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National Geographic redefines widget strategy with co-branding effort

Puzzle widget will meld news headlines from media partners with magazine photography strengths

By Heather Havenstein
August 18, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - National Geographic Digital Media is taking its foray into the world of widgets to the next level with a new campaign to let third parties co-brand and add the widgets to their own sites.

National Geographic will allow partners to use its widgets — small, single-purpose code snippets — created by NewsGator Technologies Inc. on their sites with links back to the magazine publisher's site.

The first widgets to be offered to third parties include a puzzle widget that transforms photographs into a digital puzzle for assembly by users and a widget that allows photo editors to highlight recent work. National Geographic has been providing the widgets on its own site exclusively for the past year.

Since the program was launched a month ago, the puzzle widget has been syndicated to 23 media sites not affiliated with National Geographic. Rob Covey, National Geographic's senior vice president for content and design, said those agreements extend the potential reach of the National Geographic-branded widget to more than 3 million new users.

"This model of syndicating to other folks is really an interesting way to do a variant on the theme of widgets," Covey added. For example, the Tampa Bay Online news site and Dayton Daily News have already picked up the puzzle widgets, he noted.

"For a lot of our partners, finding applications that might be interesting to the Facebook generation is problematic," Covey said. "We think we've created a puzzle application that a wide swath of age groups will find interesting. It is an inexpensive and virtually painless way for [partners] to see if they can find their way onto pages [like Facebook]."

News feeds from the partner sites run in the bottom of the puzzle widget, which leads users back to the National Geographic site, where new puzzles are added several times daily.

Covey added that some of the inspiration for the new application came from National Geographic newsroom employees under the age of 25, who offered suggestions of new products that might appeal to younger online users. "The more that you listen to them and think through and understand how they see the world, you begin to want to shape your products to see if their ideas will catch fire," he said.

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