Clearspring is going to annouce tomorrow that it was chosen by NBC to be its exclusive widget platform for the next year. This is a major deal for Clearspring, and for NBC as well. The specific terms of this business arrangement have not been disclosed.
According to Clearspring founder, Hooman Radfar, this is a first of kind deal between a widget platform and a media giant. In the interview earlier today, Radfar said that he sees this as a major step towards breaking silo/portal approach and embracing distributed content strategy for NBC. So what is the motivation here for NBC and what is compelling about Clearspring's offering? Lets take a look and try to understand why this deal makes sense for NBC.
Overview of Clearspring
We begin with the brief overview of the Clearspring platform, which we covered in November of last year. The platform is quite new and is still in beta, but it is already rather impressive. According to Radfar, the platform has already served over 3 billion widgets. These numbers and Clearspring's approach to the market is what attracted the interest of former AOL founders who recently led the second round of investments, putting together over $5.5 million. So what does Clearspring offer?
The company has build highly scalable platform for creating, maintaining and distributing widgets. Unlike Widgetbox, which we recently covered, Clearspring does not focus on building a widget marketplace, instead it focuses on building a platform for developers. Here are the is what the company advertises to developers:
- Write once run anywhere
- Automatic viral sharing of widgets across destinations
- Support for major social networking and blogging platforms
- Support for desktop and mobile
- Visual and API-based setup
- Content distribution across the web
Above: Clearspring widgets on NBA.com
All of these are compelling, but tracking, API and content distribution deserve special attention. Clearspring's tracking is statistics on steroids. The information about widget usage gets sliced and diced across each and every possible metric that you can imagine. It's a useful and powerful tool for understanding the audience and how it interacts with the widgets. The API (application programming interface) offering means that companies can provide a better user experience. This is particularly useful for widgets that need to be configured through an application. Finally, the content distribution means that widgets are automatically going to be syndicated to galleries and sites across the web.
So what does NBC get?
During my interview with Radfar, he emphasized the shift he is observing in media companies. He says that these giants are recognizing that broadcasting/silo approach is not going to work for much longer. Instead, the companies are looking for platforms and channels to access the users, to get people's attention anywhere online (this is something NBC rival CBS has also been doing -- in fact, CBS is another Clearspring partner). And this is where Clearspring comes in.
When NBC starts building on Clearspring's platform, it will get a solid platform for delivering widgets to both its internal sites and anywhere else online. The scalability of Clearspring platform has probably been the first major factor in choosing to work with the startup. The second major factor was probably comprehensive metrics. According to Radfar, these metrics are critical in order to be able to monetize the content outside of the typical network portal environment. He explained that context and user interaction numbers will help NBC determine the right monetization model.
At the end of the interview Radfar hinted that more deals will be announced soon, but he could not discuss any specifics yet. Given the NBC deal there is no reason to think that there won't be more and that means that Clearspring is on the right track. If they are going to become a standard platform for managing widgets for major media players they themselves will become a major media player.
In way, like Facebook wants to be a pipe in the social network world, Clearspring is aiming at being the pipe for widgets. Given that widgets are booming (see our recent comprehensive overview by David Lenehan), Clearspring might just end up in a sweet spot. What do you think?