Ken Doctor’s April 10, 2011 Newsonomics posting “Nine Questions on Gannett branding, Patch widgeting, Stewart Becking, Bloomberg viewing and Sunday selling” touts the newness of the Patch Widget introduced by the hyperlocal AOL Patch earlier this year.
“(Patch widget) – That could be a great stealth strategy for AOL’s local play; it’s free marketing and distribution, if other local sites — think arts, sports, campus and local business sites — want to add some currency to their offering.”
Stealth strategy? Really?
Not only is the Patch widget not very useful — because a simple headline doesn’t give a reader any context for the content being pushed — but it’s not very innovative either. It’s a circa-2002 idea that has since died a timely death.
From 2002-2007, newspapers all over the country, including The Denver Post (my previous place of employment) and Boston Globe hawked widgets, headline apps and headlines services of all types. From Google and Yahoo apps and widgets, the headlines embedded in WidgetBox, to third-party widget services such as NewsGator.
The concept, like the one Patch is hawking, was to give webmasters in the community embeddable lists of local headlines — news, sports, entertainment, calendar events, you name it.
Usage of newspaper widgets all but died by 2007, and the answer for widget demise was simple: As a webmaster, why open my website up to content that 1) is easy for me to control and create myself by using an RSS script or app and 2) risks slowing or disabling my website? (Even if the widget doesn’t affect page load, why would I want a blank spot on the page?)
Newspaper headline widgets are now pretty much non-existent not because newspapers are behind the curve, but because newspapers have already experienced the headline widget product cycle and the widgets have outlived their usefulness. There are simply too many alternate and less risky options available to webmasters for aggregating local content.