Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Distribution platforms are not eyeballs

I'm on a mission. That mission is to explain, clearly, that a widget distribution platform does not necessarily make widget distribution happen. A distribution platform is an enabler. It does not have an audience. A company that can distribute content, or a widget, must actually have eyeballs, aka inventory.

Example: several companies, including my own, provide a technology that enables people to grab and share content, when they come across it. This is a great solution for content that has an audience and wants to grow it. What it does not guarantee is that people will find your content in the first place. Currently advertisers have several options for distributing their widgets:
  • Organic seeding - placing the widget in galleries or other trafficked sites such as a campaign microsite, where visitors may grab it. This is worthwhile, but does not guarantee scale of any kind. I've spoken to Fortune 500 companies who spent $100K on a facebook app only to have 11 active users.
  • Running a rich media ad where the ad is grabbable. The conversion rates from view to grab are currently very low - I think this will evolve as people learn over time that ads are grabbable, and more people are familiar with widgets, but right now it's a bonus on top of impressions which are still an important element of a full interactive/social campaign - active widget or application users are typically not the only target audience an advertiser is trying to reach with a broader campaign .
  • Running a CPI campaign. Right now this is the most effective option for securing installs. Whether using Gigya or RockYou or other solution. Just remember widgets make the most sense when integrated into a larger campaign - they are not a replacement for other channels but instead can offer new types of engagement (impact still being researched) against a very particular social media audience.

I see much sloppy use of the word "distribution," where the entity using this language implies they have the eyeballs but where they really only have the grabbing and sharing mechanism. This leads to confusion among advertisers, which only hurts our industry overall. Sweeping challenges under the rug is not the way we'll grow this new industry.

No comments: