NEWS that the Wall Street Journal is adding a feature to its website that lets readers see which stories are popular with their Facebook friends should signal to the investor relations website industry that so-called “widgets” are moving to the mainstream.
According to the Associated Press, the Journal, NBC Universal and CNET are partnering with Loomia Inc. to add a feature to their sites called SeenThis? It enables viewers to see what stories, videos and other content their friends on the popular social networking site are interested in.
Many media websites already include features that show readers what stories are most popular, most emailed or most blogged, but the SeenThis? widget makes these features more personal and relevant to people with common interests.
Importantly, the Journal has recognized the potential privacy issues with such features and has made using SeenThis? entirely opt-in.
AP quotes Daniel Bernard, general manager for Wall Street Journal Online, saying that the application “won’t collect personally identifiable information on which people are reading which articles, just aggregated information on which articles are being read most by those in a readers’ group of Facebook friends or networks.”
|The SeenThis? widget on WSJ.com went live this morning.|
A number of publications already use widgets that integrate with Facebook, blogs and other social networking sites, so the Journal‘s move is hardly new. But it is a strong sign that widgets — small, self-contained online applications with a specific purpose — are moving to the mainstream.
I can think of several ways that widgets could be used on investor relations websites, especially those hosted on a single platform such as Thomson Financial, Shareholder.com, Investis, SNL or B2i.
The potential to use widgets to raise the profile of smaller companies at low or no cost is huge. At the same time, the barriers to entry for people who want to build widgets are coming down fast.
I’ve just test driven a new widget-building product called SproutBuilder that is very easy to use. Anyone who has used software like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Fireworks or other Adobe/Macromedia software will have little difficulty using SproutBuilder to create their own widgets in minutes. You can read more about SproutBuilder at ReadWriteWeb or TechCrunch.
|Tools like Sproutbuilder give almost anyone the ability to make their own widgets.|
Of course, if past experience is anything to go by, it will be 18 months to two years before the big IR website vendors come up with an idea and then start bringing widgets to their clients’ websites. And even then, they’ll probably do it wrong or decide to do it in a way that invades users’ privacy.
I know many people think I’m needlessly critical of the cookie-cutter giants of the IR website business, but on the Web today you need all the flexibility you can get, and lumbering oafs just can’t do it for you. That’s the truth, and if I didn’t say so, I’d be lying to you.
P.S. We are planning a special feature on widgets in our next issue of Online IR Trends, so if you haven’t subscribed yet, now is as good time because our 25% discount offer expires tomorrow.