Badgeville Wants To Layer Social Gaming (And Yes, Badges) Across The Entire Web

When Foursquare first launched, there were no deals. There was no way to get free pizza or cheap beer. The only incentive to play their game was to earn badges and bragging rights among friends. Badgeville, a new startup launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt, wants to apply that gaming mechanic to all sites across the web.

So how does this work? Well, a publisher sets up a Badgeville account and chooses what type of badges they want to give to readers for various types of actions on the site. For example, if you comment, you may get a badge. Or if you click the Like button on comments, you may earn points for that. If you become a Facebook Fan of a page, you may earn a different badge for that, etc. All of this is defined by the publisher.

Because this involves the publisher placing a bit of code on their site to keep track of these badges, there is also an analytics component to all of this. Badgeville is able to track users (who opt-in to using this, of course) activity such as reading pages, clicking the various share buttons, and commenting. This type of information is extremely useful to publishers, but it can be hard to extract from users — unless, of course, you’re giving them some reward for opting-in to this kind of tracking. In this case, badges.

While they are launching today, Badgeville already has 10 customers signed up and ready to go out of the gate. These customers represent 400 million monthly pageviews, the services says. Thanks to these publishers, Badgeville says it already has tallied up some $500,000 in sales so far. The services charges a monthly access fee based on how large your site is.

Badgeville believes that Facebook Connect has put identity on the web, now it’s time for another layer for loyalty. That’s what they want to be. “It’s not about pageviews anymore, it’s about engagement,” as they put it.

Here are the questions from judges Josh Felser, Joe Kraus, Todor Tashev, Robert Scoble, and Don Dodge (paraphrased):
Q: Where does the half million thing come from?
A: That’s in 12-month bookings — we do monthly billing in contracts.
Q: People have been trying to do this gaming of the web for years. How is this different?
A: We’ve seen a bunch, but it’s not there for medium and larger publishers. We can give you turn-key widgets or direct access to our APIs.
Q: How do you quantify the payback for early customers?
A: I think that’s a hard question — what is engagement? Publishers are only now starting to get comfortable with that concept. We hope it becomes a utility expectation.
Q: There is experimental budgets now, but that might not always be the case. How to you measure success?
A: I think we’re still working on that — it’s gotta be about engagement though.
Q: Analytics is key, right? Talk more about it?
A: We have a lot of build out to do on the analytics side. This isn’t just about badges — it’s about influencing outcomes. Analytics companies have gotten dull — we have an opportunity here.