Google Inc. will try to cash in on the Internet’s latest craze by distributing ads within “widgets” — the interactive capsules designed to bring more pizzaz to Web pages.
The move, scheduled to be announced Wednesday, represents Google’s first attempt to make money off a trend that the online search leader has helped popularize. The Mountain View-based company has for two years offered a platform showcasing small modules, known generally as widgets, that blend data, text, images and software programs.
Google users can now select from more than 14,000 widgets — or, as Google uniquely calls them, “gadgets” — that can be planted on a personalized version of the search engine’s Web site.
Other influential high-tech companies like Yahoo Inc., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. also have helped turn the Internet into a widget factory. And Google isn’t the first to try to commercialize widgets.
Online photo-sharing startup Slide Inc. in San Francisco last month launched an attempt to include advertising in its widgets, which have become the most widely viewed on the Internet, according to Media Metrix. Slide is relying on users to choose ads and feature them in their widgets.
About 87 million people in the United States used an online widget in June, according to the research firm comScore Media Metrix.
Virtually all widgets are offered for free, raising questions about how Web sites can profit from them.
Google is approaching that challenge by displaying advertising widgets on the thousands of Web sites that participate in its Internet marketing network — the largest and most lucrative on the Web.
Just as it does with text-based ad links, Google plans to show the commercial widgets only when they carry a message that will appeal to individual Web site visitors.
Advertisers will be able to pick out where they want to display their widgets, based on a Web site’s demographics and other factors such as the location of the computer connected to the Internet.
“We view this as a way to create an environment where the Internet is being supplied by truly useful advertising,” said Christian Oestlien, a business product manager for Google.
The advertisers who participated in Google’s early tests with widgets included Pepsi-Cola Co.’s Sierra Mist, Intel Corp. and Honda Motor Co.
The ad widgets represent Google latest attempt to create other marketing vehicles besides the text-based ad links that generate most of its profits.
The company also has started delivering more video ads, primarily on its YouTube.com subsidiary, and it hopes to become a major force in graphical advertising by buying DoubleClick Inc. for $3.1 billion. That 5-month-old deal still must be approved by federal regulators.