Techmeme introduced a new form of ads today. This is how the homepage looked.

techmeme ads

And this how they introduced the prominent change visible out there.

Today, Techmeme is introducing ads that are automatically placed under stories matching news topics that an advertiser wants to target. They’re a great way to associate your brand with a specific category of technology products, or even to challenge individual companies.

For instance, Yelp is now advertising against news about Google, to urge the search giant to Focus on the User”.

To be frank, I don’t like this. Contextual advertising is overrated; it is prone to be misused by brands with power. Can a small upcoming player overcome an onslaught from the incumbents? It may be factual, but can be projected in an overly aggressive fashion.

Anyway, I think the wonderful folks behind Techmeme are aware of the possible fallouts. And they believe they have the process to avoid that.

Of course, there are limits to the sorts of messages we’ll place. We’ll decline to feature offensive or overly gimmicky ad copy. And we won’t include negative ad messages aimed at current advertisers, in effect, guaranteeing a form of competitive separation.

With the scale and scope of Techmeme, this might work, this might be enough. But I still believe it better not get into the muddy waters of contextual ads.