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AOL’s YourMinis Gets Their Stomach Going; Injects Ads Into Widgets
A year ago this month AOL acquired Goowy which included the Goowy desktop and the YourMinis widget creation tools. Goowy was one of those companies (like Feedburner) that had great potential and I was a bit disappointed when they went under the AOL umbrella. Back in October AOL announced that the main YourMinis site was going to be discontinued but widgets would continue to work.
Update: In the comments, Gary Benitt from yourminis/AOL notes that they have removed the ads and are working on better ads and will also make an announcement when the ads begin again. Thanks Gary!
On our sister site HTMLCenter, we run a Yourminis widget which includes the latest posts from CN (you can see two examples below). When I did my cruise around the sites this morning something made me do a double-take. The Yourminis widget now has an ad inside the widget! But not only is it any ad, it’s a completely non-targeted ad. And on the first load, it was that ^%$&@$*@$ stomach ad. Unlike many of the major tech blogs, I absolutely refuse the run the stomach ads that seem to be everywhere. I spent hours making sure they never appear on any of my network of sites. I’d be ok with an ad in the widget as long as the ad was targeted and I could provide a banned companies list.
I was on a panel last summer in Washington where we discussed widgets and widget advertising. I believe widget advertising will still be huge this year. Why? Exactly for reasons like this. You find a widget you like and install it into a popular post. You don’t come back to check the widget each day and so you missed the fact that the company jammed an ad (or other content) into the widget without notifying you. This is going to be a hot topic this year especially if the economy continues to decline.
The example I used on the panel included the following: let’s say you install a widget for a new movie that’s coming out in theaters. What happens to that widget once the movie has left the theater? Does the movie company have the right to change the content of the widget without notifying the site owner? Once consumer brands realize that by getting a user to install a widget they own a piece of real estate for free "for life" brands will start creating widgets on an exponential scale. Why pay for just a simple ad unit when you can push out a widget at the same time?
Part of the issue with widgets is that unlike ad networks, there’s no real record of where the widgets are posted and who is the site contact. I strongly believe that widget creators have a responsibility to notify the site owners when content in the widget changes. Even if it means they need to go to every single site where the widget is installed and send a contact inquiry.
I am certainly disappointed in the method yourminis decided to go about jamming the crappiest possible ads into the widgets on HTMLCenter. The widgets will be removed tomorrow and I highly doubt I will use another widget from Yourminis/AOL in the near future.