What if you could do targeted market research across dozens of blogs and Websites for the cost of some cheap Internet ads? That is the proposition a startup called Vizu is making with it's new service, Vizu Answers, which is just coming out of a private beta and is now available for anyone who wants to sign up.
Vizu is a widget company, backed with $1.5 million from heavyweight angel investors like Ron Conway, Esther Dyson, and Bill Hambrecht. For about a year, it has allowed bloggers to create customized polls at its main site and post them as widgets on their own blogs or Websites. But that is pretty much just for marketing and demonstration purposes. It's real business is creating a network between Websites with niche audiences (like blogs) and companies that want a quick and cheap way of doing market research.
"We work a lot like an advertising network," says CEO Dan Beltramo, "but instead of serving ads, we serve polls for researchers." Vizu's widget business model is worth noting because we are probably going to see more like it. It is using the widget as a data collection device (as opposed to a content dispersal device). The model boils down to this: Convince hundreds or thousands of sites to embed a widget that adds a cool feature or stream of data, and at the same time collects valuable information from the various niche audiences of those sites. Sell the aggregate information as market research. Rinse and repeat.
Here's a sample Vizu poll widget: