The Freewebs Enterprise: Shervin Pishevar Discusses His Company’s Marketing Model, Widgets and All


What does 2007 hold for this type of advertising? Is it something that will breach the mainstream, and have greater impact on the marketing mix?

Absolutely. In 2005, we started talking about this whole vision, it was really early. We were able to convince Sony Pictures, to their credit, to do something around the movie, “Zathura.” We basically started having little widgets and games and website templates, and it was a really great success.

But this was 2005, before anyone was really doing this at all. It was difficult to get people to buy into it early on. What we’re seeing now is that all the meetings, trips, and proposals we’ve made are starting to bear fruit. Chris [Cunningham] has done an amazing job of being that messenger and convincing the brands to take that leap of faith. The results are really making them happy.

To me, we’re at the cusp of something new, and it has the potential to basically create whole new forms of advertising inventory. It’s interesting because the model is very different. It’s based on interaction. I call it people-powered media, PPM rather than CPM, and we charge on a PPM basis depending on how many people spread your widgets, your ads, and brands, and so on.

PPM for us points to the future of advertising because we see ourselves within a social computing context in that this only works within a Web publishing context, where people are basically personalizing their lives on the Web. They’re going to basically choose the things that they have an affinity for, and their audience is most likely going to share their affinities and passions as well—otherwise, they wouldn’t really be on that site in the first place.

If that’s the case, then we’re basically tapping into a whole new form of contextual advertising, which is based on mutual, shared interests rather than this automated algorithm in the background. The algorithm is people’s hearts, their souls, their passions, their feelings. That’s meaningful.

How will widgets fare in 2007?

I look out at the horizon, and I see that in 2007, [widgets] are starting to take over. In 2008 and 2009, it’s going to become a dominant force. It’s going to be very meaningful and self-supporting in terms of the actual business models for it.

With widgets, do you see brands beyond the entertainment world capitalizing on this platform?

Absolutely. There’s so much value that we can get in to, especially when it comes to health and pharma, [implementing] widgets for calculating your daily health, better behaviors, calorie counters, exercise—all kinds of things that people will utilize and spread to their families and people that they love so they begin using it.

It seems that overall, user-initiated media is gaining a lot of traction this year.

I think with Time magazine saying “You” being person of the year in 2006, and then Newsweek saying 2007 is the year of the widgets, it’s all coming together in terms of people-powered media.

Definitely I think the days of people being force-fed content are over. That’s a given. But that’s just the beginning. With business models, it’s usually kind of like an echo. The right business models follow these paths, these trends, these changes in behavior. It has a lot to do with anthropology, and culture, and why people’s behaviors are changing. Usually, people’s behaviors change when the dominant factors for all of information cease to provide the needs that they have.

People have been forced to find new ways of meeting their personal needs, their passions, their interests, etc. MySpace, you have to give them a lot of credit for really teaching a whole new generation how to take advantage and control of that. The boom that’s happening is that it’s spreading to every other form of media. Television, mobile and everything else will be affected by it over the next five years.

But I think 2007, for me, is more the year that the actual business models that are profitable will begin to take shape. Tying it back to what we talked about in terms of widget advertising and Web publishing as a platform for that is one of the major business models that will dominate.


  1. While you accurately and with great detail captured where Freewebs is and is headed virtually, you misidentified where it is physically. It’s in Silver Spring, Md., not Silver Springs.


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