"...The micro-ads are intriguing because of their small size. Basically curiosity forces you to look at them and find out what they are. This writer spent about 5 minutes per visit to each of the sites "pixeling" (hovering over and clicking on ads). I bookmarked many of the sites and left the pages open so I could go back and click ads I hadn't seen yet throughout the day. It's totally addicting. I remember having a similar addiction when Tetris was released.
Pixel ads could also help many advertisers reach the coveted echo-boomer generation who are notoriously cynical and averse to advertising. Because of their "cute & cuddly" and off-beat nature, pixel ads are an ideal vehicle to advertise to this demographic.
Bob Cefail, Chairman of In Touch Media Group commented, "It's a whirlwind," ... when visitors click on the advertiser's ads,... "they are on these sites for hours..."
Echo-boomer, musician and rock blog owner Bishop Dolarhyde commented: "the flow of new traffic to my site stayed steady with my 2,000 pixel block which is still ALOT smaller than your average internet ad. No banner ad I have ever purchased, even at MANY times the size, has out-performed micro-ads... I plan on buying more little blocks to scatter on the page. I am excited about other creative ways I can use these micro-ads to promote my site".
To sum it up: pixel ads are perfect for advertisers interested in getting their ads really looked at and lots of fun for consumers to explore. These micro-ads are the future of advertising and a win-win all around."
Alex is 21. He's an ordinary middle-class undergraduate: lives in messy student digs, has spiky hair, drinks a lot of Coke. And is on his way to his first million. Meet an internet whiz-kid
By Steve Boggan
"It is difficult to spend time with Alex Tew without walking away feeling thoroughly miserable. It isn’t that his company isn’t pleasant; it is. It isn’t that he’s not extremely bright and unnervingly modest; he is both. More than anything, it is because during the time that you spend speaking to him — let’s say two hours’ time, as I did — he grows richer by almost £1,000.
And if you think that makes you feel bad, imagine the effect on students at Nottingham University when they learn that during freshers’ week at the beginning of this month, while they were blowing what little cash they had, Alex made more than £100,000.
This is because Alex is a 21-year-old phenomenon. He is growing richer and richer by having a simple idea that exploits the omnipresence of the internet and its users’ absolute respect for, and addiction to, anything unique. In short, he set up a website that offered almost nothing for $1 million. And the buyers are flooding in.
The student’s rags-to-riches story begins on a balmy night in August at Alex’s parents’ home near Cirencester in Wiltshire. It was late and he was contemplating the consequences of finally agreeing to go to university after three years of hopping from lousy job to crazy idea and back again. Alex had been accepted on a business management course at Nottingham (he has nine GCSEs and three A-levels at good grades) but fees and accommodation for the first year alone came to £7,000.
“To put it bluntly, I was broke and dreading the prospect of running up huge debts as a student,” he says. We are in the students’ union bar at the university and Alex is drinking a Coke. He is a fresh-faced, spiky-haired live wire — nothing like the geek I had expected, the kid whose simple idea has set the internet community alight.
“I’ve always been an ideas sort of person and I like to brainstorm at night before I go to sleep — it’s my most productive time. So I wrote down ‘How can I become a millionaire before I go to university?’ It was a rather ambitious question, but I went with it.
“Then I wrote down the attributes that this idea would need: it had to be simple to understand and to set up; it had to attract a lot of media interest; and it needed a good name. After I wrote down those three things, the idea just popped into my head. I’d like to say it was more dramatic than that, but it wasn’t.”
His thought processes went something like this: what if he set up a website called the Million Dollar Homepage which contained exactly one million pixels (the tiny dots that make up an image on a screen)? What if he then used that page as, in effect, an advertising noticeboard where advertisers — mainly from the US — could buy space at $1 (60p) per pixel?
What if, when you clicked on the group of pixels bought by an advertiser, you were directed to that advertiser’s homepage? And what if you told potential buyers that this is the first page of its kind, that it’s going to become incredibly famous — and that a young British student will be able to go to university as a result of your generosity? “I went to sleep and when I woke up I still thought it was a good idea,” Alex recalls. “So over the next few days I set up the website and off it went.”
The Million Dollar Homepage captured the imagination of advertisers.... In the first four weeks alone, Alex sold more than 300,000 pixels at $1 each.
He sold his first blocks of 100 pixels (the minimum number the eye can read) to his three brothers and some friends. Once sales had topped $1,000, he used the money to pay for a press release that was picked up by the BBC. This, is turn, “went viral” across the internet as person after person e-mailed it to friends around the world.
“It is brilliant in its simplicity,” says Professor Martin Binks, director of the Nottingham University Institute for Entrepreneurial Innovation. “I think advertisers have been attracted to it by its novelty and by the curiosity factor. Those that are buying space have realised that the site has become a phenomenon and people are flocking to have a look at it; that makes the advertising good value for money.”
I asked one of Alex’s advertisers why they bought space on the site. Was it charity, or is his idea really that good? Chris Magras, chief executive of engineseeker.com, an Arizona-based company that helps clients’ websites to appear at the top of worldwide search engines, bought 6,400 pixels as soon as he heard about the Million Dollar Homepage.
“It was ingenious,” says Magras. “It is easy to make money on the internet, but it is very difficult to have a unique idea, and this was. I immediately knew that this website was going to attract huge numbers of visitors so I bought pixels there and then. The results for us were amazing. We used to get 40,000 visitors a day to our site — that’s now up to 60,000.”
Back in Alex’s student digs — he is staying in halls of residence — raggedy T-shirts are drying on a clothes horse, course work is scattered around and the sound of the leaking toilet next door is keeping him awake. He has been at university just two weeks and, so far, no one knows he is the Million Dollar Boy.
I ask him to show me his bank balance to ensure that this isn’t an elaborate hoax. There is £50,600 in there and rising. We look at his PayPal and 2Checkout accounts — the clearing houses that receive payments — and there is more than $100,000 waiting to be passed to him. I see other orders that will take the number of pixels sold to more than 300,000.
“It’s criminal, isn’t it?” he says. “It’s like Monopoly money. I’ve always had a knack for making money and I always knew I wanted to live on my wits. When I was 8, I used to draw cartoons, make comics, photocopy them and sell them at school for 30p. I’ve got lots more ideas that this money will help me make reality. I see it as fun.”
So, what will he do with all that money? “Well, so far, I’ve bought lots of socks,” he says. “My socks were a mess.” His favourites have a Space Invaders logo on them. “They’re made of pixels, see? I will confess that I have been to look at a Mini in a car showroom. I’d love a car, but I don’t want anything stupid like a BMW.”
The other students really haven’t latched on to his identity yet, and he’s a little worried about how they will react when they do. “I’ve been thinking about that and I suppose I’ll have to be on my guard a bit, wondering whether they just want to get to know me or the money,” he says. “I’ll have to rely on being a good judge of character until the novelty wears off.”
Square deal: a business perspective
Melinda Herring, director of Lollipop Animation, online animation art gallery. Bought 600 pixels.
From the first day it brought us an average 300-400 hits. This Wednesday we had 2,000 hits from the advert. We are a new company, so word-of-mouth interest is vital. We have had about £500-600 worth of extra sales as a result of the advert.
Oliver Hudson, chief executive, Stamps Family Solicitors. Bought 400 pixels
I read about the site in a newspaper. My gut feeling was that it wasn’t going to bring in any business, but I wanted to give it a go. I’m not entirely sure what the impact on traffic or business has been. On balance it was probably a waste of money.
Peter Blackbyrne, director, Imagination Gym, Child Development products. Bought 1600 pixels
A couple of our shareholders showed me the website. It was a good way to build up our brand name. We get about 300 visitors a day from the advert. One of the reasons we did it is because we thought it would generate press attention. It’s worth $1,600 for the PR.
Paul Story, author of Tom Corven, the first novel to be written solely for publication as a podcast
I heard about his project through The Register, a UK internet news site. I estimate that approximately 400,000 people have seen it and 25,000 have clicked through to dreamwords.com, the home of Tom Corven. I could never afford such exposure.
I heard about the site on Sky News. When I looked at the site, I was hooked for a good 20 minutes clicking away at the pixels to find out what they were linked to. Just under 800 people have clicked on the banner in less than a week. Of these, 15 people have purchased something.
It was such a clever idea. I wish I’d thought of it
Ray Li, executive director of China Quest, a youth study and travel programme based in New Jersey. He bought 1100 pixels for $1,100.
I was checking the traffic statistics for my own website when I saw the Million Dollar Homepage on the list of websites with the biggest growth. It was so creative and so new. I didn’t care so much about the traffic, I just thought it was such a clever idea. I wish I’d thought of it, and I wanted to support Alex. It was also a great opportunity to showcase our product to the European market. We have had 10,000 extra hits from the advert."
International & UK Media Coverage - achieved by Alex Tew
Media and worldwide press coverage page - taken from "Millondollarhomepage" at October 2005
A roadshow run by entrepreneurs is firing up Britain's go-getters of the future
By Hilary Wilce
Thursday, 6 December 2007
"How do you start a business and make a million? Alex Tew, 23, knows, and recently shared his secret with students from Greenwich Community College, in south-east London.
"You've got to have an objective, and you've got to visualise your end goal," he told them. "You've got to create really strong images in your mind. People say that what you dwell on is what you become. Your brain stores those images and goes to work on them."
His audience was rapt. Here was a young guy, just like them, telling them that it was possible to make a fortune. And doing so with complete authority, because he'd already done it himself.
"I lay on my bed one day," he said, "and I thought, 'How can I become a millionaire?' I knew that whatever I did would have to have a good name, would have to be cheap to set up because I had no money, would have a good story attached to it so it would attract attention, and would be all about making money."
For him, the answer was the Million Dollar Homepage, where he sold advertising space pixel by pixel. "I knew that it was silly enough to work." And money flowed in so fast, he had to leave Nottingham University after just a term to run his new business.
Tew is part of a new Dragon's Den-style roadshow to inspire students to become more entrepreneurial. After launches last month at Thames Valley University and Greenwich College in London, the roadshow will embark on a tour of 18 colleges and universities in the new year.
"This is so important," says Steve Beswick, education director of Microsoft UK, which is sponsoring the show along with Make Your Mark, a charity for young entrepreneurs. "If you look at the skills issue, and where macroeconomics is now moving, the number of unskilled jobs is going to plummet by 2020.
"The UK economy is going to be almost entirely knowledge-based. We have to have the people for this. And it's very important to get these ideas over in further education, as well as in universities, because it's there you've got younger students and unskilled people coming in to retrain."
In the past, Microsoft has sought to develop ICT skills, but is now starting to think about how these can best be used. "We want people to ask: how can I use these ICT skills that I've got innovatively?" says Beswick.
"We want to foster people's creativity and imagination, and to get them thinking about working across different careers. We want people to realise that innovation is within everyone's reach, and to have the confidence to experiment and build on what they know."
Natalie Campbell, of Students! Make Your Mark, points out that students can build their confidence, make new contacts, pay off debts and learn new skills by getting ideas off the ground while they are studying. "And there's so much potential. You can see it their ideas are so great."
Skills Minister David Lammy says: "Anyone who spends any time with young people quickly recognises that they are the ones with the best ideas. By making enterprise and innovation exciting and accessible to students, we will unearth a new generation of hidden entrepreneurs, from all backgrounds, who can turn their ideas into reality."
The Microsoft Ideas Igloo Roadshow centres around a giant igloo, designed to attract students' attention when it arrives on campus. Interested students can then attend workshops led by entrepreneurs, to help them develop and present their ideas. At the end of the day, they pitch them to a panel of judges and the winning idea wins 150, plus the chance to go forward to the national final. The prize is 2,000 and a package of Microsoft products to help them launch their business.
At Greenwich, half a dozen groups of contestants overcame shyness, poor English and other difficulties to develop their ideas and make their pitches. The college serves a deprived and transient population, where many immigrants are trying to carve out a new life, so the challenge of speaking in public, in English, was, for some students, a big one.
But for Jamila Khan, 26, a fashion student from Pakistan, that was the very basis of her idea. Why not tap into children's love of using the computer and develop a storytelling site that they could add to, to develop their English? "I came here at 19, when I got married, and I struggled with my English, even though I'd done it at school," she says. "I found it very hard to write proper sentences in my assignments. So I thought why not develop something that will help children, and that they also love doing."
Other ideas included an environmentally friendly motor garage, weighing scales that could be built into a computer, a college recycling scheme, a chain of specialist tea shops, and a tent-and-sleeping-bag kit for festival-goers.
Among the Greenwich entrepreneurs who were advising were Juliette Wightwick, whose growing juice business Squeeze Me sells frozen fruit for smoothies, and Ralph Braithwaite, who runs a media company. They told students their own stories "I lay awake all night feeling sick when I knew I was going to launch my company," says Juliette and advised them on how to get started.
One student who ended the day vowing that she would pursue her dream was the competition's winner, Grace Orford, 19, a student with autism, ADHD and dyslexia whose passionate pitch for an employment agency offering jobs for people with special needs and mentoring to support them, won over the judges. "Everyone should have the chance of a job," she said, "and I will look at people's strengths, not their weaknesses. I believe this will work. Definitely."
For Tew, spreading the word on entrepreneurship young people is a passion. "They asked me to help with this, and for me it was a no-brainer," he says. "So many people have good ideas, but do nothing about it. Things are starting to go in the right direction, but we still need a kind of sea change, and we need to start doing it much younger.
"All the way through school, no one ever gave me any advice or told me I could set up my own business . The whole education system is just geared towards getting people into jobs. We need to make young people much, much more aware of the opportunities. Some local authorities are trying to do this now by getting entrepreneurs into schools, but they need to do a lot more of it."
His new venture is in the field of social networking. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is his inspiration, "although I'm not really motivated by money. It's nice to have it, but it's not the main thing," he says. "I just love taking something and making it happen."
- Online Article
"The term "pixel advertising" is relatively new in the online world, but it has already spread like a wildfire. A pixel ad is a promotional element represented by a static graphic image that the advertiser wishes to display - similar to an Internet banner, you will say. Sure, but the beauty behind pixel ads is that they allow an advertiser to decide exactly how much they want to invest in the ad - since they have the freedom of selecting the individual number of pixels, they can also shape their ad in any desired way. Most pixel ads, however, start from a number of 100 upwards (meaning a 10x10 pixel block is the general accepted minimum size).
This is because any graphic smaller than that would really have no relevance to the human eye. Of course, such a small space also restricts your ability to display a lot of copy or advertising text messages - it's all about graphics here. ... They offer a simple and direct way for web masters to win money from their online business and for advertisers to get traffic to go to their sites.
Pixel advertising might be the answer!...
... let's have a quick look at what they are and how they work. The term pixel comes from a combination of Picture & Element and is the smallest element of a display which can be assigned a color. In other words, pixels are the building blocks of each and every computer screen - in a way they are the equivalent of atoms in a molecular structure.
Although an individual pixel is hard to observe on your screen, you often see them only when they get damaged - they appear like a black spot on your light colored background. The genius behind the whole idea of pixel ads is that they do not deal with flashy banners or other high tech online advertising elements.
A new form of online advertising
Pixel ads show us, once again, that even the simplest of all elements may have extraordinary potential. While many advertisers were discouraged by this idea, reality proves that even a small, and almost insignificant 10x10 pixel ad, lost in a myriad of other ads, can produce excellent results and a return of investment higher than most people anticipated.
The interesting thing about pixel ads is that they also break away the monotony induced by banner ads. Here, advertisers have to show creativity - they are working with the basic element of visual display, the pixel, and they have to eliminate routine thinking and allow themselves to be more flexible when creating their ad."
"Pixel advertising continues to change as it evolves from a fad to a useful advertising tool for targeted markets. What started with "The Million Dollar Home Page" by Alex Tew has continued to morph into something else. Many have proclaimed that pixel advertising is dead. They state that it was a fad and nothing more.
Now it is definitely true that as soon as people saw Alex Tew making an easy million dollars they all wanted to make some easy money too. This created an instant wave of copycat sites trying to capitalize on the very trendy concept of throwing up a pixel page and hoping people would respond to it just like they did with The Million Dollar Home Page.
Of course, this was not to be the case. Alex Tew was the inventor and with his fresh idea came the reward. But, it was not as easy for the followers and copycats. Many of these sites have come and gone with little to no fanfare.
What is interesting to see now is that many people have taken this creative concept and adapted it to specific niches. For example, someone trying to raise funds for a worthy cause can use a pixel site to help generate income in a unique and fun way.
Other people have created pixel sites that are targeted at specific markets where people with common interests can advertise and find resources for the subject of their interest.
Instead of pixel sites dying out completely as some have suggested, new pixel sites are sprouting up daily capitalizing on this unique way of generating interest, income and advertising possibilities across a broad spectrum of industries and ideas.
Is pixel advertising dead? No, it is definitely not dead, but rather is adapting to the current landscape and carving out a unique way of driving traffic and helping raise funds for different types of organizations around the globe."
"The Alex Tews Million Dollar Home page is a complete phenomenon in its own right. The fact that people would visit a site purely to see a new way of advertising is an advertisers dream. A comparison could only be for people to watch the television purely to see the commercials. This phenomenon can also be seen in shopping channels where people watch the channels purely to buy goods.
So where do things go from here, should we all be advertising on direct clones of Alex Tews site, or should the concept be evolving rather than us seeing direct clones? There are now even sites where you can purchase an off the shelf pixel page to produce your own pixel page.
There are thousands of possibilities out there to capture the imagination of the public and media. As with everything in life there are key points in history, something that starts the ball rolling and forces the rest of the world to think differently. One possibility is that pixel advertising could move into mainstream advertising, electronic billboard adverts could become affordable for the smaller company rather than just the nationals. If the billboard was split into multiple companies logos and then each company was featured for a few seconds a day on the full screen. There are thousands of opportunities to take advantage of this new medium from the straightforward to the more bizarre. Will we see people tattooed with pixel squares and inviting people to advertise on their bodies?
Will we see competition sites with prizes hidden under blank pixels, and claimed by the person who purchases that winning pixel?
Will we see buildings where each brick has a sponsor, so the building pays for itself?
Will we see farmers fields in key locations cut into squares and dyed with a company logo?
Will we see the creation of the longest web banner in the world?