Posts tagged ‘social media’

Hey EA – Welcome to the Widget Game

Pogo LogoIt wasn’t too long ago that video game publishers and developers looked down on online gaming. Considered too low-brow for the big production focused studios, online games were like the bastard step child nobody wanted to recognize as part of the family.

I know the shame of being the unwanted sibling only too well, having traveled to EA’s Cupertino headquarters in 1999 on acquisition talks representing Kasparov Chess Online, Kasparov Chess logoone of the largest online chess networks. Company chairman Garry Kasparov was, and still remains, the most recognized name in chess. A brand onto himself, Mr. Kasparov is as saavy a businessman as he is at chess. KCF offered players of all levels a free chess gaming platform from which to challenge, play and chat with one another, maintain a chess rating (the equivalent of crack for chess players) and read daily chess news. We also sold chess-related merchandise and subscription-based Master class downloads – rather revolutionary for the day. Back in those days, we called it the 4C’s – competition, community, content and commerce.

If only we would had been better futurists and called it “social gaming,” it would still be in business today. Those discussions with EA never went very far, but I’d like to believe that it helped them realize the potential. Several months later, EA acquired Pogo, the largest independent gaming network at the time. And, as all things must end, Kasparov’s 20+ year reign as world chess champion ended, and so did Kasparov Chess Online, unable to ride out the great bubble burst of 2000, as it’s now known as. EA went onto grow Pogo’s audience, while diversifying its revenue streams.  And Kasparov went onto challenge Putin in the Russian elections.  We all know how that will turn out.

So when EA/Pogo announced a new Facebook widget for Pogo members, I was intrigued. After all, Pogo was all about social gaming, even before the term became the winner of the Most Repeated Buzz Phrase at the recent 2008 Gamers Developer Conference (GDC), in San Fran. Had they started to spread their tentacles to harness Facebook’s social graph?

Pogo Gaming Widget for Facebook

Well, yes and no. While the widget allows Pogo subscribers (read: paid members) to display their profile information, avatar and point totals, receive Pogo-related news, and link back to Pogo for a few selected games, it falls short in leveraging Facebook’s viral strengths.

First, all users must be registered Pogo members. Not sure what the overlap is between Facebook and Pogo members, but since Pogo targets women over 35, while Facebook reaches a decidly different audience, I don’t expect much crossover between the two.

Secondly, all games simply link back to the Pogo hub. There is no game integration within Facebook. Ah, the old hub-and-spoke strategy feels more like the bait and switch made popular at consumer retailers like The Wiz.

Is EA just clinging to the old and familiar business model they’ve groomed so nicely since the Pogo acquisition? Or is there simply a disconnect between the old guard and the new — the centralized web vs. distributed networks?

Maybe the new social network-centric gaming companies like SGN and Zynga know something that the executives at Pogo have yet to figure out. Let me give them a hint — Facebook gamers want to play in their own backyard, not a click away in someone else’s playground. Maybe it’s the old Groucho Marx joke, “I would never want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.”

Pogo Facebook Widget

Note to self: Remove Pogo Widget from my Facebook Profile.


February 29, 2008 at 3:20 am Leave a comment

Gruvr – Feelin’ Groovey

GruvrFor all of you music fans out there, the web service Gruvr is an invaluable tool for discovering your local music scene. A true Web 2.0 mash-up, Gruvr serves up local maps, overlayed with live music information. No need to enter your zip code, Gruvr deciphers your whereabouts via your computer’s IP connection and localizes the map to correspond with your immediate major metropolitan area.Since live music is a social activity, Gruvr offers both local and band-specific widgets to share the music love. These widgets allow anyone with a blog, social network profile or web site to publish a live music directory. That alone is quite an accomplishment.Gruvr’s location-based widget provides a continuously updated listing of upcoming concerts near you. Each listing brings up the map of that show. To grab this widget, visit here. No need to fill in the town or zip code, as the service should already know where you live. Copy the widget to your blog or webpage via simple, one-click install process. If you’re handy with feeds, you can also grab their helpful GeoRSS or plain RSS feeds, if you just want the data.While their are a few others in this space, Gruvr offers about the easiest way to add local concert listings to your blog or website. Gruvr will even provide a link back to your site if you use the widget. Here’s an example of Live from Nashville’s Gruvr widget:

Gruvr Location based widget

When users click on the Nashville map link, they are taken to Gruvr’s Nashville map:

Nashville, Gruvr Map

Links with performance information within the widget are also provided and link back to each performer’s MySpace page for more information.Gruvr also offers a tour map widget, specific to a group or performer. It is this widget’s ability to track a musical act’s touring schedule overlayed on a real Google map that has made this a popular MySpace Music tool, invaluable for both performers and their fan base.Benefiting from the youth market’s enthusiasm for viral media, Gruvr has experienced tremendous growth via its band map widget thanks to some pretty high-profile musical acts adopting its technology. Among the more notable bands who have incorporated the widget on their MySpace pages are: Miley Cyrus, Jonas Bros. and Alanis Morissette. In total, the widget is featured on more than 1000 MySpace Music pages. But that’s just the start. Fans can grab their favorite musical performer’s touring widget and add it to their blog, web site or MySpace profile.Just go here to grab a band-map widget and type in your favorite band name (or myspace name if needed).It’s this ying-and-yang between artist and fan that make Gruvr a potentially powerful viral agent for the music industry. Since bands big and small are no longer selling CDs like they use to, live performances will be the big money maker, as evidence by the recent multi-$$$ deals put up by Live Nation to secure bands, ranging from the Jonas Brothers to Madonna.While Gruvr is playing with the big acts, it’s focused more on the long-tail of music, offering a much more granular view of local shows. Everyone knows when Van Halen is playing at the Garden, but who’s out there that we don’t know about. That’s where Gruvr has its greatest potential!And at just over 2-million uniques per month and showing consistent growth month-over-month, the service is really starting to take off. Leveraging the social media spoke-and-hub strategy, Gruvr pushes out content from its hub, while driving traffic back to the hub via its large-base of installed widgets (i.e. Spokes).

Gruvr traffic graph

Gruvr is a self-funded, Boston-area start-up that, to date, generates revenue via Google AdSense and a few affiliate relationships. When will Gruvr start Feelin’ Groovey with cash flow? When it enables bands to monetize their fanbase via its widgets. And that’s exactly what the company has in store – from ticket sales to merchandise to digital downloads, there is no easy plug-and-play solution to support the millions of bands looking to earn a buck. Just when you thought there was no money in Rock & Roll, along comes Gruvr to keep the long tail of music wagging.

Some examples and screen shots

Neursonic myspace – advanced use of widgets on band pages Bucky Covington – from American Idol Flowmotion – widget used on myspace and band website The New Pornographers – example of standard myspace schedule vs. mapDubioza Kolektiv – example of European tour map kolektiv mapDevon Allman’s Honeytribe – example of awesome layout art — but how easy is it to read the schedule? allman schedule

compare to the map: much easier to tell at a glance if they are playing near you…

devon allman map

Example of how upcoming-shows announcment looks as bulletin in myspace, used by Indorphine . Each date is clickable to bring up an individual concert map.

January 15, 2008 at 12:30 am 10 comments

TicketMaster Empowering Scalpers

While widgets, like ringtones, have largely been about expressing oneself, there is a new widget paradigm taking place whose influence will be felt at the cash registers for many consumer marketers who have embraced social media and have dipped their virtual toe into the emerging widget economy. To these few brave organizations, your strategies will pay off and we salute you.

First up is TicketMaster, who just yesterday announced their ticket affiliate sales program. Not surprisingly, widget distribution is at the heart of their affiliate offering, and what better way to share the love (for money that is) than with a customizeable widget to show your support for your favorite touring band.

Ticketmaster’s new EventEngine widget allows registered affiliate individuals and organizations to create and post a customized Ticketmaster event marketing engine on their blog or web site that dynamically serves information regarding upcoming events with links to purchase tickets via Ticketmaster’s web site. Affiliates will eventually have access to Ticketmaster search buttons, banners, and link engines.

Ticketmaster EventEngine Widget

Widgets are an ideal marketing vehicle for getting those referral links out there. Hats off to the people at IAC and TicketMaster who found a way to make affiliate marketing engaging, in-context and profitable all at the same time. This is a trend that we will continue to see as marketers leverage social networks and develop sophisticated widgets that provide added value content as well as a way to monetize niche audiences.

November 28, 2007 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

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