Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Reason to Be Annoyed by Widgets No. 243

In a story published this week by the Associated Press about popular widget-maker Slide, one of the more annoying concepts being floated by marketers, especially related to social networks, popped up like the undying vampire it has become.

slide

“We are really good at getting people to take things and include them on their social-networking pages,” said Sonya Chawla, Slide’s senior advertising director. “We think we can persuade our users to become brand ambassadors.”

Ah, brand ambassadors! Like perhaps being dispatched to a posting in the tenth ring of hell.

It seems, though, that the old canard about getting audiences to carry water for brands and loving it has found new life, as social networks and the widgets that live off them search for business models.

Now I am not against widgets, those small third-party applications that people can put on their Web pages on social networks like Facebook and MySpace, in general.

While there are now many too many and most are simply features and not companies, some are actually helpful and substantive and introduce a plethora of innovation and features into a service like MySpace that the service itself would or could never have offered.

And I also think that these widget-makers need to find a way to make money, especially the very popular ones like Slide, if they are to stay around.

funpix

Slide offers many widgets, like ones to add slide shows or guest books or enhanced photos, like FunPix shown here, to a Web page. It claims 120 million unique visitors a month using its widgets.

So it is no surprise that Slide is about to start to try to add advertising, which makes perfect sense. And I don’t even mind it if Slide, as its founder Max Levchin said in the Associated Press piece, makes these ads “user-initiated,” which means users get to choose to include them.

But to insist that audiences like to do this, for example, since they seem to enjoy wearing and showing off brands in their clothing and consumer lives, is a story that only a marketer could spin to big-product companies in need of a little love.

Ads are just ads, no matter how they are served up, and people realize they are the necessary (and sometimes even enjoyable, if they are well done) evil of getting great content and tools online gratis.

In the interview, Levchin also floats the idea that Slide, which is apparently currently not profitable, might also go public. It’s a sign to me that suddenly makes the scene feel very bubbly, given that Slide certainly has traffic, but no proven track record to continually make money.

Widget IPOs? Reason No. 244 to be annoyed by widgets.


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— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”