Techmeme Starts Automatically Placing Ads Next to Story Links Based on Their Context

Yelp's among the first advertisers

The company rolled out a new ad unit it’s calling “contextual ads,” which automatically show up via prepaid ad buys based on keywords.

Techmeme, the influential aggregation website for tech news, has begun placing banner ads on its website that correspond to links about specific companies or topics.

Today, the company rolled out a new ad unit it’s calling “contextual ads,” which automatically show up via prepaid ad buys based on keywords. One of the first brands to purchase an ad placement is Yelp, which is buying space next to stories about Google. (For example, underneath a link to The Intercept’s story about Google creating a censored version of its search engine for China, one ad shows Yelp’s ad copy telling readers to “see how Google is hurting the open internet and degrading its own results.”)

Along with Yelp, other brands advertising with Techmeme’s new ad unit today include cryptocurrency wallet company BRD and cloud enterprise software company Freshworks.

“It seemed like something that fit the times,” said Techmeme co-founder Gabe Rivera. “People are standing up to tech companies or calling out tech companies more, and I think you could have that use [case], in addition to just companies wanting to associate themselves with a category of products.”

Rivera added that the contextual ads use a topic-tagging feature, which the company has been building for other purposes such as the newsletter. The ads will surface automatically when Techmeme’s website updates every five minutes but will be bought directly through Techmeme’s sales team rather than a third-party programmatic channel. And instead of charging based on impression or clickthrough rates, the company plans to charge on a cost-per-hour basis—similar to how it charges for sponsored posts on a cost-per-month basis.

Rivera said the company will run placements for as cheap as $5,000. However, it goes up from there, depending on frequency of news and the length of the campaign.

The advertising product comes just months after Techmeme debuted its first podcast, the Techmeme Ride Home–a daily roundup of tech news hosted by Internet History podcast producer Brian McCullough. That podcast, which began in March, boasts advertisers familiar to podcast listeners, such as Zip Recruiter, along with the nicher, such as the design firm Metalab.

According to Rivera, Techmeme’s sales team will manage ads bought on the company’s home page separately from the editorial process in order to prevent links from being chosen based on how marketable they are to advertisers.

Asked what happens when multiple brands want to advertise next to the same companies or topics, Rivera said it hasn’t been a problem yet. However, he added that for now, that will be judged on a case-by-case basis. (If the ads were truly automatic—such as through a programmatic advertising network—it could run a live auction to give certain words to the highest bidder.)

The most popular topics on Techmeme these days include stories about large tech platforms (like Google and Facebook), tech policy, devices, cloud computing and company funding.

“We feature a lot of these stories because they show where the growing companies [are],” Rivera said. “They’re kind of boring in some way, because often it’s a company you haven’t heard of and it’s just a milestone. But it’s also a signal of what might potentially be bigger later.”

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