A Response to Fred Wilson’s Talk at Widget Web Expo

Josh was asking me about the Fred Wilson keynote at WidgetWebExpo and I asked him to send me a list of questions that I would respond to and he could post. Here ya go.

Last week, Jeff Nolan — VP of NewsGator’s SaaS divison — attended the WidgetWebExpo in NYC. There, Fred Wilson gave a talk based on a blog post he published that morning called “Why Widgets is The Wrong Word for What We’re Doing.” That blog post and the discussion that took place at the conference provided a fair bit of fodder for discussion on the blogosphere as well as in the tech/widget space. I decided to ask Jeff if he’d like to provide another perspective in response to Fred’s comments. Enjoy!

[From Q & A with NewsGator Widget's Jeff Nolan (Part. 1) A Response to Fred Wilson's Talk at Widget Web Expo: NewsGator Widget Blog]

More on this topic (What's this?)
New York magazine exposes Clinton in private
Helpless in the Cloud
Read more on Vp PLC, Software as a Service at Wikinvest

Share Your NewsGator/FeedDemon Clippings with ReadBurner

Coolness, I love it when different services and products start integrating.

NewsGator has partnered with ReadBurner, and as a result, it’s now dead simple to share your NewsGator clippings with ReadBurner. This means that FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, NewsGator Inbox and NewsGator Online customers can easily share their clipped articles with ReadBurner.

[From Nick Bradbury: Share Your NewsGator/FeedDemon Clippings with ReadBurner]

NewsGator launches Editor’s Desk 2.1

We released a new version of our popular Editor’s Desk widget service today. Featuring a dramatically updated interface and some cool new tools for creating and managing widgets, this is a big upgrade to something that already works really well. I particularly like the Facebook app creator that converts any widget into a full blown Facebook application.

We played around with the new version of Editor’s Desk and were impressed with how easy the whole creation process really was. To create a widget, you can either add your own RSS feeds or choose a collection of feeds from categories provided by NewsGator. The free version of the service only provides minimal customization options for your widgets, you can select from a set a templates and then modify some of the colors, but if you pay for the premium version of the service, you can customize the CSS and HTML of the widgets. Some companies like USA Today and The Discovery Channel have already done that with spectacular results.

[From NewsGator launches Editor's Desk 2.1 - Download Squad]

There is a lot to check out here and this goes well beyond any other widget service’s ability to handle content feeds in a widget. Not only do we allow for the aggregation of multiple feeds but also the manipulation of feed content, the creation of keyword driven persistent search feeds that grab content from blogs and feeds, Twitter, LinkedIn messages, and much more. We also give you the option of adding feed “bundles” as sources from a comprehensive catalog of feeds. Cool stuff.

We updated the default widget templates and added multiple user profile management.

\200806192050.jpg

RSS Advertising Shows Signs of Life

There is some interesting data included in this post about a resurgence in advertising on top of RSS feeds. Historically this has been a disappointing category, most prominently featuring FeedBurner’s efforts to monetize the feed with embedded advertising. This is not to suggest that FeedBurner failed, but rather that it turned out not to be the slam dunk that many thought. It may be because ads are easily ignored, or even stripped out, in RSS feeds or that engagement rates are low, I really don’t know but monetizing RSS would be a big win for the media industry.

It had better be, because it’s certainly a larger part of publishers’ traffic. Thirty-four percent of global respondents to a March social media survey from Universal McCann said they had “ever” subscribed to an RSS feed. That represents a large jump from the previous year’s findings, when the agency found just 15 percent said they had subscribed to a feed. The data were gathered from 17,000 Internet users in 29 countries, aged 16 to 54.

[From RSS Advertising Shows Signs of Life - ClickZ]

New NewsGator Website

I usually hate PR about a company’s spiffy new website launching, it just seems so pointless… but that’s not going to stop me from pimping the new NewsGator site that went live over the weekend.

Designing a new website is always an interesting process, which is to say that it’s prone to a lot of argument with the outcome never able to please everyone. In this instance I think our marketing group did a good job, it emphasizes the customer success – hero stories – that are a sign of a maturing marketplace and it has a lot of good content about the “social enterprise”.

We probably went a little overboard on “social” but that’s clearly what enterprise customers want to buy because that is specifically what they are asking for, so more is better I guess. The NewsGator Widgets site looks pretty threadbare now but we’ll rev that with new content and richer customer stories; we have the data so it’s easy to highlight.

200806091720.jpg

More on this topic (What's this?)
Tales from the Field: The Show-Me POP
Google assigned PR4 to my blog.
The math behind the latest Big Oil PR campaign
Read more on Pr at Wikinvest

RivalSoft and NewsGator Partner on Integrated Content

I wrote about RivalMap back in April, focusing on how we were using it and why it is valuable to my team. What I didn’t tell you then is that our early experiences as a user, which were a result of my work with Andrew going back to before I joined NewsGator, led to an interesting partnership opportunity that is being announced today.

“The addition of an automated news service, which makes use of NewsGator technologies, adds a new level of functionality to RivalMap,” said Kris Rasmussen, fellow Co-founder of RivalSoft. “RivalMap now brings together relevant news and feeds in one place where they can be harnessed collaboratively. RivalMap is tremendously valuable for companies that need to monitor their market and identify important updates and trends.”

[From RivalSoft Announces RivalMap(TM) 2.0 and Partnership With NewsGator -- New Web-Based Service Dramatically Improves How Companies Maintain Market Awareness]

The backstory is that we were using RivalMap and I mentioned to Andrew that having integrated news feeds would make clipping and tracking content a whole lot easier. Not surprisingly he said, to paraphrase, “yeah we have heard that from almost everyone” to which the opportunity to take advantage of NewsGator’s APIs for subscription management and content pulling was born.

What I really like about the RivalMap integration is 1) it’s a proof point that our APIs are complete and functional as the RivalMap team built this with little input from us and 2) integrated content in applications really does add value, I know because my last month of using the beta version with the content engine has been marked by dramatically richer usage of the service.

The RivalMap integration is also really smartly done. Rather than embedding a traditional RSS feed reader with clipping capabilities in the app, what they did was build a subscription management feature that you can use to add a specific feed URI to begin pulling content from, or search for feeds using keywords.

They have also taken advantage of our Smart Feeds, which are essentially persistent search feeds we publish based on a keyword or multiple keywords you provide. For example, a Smart Feed for “NewsGator” will pull in content dynamically from a wide range of sources, including the 2.8 million feeds we poll in our network to Twitter, FriendFeed, and Linkedin messages. It’s a very powerful feature that casts a very wide net across more content sources than any individual could track on their own.

The content presentation aspect is simple and to the point, it displays content from each data source and then collectively. What’s interesting is that the more I use this feature area the more I see small turns of the screw that can be made to make it even better and more broadly integrated into the app which leads me to conclude that integrated content is not just a bolt-on feature for content intensive apps but rather a deeply integrated strategic set of functions that form a foundation for services like this.

200806040915.jpg

NewsGator Editor’s Desk Beta

We are beta testing a new version of our popular Editor’s Desk widget management application.

Managing the content of a widget has always been a strong point of our hosted service, with not only post level control over RSS feeds but also the ability to create search feeds that scour a broad range of sources and pre-bundled content feeds.

One of the more powerful aspects of the content management tool is the ability to aggregate a large number of feeds and control the display. The Enterprise Irregulars widget that runs in my sidebar pulls together 40 different feeds from the EI member sites, and then throws in Summize feeds for “Enterprise Irregulars” and “enterprise software” for good measure.

The widget displays all of these content sources in an orderly fashion, cycling 1 post item per feed per 8 slots, to ensure that high frequency blogs don’t dominate the presentation. This is the kind of control you get using our widget service, as well as the ability to pull out post items or make them “sticky” to stay in view up at the top of the widget.

The ability to syndicate content is a powerful capability that widgets provide. The Enterprise Irregulars widget gets about 22k impressions a month here but across the 30+ sites that have picked up this widget there is another 80k impressions per month that roll up. What that means is that I’m generating 100,000 widget impressions (analogous to a pageview) per month, extending the EI brand, and achieve a consistent 2-3% clickthrough rate on the content.

There is much more in this updated service, sign up and give it a try.

200805281810.jpg

More on this topic (What's this?) Read more on Beta at Wikinvest

NewsGator Collaborative Filtering

Wow, it’s been a busy week here at NewsGator central, today we announced a pretty cool feature in our client products for content recommendations called Collaborative Filtering.

200805221614.jpg

We are pretty hot on this idea of filtering content and providing recommendations based on the attention you give to your subscribed content. This includes not just clicking on a post in a feed to read it, but also clipping, tagging, and sharing content, all of which come together in our Activity Scoring.

What we are doing with Sense Array is actually pretty blind to the actual content, it uses attention streams as simulated ratings on top of explicit thumbs up/down ratings the user initiates on suggested content. We have been working with mSpoke on a rich categorization capability that will provide Wikipedia-style indexing of content, and you will being seeing that in the products in the near term.

So where is all this going? Well first things first, we need to finish integrating this with our desktop client apps so that you have the same recommendations in FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, and your Outlook inbox, and it’s all powered by the online engine. This also suggests that we can make this available to third party app developers through our API.

Secondly, we are taking advantage of our widget services for content syndication as a logical delivery point for relevance features that provide suggested content on top of what our media partners are delivering. Ironically, this is a core part of what we offered with our branded reader product that led to the development of the widget business, so in a sense this is coming full circle to providing publishers with rich services on top of RSS, just as we do for consumers.

Lastly, I think it’s fair to say that the emergence of exciting new RSS consumption applications and the embedding of RSS services into applications means that there is a movement to provide a new user experience for content consumption that does not rely on a subscribe and consume chronologically model. This next generation paradigm is what captures my interest and I think we can deliver it.

Congratulations to the Clearspring Team

Clearspring announced that they have closed a $18m series C round of financing. This is not only great news for Clearspring but the entire sector as well.

Another hefty late stager: Widget analytics and distribution firm Clearspring has raised an $18 million third round led by New Enterprise Associates. Past backers including Novak Biddle Venture Partners also participated. The McLean, VA-based company has now raised $35 million, including two previous institutional rounds and a seed round.

[From Widgeteer Clearspring Gets Its Big $18 Million Third Round | paidContent.org]

Despite a broad tailing off of financing in the web 2.0 space, widgets remain a bright spot.

- NewsGator raised a $12m funding round in Dec 2007.

- Gigya closed a round in March 2008.

- Widgetbox completed a $8m series B in Jan and Hummer Winblad partner Will Price joined as CEO.

- Sprout announced a $5.5m series B just last week.