Widget Analytics – Measuring the widgets in the wild

Helping web analysts navigate the measurement and tracking of widgets.

Archive for January, 2008

Widget Analytics Meets Widget Audience Measurement – Metrics Insider Post

Posted by widgetgirl on January 14, 2008

This past Friday I had the opportunity to write the Metrics Insider email newsletter column again. The inspiration for this article came from a Business Week article that focused on comScore’s relaunch of the “Widget Metrix Report.”

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Widget Analytics Meets Widget Audience Measurement

Posted January 11th, 2008 by Jodi McDermottThis week Business Week ran an article called “What’s a Widget Worth?” The article focused on the fact that social networks are exploding in growth, but that the software development community contributing to fuel this growth is not getting a piece of the revenue that their applications and widgets are helping to support. At the forefront of the article was the announcement that comScore is revamping its widget usage data report to offer more comprehensive coverage. They will begin to account for widgets built with JavaScript (in addition to Flash), which will open up the capability to measure widgets on one of the hottest social networks on the Web, Facebook.

ComScore’s attention to tracking Web widgets is a big step towards the adoption of widget monetization. Advertisers relying on third-party audience measurement firms to validate audience and engagement have been waiting for the inclusion of widgets to provide justification to their social network marketing strategies. While some advertisers have already been testing the market with widget monetization, the validation of this market by a firm like comScore will help boost its growth and the maturation of the measurement tools and platforms needed to support these business models.

The advertising channels that have recently emerged to support the monetization of widgets boil down to two areas:

1. Widgets as ads – Content creators can ad-serve their widget where the entire widget is the ad. We’ve seen large media companies and movie studios ad-serve widgets to promote their offerings. Based on the ad buy, ad-served widgets can accelerate the spread of the widget from the ad position to a more permanent placement on the visitor’s social network site, blog or start page. This permanence associated with a person or an organization builds brand affinity and extends the audience reach beyond the impression.

2. In-widget ad networks – Advertising within widgets where the ad is adjacent to the content is where in-widget networks fit in. Advertisers can purchase dedicated positions within the widget or allow their ads to rotate across widgets within the network. Current examples include: Fox TV’s “Futurama” widget running an ad from Virgin Mobile and a celebrity gossip widget on X17online.com that includes an ad to promote TLC’s Miss America reality show.

Both types of advertising have just emerged and are starting to gain ground as advertisers enter the world of social networking. Brands with large ad budgets utilize audience measurement tools to build their media plans — publishers build their widget inventory and advertisers evaluate that inventory through these third-party reports.

But what does this mean for the developer community that is creating games and content widgets that are not associated with well-known brands? In-widget ad networks will allow independent developers to get in the game, too, by monetizing their widgets from advertisers who opt into in-widget ad networks. For example, a developer launching an application as a widget that gains critical mass across the Web could create an ad position into which other advertisers could buy. We’ve seen this with Google AdSense, where advertisers can opt into content networks and publishers can incorporate search listings into their site for a share of the revenue.

Just as Web analytics allows the deep dive of how specific online campaigns or Web sites are performing, widget analytics follows in lock step, but adds the next layer of analysis, showing how your content is spreading from site to site. ComScore started reporting on widgets last June in its first Widget Metrix Report. It is exciting to see its evolution of refining its data analysis methodology to account for the technology hurdles that challenge the measurement of distributed content. The combination of widget analytics for the practitioner and the strong entrance from syndicated research illustrates a maturation of the Web 2.0 space with respect to measurement and monetization.

How are you handling widget analytics and audience measurement? I would be very interested to read your comments on how your organization is managing measurement in the wild.

Check out the full post and other posts similar at the Metrics Insider blog on MediaPost.com.

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Widgets and time spent – measuring the duration of a widget view.

Posted by widgetgirl on January 7, 2008

Measuring the time that someone spends viewing a widget is not as easy as it sounds. If you consider the page view, the way to measure how long someone spends with that particular page is the difference between the time the page was loaded and the time that the next page was loaded. For example:

  1. Visitor requests www.clearspring.com at 12:01:36
  2. Visitor requests www.clearspring.com/advertising at 12:02:14
  3. Visitor requests www.clearspring.com/adnetwork at 12:04:34

What we know from this example is that the visitor spent 38 seconds on the page www.clearspring.com and 2 minutes and 20 seconds on the page www.clearspring.com/advertising. We do not know how long a visitor spent viewing www.clearspring.com/adnetwork though as there is no next page to calculate a differential on. Traditional web analytics tools allow you to calculate the difference between time stamps on pages.

Clock 2

Calculating time spent for a widget relies on periodic communication from the widget back to the widget serving platform that is collecting the analytics data for the widget. When the widget first loads on a page, the container (flash or javascript) that is wrapped around the widget will send off a tracking packet to the widget platform in order to record that the widget has loaded. Then periodically the widget will “ping” the server collecting the data for widget analytics to let it know that the widget is still being viewed. The communication of a widget view might look something like this:

  1. Widget loads on www.clearspring.com/widgets/464eb40d70d61eff at 09:15:00 and tracking packet is sent to server.
  2. Widget continues to be viewed on page. At 09:15:30 the widget container sends a tracking packet to the server.
  3. Widget continues to be viewed on page. At 09:16:00 the widget container sends a tracking packet to the server.
  4. Widget is clicked on for the first time at 09:16:20. At 09:16:20 the widget container sends the click in a tracking packet back to the server (which will also contain an update to the time spent metric).
  5. Widget continues to be viewed on the page. At 09:16:50 the widget container sends a tracking packet to the server.
  6. Widget is clicked on again at 09:16:52. At 09:16:57 the widget sends the click in a tracking packet back to the server (again, containing an update to the time spent metric).
  7. Visitor navigates away from the widget at 09:17:12

The total time spent viewing this widget will be calculated at 1 minute 57 seconds (you were probably thinking that I was going to say 2 minutes 12 seconds). The reason that the time spent metric is capped at 1 minute 57 seconds is because that was the last time that the widget had communication back to the server.

In the Clearspring widget serving platform, our widget tracking capability for time spent is set at a 30 second interval of communication. What this means is that the widget will reach out every 30 seconds to the servers collecting widget analytics to indicate that it is still being viewed on the page. Deviations to this methodology are that we send off tracking packets to our servers immediately if someone clicks on a widget or mouses over the widget (we only count what we call “strong” hovers – those of a half a second or more). On subsequent clicks or interactions with the widget we send the tracking packet off 5 seconds later. Each time a tracking packet is sent, the 30 second clock is reset.

The methodology of how the data is collected differs from traditional “on-site” web analytics, but is the only to truly assess how long a widget is viewed on a page. Each time the page is reloaded, the clock for the widget is set back to zero. Think of each view as a session and the widget view as the session duration. The only way to calculate the session duration or time spent is to force a communication effort between the widget and data collection server.

Periodic communication between the widget and the server may be viewed as “chatty”. We provide the ability for the Widget Creator (WC as we call them around here) to dial up the communication or dial it down (especially if it is an interactive game that requires a lot of clicking) to manage the user experience.

I am including a colleague’s personal widget for my “widget of the week”. The “Rob and Elliott” widget is a comic strip widget. The WC updates it weekly. You can check out the widget here.

Rob and Elliott

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