Syndication and Widgets Primer

The publishing world is continuously evolving, creating new opportunities for plugged-in companies to reach new audiences like never before. Today’s publishers need to think beyond the fixed location of their website and fully integrate with the large hubs of user activity on the desktop, mobile phone, social networks, blogs, and web pages at large. Syndication and widgets power new opportunities to carry content beyond the walls of a single site and into some of the largest brands in the world yet some publishers still haven’t gotten the message. I recorded a 1-hour video presentation earlier this week to better explain the syndication and widget landscape to web publishers. This summary document helped shape the Widget Summit program and new publisher opportunities.

A widget in its simplest sense breaks apart a website into its essential components, broadcasts those components to anyone who will listen, and reassembles the content on a remote system while tapped into local resources. It’s a bit like writing your website’s front end in a remote location powered by local assembly methods, cached resources, and rich interactions. I compare syndication and widgets to television broadcasting and international shipping: we build our products to exact specifications to take advantage of new audiences and standardized transports.

Graph of available audience populations of major widget platforms

Widgets let publishers take their content to the audience instead of waiting for the audience to come to them. Throughout my presentation I used Twitter as an example. Twitter attracted approximately 2.3 million unique visitors in the U.S. in September according to Nielsen Online. That’s a pretty strong audience but it’s tiny compared to the repeat daily activities of Facebook, MySpace, Google, or everyone reaching Windows Vista. We package up and redistribute our content to reach these larger audiences spending time away from our site instead of waiting for a new visit into a fixed domain.

In the presentation I broke syndication strategy into two major components: syndicate data using Atom and piece your data back together on major platforms of interest using widgets. I dive into a few example of major feed reading and widget platforms, and even spent some time on advanced topics such as contextual awareness.

I am still experimenting with creating presentations for online video distribution but I hope you enjoy these multimedia conversations.

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