Remember the “Million-Dollar Homepage”? A 21-year-old guy named from Wiltshire, England named Alex Tew came up with an insanely brilliant and at the same time ridiculously stupid idea: auction off individual pixels on a webpage to companies as advertising space, and then use the money to pay for university. As Homer Simpson once put it, Alex was stupid like a fox. Companies paid, in part because people wrote about the site, and last January the site sold its last pixel.

The total haul? $1.04-million. Alex paid for his first year of university two weeks after he opened the site, and raised more than $150,000 within just two months. He went to university but dropped out because he was too busy with all the interview requests and related opportunities. So what has Alex decided to do? As Natali explains at TechCrunch, he’s doing pretty much the same thing, but without the university tuition pitch, and for $2 a pixel instead of $1 — with a lottery to see who wins half of the $2-million purse.

milliondollarhomepage.jpg

Natali figures people will be too smart this time, because it’s already been done, and because it’s obvious that the new site Pixelotto is just a marketing ploy, and not some innocent student trying to pay for his calculus books. I’m not so sure though.

As more than one commenter has pointed out over at TechCrunch, the secret is publicity — if it gets written about, companies will want to ride on that wagon no matter how stupid it might seem. And there’s no question it is unbelievably stupid. The original site looks like a bad acid trip, with tiny banners crammed up against each other, completely unreadable. Is that good marketing?

In the end, of course, Alex laughed all the way to the bank — and likely will again. Anyone who comes up with a new definition of the “tax on the stupid” (as I like to call lotteries) deserves everything he gets.

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Mathew 2415 posts

I'm a Toronto-based former senior writer with Gigaom and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

17 Responses to “The new Pixelotto — a tax on the stupid”
  1. The new Pixelotto — a tax on the stupid via Mathew Ingram: mathewingram.com/work December 2nd, 2006 at 19:07

  2. he does because so many people try to copy off of his marketing ideas that I think he deserves to be successful. Not only that but he has found a way to make people want to click on the ads…and who wouldn’t want to be a millionaire? What a genius! mathew Ingram In the end, of course, Alex laughed all the way to the bank — and likely will again. Anyone who comes up with a new definition of the “tax on the stupid” (as I like to call lotteries) deserves everything he gets.

  3. success is now one month old, and facing rapid decline rather than explosive or even sustained growth. [IMG Pixelotto small] When announced, Techcrunch were not too hot on the new site. Mathew Ingram also posted on the subject calling it a tax on the stupid. Here is what I commented 1 month ago on Mathew’s blog Hi Mathew I believe this one will sell out faster than the original and he will make a huge amount more money on this. The reason website owners buy the pixels is because they want traffic,

  4. yeah, I agree with you Matthew. He’s going to ride this wave for at least another half a million. I’m very dissapointed in the idea though. I was hoping that his next thing would be original, not pixel related. Pixels are so played, no?

  5. Agreed. On the other hand, why not do it if people are stupid enough to play along? Thanks for the comment, Jim.

  6. Don’t you mean “sheep-le”, not people?

    Hehe, you know, this one will also work because of the million dollar giveaway. The only way this won’t work is if the press ignores it. We’ll see.

    Also, why isn’t anyone talking about how this is going to be tough to do because it’s essentially a lotto, right? It’s my understanding that their are strict guidelines on lotteries, even if your living in the UK. Anyone?

  7. Mathew, I’m going on bet he sells out within a couple of weeks. He’s getting the buzz and it will only climb until he gives away $1,000,000. If he was really smart, he’ll have a $5,000,000 program ready to launch right after this one to capitalize on the buzz….I would.

    Best,
    George

  8. Hi Matthew

    I believe this one will sell out faster than the original and he will make a huge amount more money on this.

    The reason website owners buy the pixels is because they want traffic, and maybe a backlink from the site.

    The lotto is legal, because the winners are not having to pay for a ticket, they are just visitors who click on adverts, visit sites, and probably have to read the site for a certain number of seconds before they “earn” their lotto prize entry.

    Lots of traffic exchange programs work on a similar manual clicking system.

    He also has a nice backend… email addresses from subscriptions. I am sure he will be able to use that to promote anything he likes in the future, and to drive additional traffic back to the site over the coming months.

    That incentive to click is going to to mean a many fold increase in traffic over the previous incarnation, and I haven’t heard of many complaints about his first effort.

    This site is a true next generation of the same idea, unlike many of the copycat sites based on selling pixels, words etc.

    I think this time around the advertising will be much better organised, and there will be some much larger players involved from day one.

  9. It’s not original, but people will do it. So he’ll make money.
    Plus there will be some larger players.

    If you want to see a unique concept based on the million dollar homepage madness, check out The Wall — http://www.seethewall.com

    :)

  10. I beat him too it. I honestly did. And with a better concept too. The odds of winning my competition are much greater! You can check my site out here http://www.cashcells.co.uk .Cheers.

  11. Hi Rob

    Certainly a different, though still similar concept.

    Here is some feedback

    1. I don’t like the colour scheme much, and the default font choice makes it hard to read without liberal use of ctrl+ in Firefox

    2. I think you need to disclose more about how the prizes are scaled. You need to be much more specific.

    3. You are missing a key element that I am sure Alex is going to use, some kind of registration process / membership to the site

    4. Your prize claim system is fairly flawed. You could at the very least have created some kind of contact form to format the entries

    5. I noticed

    Ha, OK. My name is Rob, I’m 20 and from Hull, England, UK. That’s all you need to know right?

    Alex had the success because there was a personal message, and you are trying to hide, at least to a degree.
    Even your copyright at the bottom of the page is to your domain name and probably not a legal entity.

  12. I totally agree and I’m just tired of all these pixel ads. I have to say that this madness motivated me to open http://www.purewasteoftime.com, and start an experiment. I’m wondering if it is possible to waste 1.000.000 $ before pixelotto is sold out.

  13. Look at this website – its a better way of using pixel ads… http://www.milliondollaremployment.co.uk/

  14. […] mathew Ingram In the end, of course, Alex laughed all the way to the bank — and likely will again. Anyone who comes up with a new definition of the “tax on the stupid” (as I like to call lotteries) deserves everything he gets. […]

  15. […] The biggest reason for Pixelotto’s sluggish development is, in my opinion, its impersonal nature.  The MDHP took off because the media was all over Alex who created the site to pay for his college tuition.  He was a marketing genius who created an amazingly unique idea.  Now, however, he’s a millionaire who is obviously tring to squeeze more money out of the idiot masses.  That doesn’t quite have the same pizzaz, don’t you agree? As Mathew Ingram puts it, Pixelotto is a tax on the stupid. […]

  16. […] Ingram also posted on the subject calling it a tax on the stupid […]

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