LiJit search widget has been removed

I did a Google search for 'viral garden' just now, clicked on the top Google result (this blog), and was more than a little shocked and embarrassed by what I saw. As the picture to the right shows, the LiJit widget had served up several posts I have left here that you could click on. But as you can see under those posts, it also served up something that I didn't know it would, and certainly didn't give it permission to provide.

An ad. I completely apologize to all of you for this, and I promise you that I had no idea it was happening. And it seems that others are just now discovering this is happening as well.

So as a result, the LiJit widget is gone as of now. Sorry, but that's a SERIOUS breach of trust to me, and one that I won't allow. If I had known this was happening, I would have never agreed to put the widget on here.

I've talked in length here about monetizing blogs. My view is that I am COMPLETELY fine with bloggers attempting to monetize the content they create. But I also think that putting ads on your blog is probably the worst way to go about it. It doesn't make you much money (unless you have Tech Crunch's traffic), and it offers little to no value for readers. I'm not opposed to monetizing this blog, but if I ever do so, it will be done in a way that also provides value to you, as well. We co-create the content here, so we BOTH need to benefit from any monetization that occurs here.

But again, I do apologize for the ads being served up, and will begin looking for another search option for you. My LiJit contact was Tara Anderson, and she has been quite pleasant and very patient with my many many questions. I guess I should have asked about ads, but it never occurred to me that they might be added without my knowing about them. Again, my sincere apologies.


posted by Mack Collier @ 9:06 AM,

14 Comments:

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Todd Vernon said...

Mack,
Sorry you feel that way. The re-search box can be turned off with a simple selection.

Check your statistics page and I think you will see that the re-search box delivered significant value to you during the time you had it installed.

The value the research box brings you and your readers is discussed here.

http://www.lijit.com/blog/2008/01/30/publishers-don%E2%80%99t-give-up-the-second-click/

As for the Ad, it cost a lot of money to operate a server farm the size of Lijit's and deliver our service to publishers reliably, unfortunately we can’t provide the service for free.

The vast majority of our publishers would rather generate revenue through ad placements and pay for services like Lijit through that channel rather then directly paying for a service like Lijit.

Like search results pages, we only show ad’s when we feel have also delivered value to readers and publishers simultaneously. While I understand your concern over ad placements, over 90% of the space in the box is dedicated to delivering your content to your readers.

We would love to have you back and you can deselect the re-search feature easily if you are not receiving value from it removing the offending ad placement.

Todd Vernon / CEO Lijit Networks

 
At 11:54 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"As for the Ad, it cost a lot of money to operate a server farm the size of Lijit's and deliver our service to publishers reliably, unfortunately we can’t provide the service for free.

The vast majority of our publishers would rather generate revenue through ad placements and pay for services like Lijit through that channel rather then directly paying for a service like Lijit."

Todd I have no problem whatsoever with Lijit wanting to monetize the service you provide. None at all. The problem I have is not being made aware that you were going to use my blog to monetize your service. And as I'm seeing this morning, it seems that other Lijit users had no idea that this is happening.

Going forward, I think you should tell people up front that you'll be supplying ads, and then make them aware that this option can be turned off, if they so choose. If it's very simple to turn off, it's also simple to disclose this upfront, yes?

Sorry Todd, but fool me once...

 
At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Cam Beck said...

Mack -

If I understand the arrangement correctly, Lijit gets nothing unless someone actually clicks on the clearly-marked ad.

If they are not interested in the content of the ad, they can easily ignore it (and in fact most will).

If they do click on it, it's because they feel at that moment that clicking on the ad will bring value to them, or else they would not click it.

I say that only to say this: I have no ethical qualms with the little ad in return for the service Lijit provides. The search results are almost always relevant, the weekly reports have been very valuable to me, and the ability to link out to my network has enormous potential benefit to my readers.

To me, an tiny ad that is likely to be ignored is a small price to pay for the value it brings to my readers.

In fact, my only problem with the model is that it may not even be sustainable. If most people are ignoring the ads, how much revenue can it amount to?

 
At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Marc Meyer said...

Cam, it's not as much the ad as it is the lack of disclosure.

Marc

 
At 7:34 AM, Anonymous Cam Beck said...

Marc -
I'm not clear on how anyone tried to cover this up.

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Cam the issue is that LiJit served up the ads WITHOUT telling us that they would. If YOU are cool with that, then no problems on your end. I'm definitely not, and all LiJit had to do was disclose that ads would be added, and that I had the option to opt-out of them, and the widget would probably still be on the blog.

Instead, they didn't explain this to me until I found out about it from another source, and removed the widget. If I had never found out about it and removed the widget, would they have ever told me?

As Marc said, that's a lack of disclosure. And I'm not the only blogger that's removed the widget as a result of Lijit not being completely upfront about what they were doing. Hopefully they have learned a lesson from this and will be more open about what they are actually doing with their widget, moving forward.

 
At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Cam Beck said...

Mack -
Truth be told I didn't even bother to read the text that may have told me all of the features. I was looking for a useful search widget and that's what I got -- PLUS some nifty reporting features that I never got when we had the Google tool installed.

When I found out it was there, I was not only cool with it, but I thought it was a good way to show visitors more useful content, not only on my blog, but on the sites of those on my blogroll and other areas on the Web.

If users click on the ad instead of my content, at least they'll have gotten something they were looking for. And I'm always happy when I can help any of my visitors do that, whether or not it's on my site.

 
At 9:56 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"When I found out it was there, I was not only cool with it, but I thought it was a good way to show visitors more useful content, not only on my blog, but on the sites of those on my blogroll and other areas on the Web."

If that's the case Cam, why not just add Google ads to your blog? That way YOU get paid for them, instead of LiJit. Or leave the LiJit widget as it is, that way you get paid, and so does LiJit. Right?

My issue was LiJit adding ads to my blog that allowed them to monetize the content on my blog, *without telling me they were going to do that*. If you are ok with LiJit doing this on your blog, more power to you.

Fool me once...

 
At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Cam Beck said...

"If that's the case Cam, why not just add Google ads to your blog?"

The contexts of the two scenarios are significantly different.

First, I need the space in my sidebars to help people consume the content on the site more than I need the little sliver in the research box that Lijit uses for the AdWord.

In the case of re-search, the user coming to my site is actually searching for something that the page he lands on may or may not be able to give him.

I don't know what he was searching for, but with the tool, he's shown the ad if and only if he came through search.

Presumably that ad has something to do with his search term, so there's a good chance that it has some relevance.

The re-search box gives him an opportunity, if the immediate content he sees doesn't answer his question, to find that content on my site or on another site.

On the other hand, Google Adwords uses so much more space that to install it and have it be useful, I would have to sacrifice other things that I'm currently using to either help orient the user to the site (and the authors) or to make it as easy as possible to find and consume the content at his discretion.

The trade off just isn't worth it to me.

If Lijit ever got in the way of the completion of my readers' goals, like I did with another tool I liked a lot--Intense Debate--I'd get rid of it in a heartbeat.

The way I see it, Lijit isn't monetizing the content of my blog for their service, but rather monetizing the service, which of course I'm fine with.

I hope it works for them, but I have my doubts. Traffic from search would have to be very high, or else it would have to be installed on a lot of blogs to garner the number of clicks they'd need to in order for it to generate sustaining revenue.

 
At 11:09 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Cam I think we are coming at this from 2 different points of view.

You are a big fan of LiJit, and love the widget. So I think that makes you a bit more forgiving toward them doing something like this.

I'm not a LiJit evangelist, so all I see is this 3rd party app that I recently added to my blog, has been throwing up ads on my blog WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE.

You see all the value that you believe LiJit creates for you. I see that LiJit wasn't honest about what exactly their widget would do on my blog.

We obviously see things differently, that's why you get to keep the widget on your blog, and I get to remove it from mine.

 
At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Cam Beck said...

Mack - Thanks for the great convo and inspiration for my next post.

 
At 11:44 PM, Anonymous Cam Beck said...

"You are a big fan of LiJit, and love the widget. So I think that makes you a bit more forgiving toward them doing something like this."

BTW - I think you misunderstand, in my view, there is nothing to forgive. This potentially helps visitors from search either stay on my site longer or find what they're looking for elsewhere.

It's win-win.

 
At 8:05 AM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"BTW - I think you misunderstand, in my view, there is nothing to forgive. This potentially helps visitors from search either stay on my site longer or find what they're looking for elsewhere.

It's win-win."

This will be my last comment on this issue because we are now officially going in circles.

The functionality of the widget and the value it could bring to my readers was never in question. The reason why the widget is gone from my blog is because it was serving up ads to my blog WITHOUT telling me that it would do this. THAT is the issue for me. Whatever value the widget might have created takes a backseat to the company not being completely transparent about what the widget was doing. What's worse, their serving up ads flies in the face of my several blog posts where I have made it QUITE clear that I do NOT like having ads on blogs, and will likely never run them here.

I don't care how much value a widget gives me, if I can't trust the source, then it's not worth having here. I take the sense of trust I think I have with my readers VERY seriously, and will not allow a 3rd party to potentially erode that trust.

And I've stated this in about 10 different ways, and rather than boring others further, I will stop now.

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger Gary Denness said...

I have to say to start with that I´m coming in at a ´pro Lijit´angle. I´ve had it on my blog for a fair while, and when I installed it I gave it a good run through to see what I was getting.

Like you, I want value from any widget. Before I add anything it has to meet three basic requirements. Be relevant, be useful and look clean. Lijit does all these things.

But my question is this. Has removing Lijit added value to your blogs? Is your sidebar offering info more relevant than it was before? Is your new search system better looking?

I have to say I think this issue is too small to get into principles. Hands up anyone who thought there were companies out there doing stuff for free? There´s no such thing, of course. It´s all about who you direct the costs to.

 

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