November 12, 2007, 12:00 AM

Advertising widgets help site publishers reap cash

Shopping portal Mpire has introduced WidgetBucks, an ad network of pay-per-click, web page-based widgets. The widgets offer comparison shopping features and product information with links to different e-retailers within the same ad.

Shopping portal Mpire has introduced WidgetBucks, an ad network of pay-per-click, web page-based widgets for content publishers, bloggers and affiliates. In contrast to common display ads focused on one product or brand that link content site visitors to e-commerce sites, Mpire’s widgets are based on themes, such as Popular Left-Wing Books and Pet Dog, and offer comparison shopping features and product information with links to different e-retailers within the same ad.

Mpire has signed up 30,000 publishers to date, and in October, WidgetBucks’ first month, served more than 200 million ad impressions, the company says. Mpire’s shopping portal, which receives 900,000 monthly unique visitors, and widgets connect shoppers to thousands of online stores and marketplaces, including Amazon.com, eBay, The Gap, Shopping.com, Target and Wal-Mart.

To ascertain which products are most popular and least expensive, Mpire licenses data feeds from eBay, Shopping.com and merchants with whom Mpire has relationships. The portal then uses proprietary analytics and relevance technologies to determine the most popular products and the best prices and the related e-commerce sites for items that fall within a widget’s theme.

Shopping.com provides Mpire product information and images for display in the widgets. Shopping.com pays Mpire for click-throughs from Mpire’s portal and widgets to Shopping.com merchants, and Mpire pays content publishers, bloggers and affiliates a percentage based on click-throughs via the widgets they place on their sites.

Mpire launched a handful of eBay widgets in May as a trial run. It then created the WidgetBucks ad network, which launched October 2. The eBay widgets trial run and word of mouth among publishers enabled Mpire to very quickly secure 30,000 sites in the WidgetBucks ad network, says Dean Jutilla, marketing director.

“As opposed to content-oriented widgets, we offer widgets that make money, the Holy Grail of the widget revolution,” Jutilla says. “And through our themes, we’re highly relevant to content and affiliate sites-we look more like content than an ad. So on a digital camera reviews site, for example, on pages with reviews of Canon cameras, a publisher can place a widget on the site that showcases top-selling cameras of Canon and other brands along with the best prices for the products.”

Site publishers download WidgetBucks widgets in 100 shopping and product categories through Mpire.com and can configure widgets as they see fit. Widget configuration involves a few steps. “What are you going to call it, what is the URL it’s going to, what’s the size, what’s the color, what is your shopping category-then publishers click on Create Code,” Jutilla says. “Then it takes a couple seconds and gives you a block of code you can paste into the HTML of your page.”

The next step for WidgetBucks is enabling publishers to customize their own widgets. “We’ll be giving them the ability to create their own,” Jutilla says, who says customization should increase adoption. “If you are a fantasy sports blog and you want a football-related widget on your site to make a little money, then you will be able to create that with, for example, a special style or skin that looks very football-related.”

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