenacious – you must be patient to do widget analytics. Most people would never call me patient, but believe it or not I have mellowed quite a bit in the past few years 😉 Ok, back to #7 here – you need to be able to work through the data in a very linear fashion. You can evaluate and analyze the anomalies, but you also need to follow the course. A widget starts as a seed placement and then grows from there. Analyzing it’s growth cycle should be done from the seed out to the branches. Optimizing that cycle to understand when and where your widget is the most “alive” and when it is starting to “die” is key in taking widget analytics to the next level.

Widget analytics is an exciting opportunity for web analysts to grow their skills off-domain. There are a host of new challenges in learning the environments where widgets travel and grow – some you can control and some you cannot. You need to be able to understand the difference and most importantly explain those differences to your internal and external clients.

And my favorite widget of the week…..this widget is promoting the new movie “Cloverfield” by Paramount. I just sat and watched the 5 minute trailer that plays in this widget and it is totally freaky. The cool thing that Paramount did with this widget is to make it a contest to see who can spread it the most. So analytically, what does that mean? It works like this – a visitor who views the widget must click on the widget and register their widget placement with their email address. Each new placement that is created from that particular placement will be counted towards the individual registered user. The registered user with the most new placements wins! The prize is a private screening of the movie in their home town – pretty cool. I don’t qualify of course as I work for Clearspring….so go register and check it out. More on this widget in my next post probably….there are a lot of cool widget analytics angles to hit on this one.

Cheers! Jodi


Posted in widget analytics | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »