Interview with Peter Yared: iWidget Funding and the Changing Face of Syndication

-iWidget Logo-Can widgets change the face of online advertising? It’s a question that we’ve been asking ourselves since widgets became mainstream, but we still don’t have a clear answer. We have, however, seen the evolution of widgets as they’ve become major interactive conduits for disseminating information. Thanks to platforms like Facebook’s opening up for development purposes, widgets have taken on a new occupation and place in the Internet’s timeline.

Below is an interview with iWidget‘s CEO Peter Yared, who speaks on iWidget and the company’s hopes for changing the face of the widget and advertising space. As iWidget, which recently raised $4 million and has upgraded its Social Syndication Platform, the company is now better able to provide deep integration with existing social media, taking content to the place where it’s most likely to be seen.

SocialTimes’ Kristen Nicole: Tell me a little bit about iwidgets, the company background and how you got started in the widget space.

iWidget CEO Peter Yared: In early 2007 I noticed that I could go a whole day in front of a computer without going to websites – most of the web content I used was served up through iGoogle and my RSS reader. I pulled up three-year web traffic graphs in Alexa, for a number of different websites and it became very apparent that site traffic was universally trending downward or staying flat (I blogged about it here: http://peteryared.blogspot.com/2008/04/websites-are-so-over.html).

Clearly I was not the only one visiting websites less frequently. I realized there was a huge opportunity to help websites syndicate their content to the places where people were spending their time online. So, we created a drag-and-drop widget builder that gave users the ability to syndicate and monetize their content on popular destinations like Facebook and iGoogle.

Kristen Nicole:
Were you always a company that provided widgets as integrated applications for social networks?

Peter Yared: We started the company in April 2007, one month before Facebook launched its platform. iWidgets was the only widget platform that started at the same time the social network opened up, and it is a big differentiator for us as we integrate deeply into social graphs and viral channels.

The previous generation of widget companies placed an identical block of content on a wide variety of destinations, which is basically forcing a square peg into a round hole. We’ve created Widgets 2.0 by making the widget native on each destination. For example, on Facebook, the buttons turn blue to match the site’s color scheme. iWidgets can also natively tap into the viral nature of Facebook. When users interact with an iWidgets application, the widget accesses viral channels like posting to newsfeeds and invitations are targeted based on a user’s friends’ profile interests.

Visually, the widget becomes seamlessly integrated into the site. There are multiple views available for an iWidgets application: a narrow view for the wall and info tabs, a wide view for the boxes tab, and a canvas view to which users can click through. In effect, the widget is just like a hand-coded Facebook application, but you can build it, drag and drop, integrate easily, and publish natively to a variety of platforms including Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, and iGoogle.

Kristen Nicole: How does your product compete against larger brands like Clearspring?

Peter Yared: We partner with Clearspring. iWidgets provides two things that Clearspring does not: self-service, PowerPoint-style widget building tools and viral deployment into the top social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Hi5. Clearspring provides two things that iWidgets does not: a wizard in the widget for users to deploy the widget into a variety of blog types, and some additional analytics that are useful for blog widgets.

“Widget” companies are often lumped together, but once you start to understand the nuances and points of differentiation among the different platforms, it becomes very clear that we’re offering products with major contrasts.

Kristen Nicole: Do your users earn revenue from the ads you place on widgets?

Peter Yared: If the widget gets over $100 of ad revenue from their widget in a month we give them 15%. This model provides a great incentive for users, because they have the freedom to experiment without getting burned if a campaign is unsuccessful. Who can complain about that in this economy?

Kristen Nicole: What types of metrics, reports and analytics do your provide?

Peter Yared: We partner with Google Analytics. Early last year Google Analytics added support for widgets (technically, they allowed multiple Google Analytics hits from one web page, which previously had been a no-no for analytics solutions).

Most people know and already use Google Analytics and it provides the vast majority of what a widget campaign needs such as impressions, installs, and clickthroughs. Customers prefer that widget analytics be integrated into their existing analytics solutions, and Omniture and other analytics vendors are also rolling out widget analytics support that we will be able to integrate.

Kristen Nicole: As far as advertising goes, do you currently have a platform?

Peter Yared: We partner with large media companies that already have ads integrated into their media players. We help them create additional impressions for those ads on social networks and in exchange, we get 15% of the money made by those impressions. We do not sell additional advertising against our customers’ own ad sales teams. For the content companies that do not have advertising infrastructure since they are subscription based, such as the premium cable channels, we integrate an ad existing network.

Kristen Nicole: What are your end goals with advertising through iwidgets?

Peter Yared: It is virtually impossible for a content site to double their traffic at this point. In order to grow, they need to get their content out to where the people are, and that is what we help them do. iWidgets can deliver a company’s content to the places online where the audience already is, and monetize it there. So ultimately, our goal is to help websites increase their ad revenue “off-domain”.