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Widgets, Buzz And Digital Engagement

NEW YORK -- You may know all about the trends, lingo and buzzwords in the digital media sector, but do you know how to turn them into revenue?

Think engagement as you leverage what's best for your audience, according to media and advertising executives who gathered at the Min Day conference this week.

"Buyers want engagement," said Scott Schiller, executive vice president for sales at Glam Media, a network of lifestyle Web sites for women. Schiller spoke at a panel discussion called "Emerging Ad & Revenue Formats."

"Technology enforces engagement, but really engagement is putting an ad in an environment where the engagement is made," he added. "What we do is leverage our audience and exchange content to place it in the most applicable places for engagement."

In another era, that might have been called grabbing the audience's attention. But in the digital media sphere, engaging is what it's about.

"Marketers are only paying if users are engaging," agreed Fred McIntyre, senior vice president, AOL Video, a unit of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX).

For Captivate Network, engagement is about the how. The advertising network's strategy involves geotargeting, such as sending regionally specific ads depending on where the user is. But that's not the only way it takes ads to where the audience is. If they're in taxis and office building elevators, noted Hugh Flanigan, creative director, that's where the ads go as well. [cob:Special_Report]

Online ads must be targeted, Schiller continued. "Media buyers want targeted reach, and technology has forced the democratization of the medium," he said. "Pre-Web 2.0, we saw the opportunity for a lot of lost audiences because marketers were involved with passion groups."

Another problem with online advertising is a shortage of inventory right now, asserted Matt Sanchez, CEO of video advertising company VideoEgg. User-generated and short-form videos help address this problem, he said. "Get that technology embedded, so you can address that inventory."

Another ad technology on the rise is the use of widgets , which often take the form of buttons, dialog boxes, pop-up windows, pull-down menus, icons or scroll bars on sites and enable users to interact with them. "The challenge is how can they monetize widgets," Sanchez said. "Just because it is on the page doesn't mean you have monetization for that content feed."

Tapan Bhat, vice president of Front Doors at Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO), echoed the sentiment during an earlier panel discussion, noting that widgets need "context. A lot of widgets have no context. Great widgets with context become a very useful experience."

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