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TechMeme’s new ad model is all the buzz (and of course, is at the top of TechMeme itself) today. And almost all of the opinions are glowing.

Actually, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like it. That’s a rarity: an idea on the web that has a positive consensus.

And then there’s John Tokash. I really wouldn’t want to jump on the man (he’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever met), but he posted his disapproval of the new system, then sent me an email taunting me to take him down.

Bring it on!

First, yes, I agree with him that of course, sponsored posts on TechMeme will get more attention than non-sponsored posts (that’s why they’re paying for them). And yes, that means that more bloggers may write about them and so they’ll climb up TechMeme’s ladder.  Is it the death of TechMeme? Hardly.

John argues that Google’s sponsored listings are separated from their organic listings in a way that prevents them from being tainted. But the parallels between TechMeme’s and Google’s systems are everywhere. If a sponsored link on Google will get some people to click on it, look at the site, and then later link to the site from their own website.  Voila! Bump in Pagerank.  That’s exactly analogous to the “artificial bump” in TechMeme.

The reason that both systems aren’t artificial is that a human has to consider the site (or blog post) that they’re looking at and then decide if they’re going to link to it (or blog about it).  In both cases, Google and TechMeme are trying to approximate global interest in a site or post, and if sponsorship boosts that global interest, then both systems should reflect that.

The flaws in the systems are exposed when the global interest if faked (link farms, blog comment spam, etc.).  Those are real, troublesome issues, but are independent of whether or not Google & TechMeme offer sponsored space on their websites.

Ball’s in your court, John.

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