Well, the rumors are true: HTC has just announced that it has begun testing the “displaying of a limited number of promotions” to users of the BlinkFeed app in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Taiwan, and China. If results are good, the pilot will roll-out to more countries over time.
The struggling Taiwanese manufacturer of smartphones and tablets emphasizes that the amount of promotions users in these countries see will be “limited,” and that they will be both native, meaning they will look like other content in the BlinkFeed, and relevant, meaning the ads will be targeted to you based on the content you are subscribed to and click on in the BlinkFeed. The ads will come from partners including Twitter, Yahoo, Appia, as well as from HTC itself, which will at times insert promotions for its own products.
The company says that users will be able to opt-out of receiving the promoted content in their BlinkFeed, but unfortunately that seems to insinuate that they are not opt-in and will begin appearing without users agreeing beforehand. They hope the service will serve as a way to help users “discover new and useful apps and/or products and services,” but that seems a bit idyllic to us. While we’re all in support of advertising, HTC is primarily in the business of selling hardware and so we think more disclosure is deserved.
We first heard rumors of HTC inserting ads into BlinkFeed last month when @Upleaks shared a slide from an HTC training presentation. The slide, pictured above, outlined how the company plans to monetize the home screen of the company’s handsets. The first is to generate revenue through sponsored app downloads, and the second is through promotions to drive sales of its own products and those of “strategic partners.”