Clearspring Unveils Widget Ad Network

The words “widget” and “monetize” are increasingly uttered in the same breath, as Web 2.0 players look for new revenue sources and advertisers cast about for the latest and greatest marketing vehicles. Widget platform Clearspring Technology has now joined the game with the Beta launch of a new widget ad network it says will be a one-stop shop for creating widgets, distributing content, selling widget-borne ads and serving those placements.

Virgin Mobile, Blockbuster Online, Lionsgate Films and The Learning Channel are among the first brands to advertise on the network, which includes syndicated applications from the likes 20th Century Fox Television, Blockbuster, The Huffington Post and the National Hockey League.

Clearspring’s network was created using Adify’s Build Your Own Network platform, which provides ad serving, operations and campaign reporting.

Clearspring SVP Peggy Fry said the new ad network is still in a trial period — with only three widgets launched — and will not debut officially until January. She said she couldn’t predict the reach of the network but argued the format has great potential given the current popularity of widget-based content sharing.

“A large percentage of widget impressions will come from seeding and the remaining will come from viral,” said Fry. “We don’t know how to estimate it at this point.”

Pricing will be handled on a CPM basis, according to Erik Swain, Clearspring’s director of advertising products. Ad formats will include “The Flip,” a 300 x 250 pixel ad that appears as the back cover of a widget; “The Peel,” where the ad is revealed when the viewer “peels” it back; the “Corner Logo,” an 88 x 31 ad in a corner of the widget; pre-, mid- and post-roll videos; and text. Also available on the network will be rich media ads, called SnaggableAds, from Gannett-owned PointRoll.

Clearspring said publishers can decide which advertisers will buy space on their widgets, and the company maintains a domain blacklisting and tracking tool to provide greater control over where widgets and ads appear.

“Advertisers and agencies are saying the distributed Web is on the rise and they want to reach that audience,” said Fry. She said the Clearspring platform enables widgets to be spread on 14 officially supported destinations, including Facebook, iGoogle, MySpace, Windows Live Spaces and Blogger.

Fry said Clearspring supports Google’s Open Social project, which provides a common set of APIs for building widgets that work with most social networks. Although Facebook is not a part of that effort, Fry said Clearspring has a product that takes its widgets and converts them into Facebook applications.