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'Washington Post' Eyes Widget Ads

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NEW YORK The Washington Post has long based its online strategy on getting people to its Web site, where they can consume content and be exposed to advertising.
 
The newspaper is starting to augment that approach with a distributed content approach that it hopes will bring Post content to people wherever they are while also allowing the company to make money.
 
This week, the company is rolling out its first ad-supported widget, an apartment-finding tool that is sponsored by local realty company The Bozzuto Group. The widget will be available on WashingtonPost.com and through Google's content advertising network.
 
It is one of nearly 30 widgets the Post has introduced in the past 18 months, but the first it has paired with a sponsor, said Ken Barbieri, director of business development.
 
"From a strategic sense, we came to a realization that investing in bringing eyeballs to our sites was going to be more difficult over time, so we want to deliver our content where people [already] are," he said. "We want to be medium agnostic."
 
To be sure, it is a ways off from there. More than 90 percent of the Post's online audience is still reached through its Web site, Barbieri estimates. But it views widgets as more than just a promotional vehicle.
 
"In an ideal world, we'd love for them to click through to our site," he said. "More and more what you see is this content is going to be consumed where the readers encounter it."
 
Other news organizations are looking for ways to spread their content into social networks and blogs, whether through downloadable video players or widgets. The New York Times has released an application programming interface that will let developers build tools using Times information.
 
These moves are still quite early when it comes to advertising, as evidenced by the slow approach the Post has taken. Barbieri said vertical applications like the rental finder lend themselves to advertising. It has several widgets for the 2008 presidential election campaign, including an "issues coverage tracker" that aggregates information from several sources.
 
An early adopter of Facebook applications, the company has yet to sell ads on its pages there, as Facebook allows outside developers. Barbieri said the ad format that works in widgets is still undetermined. Bozzuto is running a small banner on the bottom portion of the widget. The Post so far is taking a cautious approach to placing ads in its widgets through ad networks.
 
"The question for us is how do you grow this into a long-term business," Barbieri said.