TechCrunch UK & Ireland has responded to the current economic gloom and doom by announcing that, for this week only, adverts on its Crunchboard Network will be provided free of charge.

Editor Mike Butcher announced this on Friday, and the free ads offer runs for all of this week.

“In recognition of the tough economic times we’re facing, and the fact that lots of startups are looking for people right now, I’m – perhaps naively? – going to have a go at kick-starting the market. But the “market” we are in is not just about jobs. It’s about office space. It’s about trying to find a mentor for your startup idea. It’s actually a bit like putting a band together – “drummer wanted, must also know Rails”! It’s about a lot of things that just don’t fit in to a box that most adverts try to shoe-horn you into.”

We think this is a really classy move. Of course, it helps TechCrunch to alert people to the existence of, low pice of, and (we’re sure) effectiveness of their ad platform. But it’s the timing, and the sentiment, that makes the difference – they’re recognising times are tough, and doing something simple to help. Good for them – they deserve a pat on the back, and your support – pass the word to anyone who might benefit from placing an ad at Techcrunch UK & Ireland, and take a look at what’s being advertised there.

The only thing we’d suggest is that Mike take a look at automating the process of getting ads live – the current system appears to be that you email him your ad, and he slaps the ad up when he has a moment. It’s nice personal touch, but perhaps it’s worth thinking about ‘scaling’ that process – Craigslist and Ebay are sort of useful models to work from…

UPDATE: Help ignite the startup community by grabbing the widget for the Crunchboard and adding it to your site or blog.