NewsGator, Edelman Build Ad Widgets

Public relations firm Edelman has enlisted RSS toolmaker NewsGator to build ad widgets that pull in feeds, ratings, and comments. The joint product, called “Hosted Conversations,” launches Monday.

The rather smart idea here is for brands to loosen their grip on their marketing in the hopes of stimulating relevant community participation. A curated set of news and blog feeds will jumpstart content, and people who click through the ad are given a place to have their say.

These days, ads are essentially anonymous donors to social media. The NewsGator-Edelman offering gives a way to engage people that’s a little more productive than punch the monkey. And if nobody participates… well, you’ve still got a banner ad.

See, for instance, this mockup of a “hosted conversation” on CNN:

We’d been hearing nothing but enterprise news out of NewsGator lately, so when we heard about Monday’s news we set up a call with the company to ask why they’re getting so close to consumer content.

NewsGator CEO J.B. Holston said the enterprise side of his company’s business was the largest and fastest growing, but consumer and white-labeled feed readers are still active categories. The three product sets run off the same platform but are operated as separate verticals, he said.

NewsGator reports it has more than one million consumer users (some using only its free products), more than 50 enterprise deployments (about 300,000 users), and more than 20 private label customers.

For those of us more interested in the consumer side, Holston said to look for a new version of NewsGator’s web-based feed aggregator next month, which will incorporate aspects of social tools like Netvibes and Newsvine.