Widget Strategy Drives Engagement for National Geographic

Beginning in 2007, National Geographic began offering a daily dose of its trademark nature photos in the form of a widget, its first such offering.

The Photo of the Day widget took off, recording 39 million views and close to 300 thousand installs on iFacebook, MySpace, and iGoogle pages. With time it became part of a broad strategy to engage readers with a more portable experience of National Geographic’s content.

There are now some 20 widgets on the site with names like “Your Shot Jigsaw Puzzles,” “Daily News Widget,” “National Geographic Place of the Week Widget,” and “Nat Geo Music Widget.” To build them National Geographic partnered with Clearspring Technologies, which allows publishers to create, distribute, track, and monetize widgets.

“It was really the consumer voice that led us down the path to add more widgets,” said Brendan Hart, VP of marketing at National Geographic Digital Media. “The jigsaw puzzles have extremely high engagement. We wanted to capture some of that magic and let consumers take that [to] Facebook, iGoogle, or MySpace, and let them start their day with it.”

The number of widgets will grow on the site as National Geographic Digital Media looks to deepen the social media integration it has with its users. “We want to create something equally entertaining off the site as on,” said Hart.

Advertisers are advertising on, and in some cases sponsoring, National Geographic’s widgets. Energizer recently sponsored a puzzle and a photo contest. “We’re trying to achieve high value advertising integrations,” said Hart.

National Geographic also runs overlay units on some widgets. An aggregate page of its main widgets is available at widgets.nationalgeographic.com, where any current overlay placements can be seen.

Additionally, National Geographic has used Clearspring’s technology to create ad units with widget-like features.

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