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Home  >  Company  >  Media Coverage  >  October 21, 2010
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Widget-Builder Caspio Turning Mountains into Molehills

BY SHARON HILL

Published by Advanced Interactive Media Group, LLC, 2010

If you're a classified publisher with limited budget, staff, and/or IT expertise, you might find the widget-building services of technology vendor Caspio to your liking. Not only do the widgets provide you the opportunity to easily build directories, coupon products, classified listings, and other content but its open source nature lets you customize what other publishers have created. If you do have the time, money and IT expertise, you could also create your own widgets, of course.

The Marin Independent-Journal launched an "open house" platform for Realtors two months ago with help from Caspio and Classified Concepts. The online open-house page offers premium ads, fold-down advertising corners for the Caspio-built showcase ads, and lead generating capabilities for the agents and brokers. The I-J folks sell the ads and e-mail them to Caspio; Classified Concepts creates the map and directory pages. A value-added for real estate advertisers, the open-house listing includes four lines of print and is enabled for IPhone, IPod and IPad. Its primary goal is to enhance print.

"[The Caspio platform] does a couple of cool things," Marin Independent-Journal online director Scott Henry told us. "If you include an MLS number in your listing, it automatically builds a Web page off the public interface, puts in a default picture, and links back to your site's detail page."

As the event product takes off, the newspaper is seeing an increase in print-ad revenue. "A couple of the larger participating brokers are starting to put photos and MLS numbers in the ads," said Henry. "The sales people are telling them to do that."

Marin home buyers can learn about open houses via their mobile devices as well. "When you pick up our print directory we have a range of house ads, so we throw in little dingbat ads. One is 'text this number to the short code,'" he said. Next up is integration with Google Maps.

The open house product is not I-J's only use of Caspio products. "Caspio is fantastic, doing some amazing stuff," said Henry. "From the content and lead generation standpoint we're using them for so much it's just mind boggling. Apartment listings are next."

We talked to Caspio VP David Milliron, who worked for both Gannett and Cox Newspapers for two decades before going to TV, data analysis and computer-assisted reporting. Milliron told us that Cox and Gannett are now Caspio clients. Cox Newspapers built a targeted coupon search widget for consumers, and Gannett's Indianapolis Star designed Star Files, a pop-culture encyclopedia of local celebrities.

"Our PaaS (Platform as a Service) allows you to build software apps or Web apps using tools listed on top of someone's hosted solution," Milliron told us. "We allow you to create Web forms, searchable databases, and interactive Web apps. In fact, we had a newspaper company approach us to be part of the Yahoo consortium. They had an archaic [front-end] system that allowed them only so many fields. They looked for a vendor that could actually connect them into the HotJobs consortium and get their data to Yahoo on a nightly basis so they could make money."

Caspio enabled the newspaper to enter its data into its front-end system, and hit a button to convert to a Caspio screen that would pick up the data. On a nightly basis it processed all the data, sent it out and let the newspaper know it was all done.

Caspio clients access its back end over the Internet, logging into what can be one of many accounts the media group creates with various security levels. They can include accounts for user-generated content as well.

Media clients create calendar databases, charts, directories, contests, limited-time promotions, restaurant guides, and advertised listings. The Newspaper Network of Central Ohio has created a Voter Guide with Caspio's widget platform; Diversified Business Communications Canada built its conference schedule via Caspio. For a country club advertiser one newspaper built a mobile widget that allows a golfer to text his or her lunch order from the course to the country club's restaurant and have it waiting for him after his round. This concept opens up possibilities for just about any classified or retail advertiser, and the savvy publisher that creates the widget on its own or with Caspio's help.

"The news organization has an opportunity to make a ton of money while still making the most of their content on auto pilot and user-generated," said Milliron. "A perfect example is the recipe guide [created by Caspio client SFGate.com, online home of the San Francisco Chronicle]."

The recipe guide app allows the public to submit and rate recipes, sign up as a user, and flag recipes. Every one of the recipes has a built-in space for an ad as well.

"You could go out to a restaurant and say 'I want your top 10 recipes and we're going to put them on our website and for a fee we'll include your logo and a link to your website,'" said Milliron. We suggest that you could also sell ads to restaurant supply houses or grocery stores. You might also offer the space in a cross promotion deal with the local TV station that has a cooking show. You could bring in applicable classified categories or link to them housed elsewhere on your site.

Caspio widgets, whether you create from scratch or build on someone else's template, enable customization and as many tabs as you wish. Its apartment guide widget enables hyperlinks to the details of each listing or community ad. Integration with Google Maps is a simple one-click process.

Caspio provides unlimited tech support and instructor-led Web-based training. The services vary according to the level purchased, but start at $39.95 a month for a 10-app program. In fact, if you built an open source widget, allowing others to use your template, there is no charge from Caspio for that widget.

One local newspaper has converted the real estate application to an auto-listing product at the request of a used-car dealership. The publisher gave administrative access to the dealership so the dealer's staff can upload their own listings. The dealership pays the newspaper $995 a month, and the paper pays Caspio $189 a month. That's one heck of a nice mark up for the paper.

"If it can be put into a database, it can be powered by Caspio - anything from classifieds to mobile technology," said Milliron. "Every app can be mobile and can have e-commerce integrated into it." Caspio now powers more than 400,000 apps. You can reach Scott Henry at shenry@marinij.com. David Milliron is at david.milliron@caspio.com.

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