Sphere Blog

December 1, 2006


Filed under: Notable — sphere @ 8:47 pm

“No! There’s Iconistan. (Have you seen it?)
It’s the busiest new land that we know,
From the big, well know icons that populate it;
To the obscure, unknown icons below.”

“There’s a land where the reader experience is nameless,
And the links all run who knows where;
There are icons that are erring and aimless,
And icons that just hang by a hair.”

“Some say Webmasters were tired when they made it;
Some say it’s a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it
For no land on the web — and I’m one.”

At Web 2.0 and Om Malik’s and Niall Kennedy’s Widgets Live Conference, there was a lot of discussion and strategizing around widgets. Many of these widgets are activated when web readers click on the little icons they find at the bottom of article pages – a space we’ve started calling Iconistan. As an example. please take a look at Gigaom (http://gigaom.com/2006/11/27/wifi-phones/) – You’ll notice several icons at the bottom of each article: Digg, Stumble Upon, De.lic.ious, RSS and more — what’s interesting is the increasing number of places these icons are showing up and how little they do (most ask the reader to sign in, fill out forms, etc.) and, if anything at all, to add to the reader experience. Most often, readers don’t even understand what these funny little words mean. Yet, they show up – you already find them on mainstream sites, and in 2007, you’ll find them everywhere. The battle for inclusion next to articles/ blog posts is going to really heat up next year – it’s already started. To win inclusion, we believe you have to do two things: enhance the reader experience and drive additional page-views that can be monetized.

You’ll also notice the Sphere It! icon displayed with the above list – in contrast, it connects the reader to contextually relevant articles, blog posts and blogs. The ability to join the conversation is seamlessly integrated with Sphere never losing a reader to the dreaded sign in box or a constant labyrinth of links…We developed the Sphere Contextual Widget to achieve the above user experience and business model goals better than anyone. Sphere drives additional page-views (when readers click on the Sphere It! icon, that counts as a page-view; secondly, Sphere offers links to related posts from the journalist/ bloggers content repository, resulting in additional page-views for their site as well as enhanced navigation). Most importantly, Sphere adds to the reader experience, enabling readers to connect to additional content that adds to the discussion.

To date Sphere has partnered with Dow Jones Online Market Watch and Dow Jones Market Watch Blogs along with 50 of the top tech micro-publishers such as Techcrunch, GigaOm, ZDNet Blogs, Techdirt, O’reilly Radar, Battelle Searchblog and Infectious Greed. We’re trying to make Iconistan* a great place to visit.

*Iconistan (the title of this post was given to me by Kourosh Karimkhany at Conde Nast – thanks Kourosh!).


  1. […] So, new buzzword. Iconistan is a cute coinage, attributed by Wired News to Tony Conrad of Sphere in this post, which attributes the coinage in turn to Kourosh Karimkhany of Conde Naste — which shows how carefully Wired News read the article, I suppose — Wired News anticipates a turf war of some kind over the nest of little icons you may have noticed across the bottom of blog posts here and there. Well, not here, strictly speaking: I did have a little experiment with these icons a while back, but they ruined the look of the page, so they were gone again before most of you even saw them. Apart from cluttering up the page, it all seemed a bit redundant; a blog reader — as you presumably are — will use one or other (or more, but probably just one) of the social bookmarking applications, and if you do, and you have any sense — as you presumably do — you will have your own workflow established to incorporate your findings into your del.icio.us / Digg / Reddit / whatever account. You may, for example, have a toolbar button in your browser that does the job. In any case, you don’t need a button in the page, and if you don’t use any of these applications, the buttons are just advertising. And you know what we think of advertising round here, don’t you? […]

    Pingback by enthusiasm » Blog Archive » Iconistan — December 12, 2006 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

  2. […] 12th, 2006 by Angela Natividad · No Comments ‘Iconistan,’ a term poetically coined by Sphere CEO Tony Conrad, is the social newscluster that lives on your blog. It typically looks something like this: Find it below blog posts, inviting users to share proprietary nuggets of wisdom among democratic news, community and bookmarking sites like Newsvine or Reddit, whose purpose is to encourage user submission of news or stories found online. These stories then link back to the place of their origination – your blog. All those yummy links and potential impressions are the major incentive for adding that strip of icon-tastic real estate to your page in the first place. The handy icons that serve as vehicles to make this process easier comprises your Iconistan. But when does Iconistan get too crowded for its own good? How many icons can you smash into the last line of your every blog before the menagerie of choices puts people off instead of encouraging them to share? Some bloggers really whore it up, adding as many mini-icons to that space as possible. But when The New York Times got all Iconistan’ed up this week, they only chose 3 submission sites: Digg, Newsvine and Facebook, which are arguably the best disseminators in the business at present. “Publishers need to develop some criteria to follow whenever they want to put another link on the page,” says Tony Conrad. “Web publishers should ask themselves what [an icon] does for the person who clicks on it. How is it going to impact the user experience? Is there an intersection there with user reality?” If the icon will only clutter your site and detract users from the real purpose of your blog, which is to keep them there and coming back, you probably want to pass on more pretty pictures. Keep Iconistan clean! Make thought-out submission choices that are relevant to your site and users. […]

    Pingback by ‘Iconistan,’ the Volatile Icon Plot on Blogs, Has a Littering Problem | Ethos Planning — December 13, 2006 @ 1:20 am | Reply

  3. […] It has been a week of rejoicing that my classes have been over for real. I had the last seminar yesterday so I’m truly done now. I can focus on my labwork and have a real christmas break. I am trying to buy myself a week under the story that I’ll be doing some travelling. I don’t know if my/our roadtrip plans will materialize, but I’m sure there will be alternatives that aren’t too bad. Speaking of bad choices, yesterday, I made a snap decision to buy some frozen wings from Krogers from what I thought was a cheap price at nearly $6 for over 15 pieces. Well, when M and I dug in, it was to discover that they used the poorest cuts because even the chicken thighs were unbelievably fatty and gross. We didn’t even finish the platter and I nearly gave both of us food poisoning thanks to cheap Kroger. Well, I was still craving wings despite the horrors we were exposed to before. We went to the Waikikie Hawaiian BBQ place and the hot wings there blew my mind away. Their food is made fresh and our ~20 minute was worth every minute for the taste of heaven we were treated to. This inspired our confidence in the place as we made some more orders to take home and chow down. End result: two enormously-stuffed people. Man, I love me some wings that are done just right!. In plugin news, I ditched Cal Evan’s WP Notable plugin and the Sociable plugin in favor of Alex King’s Share This plugin. The main reason I switched: I could simply use a text link that would create (by Javascript, I think) a menu of the social bookmarking sites you could use to save/submit my post. The key features for me were: no display of icons unless the user wishes to see said icons and hence, the least intrusive that doesn’t take time at all. Well, he’s released version 1.3 of the Share This plugin and this came with a shocker: upon clicking this text link, his plugin now creates a whole new page!! My first thought was: what in blazes was dear old Mr. King thinking? I mean, I instantly downgraded this plugin back to version 1.2, thank you very much. The changes he put into 1.3. have simply killed this plugin for my purposes. If I’d rather have my blog/post look like the mythical land of Iconistan than having the user wait for a whole new page to load just to display menu of social bookmarking sites. […]

    Pingback by Peekaboo / the first semester is over! — December 14, 2006 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

  4. […] Iconistan* « Sphere […]

    Pingback by Jason Gooljar : The Working Families Party Man » The battle wages on in Iconistan — December 27, 2006 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  5. I love the coinage, but the irony is that Sphere is the least iconistanian of the natives referenced. Sphere fits into the content as illustrated by in-line implementation on Time and ZDnet. Its an extension of the content while the other guys are sharing and distribution tools for the content. I find NY Times new iconistan design with Newsvine and Facebook in the sharing box and delicious gone pretty interesting.

    Comment by Josh Guttman — January 2, 2007 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

  6. Josh – Thanks for your comment. I like the NY Times execution in large part because it addresses the display issue of too many share icons, all doing essentially the same thing, none adding to the reader exepreience. Alex King developed a cool “share” plug-in that regroups all these social networking share icons into one simple button (when you click, it opens up and displays the X number of share icons). That is helpful. The point I’m trying to make is that to have your icon present next to the content, it needs to add to the reader experience which is what we’re focused on doing.

    Comment by sphere — January 2, 2007 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  7. Good post, I love the name for that little “land” on the blog page. I think that it’s definitely something that’s been gaining ground for along time, but it’s kinda of like… why? I mean take a look at http://a2-blog.com/… that guy has every icon known to man at the bottom of his post… but what do they do to enhance user experience? Nothing.. I think you’re exactly right in your two points that must be met in order to gain more readership / pageviews, which is then translated into income. That’s something I’m trying to do with my blog, New York Real Estate, make it reader friendly, but still try and monetize it. I’ll definitely be reading your blog more often, keep up the good posts 🙂

    Comment by Eric Tompson — February 23, 2007 @ 3:15 am | Reply

  8. […] belief is pretty limited. Widgets, it seems are going to face the same challenge as the denizens of Iconistan, those little icons that actually came between the readers and the content. The widget ecosystem […]

    Pingback by GigaOM » Widget mania run amok? — May 10, 2007 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  9. […] belief is pretty limited. Widgets, it seems are going to face the same challenge as the denizens of Iconistan, those little icons that actually came between the readers and the content. The widget ecosystem […]

    Pingback by Share… » Widget mania run amok? [GigaOM] — May 12, 2007 @ 8:15 am | Reply

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  11. […] term for the increasingly cluttered space at the bottom of articles, news pages or blog postings – Iconistan.  Competition for real estate in Iconistan is fierce, with new popular brands popping up all the […]

    Pingback by Revisiting “Iconistan” « THE DIGITAL BLUR — September 22, 2007 @ 12:46 am | Reply

  12. thank you vere good

    Comment by b9mh — November 5, 2009 @ 11:32 pm | Reply

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