Jim Boykins' excellent post on the relative value of strategic linking (Link Ninjas) vs the current vogue of linkbait makes some excellent points.
Although in 2007 I think the more accurate term for what Jim is describing should be 'link bribery' -- not 'link ninjas', I'll let his mythology live on.
Hyper-competitive industries demand not only volume but quality neighborhoods, authority links and targeted anchor text, something that you just can't control with linkbait.
Viral-quality content getting massive buzz is nothing new, it good advertising. Think of a classic of the TV generation, like Wendy's Where's the Beef? However, we've long known, even good advertising may not help the bottom line.
The value of the net to the ROI focused has been measureability and targeting. Search gives us targeting like we've never seen it before, and successful marketing tactics for the ROI oriented will focus on the attention of individuals who are have a demonstrated need or interest in your product, or who are proven influencers and authorities about your product.
Widgets have the potential to to provide both viral quality content with greater control over anchor text and audience. The bride countdown widget designed by Conde Nast is a good step towards creating viral content (read functionality), to promote a product and give
Conde Nast got it 50% right with the myspace widget they designed for brides to be. Gawker nailed the problem, by pointing out that myspace users might be too young to be seeking to promote their wedding. Soon, many companies will get it right in 2007. Focused audience, targeted and controlled links, viral content.